Saturday, February 27, 2010

Drug Triangle Smuggles Exceedingly into Europe

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How the new drug triangle "Venezuela-Iran-Hezbollah" is smuggling vast quantities of drugs into Europe. A tripartite agreement had been signed in Caracas in late 2009 between an Iran Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) official, a senior Hezbollah official, and a Venezuela government representative. The purpose of this agreement is to smuggle drugs originating in Venezuela into European countries, via Iran and Lebanon. The agreement outlined a cooperation, that the sides termed as "the winning triangle".The agreement in question is a special kind of agreement based on Venezuela's government's undertaking to transfer to Iran the drugs (cocaine and marijuana from Colombia) which it had confiscated from the drug lords in Venezuela, at 70% of their value. Iran will transfer to Hezbollah the entire amount of drugs it receives from Venezuela. Furthermore, the drugs (heroin, cocaine and opium) that reach Iran from Afghanistan, Pakistan and China, and which lran's authorities confiscate, are also to be transferred to Hezbollah, for further distribution. Apparently, Iran and Venezuela are operating according to the same modus operandi which has already yielded considerable profits this year. The agreement, which bypasses narco-terrorism laws, has been called "Win-Win" by its partakers, because they each have something to gain from it. For Iran, it is an excellent way of blurring the fact that Iran is the source of the drugs (collected in the country) it is transferring to Hezbollah. For Iran, which views drugs as a means of making payments to Hezbollah, in addition to the aid money it grants Hezbollah, the Shiite organization is a convenient and highly motivated drug distributing factor,ostensibly without Iran‘s direct involvement. For Hezbollah, the drugs are an ongoingsource of income. Hezbollah's profits from drugs are estimated at approximately tens of millions USD a year. Moreover, Hezbollah is giving drug trafficking an ideological aspect, because it views drugs as a new weapon with an enormous damage potential for the West.

Venezuela‘s government, for its part, is earning enormous sums of money from the drugs it is confiscating from the country's drug lords and selling to Iran, and is saved the inconvenience of having to get rid of the drugs, to say nothing of the public support it is winning for its unrelenting war against the drug lords in Venezuela and the region, In addition, the agreement is also giving Venezuela the opportunity to infiltrate drugs into Europe without being directly involved in the matter. Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nassrallah, who wished to exploit the tightening relations between Iran and Venezuela, urged the signing of the agreement. According to him,Venezuela is opening a back door for Hezbollah to settle down in the region and find alternative channels for increasing its financial independence. Just as Hezbollah settled down in Lebanon and accumulated a great deal of power there, it is possible that with the agreement in question, Iran is increasing Hezbollah's strength politically and strategically, as well as organizationally, militarily and in terms of its infrastructure.For quite some time, Hezbollah's top echelon has been giving drug trafficking a special treatment. This is due to the religious support that that drug trafficking has been given because it is viewed as a means of fighting against the West. The support is inherent in the statements made by high-ranking Hezbollah officials on the use of drugs as a weapon: "We are making these drugs for Satan - America and the Jews. If we cannot kill them with guns, we will kill them with drugs."

It was learnt that the cocaine and marijuana are being transferred directly from Venezuela to Iran, under the supervision of an IRGC representative permanently stationed in Caracas, at Iran's behest. The drugs are transferred on the regular flights of the Venezuelan airline company, Conviasa. From Iran, the drugs are transferred to Syria on the civilian flights of this airline, along with weapon shipments and from Syria, they are transferred to Lebanon. The drugs reach their final destination in Europe on the Venezuelan airline. It is known that a small number of Hezbollah members are stationed at Damascus and Beirut airports to handle all matters pertaining to bills of lading before the shipments are sent to their European destinations. It was learnt that very high bribes are being discreetly paid to Lebanon and Syria's customs. Hezbollah members call the bribes "gorgeta," which means "tip" in Brazilian Portuguese.Another source of Hezbollah's drugs is the drugs that are seized (about 45%) when smuggled into Iran from opium and heroin supplying countries, such as China,Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Several tons of drugs of various kinds are thus smuggled into Iran. We have no details on the understandings, if any, between Iran's internal security forces, which confiscate hundreds of kilos of drugs a month from drug dealers around Iran, and the IRGC personnel in Iran, who are in charge of sending the drug shipments from Iran and transferring them to Hezbollah in Lebanon. According to the agreement, most of the confiscated drugs are amassed in Tehran and transferred in containers, along with weapon shipments destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon, from where they are transferred to Europe.

