Source: Washington Times
Author: Sara A. Carter
America’s porous southern border is an entry point for more than Mexican cartels and their illegal drugs — the Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah has been smuggling drugs and people into the U.S. as well.
Hezbollah has long been involved in narcotics and human trafficking in South America, and is now using the same routes into the U.S. that the Mexican cartels use for smuggling, according to an exclusive report in The Washington Times.
The group relies on “the same criminal weapons smugglers, document traffickers, and transportation experts as the drug cartels,” said Michael Braun, who recently retired as assistant administrator and chief of operations at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
“They work together. They rely on the same shadow facilitators. One way or another, they are all connected,” he said.
Hezbollah, which fought a 34-day war with Israel in 2006, funds its operations in part from a large Lebanese Muslim diaspora, and some of that funding comes from criminal enterprises.
Salim Boughader Mucharrafille, a Mexican of Lebanese descent, was arrested in 2002 for smuggling 200 people, including Hezbollah supporters, into the U.S. He was sentenced last year to 60 years in a Mexican prison.
But the cross-border flow of drugs and people has intensified since the U.S. reduced access to the country by air and water following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. And the drug wars between the cartels have claimed the lives of more than 8,000 people since January 2008, destabilizing Mexico along the border and prompting President Barack Obama to send additional agents there.
Adm. James Stavridis, commander of U.S. Southern Command, recently told a House committee that the connection between drug traffickers and “Islamic radical terrorism” is a growing threat to the U.S.
Braun said members of the Quds force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have been operating in South America and “could be commanding and controlling Hezbollah’s criminal enterprises from there.”
And a senior U.S. defense official said that in addition to Hezbollah, al-Qaida could also use the Mexican cartels’ trafficking routes to smuggle operatives into the U.S.
“The Mexican cartels have no loyalty to anyone,” another official told the Times. “They will willingly or unknowingly aid other nefarious groups’ [entry] into the U.S. through the routes they control. It has already happened. That’s why the border is such a serious national security issue.”
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