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The purpose of this paper is to examine a terrorist organization that is likely to conduct an attack within the United States. This paper will analyze the terrorist group Hezbollah and its funding methods, training programs, and military capabilities. Additionally, discussing the direct threat Hezbollah poses on the United States and its relationship with the Mexican drug cartels. Finally, evaluating the need to protect U.S. borders; specifically, the U.S. and Mexico border.
Since the “attacks” of September 11th 2001, there has been focus on terrorist organizations such as ISIS and al-Qaida (Bartell & Gray, 2012). This has left a very powerful organization in the background that officials have not taken their eyes off of (Bartell & Gray, 2012). Hezbollah is a Shi’a militant group that considers itself a Muslim political organization but due to its violent actions are considered a terrorist group (Bartell & Gray, 2012). The creation of Hezbollah reaches back to 1948 when thousands of Palestinians were pushed to Lebanon and Jordan (Bartell & Gray, 2012). With the help of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC); Iran’s elite military unit, Hezbollah was created (Bartell & Gray, 2012). In 1982, Hezbollah established as an Iranian political extremist militia in Lebanon (Project C., 2018). In 1990, its leader Hassan Nasrallah established an army (Project C., 2018). In 1992, it began its political activity and throughout the years developed a military role (Project C., 2018). November 19, 2017, Hezbollah was announced as a terrorist organization during a meeting of Arab foreign ministers (Project C., 2018).
Hezbollah is a disturbing group; not only do they carry out terrorist attacks in Lebanon and Israel but also their willingness to target Western locations (Bartell & Gray, 2012). U.S. intelligence has reported Hezbollah has set up cells and are operating in many locations including Europe, South America, Africa, and North America (Bartell & Gray, 2012). With Hezbollah using the U.S. and Mexico border as a gateway and Iran employing them as a proxy that could strike the U.S. at any given time; has increased the direct threat to the United States (Bartell & Gray, 2012). Current political tension has risen between the U.S. and Iran and in response Iran has stated they have the resources to target the U.S. from within the border of the United States (Bartell & Gray, 2012). Hezbollah along with Al Shabaab has been setting up operations in Mexico and receiving cultural assimilation and Mexican language training (Bartell & Gray, 2012). They have a close working relationship with the Mexican drug cartels who help smuggle their weapons and terrorist operatives into the United States (Bartell & Gray, 2012).
In 2008, President George W. Bush opened an investigation on Latin Drug Cartel and their affiliation with Hezbollah (Miiller, 2018). “Project Cassandra” involved 30 U.S and foreign security agencies that investigated and learned that Hezbollah received over $1 billion a year from drug trafficking, arms smuggling, and money laundering. Hezbollah aides the Mexican drug cartel in the smuggling of cocaine into the United States (Miiller, 2018). The money earned from selling drugs is then used to purchase cars and then sell them in Western Africa (Miiller, 2018). Finances are sent to banks in Lebanon and then allocated to fund terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah (Miiller, 2018). Those that are addicted to drugs in the United States attracts the homeland’s borders to drug smuggling and other criminal activity and in reality, fund Middle Eastern terrorist groups (Miiller, 2018). Hezbollah’s revenues range from $800 million to $1 billion a year; 80% of which are funded by Iran, criminal activity such as drug smuggling, fundraising, along with a government budget.
Since March 2011, the conflict in Syria has killed over 1,000 Hezbollah fighters, driving recruitment needs up (Mroue, 2015). Their armed forces are made up of an estimated 65,000 soldiers, of which 21,000 are professional soldiers that endure continuous training (Intelligence, 2017). Many of its recruits are from the Mideast and Asia; where individuals travel to study at religious Shiite institutions (Mroue, 2015). Offered benefits are one of the many ways Hezbollah attracts recruits; children of fighters receive free college until they graduate from a university and if fighters are killed in action; the family will receive a survivor stipend (Mroue, 2015). Those fighters that are elite and deployed to Syria to fight earn more than $2,000 a month (Mroue, 2015).
Iran provides funding to Hezbollah training bases and education to camps located in Southern Lebanon where thousands of recruits ages 17 and older training for 60-90 days (Mroue, 2015). In the earlier days, fighters training focused on conventional war fighting skills but today, its tactics have to shift to counter-insurgent and street battles (Mroue, 2015). Hezbollah has adapted well to its environment and created mobilization bases to counter Israeli and Lebanese police (Mroue, 2015). Training starts as young as years old (Intelligence, 2017). They begin introducing political and religious discussion; such as studying the Koran, learning how to run a house hold, and submitting to their leaders (Intelligence, 2017). As the boys get older, they will spend several weeks at training camps that will teach them survival skills and more in-depth political and religious ideologies (Intelligence, 2017). Once they reach the age of 17, they will become a Taabia or reservist (Intelligence, 2017). Recruits can stay a reservist or continue their training to learn an elite skill such as ATGM Gunner, Sniper, or Demolition team member (Intelligence, 2017).
