In August 2008, for example, U.S. and Colombian investigators dismantled an international cocaine smuggling and money-laundering ring made up of members of a Colombian drug cartel and Lebanese members of Hezbollah.
Previously, the DEA had also targeted a Hezbollah drug trafficking ring in the Tri-Border region of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.
According to Michael Braun, former administrator and chief of operations at the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Hezbollah relies on “the same criminal weapons smugglers, document traffickers and transportation experts as the drug cartels.
U.S. counterterrorism officials have been keeping a close eye on links between Hezbollah and the drug cartels, worried that al-Qaeda could also make use of the drug trafficking routes between the U.S. and Mexico to send its operatives across the border to carry out terror attacks on American soil.
If this weren’t enough cause for concern, a weekend report in the German magazine Der Spiegel has established a clear link between Hezbollah, the European drug trade and the illegal transfer of funds from Germany directly to that terror group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah.
The report says that German police have arrested four Lebanese Nationals (all members of the same family) at Frankfort Airport who were found to be carrying millions of dollars in their carry-on-bags. Later, two other relatives were subsequently arrested, and under questioning admitted that they had sent money back to Lebanon to Hezbollah’s leadership. German police suspect that the two had trained in Hezbollah training camps in Lebanon.
Although the link with South American drug cartels has long been known, this is the first time that a direct Hezbollah link with the European drug trade has been demonstrated, although one has been suspected for quite some time due to increased cultivation of drugs in Lebanon. In fact, a 2009 United Nations report by that organization’s Office on Drugs and Crime says that:
[Lebanese] farmers in the Bekaa Valley (once the center of the Middle East’s largest hashish industry), appear to be resuming cannabis cultivation, as well as other drugs.
This is a disturbing development.
During the Lebanese civil war, the drug trade generated nearly $500 million a year in revenue, which was about 15% of Lebanon’s economy at the time. That money was a huge source of revenue for Hezbollah and other militias, also bringing enormous benefit to Syria and Iran, the primary providers of weaponry to Hezbollah.
The links between Islamic terrorism and drug trafficking are real and are growing, and in countries such as Lebanon–where government control is weak–Hezbollah has become a state-within-a-state, and the drug trade has become a source of funds for the procurement of its arms and matériel.
A fact, which has not gone unnoticed by Hezbollah, is that terrorism does not operate without money; and the drug trade is making them a lot of it.