Saturday, September 10, 2011

Turkey to step up naval patrols in waters where Israeli navy operates

From Jihad Watch:

Turkey to step up naval patrols in waters where Israeli navy operates

The decision "raises the risk of a naval confrontation between the two powers," and that's exactly the idea. One must remember that all of this high-stakes brinkmanship stems from Turkey's demand for an apology, though it's not really about the apology. It is about boosting Turkey's credentials among Islamic countries, and attempting to isolate and de-legitimize Israel.

More on this story, as the irony of Erdogan's calling Israel a "spoiled boy" continues to mount.

"Turkey raising naval presence amid tension with Israel," by Pinar Aydinli for Reuters, September 6:

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey is freezing defense trade with Israel and stepping up naval patrols in the eastern Mediterranean, highlighting a potentially destabilizing rift between the two major U.S. allies in the Middle East.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's threat on Tuesday to send warships into waters where Israel's navy operates raises the risk of a naval confrontation between the two powers.

"The eastern Mediterranean is not a strange place to us. Aksaz and Iskenderun -- these places have the power and opportunity to provide escorts," Erdogan told reporters in Ankara, referring to two Turkish naval bases. "Of course our ships will be seen much more frequently in those waters."

Ties with Israel began to unravel after Erdogan voiced outrage at an Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip, ruled by the Palestinian Islamist Hamas group, in late 2008 and early 2009.

Before that Turkey and Israel had worked closely together on military cooperation and intelligence sharing, as both had sought reliable partners in a volatile neighborhood.

The increasing Islamization of Turkey has correlated with a dimmer outlook for its long-term stability, and an increase in the rash, confrontational policy-making we are observing now.

Asked about Erdogan's remarks, an Israeli government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "Israel does not want to see further deterioration in its relationship with Turkey."

On Friday, Turkey announced it was expelling Israel's ambassador and other senior diplomats, downgrading relations after the release of a U.N. report on the killing of nine Turks during an Israeli commando raid on an aid flotilla that aimed to break Israel's naval blockade of Gaza last year.

Israel's refusal to apologize for the deaths has angered Turkey, a NATO member with the bloc's second biggest military....

No kidding.

Posted by Marisol on September 6, 2011 10:57 AM

Yemen: Jihadists reportedly launch attack near Sana'a airport

From Jihad Watch:

Yemen: Jihadists reportedly launch attack near Sana'a airport

Defectors from the Yemeni army have not often been mentioned in prior coverage, but they played a role here. "Yemen’s Islamic militias, defected army attack village near Sana’a International Airport," by Mohammed al-Kibsi for the Yemen Observer, September 6 (thanks to Twostellas):

Militias of the Islah party Yemen’s branch of the Islamic brotherhood and the defected army lead by General Ali Mohsen launched a missile and artillery offensive the village of Bait al-Theeb in Arhab district, near Sana’a International Airport, on Tuesday, said a local source in Arhab district.

the [sic] source said that the militias of the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen (Reform Party) and the First Armored Division, led by dissident Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar bombed houses in the village of Beit al-Theeb using Katyusha rockets and mortar shells in retaliation for the villagers who appeared on the screen of Yemen’s setline TV. and revealed the truth of what is happening in their area and expressed attitudes that reject the plans of terrorist and disruptive to those criminal elements.

the [sic] source said that the radical Islamic militia launched, last night, Katyusha rockets at houses and launched mortar shells at the village during the afternoon prayers which resulted in damage of the residents houses and injured a number of them.

Posted by Marisol on September 7, 2011 12:03 AM

Iran may have used fake web security certificates from major hacking attack to spy on its citizens

From Jihad Watch:

Iran may have used fake web security certificates from major hacking attack to spy on its citizens

"Among the domains listed [for fake certificates] are Google, Facebook, Twitter and Skype."

Twitter and Facebook have been key organizing tools for protests, including the current bane of the regime's existence, water fights. An update on this story. "Fake DigiNotar web certificate risk to Iranians," from BBC News, September 6:

Fresh evidence has emerged that stolen web security certificates may have been used to spy on people in Iran.

Analysis by Trend Micro suggests a spike in the number of compromised DigiNotar certificates being issued to the Islamic Republic.

It is believed the digital IDs were being used to trick computers into thinking they were directly accessing sites such as Google.

In reality, someone else may have been monitoring the communications.

Hundreds of bogus certificates are thought to have been generated following a hack on Netherlands-based DigiNotar.

The company is owned by US firm Vasco Data Security. [...]

Unconfirmed information published online suggested that more than 500 false DigiNotar certificates exist.

Among the domains listed are Google, Facebook, Twitter and Skype.

At the same time, it was noticed that a sizeable portion of the Dutch company's certificates were mysteriously going to users in Iran.

By August, 76.5% of DigiNotar validations were in the Netherlands. 18.7% were in Iran and 4.8% elsewhere in the world, according to security firm Trend Micro.

Iranian activity dropped off after the certificates were revoked.

DigiNotar eventually went public about the intrusion on 30 August, at which time most web browsers stopped recognising DigiNotar certificates altogether.

Soft target

There are many reasons why Iran may have been targeted using the bogus certificates, according to security experts.

The republic's tight controls on dissent mean that monitoring web traffic could yield useful information.

Iran's internet setup also makes some types of interception easier, according to Rik Ferguson, Trend Micro's director of security research and communications.

"All the internet traffic has to go through an Iranian government proxy before it goes out to the final destination.

"If you want to spy on normal HTTP traffic, that is not a problem - you get to see all the outbound requests and all the inbound responses," he explained.

For secure websites, attempts to intercept would ring alarm bells with the web browser and therefore the user.

One option is to make the Iranian national proxy server look like it is the target website - using a fake DigiNotar certificate.

The proxy then relays information to and from the real website, e.g., but there is no indication that the secure chain has been broken.

Government involvement?

While much online debate has centred around the role of the Iranian authorities, there is no firm evidence to support such a theory.

However, a spokesman for the Dutch Interior Ministry, Vincent van Steen told the Netherland's-based ANP news agency that the cabinet was looking into claims of Iranian government involvement....

The prior report posted here noted that the nature and magnitude of the attack would require access to infrastructure that small-time vandals and crooks would not have.

Posted by Marisol on September 7, 2011 12:15 AM

Indonesia: National intelligence chief accused of funding Islamic Defenders Front, using them as "attack dog" while national police chief

From Jihad Watch:

Indonesia: National intelligence chief accused of funding Islamic Defenders Front, using them as "attack dog" while national police chief

We have covered the Islamic Defenders Front extensively as the foremost domestic jihadist group in Indonesia in recent years. As a domestic group, unlike those with formal ties to al-Qaeda, and one that most often saves its abuse for non-Muslims and Ahmadis (but not always), they have been tolerated and even encouraged by sympathizers on all levels of society. That apparently includes the national intelligence chief. "Scene: Ex-police chief denies FPI funding allegations," from the Jakarta Post, September 7 (thanks to Twostellas):

JAKARTA: National Intelligence Agency chief Sutanto scoffed at a WikiLeaks cable allegation that he funded hard-line group The Islam Defenders Front (FPI) while serving as National Police chief.

“There is no such thing. There has never been any funding for the FPI,” Sutanto said on Tuesday as quoted by

The cable stated that the police funded the FPI and used them as an “attack dog”.

Sutanto denied all the allegations made against him and the police.

“Ask [WikiLeaks]. None of it is true,” he said.

Spokesmen for the National Police and FPI have also denied the allegations from the leaked US diplomatic cable dated May 9, 2006.

Posted by Marisol on September 7, 2011 7:37 AM

Pakistan Even Discriminates Against Non-Muslim War Heroes

From Jihad Watch:

You stay classy: Pakistan even discriminates against non-Muslim war heroes

The message they send: Your life is cheap, and we're entitled to your self-sacrifice. Also in this report is a major escalation against Ahmadis in Pakistan, with the emergence of a hit list of 50 of their members, following the recent demolition of an Ahmadi mosque. "Islamabad discriminates against non-Muslim war heroes," by Jibran Khan for Asia News, September 7:

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - Discrimination against religious minorities in Pakistan also affects non-Muslim war heroes, protagonists of the battles in the 1965 conflict between Pakistan and India. Their names do not appear in history books, textbooks, or celebrations which Islamabad organizes every year to remember those who sacrificed their lives for their country. Meanwhile the summary execution of Ahmadis continues in the country, in the complete indifference of police and government who have failed to intervene to stem the violence. So much so, that an Islamic extremist group has issued a list with the names of 50 Ahmadi faithful to kill, in order to gain "preferential access to paradise."

On 6 September, Pakistan commemorates the 1965 war with India during which heroes who sacrificed their lives for their country are remembered. However, every year the authorities ignore the sacrifice of many non-Muslims, who have fought and died for their country. The discrimination and humiliation that religious minorities of a nation held hostage by the Islamic fundamentalism are subjected to also affect those who have contributed to the birth and survival of Pakistan.

