Earlier this week, Iran fired a volley of ballistic missiles towards Iraqi airbases the place Individuals are stationed in retaliation for the drone strike that killed its normal and terrorist chief Qassem Soleimani.
“They had been slapped final evening however such actions will not be sufficient,” Iran’s Supreme Chief Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wrote quickly after the assault.
“The corruptive presence of the US within the area of West Asia have to be stopped #SevereRevenge,” Khamenei wrote in a subsequent post.
If tensions escalate additional, the US homeland could possibly be the potential goal of an Iran-sponsored assault, based mostly on an Investigative Challenge on Terrorism report on prison prosecutions of Iranian operatives and people of its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah.
January 12, 2020 9:29 am
The report exhibits there are numerous supporters of Iran and Hezbollah dwelling in the US. Most instances contain monetary and different types of materials help. However speak of “sleeper cells” has been round for years, and not less than one operative told law enforcement that Iran might activate them to hold out assaults in “sure situations.”
They tried it not less than as soon as.
A senior officer from Iran’s deadly Quds Force participated in a plot to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington. In the meantime, senior members of Hezbollah’s Islamic Jihad Organization (IJO) have been prosecuted for scouting potential targets for assault in the US.
These plots had been crafted whereas arch-terrorist Soleimani led the Quds Power. Soleimani was the mastermind behind Iran’s international terror operations that included final month’s rocket attack on an Iraqi army base that killed an American civilian contractor and injured a number of US army service members, and the New Year’s Eve attack on the US embassy in Baghdad.
“Normal Soleimani was actively growing plans to assault American diplomats and repair members in Iraq and all through the area,” the Division of Protection said after the drone strike. The company held Soleimani and the Quds Power “answerable for the deaths of a whole bunch of American and coalition service members and the wounding of hundreds extra.”
Final April, the Trump administration designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), together with its Quds Power, as a Overseas Terrorist Group (FTO).
“The IRGC FTO designation highlights that Iran is an outlaw regime that makes use of terrorism as a key device of statecraft and that the IRGC, a part of Iran’s official army, has engaged in terrorist exercise or terrorism since its inception 40 years in the past,” stated a State Division reality sheet announcing the designation.
Below Soleimani’s management, the Quds Power trained Iraqi terrorists to make highly effective roadside bombs to kill American troops after the 2003 invasion. Additionally below his watch, the IRGC and Quds Power exploited the turmoil within the wake of the Arab Spring revolts to advance Iranian imperialism within the Center East and past. This included recruiting a whole bunch and hundreds of Shias from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and different locations to prop up Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s murderous regime.
Soleimani was additionally the brains behind the establishment of terrorist networks within the Golan Heights, utilizing Hezbollah, Druze, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) operatives to focus on Israel. Below his command, Shiite militia operatives fired rockets towards Israel, and the IRGC and Hezbollah launched terror assaults towards Jewish targets in Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Thailand, Georgia, and Kenya. Along with killing Individuals and destroying a whole bunch of hundreds of lives in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Israel, and Gaza, Soleimani has additionally been responsible for the deaths of Iranians, together with throughout the current brutal crackdown on Iranian protesters.
At the same time as America’s abroad belongings are extra seemingly targets for Iran, the US homeland stays weak. A senior Quds official, Ali Gholam Shakuri, was indicted in 2011 for his involvement within the plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the US. Texas automobile salesman Manssor Arbabsiar, who was arrested in reference to the plot, told regulation enforcement brokers that “he was recruited, funded, and directed by males he understood to be senior officers in Iran’s [Quds] Power.”
In response to the grievance, IRGC officers believed they had been coping with a “subtle and violent” Mexican drug cartel to hold out the hit on the ambassador. A $100,000 down fee on the hit exhibits the Iranians had been comfy coping with the cartel consultant, who was, actually, a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) informant.
Whereas the grievance doesn’t identify the Los Zetas, it describes the cartel the Iranians thought that they had been coping with as having “engaged in quite a few acts of violence, together with assassinations and murders.”
A leaked September 2010 Tucson Police Division inside memo talked of rising ties between Hezbollah operatives and Mexican drug traffickers. There was an increasing use of improvised explosive gadgets and automobile bombs by Mexican drug trafficking organizations that counsel a rising collusion with Hezbollah militant teams, which focus on such explosive gadgets, the report famous.
Moreover, brokers of the Islamic Republic in Hezbollah have a longtime presence in the US.
A 1997 FBI report, declassified in 2008 and obtained by the Investigative Challenge on Terrorism by way of the Freedom of Info Act (FOIA), stated that Hezbollah members in the US “raised and picked up a whole bunch of hundreds of which had been despatched to help Hizballah actions in Lebanon.”
Overseas intelligence surveillance wiretaps from that interval show these members “obtain instructions for his or her terrorist actions in the US from leaders of Hezbollah who reside outdoors of the US.”