In October 2017, a senior U.S. counterintelligence official announced “Hezbollah is perfecting its ability to strike the U.S. from within its borders.” (Wilner, 2017). The National Counterintelligence Center Director, Nicholas Rasmussen informs the State Department that Hezbollah has formed a “global attack infrastructure” which involves operational cells within the United States (Wilner, 2017). There are rising concerns for two specific men that are involved with planning “attacks” abroad, Talal Hamiyah and Fu’ad Shukr (Wilner, 2017). Talal Hamiyah is a top Hezbollah military leader of the External Security Organization (ESO) (Wilner, 2017). The ESO is responsible for planning terrorist attacks outside Lebanon (Wilner, 2017). Israeli intelligence reports that Hamiyah is recruiting cells from all over the world; specifically, from Africa, Western Europe, and South America (Butler, 2011). He is also using the Iranian embassies to transfer weapons (Wilner, 2017).
Hezbollah has carried out attacks along with establishing plans for future attacks (Weiser, 2017). Talal Hamiyah was involved in the suicide bombing at the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aries, Argentina in 1992; killing 29 and wounding 242 people (Wilner, 2017). There is evidence that Hezbollah is working towards carrying out attacks on U.S. soil (Weiser, 2017). In 2017, two individuals were arrested in the planning to attack U.S. with a potential target of the J.F.K. international airport in New York (Project C., 2018). Samer El Debek and Ali Kourani conducted surveillance on military and intelligence locations in New York with the plan to attack multiple locations; one of which was the J.F.K. International Airport (Weiser, 2017). Ali Kourani, a naturalized citizen from Lebanon told the FBI he joined Hezbollah and that his mission was to aide in the development of “sleeper” cells (Weiser, 2017). These cells are to stand by ready for orders from Hezbollah leadership to “activate” and carry out tasks (Weiser, 2017).
Hezbollah is gaining strength and numbers; with a complex training plan and sophisticated recruiting strategy. This organization also has a robust equipment and weapons arsenal. Hezbollah’s rocket arsenal consists of up to 120 thousand known weapons; scud missiles that can reach 435 miles, several models of ballistic missiles with a range of 155 miles, and surface-to-surface missiles (Intelligence, 2017). The Hezbollah military also has battlefield equipment such as T-72 tanks, howitzers, and machines guns with a wide range of calibers (Intelligence, 2017). Hezbollah military also has factories that manufacture missile components, rocket fuel, and hidden launch site (Intelligence, 2017).
Since the “attacks” of September 11th 2001, the United States has taken great effort in protecting the homeland from any future terrorist attacks. This task is not a simple one; it is complex and requires collaboration from all agencies within the Homeland Security Enterprise. Terrorist groups such as Hezbollah are gaining strength in manning along with funding. It is imperative that the United States take a look at securing the borders; most criminal activities are carried out by more than one organization. Case in point; the Mexican drug cartels are working alongside Hezbollah and other terrorist groups. Terrorist are traveling to Mexico; learning culture, language, and then blending in with other illegals as they penetrate the U.S. borders. They will continue to recruit, gain access to the U.S., set up “sleeper” cells, and then wait for leadership to “activate” with missions to attack from within our own walls.
- Butler, M. L. (2011). Hezbollah: The Dynamics of Recruitment .
- Gray, D. L. (2012). Hezbollah and Al Shabaab in Mexico and the Terrorist Threat to the United States. Retrieved from Global Security Studies, Fall 2012, Volume 3, Issue 4: http://globalsecuritystudies.com/Bartell%20Hezbollah%20and%20Al%20Shabaab%20in%20Mexico.pdf
- Intelligence, A. (2017, March 10). Hezbollah – Capabilities And Role In The Middle East. Retrieved from South Front : https://southfront.org/hezbollah-capabilities-and-role-in-the-middle-east/
- Miiller, A. (2018, January 8). Hezbollah Helps Drug Cartels Infiltrate the United States. Retrieved from The Trumpet: https://www.thetrumpet.com/16765-hezbollah-helps-drug-cartels-infiltrate-the-united-states
- Mroue, B. (2015, December 18). Hezbollah Recruiting Drive Uncovers its Deeper Role in Syria . Retrieved from The Times of Isreal : https://www.timesofisrael.com/hezbollah-recruiting-drive-uncovers-its-deeper-role-in-syria/
- Project, C. (2018, March 13). ‘Hezbollah Is a Threat to Florida and Entire US’. Retrieved from Clarion Project : https://clarionproject.org/hezbollah-threat-florida-us-whole/
- Project, C. E. (2019, April 15). Talal Hamiyah. Retrieved from Counter Extremism Project: https://www.counterextremism.com/extremists/talal-hamiyah
- Weiser, B. (2017, June 8). Bronx Man Accused of Casing J.F.K. Airport for Potential Hezbollah Attack. Retrieved from The New York Times : https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/08/nyregion/bronx-man-accused-of-casing-jfk-airport-for-potential-attack.html
- Wilner, M. (2017, October 11). Hezbollah Poses Homeland Threat, US Intelligence Says. Retrieved from The Jerusalem Post: https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Hezbollah-poses-homeland-threat-US-intelligence-says-507171
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