To protest against government censorship and the exclusion of non-Muslims in the armed forces of the country, the Lahore based humanitarian organization Life for All organized a seminar focusing on the heroes of war who were Christians, Ahmadis, Hindus and of other religions. Among others, the Air Force Commander Cecil Chaudhry, and Major General Israel Noel Khok. Rizwan Paul, an activist of Life for All, said that "the government has obscured the service rendered by religious minorities", in addition to having their names omitted "in the history books and textbooks." Instead, he intends to "pay homage to these great names, for their impeccable service to Pakistan."

Fr. Edward Joseph, of the Diocese of Lahore echoes this call and also reminds the Government continued incidents of exclusion, violence and abuse that Pakistani Hindus, Ahmadis, Christians, and Jews face. In addition to the notorious blasphemy laws, the priest recalls an incident that occurred recently: two Christian brothers who were forbidden to play in a music club in town "because they are Christians." And their father, he says, is a lieutenant colonel in the service of the Pakistani army. "How long will this continue?" Fr. Joseph asks disconsolately.

But violent episodes also target other minorities, among them the Ahmadis, a Muslim sect considered heretical because it does not recognize Muhammad as the last prophet. On September 5 last Naseen Ahmad Butt was shot dead in broad daylight in Faisalabad, by four students of the Islamic extremist movement the Khatam-e-Nabuwwat Federation,. The man's name, an Ahmadi, was included in a list containing 50 names of members of religious minority. Accompanied by a message that "the person who kill [sic] these 50 Ahmadis, will gain preferential access to paradise."

The police and the Punjab government have covered up the case, by not punishing the perpetrators of the murder and the authors of the list of defenseless civilians to be killed. Fr. John Isaac, of the diocese of Faisalabad, points the finger at the provincial government of Punjab guilty of providing "a golden refuge " to extremists and the Taliban. "Hate and extremism - confirms the priest - are becoming the trademark of our society."

Posted by Marisol on September 8, 2011 12:09 AM

The Islamist Factor In Post-Gaddafi Libya: Will Libya Become "Libyastan"?

From The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs:

The Islamist Factor in Post-Gaddafi Libya: Will Libya Become “Libyastan”?

August 29, 2011 by Jacques Neriah Leave a Comment

The U.S. and the West’s military intervention in Libya finally succeeded in toppling Gaddafi’s 42- year reign in Libya and brought to power an amorphous body called the NTC (National Transitional Council) headed by Mostafa Abdel Jalil, headed by a former judge and Minister of Justice under Gaddafi, a devout Muslim educated in the best tradition of Muslim jurisprudence.

The question that immediately arises is where Libya will be sailing to now? The question is of immense interest since the last two American interventions, in Afghanistan and Iraq, did not produce stable, democratic and open regimes and Al-Qaeda elements have been reported to be offering support to the rebels from the very first days of the uprising against Gaddafi:

a. At the end of his presidency, US President Jimmy Carter offered assistance to the mujahidin (Islamic fighters) in their war against the Soviet presence in Afghanistan. Weapons and equipment were sent. The well-known result was the empowerment of forces that would in the end be inimical to the interests of the West, and ultimately led to the Taliban takeover of the country. Afghanistan became a safe haven for Osama bin Laden and the story that followed included the most lethal terrorist attacks against the West in the decades that followed.

b. The official reason for U.S. military intervention in Iraq was the presence of weapons of mass destruction, which at the end of the day were never found. As a result, Iraq as a state was restructured into what the U.S. thought it should be: Instead of a country ruled for decades by the Sunni minority, Iraq became a Shiite dominated country. Since its renewed “facelift,” Iraq has been a destabilized state living under the constant threat of terror and religious partition. Iraq lost its central role in Arab affairs and worse, stopped being a buffer against Iran and Iranian influence in the Middle East. Many of the political elites of the new Iraq have been receiving funding from the Iranians. No real gain was registered to the US.

There are plenty of reasons to fear that the military action undertaken by the West might be playing into the hands of its worst foes and ideological enemies. A statement released on February 24 on the Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Fajr media website quoted the group known as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM): “We declare our support for the legitimate demands of the Libyan revolution. We assert to our people in Libya that we are with you and will not let you down, Allah willing. We will give everything we have to support you, with Allah’s Grace”. Support was also expressed by Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, who offered to send some of his military experts to help train the rebels. So did Hamas. There was almost a consensus amongst the extreme and fundamentalist Islamic organizations that there was a necessity to assist the rebels against Gaddafi. Those extreme organizations would have not expressed such unanimous support had they not understood the Islamic implications of a triumph against Gaddafi.

Analysts and reporters, as well as American diplomats (as reflected in the Wikileaks documents) all identified supporters of Islamist causes among the opposition to Gaddafi’s regime, in particular in the towns of Dernah and Benghazi in the eastern province of Cyrenaica. The Wikileaks cables initially revealed by the Daily Telegraph back in 2008, identified Dernah in particular as a breeding ground for fighters in a number of cases, including Afghanistan and Iraq. A field study published by the French Centre of Intelligence Research, headed by former chiefs of French intelligence who toured Libya and met with most of the belligerents, reported amazing statistics: out of the contingent of foreign fighters who came to Iraq to fight the U.S. presence, 19% were Libyans. 85% of the suicide bombers were of Libyan citizenship compared to 56% average from other nationalities. The Libyans were second after the Saudis in number of fighters. In other words, Cyrenaica, Libya’s eastern region, produced one terrorist per 1000-1500 inhabitants!

Cyrenaica has always been the cradle of extreme Islam. Unlike Tripoli, Cyrenaica is the land of the bearded Muslims. In the mid-forties of the 19th Century, the Sanussiyah order (extreme fundamentalist Islam) was born in Al-Bayda, one of its main towns. Forty-two years of Gaddafi’s regime did not succeed in uprooting customs that compel women to walk in the streets only when they are veiled and that forbids women to drive. According to the French team, Saleh Abu Muhammad, responsible for the media at AQIM, declared that his organization had created Emirates in Benghazi, Dernah, AlBayda, Al-Marj, Shihat: “We are present specially in Dernah where Sheikh Abd el-Hakim is our Emir, where the Islamic Council is located that is responsible for running the town according to Sharia law.”

According to the Daily Telegraph, Gaddafi had pinpointed the rebels in Dernah as being led by an Al-Qaeda cell that has declared the town an Islamic Emirate. The regime also cast blame on hundreds of members of the Libyan Islamist Fighting Group (LIFG). LIFG was the jihadist opposition to Gaddafi. The group was formed by Libyan fighters who joined Bin Laden in the 1980′s to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan. Upon their return to Libya they formed the organization, although it formally split from Al-Qaeda after September 11, 2001 only to declare in 2007 that the LIGF was a subsidiary of Al-Qaeda. Libyan Islamists, especially over the past two decades, have been subject to government suppression. An LIFG rebellion led by Abdelhakim Belhadj, alias Abu Abdallah Saddiq was crushed in Benghazi in 1995 and 1,800 LIFG members were imprisoned. They were only released after the group’s ideology was revised in 2008. In September 2009, the LIFG published a new jihadist “code”, a 417-page document entitled “Corrective Studies” which was published after more than two years of intense talks between incarcerated LIFG leaders and Libyan officials, including Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. In March 2011, members of the LIFG reportedly announced that they had placed themselves under the leadership of the Libyan rebel National Transitional Council, and that the group had changed its name from the LIFG to the Libyan Islamic Movement.

Abdelhakim Belhadj, today the commander of the Libyan rebel Tripoli Military Council, emerged as a leader during the Libyan rebel operation to liberate the Libyan capital from Gaddafi’s control. Belhadj, is also a former Emir of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). He was born in 1966. In 1988, he joined the Afghan jihad against the Soviet occupation forces along with other Arab volunteers, many of whom would form the core of al-Qaeda. He is believed to have lived in a number of Islamic countries including Pakistan, Turkey and Sudan. Belhadj was arrested in Afghanistan and Malaysia in 2004, and was interrogated by the CIA in Thailand before he was extradited to Libya in the same year.

Many LIFG members fled Libya and some of them even gained notoriety: Anas El Libi participated in 1998 in the terrorist attacks against the U.S. embassies in Dar El-Salam in Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya. He was apprehended by the British in London in 2002 only to be released later. Ibrahim Abu Faraj Farj El-Libi was yet another notorious member of Al-Qaeda arrested in Pakistan in 2005. Gaddafi’s repression was so harsh that he was named by Al-Qaeda’s Ayman El-Zawahiri as number two on Al-Qaeda’s list of targets .

