Iran

Report: Hezbollah Uses International Drug Trade to Bypass Sanctions Against Iran

The Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah is bypassing crippling U.S. sanctions against its patrons in Tehran by playing a central role in the global drug trade, Israeli researchers revealed Monday.

The study found that Hezbollah operatives act as middlemen in the global drug route from South America to West Africa and from there to Europe, facilitating the distribution of cocaine and other drugs through European ports.

Researches noted that only 5-10 percent of the drugs are being intercepted by authorities, leaving the remainder to serve as a critical financial lifeline for the terrorist group.

“Our study links Hezbollah’s political wing with its military wing, and we went down to the field level and are showing how all the drug trafficking system supports money laundering,” Daniel Cohen of the Abba Eban Institute for International Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya said.

“At least 20%-25% of the [profit] goes back to Hezbollah and is used for arming, weapon purchases, salaries and more,” Cohen added.

Politico reported in December 2017 that the Obama administration obstructed a campaign by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to monitor and prosecute Hezbollah to solidify the 2015 nuclear accord with the Islamic Republic.

The campaign, called Project Cassandra, launched in 2008 and was aimed at disrupting Hezbollah’s weapons and drug trafficking practices, which included smuggling cocaine into the U.S. In April of this year, the United States offered up to $10 million for information that would disrupt the cash flow to Hezbollah.

The European Union Terrorism Situation and Trend Report 2018 said its investigations “focused on a large network of Lebanese nationals offering money laundering services to organized crime groups in the EU and using a share of the profits to finance terrorism-related activities of the Lebanese Hezbollah’s military wing.”

The report added, “The cooperation of these money-launderers and Hezbollah’s military wing was a clear example of a nexus between organized crime and terrorism.”

With an annual budget of $700 million, Iran is Hezbollah’s main benefactor. Israeli intelligence estimates that Iran has been giving its Lebanese terror proxy $1 billion annually. It is believed that due to the U.S. sanctions regime, the amount was cut by more than half in 2018.

[Photo: Naval Surface Warriors / Flickr]