The PJ Tatler

Hezbollah in America: 'Don't Ask About That'

Roger Noriega was US Ambassador to the Organization of American States during the Bush 43 years. On July 7, 2011, Ambassador Noriega testified before the House Subcommittee on Intelligence and Terrorism, on the subject of Hezbollah’s operations in the Americas. His testimony has generated hardly any notice, but it should. It’s terrifying.

Of particular interest to this Subcommittee, no doubt, are the several published reports, citing U.S. law enforcement and intelligence sources, that Hezbollah operatives have provided weapons and explosives training to drug trafficking organizations that operate along the U.S. border with Mexico and have sought to radicalize Muslim populations in several Mexican cities. The U.S. and Mexican governments have declined to share information publicly on these cases. (Our inquiries to at least one Mexican official about a specific arrest of a suspected Hezbollah operative in Mexico in June 2010 were met with the response, “Don’t ask about that.”) It is clear that this is a potential threat that has captured the attention of authorities on both sides of the border. This Congress and the American people have the right to know how our government is working with Mexico to meet this challenge to our common security. Hezbollah has a very clear modus operandi that it is applying in the Americas. By infiltrating or establishing mosques or “Islamic centers” throughout the region, Hezbollah is spreading its influence, legitimizing its cause, and advancing its violent jihad on our doorstep. It also is raising funds through various criminal and commercial operations, recruiting converts from among disaffected youth and others, and developing its operational capabilities in our own Hemisphere.

A key operative in the Hezbollah network in Latin America is Ghazi Atef Salameh Nassereddine Abu Ali, a man who was born in Lebanon, became a Venezuelan citizen about 10 years ago, and now is Venezuela’s No. 2 diplomat in Syria. Along with at least two of his brothers, he manages a network that raises and launders money and recruits and trains operatives to expand Hezbollah’s influence in Venezuela and throughout Latin America. Nassereddine was black-listed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in June 2008 for his fundraising and logistical support on behalf of Hezbollah. However, testimony before the House Committee on
Foreign Affairs last month by State Department officials suggests that they are unaware of the very important role he now is playing to expand that terrorist group’s reach beyond Venezuela. Using his diplomatic status, Nassereddine has built and consolidated relationships with Hezbollah officials in the Middle East, first in Lebanon and now in Syria. Meanwhile, his brother Abdallah Nassereddine, maintains relationships in the broader Islamic community via a multi-national organization known as the Federation of Arab and American Associations. (FEARAB has affiliates throughout South America and the Caribbean with most regional
meetings held in Sao Paulo or Buenos Aires.) All the while, their younger brother, Oday Nassereddine, has established a powerbase in Venezuela by setting up training operations on Margarita Island, and is now recruiting adherents via the Circulos Bolivarianos in Barquisimeto, 170 miles southwest of Caracas. (The Circulos Bolivarianos are ubiquitous neighborhood monitoring committees made up of the most radical followers of Hugo Chávez.)

Read the rest — it’s only four pages. The US State Department makes a cameo of cluelessness, as we’ve come to expect of Foggy Bottom. We have other, more aware, agencies monitoring what Hezbollah and our other enemies are up to, but it’s not at all comforting to think that our diplomatic corps is so evidently out of touch.

The walking tumor known as Hugo Chavez makes an appearance too:

Hugo Chávez hosted a terror summit of senior leaders of Hamas (“supreme leader” Khaled Meshal), Hezbollah (unnamed “chief of operations”), and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (Secretary General Ramadan Abdullah Mohammad Shallah) in Caracas on August 22, 2010. That extraordinary meeting was organized at the suggestion of Iran, and the logistical arrangements were made by Nassereddine. In addition to the summit, operatives from other countries gathered in Caracas to meet with these terrorist chieftains.

As I said, read the whole thing. Ambassador Noriega’s conclusion is sobering.