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News Analysis

Growing Hezbollah Presence in Southwest U.S.

Sun, October 13, 2013

Matthew Levitt's book, Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon's Party of God

Matthew Levitt's book, Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon's Party of God

by: 
Ryan Mauro

Terrorism expert Matthew Levitt writes that an increasing number of U.S. prison inmates have tattoos that are pro-Hezbollah or are in Farsi, the language spoken in Iran. The claim is made in Levitt’s new book, Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon's Party of God.

“Law enforcement officials across the Southwest are reporting a rise in imprisoned gang members with Farsi tattoos” and some express loyalty to Hezbollah.

His book includes an eye-opening quote from another official: “You could almost pick your city and you would probably have a [Hezbollah] presence.”

Hezbollah’s business relationship with Mexican drug cartels is seen as a driving force behind the phenomenon.

In 2009, Michael Braun, former Chief of Operations for the Drug Enforcement Agency, said that Hezbollah uses “the same criminal weapons smugglers, document traffickers and transportation experts as the drug cartels.”

In April 2010, an individual named Jamal Yousef was apprehended in New York City. During interrogation, he admitted to stealing weapons from Iraq for Hezbollah. Yousef alone knew of a Hezbollah stockpile in Mexico that included 100 M-16 assault rifles, 100 AR-15 rifles, 2500 hand grenades, C4 explosives and anti-tank weapons.

An actual member of Hezbollah was captured in Tijuana in July 2010. His arrest was the smoking gun proof that Hezbollah is investing in building a network in Mexico.

An unnamed senior Mexican military officer confirmed to then-Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) that Hezbollah was giving explosives training to members of Mexican drug cartels. She wrote a letter to the Department of Homeland Security warning it “might lead to Israel-like car bombings of Mexican/USA border personnel or National Guard units in the border regions.”

Very shortly thereafter, a drug cartel detonated a car bomb for the first time and killed 4 people in Ciudad Juarez. It was described as having “Hezbollah-like sophistication” and a Tucson Police Department reported later said there is a “strong suspicion” that Hezbollah had traded its expertise.

Hezbollah’s presence goes further south than Mexico. The Venezuelan government has been accused of colluding with Hezbollah and Iran for years. It’s long been understood that Hezbollah operates in the tri-border area of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil.

The Wall Street Journal says that Hezbollah is “forging ideologically promiscuous ties with Colombia’s right-wing paramilitary groups and communist guerillas and digging tunnels for drug cartels on the Mexican-American border—the same kinds of tunnel networks it has spent years perfecting along the geographically similar Lebanese-Israeli border.”

Roger Noriega, former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, could not be clearer in his urgent warnings:

“If our government and responsible partners in Latin America fail to act, I believe there will be an attack on U.S. personnel, installations or interests in the Americas as soon as Hezbollah operatives believe that they are capable of such an operation without implicating their Iranian sponsors in the crime.”

Noriega said that in 2011. That was two years ago. The threat has only grown since then. 

The following clip, "Radical Islamic Recruitment Inside U.S. Prisons" is from The Clarion Project film, The Third Jihad:

Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.org’s National Security Analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and is frequently interviewed on top-tier TV stations as an expert on counterterrorism and Islamic extremism.