Abdel Hakim Al-Hasidi, chief officer commanding the defenses of Dernah, was arrested in Afghanistan in 2002. He was later handed over to US authorities and then held in Libya before being released in 2008. In a statement to a reporter he declared that his jihadists had fought the American coalition in Iraq and “now they are fighting Gaddafi”. According to different sources (including the remarks before Congress of General Stavridis, Commander of NATO who said that some Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah terrorists were fighting against Gaddafi’s forces) there could be about 1000 such fighters. Al-Hasidi is a current member of the NTC (!). Nevertheless he declared that he did not support a Taliban-like state. Al-Hasidi insisted his fighters “are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists”, but added that the “members of Al-Qaeda are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader”.

Two other prominent members of Al-Qaeda of Libyan origin actively involved in the revolt against Gaddafi are Abd El-Moneim El-Madhouni, alias, Mostafa El-Zawi,Alias. Ibn El-Ward has been a member of Al-Qaeda since the mid 90′s. He was killed in the battle over Berga. Ismail Sallabi, also a veteran of Al-Qaeda, is reported to be training 200 fighters in the 7 April caserns.

In any event, Al-Hasidi’s revelations made in late March 2011 came even as Idriss Debby, President of Chad, said that Al-Qaeda had managed to pillage arsenals in the Libyan rebel zone and acquired arms,”including surface-to-air missiles, which were then smuggled into their sanctuaries”. Intelligence sources indicated that the pillaged weapons had made their way to the Sahel area. Mali Authorities said that the information in their hands indicated that weapons such as the AK-47, R.P.g-7, ZU23mm and SA-7 had been seen in their territory and showed a Libyan origin. These reports were further backed by information leaked by U.S. sources. Indeed, according to two U.S. government officials not authorized to speak on the record, there is evidence that a small number of Soviet-made SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles from Qaddafi’s arsenal have reached the black market in Mali, where al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is active.

With Gaddafi gone, the West finds it difficult to replace him in the battle against Al-Qaeda. While in power, Gaddafi had agreed to very intense cooperation against Al-Qaeda. A special relationship was established between Libyan Intelligence, counter-terrorism and security forces through the good services of the then chief of Intelligence Moussa Koussa and the CIA and MI-5 and MI-6 who even asked the Libyans to send agents to infiltrate Islamist organizations in the UK. Being aware of the dangers from the proliferation of such ground-to-air missiles the U.S. the primary worry at present is the hunt for Libya’s missiles. According to a report published by Bloomberg News on August 26 a U.S. inter-agency team met in Malta with a Libyan official in early August to reach an agreement in principle on creating a program to remove the shoulder-fired missiles. During June and July, that inter-agency team visited Libya’s neighbors to discuss weapons proliferation, coordinate responses and determine what assistance is needed.

The U.S. planned to deploy two contractors to Libya with the exclusive job of tracking down and destroying shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles before they fell into the hands of terrorists. According to the report, the State Department also will deploy an in-house specialist in controlling and destroying the portable missiles to oversee the team, which is expected to arrive in early September. State Department officials notified Congress of these plans on August 15, the day before rebels stormed the Libyan capital of Tripoli.

While the new teams will work with the rebel National Transitional Council on weapons control, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the NTC bears special responsibility to keep these weapons safe. The rebel group “has obligations to the international community,” Clinton said in a recent statement. ”We will look to them to ensure that Libya fulfills its treaty responsibilities that it ensures that its weapons stockpiles do not threaten its neighbors or fall into the wrong hands, and that it takes a firm stand against violent extremism.”

The message to the NTC was loud and clear. Clinton’s concern with the dangers of “violent extremism” was warranted. Indeed, at present Libya is ruled by a coalition of forces represented in the National Transitional Council (NTC). Judging from its composition one can see very clearly that there is no real glue between its different members: royalists, Islamists, Salafists as well as Muslim Brethren, former Gaddafi’s supporters and officers, former Gaddafi’s colleagues in the first Revolutionary Council that toppled the royalty in 1969, a tiny layer of Democrats and secular politicians and finally members of the LIFG.

The National Transitional Council (NTC) aimed to provide political and military leadership, organize basic services and represent Libyans abroad. Its leaders said the council was not a government, but aimed to “steer” Libya into a post-Gaddafi era and then “guide the country to free elections and the establishment of a constitution for Libya”. They stressed they would only serve for an interim period and would not to stand in future elections.

According to its website, the council currently has a chairman, vice-chairman, representatives with various portfolios, and 33 members representing the regions and cities of Libya. Some of their identities have been kept secret for security reasons. There is also an executive board, which functions like a cabinet.

The NTC published in August a 14-page “Draft Constitutional Charter for the Transitional Stage”, in which it set out a plan to create a multi-party democracy with Islamic law (Sharia) as the principal source of legislation ( a major change in the Libyan regime).

However, it is not yet clear if the council is ready to fill the void in a country with little civil society and no real political institutions. It says it is ready, but its meetings have been described as chaotic and its leadership as contradictory. It has not always been clear who the council represents.

The assassination in July of the rebel military commander, Gen Abdul Fattah Younis, a former close associate of Gaddafi who defected to the rebels and conducted military operations against the regime, apparently by members of an Islamist faction (the Obaida Ben Jarrah Brigade, an Islamist militia allied to the NTC) after he was taken into custody for questioning, also raised questions about unity. The assassination has raised fears that the NTC is too weak and fractured to halt a slide into bloodshed as rival factions, including Islamists, bid for power.

At present, Mostafa Abdel Jalil is the leading figure at the NTC. Born in 1952 in Al-Bayda the historic seat of the Sanussi dynasty, he studied Islamic Jurisprudence in Benghazi, became a judge in 1978 at the age of 26, a career culminating in 2007 in his appointment as Minister of Justice. He resigned his position on February 20 2011 and joined the rebel camp to be elected as the leader of the provisional government. Abdel Jalil, a conservative and devout Muslim can often been seen wearing a “shanna”, the traditional burgundy colored wool cap worn by Libyan men. In the Wikileaks documents he is described as open and cooperative but also very clearly anti-Israeli. In the Wikileaks document he is quoted as saying that Islamic terrorism emerged because many Muslims believed the U.S. and Europe were against them. His CV stresses the fact that he has been singled out because of his opposition to Gaddafi as Minister of Justice. Abdel Jalil even offered his resignation in 2010, which was refused. The less brilliant part of his career is his decision to sentence to death the Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian physician accused of deliberately inoculating AIDS to Libyan children.

Is Mostafa Abdel Jalil made of leadership timber? Is there another unifying figure who can lead Libya after Gaddafi? Right now the resounding answer seems to be no. Gaddafi ran Libya without state institutions that would make any transition easier for the rebels who have plenty of spirit but lack a proper chain of command. The rebels are also weighed down by factionalism and ethnic and tribal divisions. Moreover, Abdel Jalil will always be viewed with suspicion by some rebels who want completely new faces with no past links to Gaddafi, a fact that will undermine efforts to choose an effective leadership. Beneath the surface, the rebels are torn apart by divisions and factionalism, Berber and Arab villages look at each other with disdain. Rebels refer to themselves as fighters from village x or village y, not the rebels of Libya.

If hardliners prevail, then Libya could make the same mistake that was made in Iraq after the 2003 U.S. military campaign that toppled Saddam Hussein. Baath party supporters and army officers were purged “en masse” creating a power vacuum that led to instability for years as everyone from his secular supporters to Al-Qaeda waged a violent campaign against Iraq’s new US-backed rulers. A hint of what could be is the increasing number of rebels growing long, thick beards, the trademark of Islamists who are likely to reject close ties with the West in a post- Gaddafi era.

Latin America: Iran's Springboard To America's Backyard

From The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs:

Latin America: Iran’s Springboard to America’s Backyard

by Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall

Published June 2011

The Jerusalem Viewpoints series is published by the Institute for Contemporary Affairs, founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

No. 584 July-August 2011

Latin America: Iran's Springboard to America's Backyard

Michael Segall

•Ever since Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected in 2005, Iran has been working resolutely to establish a foothold in the Latin American countries - in the U.S.' backyard. The Iranian president's partners in promoting this policy are the presidents of Venezuela and Bolivia, who provide him with a springboard for activity in Latin America.

•Iran is exploiting its growing ties and common interests with Latin American countries to deploy there its familiar pieces from the Middle Eastern and African chessboards. Those "pieces" include subversive and propaganda activity, terror and smuggling, and the development of long-range military capabilities. In this context, there have been reports that Iran is seeking to establish a missile base in Venezuela, at the doorstep of the "great Satan."

•In addition to terror and criminal activity by Iran and Hizbullah among the Muslim base in Latin America, Iran and its emissaries in the region also engage in extensive social, cultural, and religious activity aimed at exporting the Islamic Revolution and, primarily, at disseminating and introducing Shiite Islam, even to the point of converting various populations throughout the continent to Shia.

