Iran is now actively supporting and funding organized crime, and paramilitary groups in South America, in a bid to foment terror and attack the US.
The tri-border region of South America, where Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay converge, is of the special concern given the ongoing presence of Hezbollah militants, as they operate in the roles of money launderers for different drug cartels present in the US, and across South America. These criminal activities are helping to fund international Iranian terrorism, and enriching South American drug lords with tens of millions of dollars.
The 10th Parliamentary Intelligence Security Forum was recently convened to discuss this emerging threat. Officials from the Trump Administration, US Lawmakers, nearly 150 other delegates from over 50 countries gathered to discuss their respective and joint efforts to fight the global terrorist financing, last Thursday.
The organizer of the event, Rep. Robert Pittenger, the Chairman of the Congressional Task Forces on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, spoke on the increased activity of Hezbollah across the Western Hemisphere. He went on to express his fears that the Islamic State or the other affiliated groups would further increase the number of funding channels in the area.
“Hezbollah has been there for a couple of decades, but you now have an expansion of it,” Pittenger said. “The tri-border area is fairly open, it needs more oversight, particularly with the flow of cars, boats, etcetera involved in narcotics and illicit financing.”
Pittenger went on to meet with the different South American government officials in Buenos Aires to share his concerns and discuss a much greater alliance between the United States and its other regional partners to suppress any terrorist financing operations. These talks, which involved the representatives from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Paraguay, among many others, highlighted the importance of the multilateral sharing of the intelligence and further cooperation between the public and private sectors to better address the threat.
Mariano Federici, the president of Argentina’s Financial Intelligence Unit, on Thursday, said that the United States and Argentina are coming together in building “a strong strategic partnership for the protection of our mutual security and the integrity of our financial systems and economies.”
“The risks stemming from the tri-border area are a priority concern to our government,” Federici had said, citing the sad 1992 and 1994 bombings, which are thought to be carried out by the same Iranian-backed militants in Buenos Aires.
He also said that a recent fact-finding trip, which was conducted by the officials from U.S. and Argentinian, has confirmed the ongoing money laundering operations in the region, in which huge volumes of cash are being transferred to the Hezbollah – controlled territory in Lebanon.
The U.S. officials had warned these terrorist groups taking strong roots in Latin America, a long time ago.
During his tenure as the chief of U.S. Southern Command, the retired General John Kelly often expressed his deep concern about the ties of these terrorist groups and the illicit narcotic and smuggling networks in the region. His successor, the U.S. Navy Adm. Kurt Tidd, last year had echoed a very similar worry of the potential for Islamist radicalization and narcoterrorism.