The background to the signing of the tripartite agreement is the double blow Hezbollah sustained over the past year because of the large number of drug dealers detained in Lebanon and Colombia in late 2008. In October 2008, Hezbollah member, Shukry Harb, a Lebanese who lives in Colombia, and who is considered one of that country’s largest drug lords, was detained. In the aftermath of the wave of detentions in Colombia, part of the Colombian infrastructure was moved to Venezuela and the Venezuelan channel became the hub of smuggling activities. In addition, in December2008, the involvement of the Lebanese Zeaiter family that is associated with Hezbollah, was exposed when a Lebanese Army unit foiled an attempt to transfer several trucks containing about ten tons of hashish and a hundred kilos of cocaine from Bekaa to Beirut, and several members of the Zeaiter family were detained. The drugs were to have been exported to Europe.


ln the U.S. and other countries, the activity described above is referred to as narco-terrorism(*), namely, engaging in drug dealing with the purpose of funding terror activities, combining the modus operandi of terror organizations with drug smuggling Internationally, law enforcement bodies engaged in preventing drug traffic king cooperate closely with each other in their struggle against organized crime. They coordinate their activities in the framework of the United Nations' Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which is responsible for implementing the United Nations' Convention's resolution against transnational organized crime. The UNODC has initiated international cooperation to promote the enforcement of the resolution in various contexts, including narco-terrorism, which it identifies as a fairly new development in global drug trafficking, and intends to take stronger measures to enforce the law against anyone who engages in it.

Originally, the term was coined to describe the activity of the drug organizations in terms that are reminiscent of terror organizations, but narco-terrorism has since acquired some additional meanings.

The issue of increasing law enforcement measures against narco-terrorism also came up at the meeting between the war against drugs apparatuses heads, initiated by the UNODC in Vienna in 2005, where it was decided to tighten law enforcement measures to contend with narco-terrorism,The country leading the war against narco-terrorism is the U.S. In l998, the U,S.approved the International Crime Control Strategy (ICCS), which set national objectives to the war against organized crime and made recommendations about incorporating all the law enforcement bodies in the U.S. that are involved in this issue. ICCS identifies the main areas in which organized crime is active in the U.S.These include drug and people trafficking, gambling, violating copyrights and money laundering. ICCS is also engaged in combating the integration of crime and terror organizations and in the tenor organizations' criminal acts.

9/11 and the realization that terror funding was critical for the terror organizations' existence, and that terror organizations were using crime to fund their terror activities, led to a step up in the war against narco-terrorism, the terror organizations’ organized crime. The Patriot Act allows the authorities to use the most aggressive investigation means in cases where criminal activity is suspected of being carried out by terror organizations, especially in the case of foreign nationals.In the testimony he gave to the Senate Commission in 2003, Steven W. Casleel, the DEA's assistant for intelligence affairs, said that the combination of drug dealing and terror funding was explosive and dangerous because extensive drug dealing activity required the use of terrorist methods and the capability of activating an armed force.Such methods and capabilities were inherent to terror organizations. Furthermore,those organizations needed funding in order to carry out their activities. The DEA currently defines narco-terrorism as the activity of "an organized group that engages in drug dealing and smuggling for the purpose of funding the activities whose objectives are to promote a political agenda by intimidating the public or the government." In his testimony, mention was made of Hezbollah and Hamas‘s activity in the Paraguay- Argentina-Brazil border triangle, an activity that is known to have considerably expanded to other Latin American countries.