•Iran's infrastructures in Latin America could, in time of need, help Iran act against the United States itself or against Western interests in Latin America in various scenarios: if its nuclear installations are attacked by Israel and/or the United States, or if, should Iran's sense of isolation and encirclement intensify, it seeks to initiate crises with the U.S., perhaps on the model of the Cuban missile crisis. In the interim, Iran is exploiting the relative proximity to the U.S. to illegally penetrate its territory (via Mexico) as well as to prepare a terror and sabotage infrastructure within the U.S. itself.

•The infrastructures Iran is creating - some that are already operative and some in formation - will have a dual impact if Iran manages to obtain nuclear weapons and can operate these infrastructures under the cover of its nuclear umbrella.

Ever since Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected in 2005, Iran has been working resolutely to establish a foothold in the Latin American countries - the United States' backyard. Until recently, this region was not of interest to Iran, given the cultural and historical disparities between Iran - even under the Shah, let alone the Islamic Republic - and the countries of the region. The Iranian president's partners in promoting this policy are the presidents of Venezuela and, to a lesser extent, Bolivia, who provide him with a springboard for activity in Latin America.

Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez share a revolutionary vision that they present jointly despite the huge differences between their two countries. Both seek to create new, global, hegemonic power on the ruins of American dominance. Chavez views himself as heir to the nineteenth-century revolutionary Simon Bolivar, the "Liberator of the Americas" from the yoke of the Spanish conquest. Ahmadinejad, in his meetings with Latin American officials, misses no opportunity to portray Iran and other countries that espouse an anti-American ideology in Latin America and Africa as worthy substitutes for the United States and the allegedly collapsing capitalism it represents.

For example, in a Tehran meeting with Uruguay's Foreign Minister Luis Almagro in April 2011, the Iranian president said "under such conditions that the oppressive order ruling the world is moving towards demise and the world needs a fair order, the two countries can have further cooperation with each other in various fields."1 And in a meeting with the Venezuelan ambassador in Tehran, Ahmadinejad said: "Independent and justice-seeking nations and governments have been vigilant against Imperialism's plots and would not be deceived by them."2

Moreover, in an October 2010 meeting with his Bolivian counterpart President Evo Morales, the Iranian president said that "undoubtedly, the reinforcement of the independent nations' front will benefit the global peace and security, and will further undermine the capitalist system....The course of the history [sic] is changing in favor of the independent nations and we should smartly take advantage of the current situation."3 Later, in a meeting with the Bolivian president of the Chamber of Deputies, Ahmadinejad reiterated: "Brotherhood and proximity of freedom-seeking nations not only strengthens their resistance vis-à-vis the arrogant powers, but they play a constructive and crucial role in setting up a new world order."4

In general, Iran's continued investment in its relations with Latin American countries is part of a strategy aimed, first, at purchasing (in both senses) a foothold for influence in Africa and the Middle East, where countries, in Iran's view, have been harmed by "American imperialism and exploitation," and second, at offering a "just" Islamic alternative to supposed American crimes. In this context Iran maintains, at various magnitudes for each country, an extensive network of contacts in the diplomatic, energy, economic-commercial (serving as the main lever of persuasion in recruiting support), and financial (including establishing joint banks to bypass sanctions) spheres, while promoting cooperation with regard to industry, establishing plants, signing mass communications agreements, and the like. On 27 February 2007, Iran staged "The First Conference on the Issue of South America: Its Role and Place in the New International Order,"5 and in December 2008 it presented the first exhibit on the development of Iranian-Latin American economic cooperation.6

In his address to the 65th general session of the UN General Assembly in September 2010, Ahmadinejad stated: "The two vast geographical spheres, namely Africa and Latin America, have gone through historic developments during the past decades....The awareness and wisdom of the leaders of these two continents has overcome the regional problems and crises without the domineering interference of non-regional powers. The Islamic Republic of Iran has expanded its relations with Latin America and Africa in all aspects in recent years."7 In October 2010, the presidents of Venezuela and (as mentioned) Bolivia visited Iran.

In April 2011, General Douglas Fraser, head of the U.S. Southern Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Iran had expanded its ties in Latin America beyond its close relationship with Venezuela. A member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of the Iranian Majlis (parliament), Mahmoud Ahmadi-Bighash, said: "The U.S. is fearful that the Islamic Revolution in Iran has increased the awakening of Middle Eastern and North African nations." He further added that "Islamic inspirations are behind the revolutions in the Middle East but the revolution of Latin American countries will pursue" the path of democracy.8

The background of Iran's vigorous anti-U.S., anti-Western activity on various fronts is its sense of encirclement stemming from Operation Iraqi Freedom and, in recent years, the sanctions aimed at preventing its nuclearization, with its concomitant growing isolation in the international arena. During this time Iran has also been adding an ideological component to the equation. It presents itself - along with those states in Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East that, in Iran's view, are now liberating themselves from the yoke of imperialism by protesting against the old, corrupt, U.S.-supported regimes - as destined to provide a suitable alternative to an America in decline.

New Equations

Iran under Ahmadinejad's presidency has constantly sought international and regional recognition of its power and capability to influence both regional issues (the peace process, Iraq, Afghanistan, the stability or overthrow of regimes) and international ones (the nuclear issue, oil and gas prices, the security of navigation in the Persian Gulf). Hence it is attempting to confront the United States with new power equations, one of which involves activity in Latin America - that is, the United States' backyard, parallel to the American presence in the Persian Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Azerbaijan that envelops Iran.

As part of the Iranian aspiration to be an "appropriate alternative" to American hegemony, it finds common ideological denominators, despite the vast religious disparity, with the leaders of countries that take an anti-American stance and are prepared to cooperate with Iran in promoting a joint political and economic agenda. Iran, for its part, exploits its ties with these countries to bypass sanctions and obtain dual-use equipment for its nuclear program, while continuing its ties with North Korea in that context, as recently revealed in a United Nations report by a special experts' committee.9

Iran Deploys Its "Chess Pieces"

Iran is exploiting its growing ties and common interests with Latin American countries to deploy there its familiar pieces from the Middle Eastern and African chessboards, where it displays great activity. Those "pieces" include subversive and propaganda activity (spreading Shiite Islam), terror, and smuggling (drugs, weapons). According to unverified reports in Die Welt, Iran is building, with the assistance of the Khatem al-Anbia command of the Revolutionary Guards, an intermediate-range missile base in Venezuela, while collaborating with Caracas in developing surface-to-surface missiles.10 The German daily claims that according to an agreement, Iranian Shahab 3 (range 1300-1500 km), Scud-B (285-330 km), and Scud-C (300, 500, and 700 km) missiles are to be deployed in a base that is indeed at the doorstep of the "great Satan."11

Such infrastructures could, in time of need, help Iran act against the United States itself or against Western interests in Latin America in various scenarios: if its nuclear installations are attacked by Israel and/or the United States, or if, should Iran's sense of isolation and encirclement intensify, it seeks to initiate crises with the United States, perhaps on the model of the Cuban missile crisis. In the interim, Iran is in any case exploiting the relative proximity to the U.S. to illegally penetrate its territory (via Mexico) as well as prepare a terror and sabotage infrastructure on U.S. territory.

Iran seeks to erode U.S. political and, to an extent, economic influence in the Latin American countries, to weaken the countries that support the United States (such as Colombia), and to recruit, by inducements and promises of economic aid (that it does not always provide in practice), support for Iran and its policy. Furthermore, Iran is enlisting Latin American countries to serve the anti-Israeli agenda. In reaction to Israel's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, Venezuela expelled the Israeli ambassador and created a hostile atmosphere for Jews that led to intensified anti-Semitic manifestations, such as the damaging of the long-established, main synagogue of Caracas, Tiferet Yisrael, and the destruction of sacred books there - an attack that Chavez condemned. Bolivia, too, severed diplomatic relations with Israel over the military campaign. The strengthened Iranian-Venezuelan ties have led over one-quarter of Venezuela's Jews to emigrate.

Bases of Recruitment and Support

About 4.5-6 million Muslims reside throughout Latin America, the majority Sunni and the minority Shiite. Among this Muslim population two communities are prominent: one that originated in India, Indonesia, and Pakistan, the other consisting of Muslims who originated in Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine and who emigrated in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Muslim population centers, with an emphasis on the Shiites, form a convenient recruitment base for Iran, both in terms of promoting its revolutionary objectives and in helping terror elements operate on its behalf in the region.

