The PJ Tatler

Venezuela hosts rogue's gallery of major terrorist figures

Your unsettling read of the day comes courtesy Roger Noriega. Writing at the Washington Post, Noriega chronicles a somewhat recent meeting of the minds between the Venezuelan government and some of the top Islamic terrorists in the world.

On Aug. 22, 2010, at Iran’s suggestion, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez hosted senior leaders of Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in a secret summit at military intelligence headquarters at the Fuerte Tiuna compound in southern Caracas. Among those present were Palestinian Islamic Jihad Secretary General Ramadan Abdullah Mohammad Shallah, who is on the FBI’s list of most-wanted terrorists; Hamas’s “supreme leader,” Khaled Meshal; and Hezbollah’s “chief of operations,” whose identity is a closely guarded secret.

The idea for this summit sprang from a meeting between Iran’s ambassador to Syria, Ahmad Mousavi, and his Venezuelan counterpart, Imad Saab Saab, at the Venezuelan embassy in Damascus on May 10, 2010. According to the report received by Venezuela’s foreign minister, the two envoys were discussing a meeting between their presidents and Hezbollah’s leader, Hasan Nasrallah, when the Iranian suggested that the three meet Chavez in Caracas. That these infamous criminals left their traditional havens demonstrates their confidence in Chavez and their determination to cultivate a terror network on America’s doorstep.

Hezbollah has been known to operate in the border region between Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina for several years now. Having established their foothold in South America, Hezbollah seems to have made moves to get into the lucrative drug trade.

At Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday Admiral James Stavridis accused Hezbollah of involvement in the drug trade.

“We have seen in Colombia a direct connection between Hezbollah activity and the narco-trafficking activity,” he said.

The admiral’s comment came in response to a question from a senator seeking more information about concerns first raised by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates before the same committee in January.  The secretary accused Iran of engaging in what he called “subversive” activity in several places in Latin America.  He called newly-opened Iranian offices in Central and South America “fronts” for interfering in local affairs.

That in mind, return to the meeting in Venezuela.

The threat posed by globe-trotting terrorists is ever-present. A U.S. security official told me in mid-January that two known al-Qaeda operatives were in Caracas planning a “chemical” attack on the U.S. embassy; on Jan. 31, the embassy was closed, and reports at the time cited “credible threats.”

A Venezuelan government source has told me that two Iranian terrorist trainers are on Venezuela’s Margarita Island instructing operatives who have assembled from around the region. In addition, radical Muslims from Venezuela and Colombia are brought to a cultural center in Caracas named for the Ayatollah Khomeini and Simon Bolivar for spiritual training, and some are dispatched to Qom, Iran, for Islamic studies. Knowledgeable sources confirm that the most fervent recruits in Qom are given weapons and explosives training and are returned home as “sleeper” agents.

The US hasn’t taken these developments entirely in silence; Treasury recently moved hard against a Lebanese bank that’s evidently neck-deep in terror and money laundering. But that’s not going to be enough to deal with what’s looking like a growing terrorist threat that is not only operating at high levels in Venezuela, but also moving through Mexico connected with the drug cartels there. Simply put, we’re wide open for a serious terrorist attack on US soil.