By Jim Kouri
When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced her concerns on Wednesday over intelligence reports that Latin American drug cartels are closely linked with Hezbollah and Iran, many within the U.S. law enforcement community were grateful that Obama Administration officials were finally acknowledging what cops already knew.
“We are concerned about the activities of Iran and Hezbollah in the Western Hemisphere,” the top U.S. envoy told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs at a hearing.
Washington recognizes Hezbollah, a Shiite militant group in Lebanon, as a terrorist organization, while Iran’s disputed nuclear program is resulted in sanctions by Washington and its allies.
“We continue to monitor the situation closely. We are aware of and concerned about allegations that some Latin American drug trafficking organizations are linked with Hezbollah and Iran,” Clinton said, vowing to take “appropriate action” to counter any threat that may arise.
Acknowledging that Washington has not found information to verify “a lot of the allegations,” Clinton drew attention to Iran’ s attempted assassination of the Saudi ambassador to the United States, a case unveiled by U.S. authorities in October 2011, calling it “a very large question mark and wake up call.”
“We are continuing to look for direct links and we are engaged very extensively with our partners in the hemisphere, both to educate them about the dangers posed by Iran and Hezbollah and also to work with them to heighten our intelligence sharing,” she said.
“While many of us in law enforcement applaud Secretary Clinton, we’re still wondering what [President Barack] Obama and Attorney General [Eric] Holder are planning to do. They appear too busy — having guns smuggled into Mexico and harassing law enforcement officers for trying to protect Americans — to come up with a plan to thwart narco-terrorist coalitions on our own doorstep,” said former police detective and military intelligence officer Michael Snopes.
This was not the first time U.S. lawmakers from both parties were warned about Latin America’s vulnerability to radical Islam. In 2007, the Bush Administration’s chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General Peter Pace, warned members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that elements of radical Islamic groups were active in South America recruiting and training terrorists.
U.S. intelligence officials in the past have told the Law Enforcement Examiner that an alliance exists between Mexican and Colombian drug gangs as Islamic terror groups. Iranian military and intelligence members are said to be in Latin American countries such as Venezuela. In addition, terrorist groups — such as the Iranian backed Hezbollah — are being harbored in Central/South American nations.