In addition to terror and criminal activity by Iran and Hizbullah among the Muslim base in Latin America, Iran and its emissaries in the region also engage in extensive social, cultural, and religious activity aimed at exporting the Islamic Revolution and, primarily, at disseminating Shiite Islam, even to the point of converting various populations throughout the continent to Shia. The Islamization activity is conducted by the Ahel al-Beit organization, which works to disseminate Shia throughout the world, and by other Shiite centers in Latin America.12 Ahel al-Beit operates a website in Spanish targeted at Latin American audiences.13 Local elements who are recruited are sent for indoctrination in Iran, which includes religious studies and military training, and subsequently return to their countries. They maintain contact with Iranian and Hizbullah elements operating in their country and serving as the operational arm of Iranian policy (in mosques, social frameworks, etc.). Additionally, Iran works to strengthen cooperation in the field of mass communications, and to establish contact with Latin American residents in their languages. For example, Ahmadinejad's adviser for media affairs, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Venezuelan news agency AVN to bolster cooperation regarding exchanges of news and photographs.14

The Handwriting Is Already on the Wall

The United States is well aware of the sharply escalating Iranian activity in Latin America. In recent years many intelligence, State Department, army, DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), and other operatives have warned about this trend and its negative short, medium, and long-term repercussions for U.S. citizens and U.S. allies in Latin America.

Some of the fresh evidence of Iranian's involvement there was provided by General Douglas M. Fraser, head of U.S. Southern Command, to the Senate Armed Services Committee on 5 April 2011:

Iran continues expanding regional ties to support its own diplomatic goal of reducing the impact of international sanctions connected with its nuclear program. While much of Iran's engagement in the region has been with Venezuela and Bolivia, it has nearly doubled the number of embassies in the region in the past decade and hosted three regional heads of state in 2010. Currently, Iranian engagement with Venezuela appears to be based on shared interests: avoiding international isolation; access to military and petroleum technologies; and the reduction of U.S. influence....In addition to extra-regional state actors, members of violent extremist organizations (VEOs) from the Middle East remain active in Latin America and the Caribbean and constitute a potential threat. Hizbullah supporters continue to raise funds within the region to finance their worldwide activities.15

A special updated CRS (Congressional Research Service) report from February 2011,16 "Latin America: Terrorism Issues," highlights Iran. The United States expresses concern about Venezuela's lack of cooperation in the struggle against terror and its support for terror groups in Colombia. The report also focuses on Iran's intensified activity in Latin America, primarily regarding its attempts to circumvent the sanctions (Venezuela having promised to supply Iran with refined oil in case of sanctions), and its ties with Lebanese Hizbullah. There is also emphasis on the growing ties between Iran and Venezuela, both members of OPEC, since Ahmadinejad was elected in 2005. The report states: "A major rationale for this increased focus on Latin America appears to be Iran's efforts to overcome its international isolation. The personal relationship between Ahmadinejad and Chávez has driven the strengthening of bilateral ties."

In May, Iran's deputy minister of industry and minerals noted that Venezuela is Latin America's largest importer of Iranian industrial products and minerals.17 Also in that month, the Iranian ambassador to Caracas said that "the relations between Iran and Venezuela are based on mutual interests and are affected by the common points of the two countries' revolutions, including movement towards self-reliance on the domestic level and justice-seeking and confrontation against hegemonic policies on the international scene."18

In September 2009, Chavez visited Iran and signed a series of contracts and agreements in the energy field. Some contravene the sanctions imposed on Iran and American legislation in this area. The Venezuelan president also expressed support for Iran's nuclear program, and reports divulged that Iran would assist Venezuela in uranium prospecting.19 This ran counter to UN Security Council Resolution 1929, which prohibits Iranian investments in uranium mining outside of Iran.

Iranian-Venezuelan cooperation continues to progress in many areas. For example, the head of the Khatem al-Anbia command of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, General Rostam Ghasemi, stated in May 2011 that the command was currently dealing with the planning and construction of a tanker with a 120-ton capacity for Venezuela.20 As noted earlier, this arm of the Revolutionary Guards is responsible for the building of the Iranian missile base in Venezuela (which, for its part, denied that this was happening). It also carries out most of Iran's national strategic projects in the field of infrastructure, such as the reinforcement of sensitive nuclear sites.

The growing apprehension in the United States over expanding Iranian activity in its backyard was already apparent during the presidency of George W. Bush, especially in light of the increasing U.S.-Iranian friction over the protracted nuclear crisis and sanctions. The longer sanctions continue, the more effectively Iran contends with them - both by creating acquisition routes that bypass the sanctions and by building capabilities to respond should it be attacked or feel that the economic and diplomatic noose is tightening around it. Iran wants to prepare its response options against the United States and will not hesitate to use them (as it already has in the Middle East, in the cases of the 1983 and 1984 bombings of the U.S. embassy and the Marine barracks in Beirut, and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia).

Priority Intelligence Requirements

One of the major indications of U.S. awareness of the gravity of the threat Iran is building in Latin America is a telegram, revealed by WikiLeaks, that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent at the beginning of 2009 to all U.S. embassies in Latin America. It stated that Iran was trying to forge ties with Latin American countries in an attempt to break out of its growing diplomatic isolation, and that Iran viewed leftist countries as partners in its anti-American doctrine. The telegram also said Ahmadinejad was the main force behind this policy, and that his collaborator, the one who "opens doors" for him in the Latin American countries, was Chavez, noting Iran's extensive ties with Venezuela that emphasize military cooperation (which formed the context of the Die Welt report). It was this cooperation, the telegram asserted, that posed the most tangible and immediate danger. Clinton also mentioned in this regard Hizbullah's freedom to raise funds and carry out activities, and the fact that it viewed Venezuela as a safe haven from which it could operate unhindered. The telegram further notes that Iran had established cultural centers in sixteen Latin American countries while having ambassadors posted in ten additional ones.21

Moreover, the telegram conveys a long series of questions (known as PIR, priority intelligence requirements) from the State Department to U.S. embassies and to cross-agency Iran specialists. This attests, perhaps more than anything else, to Washington's growing concern over the Iranian activity and looming threat in Latin America and its desire to map out their details. It should be noted that the telegram's extensive attention to these matters demonstrates that the various U.S. intelligence and enforcement agencies have already accumulated a large body of information about the Iranian activities.

The main U.S. concerns are: what is the extent of Iran's activity in Latin America; to what extent are Iran and its partners in the region acting against the United States and its interests; and who stands behind, shapes, and implements this activity (possibilities include Iran's Foreign Ministry, Intelligence Ministry, and Revolutionary Guards)? How is the activity coordinated in the field; how does Iran spread its cultural-religious influence in the region? What are the Shiite contexts of this activity in each particular country; what is the size of the Shiite Muslim communities that constitute Hizbullah clans; how do the Iranian diplomatic delegations in the region operate?

The PIR goes on to extensively detail Iranian areas of activity in Latin America that perturb America. Does Iran intend to use Latin America as a platform for terror activities, directly or via surrogates? Does it support terror activities in Latin America itself; are officials within the Iranian regime working to establish networks of cells for future terror activity? Do Iran and Hizbullah share similar objectives in the region, and to what extent is the Jerusalem (Qods) Force of the Revolutionary Guards (the operational arm of the Revolutionary Guards for subversive terror activities outside of Iran) involved? Further questions include: are the Iranian cultural centers and the intelligence and Revolutionary Guards operatives in contact with converts to Islam; how are Latin American recruits who have undergone training in Iran and the Middle East operated; what do converts engage in after returning from religious study and indoctrination in Iran; are Iranian elements attempting to penetrate American territory or private American companies via Latin America; how is Iran working in Latin America to bypass sanctions; is Tehran involved in any way in efforts to counter narcotics trafficking; and what is the extent of Iran's military contacts with regional countries and particularly Venezuela - including refurbishing F-5 aircraft engines, purchasing unmanned aerial vehicles, and the use of aircraft of the Venezuelan oil company PDVSA for weapons transfers from Tehran and Damascus?

Concern over the Level of Subversive Activity

Already on 27 January 2009, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he was disturbed "by the level of subversive activity that Iran is conducting in a number of Latin American countries and especially in its south and center....It is opening many offices and many fronts, via which it is meddling in what goes on in some of these countries." He added: "the truth is that I'm more concerned over Iranian involvement in this region than over Russia's involvement."22

In a February 2010 meeting between Eliot Engel, ranking member of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, and President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina, it was stated that the United States was concerned over Iran's growing activity in Latin America, and over cumulative evidence that Chavez was providing Iran with logistical and political support to conduct terror activities.23

A status evaluation performed (according to WikiLeaks) by the U.S. embassy in Brazil in July 2008 said, among other things, that Iran was pursuing an aggressive foreign policy in Latin America. It was trying, in the course of frequent visits to the region by Iranian officials, to persuade countries, including Brazil, to join the anti-American bloc of which Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela were already members. Additionally, Iran was conducting "soft diplomacy," appealing to public opinion in Brazil and pointing to "parallels between Brazil's peaceful nuclear energy program and [Iran's] purported wish for a ‘peaceful' one of [its] own."24

Venezuela as a Springboard for Revolutionary Guard Activity in Latin America

In Country Reports on Terrorism 2009 (published in August 2010), the U.S. State Department expressed concern over intensified ties between Venezuela under Chavez's rule and "state sponsor of terrorism Iran,"25 and especially between Iran and other Latin American countries.26 An additional unclassified report of the U.S. Defense Department presented to Congress, entitled "Iran's Military Power," said among other things that the Qods Force of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC-QF) maintains an operational infrastructure around the world and recently an appreciable increase was recorded in its Latin American presence as well, especially in Venezuela, and that if Iran were to intensify its activity in these countries it is plausible that contact with the IRGC-QF would be "frequent and consequential."