A rating Hezbollah operative in the US serves as a “direct communications hyperlink between Hezbollah management in Lebanon and Hezbollah members in the US and he collects funds for Hezbollah headquarters in Lebanon,” the memo stated. The funds are used to help the group’s terrorist actions.
Whereas high-level Hezbollah operatives conduct complicated, interstate prison enterprises to bankroll the group’s worldwide terror actions, senior members from the Shiite extremist group have been prosecuted for plotting assaults in the US. These prosecutions are detailed within the the Investigative Challenge on Terrorism report that gives hyperlinks to the precise courtroom paperwork.
The prosecutions present how Hezbollah operatives have engaged in drug operating, human smuggling, cash laundering, racketeering, and tax evasion to boost funds for the terrorist group. The report additionally consists of prosecutions of Iranians who’ve engaged in espionage or conspiracy to evade US sanctions towards Iran.
In September, a Hezbollah operative dwelling in Morristown, NJ was indicted for conducting surveillance of targets to assist the terrorist group put together for future assaults. Alexei Saab, also referred to as Ali Hassan Saab, joined Hezbollah in 1996 and subsequently grew to become a member of the Islamic Jihad Group (IJO), Hezbollah’s abroad unit tasked with plotting assaults outdoors of Lebanon. He grew to become a naturalized US citizen after mendacity on his immigration paperwork that he had by no means been “a member of or in any method related to … a terrorist group.”
Whereas right here, Saab scouted a number of outstanding New York Metropolis targets, together with the United Nations headquarters, the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Middle, Occasions Sq., the Empire State Constructing, and native airports, tunnels, and bridges. Saab carried out operations for the IJO, together with the tried homicide of a person he suspected was an Israeli spy. He additionally carried out intelligence-gathering for Hezbollah in Turkey.
In December, Hezbollah operative Ali Kourani was sentenced to 40 years in jail for finishing up covert actions for the IJO. Kourani scouted out potential weapons suppliers, recognized folks affiliated with the Israel Protection Forces, and gathered intelligence on JFK Worldwide Airport together with Federal buildings and army and regulation enforcement services in New York Metropolis.
Kourani had attended a Hezbollah weapons program in Lebanon previous to coming into the US lawfully in 2003. He was recruited to the IJO in 2008, a 12 months earlier than he grew to become an American citizen. Quickly after his naturalization, Kourani traveled to Guangzhou, China, to find potential suppliers of the explosive chemical ammonium nitrate for the IJO.
Samer El Debek of Dearborn, Michigan was arrested together with Kourani in 2017. El Debek received army coaching from Hezbollah in Lebanon from 2008 by way of 2014, together with in depth coaching as a bomb maker. A naturalized US citizen, El Debek carried out missions for Hezbollah in Thailand and Panama. In Bangkok, he was tasked with cleansing up explosive supplies in a home vacated by Hezbollah operatives who needed to depart as a result of they had been below surveillance. Throughout a 2011 Panama go to, El Debek surveilled the US and Israeli embassies, checked out the safety element on the Panama Canal and the Israeli Embassy, and positioned hardware shops the place explosive supplies could possibly be bought.
In November, Ahmadreza Mohammadi-Doostdar, a twin US-Iranian citizen, and Majid Ghorbani, an Iranian citizen dwelling in California, pleaded guilty to conducting surveillance on US nationals who had been members of the Mujahedin-e-Khaliq (MEK), an Iranian revolutionary group that seeks the overthrow of Iran’s clerical regime. In his plea, Doostdaar confessed that he traveled thrice to the US from Iran to satisfy Ghorbani and talk instructions from the Iranian authorities that included images and hand-written notes figuring out MEK leaders.
In February, a former US service member and counterintelligence agent was indicted for sharing nationwide protection secrets and techniques with the Iranian authorities. Monica Elfriede Witt, who defected to the Islamic Republic in 2013 and is at giant, helped the IRGC goal her former colleagues within the US intelligence group. Iranian nationals recruited by the IRGC tried to make use of pretend social media accounts to put in malware that would supply them covert entry to the pc networks of Witt’s former colleagues.
There have been instances of operatives coming into the US by way of the Mexican border, given the growing influence of Iran and Hezbollah in Latin America. In response to the 9/11 Fee Workers Report on Terrorist Journey, Salim Boughader-Mucharrafille, a Mexican of Lebanese descent who owned a café in Tijuana, smuggled “Lebanese nationals sympathetic to Hamas and Hezbollah into the US” from Mexico. Educated Hezbollah fighter Mahmoud Youssef Kourani surreptitiously entered the US by way of the Mexican border in early 2001 within the trunk of a automobile.
These and different prosecutions reveal an extended and energetic presence of Iranian and Hezbollah operatives in the US. Though Iran or Hezbollah operatives have but to conduct a serious assault on US soil, it might be imprudent to miss their potential to strike key targets within the nation.
Abha Shankar is Senior Intelligence Analyst on the Investigative Challenge on Terrorism. To learn the total Investigative Challenge on Terrorism report on US prosecutions involving Hezbollah and Iran help, click on here.