Iran and the Drug Cartels

Posted on Mon 10/17/2011 by

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The foiled Iranian-backed terrorism plot exposed what Brigitte Gabriel and others have been warning about for years—Islamic terrorists exploiting our southern border and working with Mexican drug cartels.

CQ HOMELAND SECURITY

Iranian Plot Sparks Measure to Bolster
Counterterrorism Efforts in Western Hemisphere

By Jennifer Scholtes, CQ Staff

Pleas for the Obama administration to focus counterterrorism efforts in the Western Hemisphere have begun resonating on Capitol Hill this week following news that the Iranian government allegedly wanted Mexican drug cartels to carry out an assassination.

South Carolina Republican Rep. Jeff Duncan is rounding up cosponsors for legislation he introduced Oct. 11 after hearing the announcement that U.S. officials disrupted a plot by those within the Iranian government to kill the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States. The resolution (H Res 429) specifically sites the alleged foiled plot as one of the reasons the administration should include the Western Hemisphere as an area of focus in its 2012 National Strategy for Counterterrorism, to focus on the threat posed by “Iran’s growing presence and activity” in the region.

The fact that there is a relationship between Iran’s militant group Hezbollah and the cartels prevalent in Mexico is not a new discovery, Duncan said. He pointed to reports of the capture of Hezbollah agents along the U.S.-Mexican border as proof of that link.

“We have been trying to raise the awareness for months,” Duncan said during a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “I don’t believe anyone who has been following this has been caught off guard, but I think America as a whole was caught off guard. And I think it’s time for us to wake up in this country that this is a real threat to the Western Hemisphere.”

Duncan has gotten New York Democrat Brian Higgins to sign on as a cosponsor of the legislation, which states there is significant cause for concern and further investigation into the threat of Iran’s influence. The resolution also calls on the White House to use an existing counterterrorism taskforce to look at Iran and its affiliates’ activities in the United States and the rest of the Western world as well as submit a report to Congress on a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy to defend against Iranian interests.

California Rep. Howard L. Berman, the ranking Democrat on the panel, said that while security-related issues in the region deserve close attention, it’s a mistake to view the Western Hemisphere as “a constellation of threats, rather than a series of opportunities.”

“It is critical that our policy toward the region be based on solid facts,” Berman said. “Yet we sometimes seem to be chasing ghosts or creating caricatures of security threats.”

Officials have confirmed that those allegedly working to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador were in contact with a U.S. agent posing as a Mexican cartel leader, rather than with those actually running the narcotics rings. But lawmakers have continued to use accusations that the Iranian government aspired to link with the cartels as an argument for adding the groups to the list of state-sponsored terrorist organizations.

“We must stop looking at the drug cartels today solely from a law enforcement perspective and consider designating these narco-trafficking networks as foreign terrorist organizations and their leaders as specially designated nationals . . . ” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla. “This week’s foiled plot contributes to the growing evidence of the potential links between these groups and the drug cartels. As we know, such a linkage was not made because those were our guys posing as members of the drug cartel. But it seems that our sworn enemy Iran sees a potential kindred spirit in the drug cartels in Mexico.”

The division between entities notorious for drug trafficking in the West and terrorist organizations in the East is not as clear as it once was, Ros-Lehtinen suggested. The chairwoman noted reports that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia has expanded into West Africa and could be linked to Hezbollah and al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb, that Iran and other countries in the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America inaugurated a military academy in Bolivia this summer to educate and train their forces, and that Cuban intelligence officers are embedded throughout the Venezuelan government to work against U.S. national security interests.

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