The report notes further that the IRGC-QF operates out of embassies, charitable foundations, and religious and cultural institutions to strengthen ties with local populations, with an emphasis on Shiites; and that it operates paramilitary bodies to support terror groups. The IRGC-QF was, indeed, involved in the abovementioned bombings of the U.S. embassy and the Marine barracks in Beirut (1983 and 1984), the terror attack on the Jewish Community Center's AMIA building in Buenos Aires in 1994, the abovementioned terror attack on the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, and in many of the attacks on coalition forces in Iraq.27 The CRS report and others connect Iran, including former President Rafsanjani, and Hizbullah to terror attacks in Argentina.


Dennis Blair, the former head of American intelligence, presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee in March 2009 an annual report on threats facing the United States. In this context, Blair referred to the personal ties forming between the Iranian and Venezuelan presidents. He emphasized that Venezuela constitutes a bridge for Tehran in establishing contacts with additional Latin American countries. In his view, the strengthening of ties between Chavez and Iran, together with the rampant corruption in Venezuela, created a convenient environment that Hizbullah was exploiting. Blair added that Venezuela occupied second place after Colombia as a source for exporting cocaine in Latin America, and first place in terms of smuggling drugs by air to global markets.28

In January the chief of USEUCOM (the United States European Command), James Stavridis, in the course of a conference at the Center for Strategic Studies (CSIS) in Washington that focused on Latin American issues, warned about the link between narco-terrorism and terrorism connected with the activity of radical Islamic groups that could have destructive repercussions. Stavridis expressed apprehension about the involvement of "external players" (a broad hint at Iran) that could transform narco-terrorists into those involved in radical Islam right at the United States' doorstep. He noted while pointing to a picture of Ahmadinejad (alongside those of the presidents of Venezuela and Bolivia) "that this gentleman is the president of a state that is financing and supporting terror and he is a very dangerous person and is present and active in this region of the world."

In a similar vein, Charles Allen, who served as chief of intelligence analysis at the Homeland Security Department, assessed that Hizbullah and al-Qaeda were already involved in raising funds in Latin America, and could establish ties with drug barons and exploit them to carry out terror attacks against the United States. Drug barons already specialize in producing forged documentation, concealing weaponry, smuggling, money laundering, and providing safe havens. He added that while for the moment this was of low plausibility, some of the Latin American regimes offered "fertile ground" for such activity given their corruption and feeble security services.29

An investigation by the Fox News network, quoting former senior officials in the DEA and the Homeland Security Department, found that Hizbullah operatives are involved in setting up networks for drug and weapons smuggling in collaboration with the drug cartels in Mexico. Hizbullah operatives are smuggled via these networks into the United States by tunnels equal in sophistication to those that enable weapons smuggling into Gaza. In this context, Jameel Nasr was arrested after journeying many times to Lebanon where he met with senior Hizbullah figures. As Rep. Connie Mack, chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, remarked: "I think the question that we all have to ask is, when the terrorists come into Latin America, when they move into Mexico, how many have come into the United States? Our government doesn't know the answer to that question. That should make all of us very fearful."30

The DEA's National Drug Threat Assessment 2010 points out that only a small number of aliens (out of hundreds who make the attempt) from countries of particular interest to the United States (such as Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan) who try to cross the border illegally from Mexico to the United States are encountered by law enforcement bodies. The report notes that a number of alien smuggling organizations (ASOs) have a special interest in entering the United States. "However, among the aliens from special-interest countries who have been encountered at the U.S.-Mexico border over at least the past five years, none documented as a known or suspected terrorist has been identified as having been assisted by a DTO (drug trafficking organization)."31

The U.S. State Department's International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2009 notes that in the course of a large arrest operation by the DEA, its agents established a direct connection between the traditional drug cartels in Colombia and Middle East money launderers affiliated with Hizbullah. The report also mentions a Hamas-Hizbullah money-laundering collaboration in the tri-border region between Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay.32 Thus, in actuality, the Iranian presence in Latin America constitutes a transnational threat from Latin America passing through the Middle East and Africa, and primarily in Western Africa where Hizbullah maintains a prominent presence. The problematic Latin American region and its Middle East connections received detailed reference in the March 2010 testimony of Anthony Placido, assistant administrator for intelligence of the DEA, to the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs:

The relatively small quantity of drugs being smuggled out of the tri-border area would not necessarily be a top priority for the DEA when contrasted with the multi-ton shipments transiting the Eastern Pacific and Caribbean corridors. However, with the cost of drugs being far lower in this region, they can be resold in other countries for large profits desired by those seeking funds to further terrorist activity such as Hizbullah....DTOs based in the Tri-border Area have ties to radical Islamic terrorist groups such as Hizbullah. It is important to note that this is not an emerging threat per se, but one that has existed since the late 1980s or early 1990s....There are numerous reports of cocaine proceeds entering the coffers of Islamic Radical Groups (IRG such as Hizbullah and Hamas in Europe and the Middle East).33

In October 2009, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, held a special hearing with Prof. Norman A. Bailey of the Institute of World Politics. He referred extensively to Iranian involvement in the international drug trade while exploiting the concrete factories it was establishing in Venezuela, among other places, in the region of the Orinoco River Delta, and their transfer routes. He summed up:

Iran over the past several years has built up an extensive network of facilities throughout the region, concentrated in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Central America and Panama and involved with the financing of terrorist organizations, drug trafficking, weapons smuggling, money laundering, the provision of chemical precursors to the Colombian drug cartels and diamond smuggling (Venezuela has been expelled from the international agency charged with regulating the diamond trade). It is becoming increasingly clear that one of the principal motivations of all this activity is to be able to retaliate against the United States if it is attacked, particularly through the destruction of the Venezuelan oil facilities and blocking the Panama Canal. In short, the Iranian penetration into the Western Hemisphere indeed is a security threat to the United States and the rest of the Hemisphere.34

Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.) sent a letter in mid-2010 to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano requesting that she thoroughly examine reports on collaboration between Hizbullah and the drug cartels along the border with Mexico, and establish a special task force to deal firmly with the serious threat to U.S. security. Myrick cited the views and findings of former intelligence officials and others. One of them was a "high-ranking Mexican Army officer" who, she said, believes Hizbullah could be training Mexican drug cartels to make bombs. "This might lead to Israel-like car bombings of Mexican/USA border personnel or National Guard units."35 Over the past two years, the issue of Hizbullah and Hamas involvement in using drug cartels to raise money and perpetrate terror activity has arisen in numerous hearings.

Drug smuggling, and the raising as well as laundering of money, serve to finance Iran and Hizbullah activity in Latin America. The huge investments that Iran is making primarily via the Revolutionary Guards, which is expanding its military and civilian activity in Latin America and also developing means of asymmetrical naval warfare, can serve as an infrastructure for drug smuggling from Latin America into the territory of the United States and Europe.

Colombia is investing prodigious resources and activity against drug smuggling by sea, including the use of submarines and mini-submarines36 to interdict smuggling that is conducted via connections between international crime organizations from Africa, Mexico, and Latin America and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Since 2000, over twenty-seven tons of cocaine that were smuggled by submarines have been seized.37 Recently it was revealed that submarines and swift boats have been used for drug smuggling in the region of Delta Amacuro in Venezuela. A submarine capable of transferring up to twelve tons of drugs was seized in Ecuador in July 2010 with the involvement of DEA agents.38 There is ongoing, vigorous interdiction activity by the DEA and by Latin American countries to prevent drug smuggling to the United States and Europe.

The commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Ali Jafari, recently referred to an expanded role for submarines, and mini-submarines in particular, in Iran's asymmetrical naval warfare, and the integration of the Revolutionary Guards in this endeavor. He said the Revolutionary Guards are operating in underwater environments in an asymmetrical fashion and in small dimensions, and in any case they have no intention of manufacturing large submarines because these are vulnerable. Jafari explained that when it comes to augmenting capabilities for contending with enemies in asymmetrical warfare, one should also employ asymmetrical methods in manufacturing equipment.

