By Joel Gehrke
Source: Washington Examiner
Iran’s main proxy terrorist group is expanding in Latin America and networking with organized crime and other violent groups, according to U.S. and Argentinean officials.
“In the face of a global threat like Hezbollah, it is every sovereign nation’s obligation and responsibility to comply with sanctions designed to keep all of us safe,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a Western Hemisphere counterterrorism ministerial in Buenos Aires. “Solidarity is the antidote to the terror threat.”
The forum took place one day after Argentina marked the 25th anniversary of the Argentine-Israelite Mutual Association bombing by designating Hezbollah as a foreign terrorist organization. The assembled diplomats built on that designation Friday by unveiling a “regional security mechanism” in which the United States and three regional allies will crackdown on Hezbollah’s money-laundering and cooperation with transnational drug cartels.
“The terrorist threat is something that affects all of us,” Argentinean Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie told reporters. “And we have to work very hard in Latin America to fund the financing that these organizations receive, and we know that there are some terrorist organizations that help recruit people and they look for financing in our area.”
The Argentinean envoy announced that Brazil and Paraguay would also partner in that effort, while the broader Western Hemisphere counterterrorism ministerial will reconvene in Colombia in January.
“It matters whether the U.S. can move the dial and thwart Iranian-backed penetration in our backyard,” Toby Dershowitz, a senior vice president at the U.S.-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Washington Examiner. “This may be the year that serves as a wake-up call for others in the region impacted adversely by Hezbollah’s malign activities — including but not limited to money laundering and narco-terrorism.”
Faurie emphasized that Hezbollah has formed ties with historically communist terrorist groups in Peru and Colombia: the Shining Path and the ELN, respectively. Those allegations dovetailed with U.S. complaints that Iranian proxies are working with Venezuelan drug traffickers, with the approval of strongman Nicolás Maduro’s regime, to finance terrorism in the Middle East.
“The countries of the region agreed, most of us, on the danger of Hezbollah to our hemisphere,” he said. “The linkage of these groups to Hezbollah make this relationship so much deeper because they look for funding and recruit people.”
Those denunciations were a diplomatic win for Pompeo, who has been trying to rally international pressure on Iran in the year since President Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal.
“We have many nations around the world now speaking the truth about the Islamic Republic of Iran, about its global campaign of terror and the malign activity that it has taken around the world,” Pompeo told reporters.