Marriage Of Convenience

January 12, 2017 OPINION/NEWS

Mohammed Jalil/EPA

 

By

Ricardo Swire

The Western Hemisphere is part of the globe that includes North and South America, accompanying islands and surrounding waters. The US State Department’s 2015 report stated South America and the Caribbean serve as areas of financial and ideological support for the Islamic State (IS), in addition to other Middle Eastern and South Asian terrorist groups.

Evidence suggests since 2013, as a countermeasure against US sanctions, Iran illegally laundered billions of dollars through Venezuela’s financial sector. Geopolitically, officials in Tehran utilized Venezuela’s economic platform for a Hezbollah “marriage of convenience” to domestic drug traffickers and criminal gangs. The terrorist organization also established training facilities on Margarita Island adjacent to Venezuela.

Most regional terrorist activity occurs in South America’s Andean region, a popular drugs production and trafficking area. Peru’s guerilla group Shining Path and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), join the National Liberation Army as US State Department designated “Foreign Terrorist Organizations.” 2015 records tabulated the collective population of Central and South America, together with the Caribbean, as 414.6 million residents. In 2016 seventy Trinidadians traveled to Syria via Turkey to join IS extremist campaigns.

The Spanish Institute for Strategic Studies or Instituto Español de Estudios Estrategicos (IEEE) report traced historic and updated presence of radical Islamic networks in the Western Hemisphere. The document, called “Islamic Radicalism in Latin American: From Hezbollah to Daesh” also explained how regional criminal networks, involved in human and drug trafficking, have taken interest in supporting terror groups. Such networks are cleverly positioned to facilitate movements of terrorist operatives or weapons of mass destruction toward US borders, potentially undetected and almost completely unrestricted.

Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyya, the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group and Jihad Media Battalion, have an established presence in the Western Hemisphere. According to the IEEE such networks use Latin America for financing, distributing propaganda, recruiting and planning attacks. One related scenario was Lebanon’s 1980 Hezbollah expansion to Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. The December 2016 report focused on Brazil’s self-proclaimed jihadist group Ansar al-Khilafah, a domestic clique that pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS) and threatened attacks on the eve of 2016’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The document exposed other “marriages of convenience” between Hezbollah and regional organized criminal networks. The US routinely maintains a close military relationship with Latin America that includes intelligence exchanges. Nevertheless, the IEEE document particularly warned Latin American governments, against harboring the “false perception” that radical Islamist groups are a distant problem, or the region is safe from terrorist attacks committed in their name.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ricardo Swire - Tuck Magazine

Ricardo Swire

Ricardo Swire is the Principal Consultant at R-L-H Security Consultants & Business Support Services and writes on a number of important issues.

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