He further explained that the underwater equipment must be quicker and smaller yet with similar functions to swift boats on the surface, which the enemy fears. Jafari added that currently the Revolutionary Guards not only possess the capability to defend the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz but also to contend with enemies in distant regions. "We are investing a huge effort in building these capabilities so that we can strike the enemy in the same way that the enemy stationed in areas far and beyond the confines of the Persian Gulf can strike Iran by airplanes and missiles."39 Asymmetrical naval-warfare capabilities that the Revolutionary Guards are building could be used to strike a naval vessel in the maritime space between Latin America and the United States as well as to assist drug smuggling into the United States and Europe.

Recently, Mohammad Javad Larijani, head of Iran's High Council for Human Rights, warned that if the West continues to criticize Iran over the execution of drug criminals, Iran will permit heroin transit through its territory on the way to Europe. Iran also has the capability to do so via Latin America.40 Flooding the West with drugs is not a novel Iranian idea; Lebanon also serves as a conduit for that purpose, and now Iran apparently is acting in this regard from Latin America.

The advantage of the mini-submarines - of the type that Iran uses - is that they can stealthily carry huge amounts of drugs in comparison with swift boats that generally serve this purpose. Aside from drug smuggling, submarines can carry an explosive charge that can damage naval or merchant vessels operating in the Pacific Ocean,41 and could also be used to smuggle weapons into the United States as well. Iran is capable of implementing its threats against the United States in the context of asymmetrical warfare, and could utilize the narco-terrorist infrastructure that it is building in the Latin American countries.

What Next?

The operational infrastructure that Iran is establishing with the assistance of IRGC-QF and Hizbullah activists in Latin America, under the patronage of Venezuela and other countries, can assist it in damaging American and Western interests in case it is attacked or if it senses that such an attack is imminent. True, there are American bases (the command of the 5th Fleet in Bahrain, for example) alluringly nearby,42 but the fact that Iran can now harm U.S. interests in Latin America and even in U.S. territory is even more attractive, demonstrating to the United States that Iran, too, has a long arm and creating a strategic balance whereby, if the United States acts in Iran's backyard, Iran can reciprocate.

Iran's activity in Latin America also provides a springboard for its activity in other global arenas. The common denominator and the tools serving this activity are identical. In its aspiration to regional and global hegemony, Iran seeks to fulfill two major needs: to break out of its international isolation and to erode the sanctions imposed on it. In this context the United States plays an important role both as the leader of the sanctions-and-isolation endeavor and as the country that, in Iran's view, is usurping its role as leader of the free world.

The tools that Iran is wielding in the battle are identical - terror, the drug trade, military and economic assistance to various actors, and a great deal of anti-American rhetoric. Lebanese Hizbullah serves as Iran's long arm in theaters of activity throughout the world. This starts with Iraq, where Hizbullah is assisting and training the Shiite militias that have carried out sophisticated terror attacks against coalition forces and the Iraqi state in the making. It continues with the Gulf States (Bahrain, Kuwait, and others), Israel, the Palestinian Authority, West Africa, up to the Brazil-Paraguay-Argentina border triangle. Together with the Qods Force of the Revolutionary Guards, Hizbullah serves as Iran's "hit man" for terror attacks, having perpetrated these in Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, and the like.

The various U.S. intelligence and enforcement agencies are well aware of this Iranian and Hizbullah activity, although the issue does not receive its proper place in the U.S. public discourse and the price Iran is made to pay is low. Likewise, the deep involvement in terror in other arenas, and particularly the Palestinian one (involving assistance to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad), carries a low price tag. This allows Iran to persist in this endeavor and lay the groundwork for a future opportunity to act, either at its own initiative or as a response to action against it.

Iran is constantly and assiduously moving its pieces on the global chessboard, lying in wait for an opportunity to launch a surprise. Its moves are quite familiar to intelligence personnel and decision-makers in the Western states, and the only question that remains is what will be their next step in confronting the Iranian threat. It should be kept in mind that the infrastructures Iran is creating - some of which are already operative and some in formation - will have a dual implication if Iran manages to obtain nuclear weapons and operate these infrastructures under the cover of its nuclear umbrella.

The Iranian Shah has been checkmated but the Iranian threat is very much alive.

* * *






5. IRNA, 27 February 2007.

6. Iranian television, 20 December 2008.























29. AP, 18 October 2008.


31., p. 17.





36. The submarines used for drug smuggling are generally semisubmersibles with four-man teams (SPSSs).

37. El Colombiano, 22 March 2009.

38. AFP, 8 July 2010.




42. Recently Jafari said in an interview to FARS News that despite Iran's ability to extend the range of its missiles, it had no intention of doing so as its regional adversaries, with an emphasis on Israel ("the regime occupying Jerusalem"), were already in range of Iranian missiles and even if the major American forces were sustaining the Israeli threats, they too were close to us and completely within our range (of missiles).

* * *

Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall is an expert on strategic issues, with a focus on Iran, terrorism, and the Middle East.

How Arab Media View A Declaration Of Palestinian Statehood

From The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs:

Jerusalem Issue Briefs » How Arab Media View a Declaration of Palestinian Statehood

by Linda Menuhin Abdul Aziz

Published June 2011

Vol. 11, No. 5 27 June 2011

How Arab Media View a Declaration of Palestinian Statehood

Linda Menuhin Abdul Aziz

The momentum for the emergence of Palestinian statehood began two years ago with a serious plan set forth by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. In addition, President Barack Obama in his speech to the UN General Assembly in 2010 stated that Palestine should become a full member of the United Nations by the fall of 2011.

Unlike the vibrant debate in Israel over the Palestinian plan to seek support for statehood in September in the UN General Assembly, the Arab media is occupied with the wave of changes sweeping Arab countries, leaving little room for discussion of the projected Palestinian plan.

Some commentators believe Abbas' plan is a dream and that, in order to save face, it is better not to push the plan all the way to the end since this step will not create a Palestinian state on the ground, due to the opposition of Israel and the U.S. Others believe that Mahmoud Abbas is seeking to use the declaration as a tactic to reshuffle the cards and achieve better terms.

The Arab media predicts that a declaration of statehood by the Palestinians would not result in any immediate changes on the ground. Any Palestinian state would lack sovereignty and authority, with borders dictated by certain facts on the ground - the security fence, the settlements, and Israeli control of Jerusalem, as well as continued economic dependence on Israel.

The Oslo II Agreement of 1995 established that neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and Gaza. In order to avoid Israel's accusation of breaching the Oslo agreements, Palestinians are advised to shake off their commitment to the Oslo agreements, under the pretext that Israel did not live up to all its commitments.

Arab Media Focused on "Arab Spring," Not Palestinian State

Unlike the vibrant debate in Israel over the Palestinian plan to seek support for statehood in September at the UN General Assembly, the Arab media is busy with the wave of changes sweeping Arab countries, leaving little room for discussion of the projected Palestinian plan, especially in the leading London-based Arabic websites.

The momentum for the emergence of statehood came from two sources. It began two years ago with a serious plan set forth by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. In addition, President Barack Obama in his speech to the UN General Assembly in 2010 stated that Palestine should become a full member of the United Nations by the fall of 2011.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas stated in April 2011 that he is opposed to a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood, which he said would constitute "a leap in the air and a miscalculated step." Abbas added that one of the options before the Palestinians was to appeal to the UN General Assembly to demand Palestinian independence in accordance with Resolution 377 (V), "Uniting for Peace."1

Yet most of the Arab media believe that the underlying message Abbas is trying to convey is that the Palestinian Authority has other options beside negotiations - which he put on hold. Seeking declarative support for statehood is seen as putting pressure on Israel and the U.S. to return to the negotiating table with better terms for the Palestinians.2 Yet it is not clear if all Arab states will endorse the plan, given the fact that most are preoccupied with internal matters and the future of their own regimes.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization, has explained that the UN declaration is a means rather than an end. "The Palestinian Authority will defer its attempts to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state at the United Nations if ‘real and serious' negotiations with Israel begin. The basis of any negotiated agreement must be according to the 1967 borders, very limited exchanges of land and no exchanges of population." According to Abed Rabbo, the Middle East Quartet should tackle these negotiations in accordance with the timetable previously agreed to, ending in September 2011.3

Some Arab commentators believe the Abbas plan is a dream and that in order to save face it would not be advisable to push the plan all the way to the end, since this step will not create a Palestinian state on the ground, due to the opposition of Israel and the U.S., with some reservations from EU countries as well. Others believe that Abbas is seeking to use the declaration as a tactic to reshuffle the cards and achieve better terms.4

The Arab media maintains that even if the declaration gains a majority of the votes in the UN General Assembly, the resolution cannot give birth to a Palestinian state, as it lacks many essential requirements such as recognized borders and an independent economy.

The recently forged reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah is viewed as a positive and essential step toward the declaration act, as it combines two entities into one as a minimum requirement of building a state.5 Hamas, however, has not changed its position towards this option, portraying it as unrealistic, futile, and an escape from its national commitments. According to Hamas spokesman Abu Zahri: "What is important is to secure real international support to end the Israeli occupation, rather than build a state in the air."6

Support of Arab Countries

The Arab media considers Arab countries' support essential to gain momentum. PA President Abbas informed Arab leaders of the possibility of seeking U.S. support for the unilateral declaration of a state during the November 2010 Arab summit in Serta, Libya, before the onset of the Arab Spring.

Meanwhile, Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil al-Araby, who will soon assume the position of Secretary General of the Arab League, has urged the United States to support the declaration of an independent Palestinian state after the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah brokered by Egypt.7 The statement marks yet another shift in Egypt's foreign policy. The new call indicates a move away from Egypt's past stance, which has strongly opposed the Palestinian Authority's campaign to win backing for a unilateral declaration of statehood.

Amr Moussa, the outgoing Secretary General of the Arab League, has stated that it is essential to declare a unilateral Palestinian statehood as planned in September and there was no need to delay it, due to the continuation of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.8

The Arab Peace Initiative Committee, affiliated with the Arab League, announced on May 28 that it has decided to submit a request to the UN to accept the Palestinian state as a full member, based on the 1967 boundaries and with east Jerusalem its capital. The announcement further stated that all necessary legal procedures will be pursued in order to translate this decision into action.

The Declaration of a Palestinian State Is Redundant

The Arab media is aware of the fact that the Palestinian National Council had declared a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital back in 1988 in Algiers. That resolution was backed by the UN General Assembly and supported by 104 countries.

In 1997 Yasser Arafat threatened to unilaterally declare a state in 1999 at the end of the Oslo II transition period. Confronting this bid, the Israeli government warned that such a move would constitute "a substantive and fundamental violation of the interim agreement between Israel and the Palestinians." In such a scenario, Israel would be entitled to take all necessary measures including the application of Israeli law to settlement blocs and security zones in the West Bank. In September 2000, Arafat had a resolution passed in the PLO Central Committee postponing the declaration of a state to an indefinite date.

The idea was floated again by some Palestinian leaders after the start of negotiations between former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas, but the idea came under criticism from the U.S., which refused to compare the situation in Kosovo to that of the Palestinian territory.

In 2009, PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced a program known as the "Palestine document" that called for the establishment of Palestinian state institutions in two years, to be followed by the declaration of a Palestinian state in 2011.

On several occasions, Israel has announced that it rejects the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state and considers it a breach of the Oslo agreements. Prime Minister Netanyahu's response carried a warning of the unilateral annexation of Israeli settlements to the State of Israel if the Palestinians moved for a unilateral statehood declaration.

The U.S. and the European Community

The international community, including the United States, seems to favor the idea of a Palestinian state. Yet there is clearly a lack of political will and muscle for forcing Israel to accept the unilateral emergence of Palestine. The U.S. has announced on several occasions its refusal to acknowledge a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state and that this would be considered a violation of the Oslo agreement, stressing that negotiations are the best path to resolve problems between Palestinians and Israelis. U.S. congressmen expect America to use its veto against any such resolution submitted to the Security Council.9

On March 17, 1999, the U.S. Congress endorsed HR 380, requesting the U.S. president to refuse any unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state. In the eyes of the Arab media, all these elements reflect the amount of opposition that the projected declaration would face. On the other hand, according to foreign and Israeli sources cited by Al Jazeera, the Obama administration, with its eye on the 2012 elections, is looking for a Middle East breakthrough that might well take the form of recognition of a Palestinian state.10

The EU supports the U.S. stand of refusing unilateral steps, even if some of the EU foreign ministers view the Palestinian plan as a tool to press the parties to move forward with negotiations, a legitimate act that serves the negotiation process.11

Expected Gains from the Declaration

The Arab media predicts that a declaration of statehood by the Palestinians would not result in any immediate changes on the ground. It would, however, drastically alter international attitudes toward two-state negotiations, with the Palestinians seen as having a much stronger position in such negotiations.

The Arab media notes that any Palestinian state would lack sovereignty and authority, with borders dictated by certain facts on the ground - the security fence, the settlements, and Israeli control of Jerusalem, as well as continued economic dependence on Israel. At best, this will leave the Palestinians with a copy of what the Oslo agreements offered under the name of a state, with a permanent instead of a transitional status.12

Securing a majority of votes at the UN General Assembly, the Palestinians would register a significant victory in the media battle, regardless of the fact that this would not provide even a partial solution to the Palestinian problem.

Even if the Palestinian state would arise only in Area A, according to the Oslo agreement, it would comprise only a small percentage of the West Bank and would not include east Jerusalem or the Jordan Valley. Such a state would be an island surrounded by Israel and without bordering any Arab country.

Al-Jazeera further notes that a unilateral declaration of a state, while Israeli settlements separate Palestinian towns and villages in the West Bank and the West Bank remains separated from Gaza, would create cantons lacking geographical unity.13

"If the Palestinian Authority is not properly prepared for the battle ahead, then it's advisable to regress because it cannot count on Obama and it is already clear that the administration will not let such a resolution pass, neither at the Security Council nor at the General Assembly," the UAE newspaper Al Khaleej warned.14

The Palestinian Public

A survey reported by Near East Consulting (NEC) on May 4 indicates that 70 percent of Palestinians believe the Palestinian Authority will be able to ask the UN Security Council to support a declaration of a Palestinian state in September 2011.15 Another survey by Al-Najah University in Nablus reported on April 12 a similar level of support by Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.16

This is seen as a sign of recognition and appreciation for the work of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, after the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund praised the performance of the PA, saying in separate reports that the PA is well-positioned to run an independent nation. "I believe that our governing institutions have now reached a high state of readiness to assume all the responsibilities that will come with full sovereignty on the entire Palestinian occupied territory," Fayyad stated.17

According to a survey conducted by The Israel Project, it is clear that Palestinian expectations have been on the rise over recent months, since Palestinians once considered the option of a unilateral state as a joke.18

Recommendations to the Palestinians by the Arab Media19

According to Al-Jazeera, Palestinians are advised to shake off their commitment to the Oslo agreements, under the pretext that Israel did not live up to all its commitments. The 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, also known as Oslo II, clearly established that neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and Gaza.

The act of unilateral declaration is to be supported by daily public protests in the West Bank, while seeking international support and halting security coordination with Israel. Similar to the international campaign to end the Gaza blockade, the PA should build an international front supporting the declaration of a Palestinian state, coupled with international demonstrations and campaigns, in order to secure broad support all over the world for the vote on a Palestinian state.

The Legal Front

Accompanying the declaration of Palestinian statehood, Al-Jazeera envisions challenges to the legitimacy of recognizing Israel. UN General Assembly Resolution 273(3) of May 1949, that accepted Israel as a member of the UN, maintains explicitly that Israel should commit to Resolution 194 that pertains to the Palestinian right of return and Resolution 181, known as the partition resolution, allegedly ignored by Israel. Both resolutions pave the way to challenge Israel's legitimacy in the General Assembly.

It is further recommended to seek to apply UN Security Council Resolution 1515 of November 2003, which calls for a two-state solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state. In addition, it is proposed that Israel be sued at the International Court of Justice in Holland to enforce the ruling issued on July 2004 which claimed that Israel's security fence is illegal.


Prospects for a Palestinian state through the UN appear to be 50:50 in the eyes of the Arab media, also because there is no coherent domestic front in the Palestinian territories that speaks with one voice, even after the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. Add to that the looming questions about what Israel will do and whether the U.S. will veto the proposal or put forward new ideas. No less important is the pattern that Arabs and Palestinians choose to apply as they view the successful outcome of popular uprisings in the region. It would be no surprise if Israel witnesses a repeat of attempts by Palestinians to break its borders from Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank, or from the sea.

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1. Al-Ayyam (PA), April 10, 2011.

2. Firas Abu Hilal,, December 12, 2010.

3. Al-Hayat (UK), April 25, 2011.

4. Al-Khaleej (UAE), April 23, 2011.

5. Doha Institution and Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies



8., May 1, 2011.

9. (Arabic), December 17, 2009.

10. Firas Abu Hilal,,

11. Al-Doustour (Jordan), December 12, 2009.

12. Firas Abu Hilal, See also Issa Khalaf, Palestine Chronicle,

13. Firas Abu Hilal,

14. Al-Khaleej (UAE),

15. WAFA (PA), May 4, 2011,


17. Almasry Alyoum (Egypt), April 11, 2011.

18. David Horowitz, Jerusalem Post, April 8, 2011.

19. Firas Abu Hilal,,

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Linda Menuhin Abdul Aziz is a senior journalist and commentator in Middle East affairs. Previously, she served as head of the research unit in the information section of the Israel Police, and as head of the Middle East desk of Arabic TV at the Israel Broadcasting Authority.