Powered by WebAds

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Terrorism expert has great news: Hezbullah is capable of attacking the United States

Imagine the scene above - the 1983 bombing of the marine barracks in Beirut by Hezbullah - happening in the United States, God forbid. Could Hezbullah replicate the attack on American soil? Terrorism expert Matt Levitt says the answer is yes.
In light of Hizballah’s perception that the United States is actively targeting it and its allies, Washington should consider how the group might pursue an attack in the homeland. There are four main ways in which Hizballah could use passive sympathizers and/or active networks to support such an operation:

Use operatives already in the United States. According to a 1994 FBI report, “Should the decision be made to strike within the U.S. borders, Hizballah has the infrastructure present to support or carry out a terrorist act. Certain Hizballah members in the United States have received paramilitary training, including explosives and firearms training.” Several such operatives have come to light over the years. For example, on February 4, 2001, Mahmoud Kourani was smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border in the hidden compartment of a car. Court documents indicate he was not only a “member, fighter, recruiter, and fundraiser” for Hizballah, but also the brother of the group’s chief of military security for southern Lebanon. Before settling in Dearborn, Michigan, and reportedly raising $40,000 for the group, he received “specialized training in radical Shiite fundamentalism, weaponry, spy craft, and counterintelligence in Lebanon and Iran.” In 2005, he was convicted of conspiring to support a terrorist organization.

Import professional operatives. Hizballah could also bring in outsiders tasked with carrying out a specific attack in the United States, using local sympathizers and operatives only for support functions. This is the group’s traditional modus operandi, which it employed in Argentina in 1992 and 1994, in Thailand in 1994, and more recently in Azerbaijan, Turkey, Thailand, and elsewhere.

Consider the case of Fawzi Ayub, who became a Canadian citizen, married a woman from the Detroit area, and held an address in Michigan. According to Israeli officials, he “maintained contact with senior Hizballah officials and carried out operations” in Canada after immigrating there in 1988. Later, he entered Israel by sea using a forged American passport and was arrested there in mid-2002. Asked by an Israeli judge after his arrest if he had ever told Canadian authorities about his previous terrorism charges (including a mid-1980s conviction for his role in a hijacking plot), Ayub replied, “They never asked.”

Hizballah’s longstanding ability to procure high-quality counterfeit passports is of particular concern given the group’s history of infiltrating operatives into target countries just prior to an attack. According to the previously mentioned 1994 FBI report, “In an ongoing effort to bring more members into the United States, Hizballah also alters or steals travel documents, passports and visas. In one such operation, Hizballah members presented photo-substituted passports and fraudulent visa applications at a U.S. Embassy. Eighteen individuals successfully obtained passports in this manner.” Security improvements made in the years since then have mitigated some but certainly not all concerns about the group’s capabilities in this regard.

Leverage criminal ties. In light of measures that Western security and intelligence agencies implemented after the September 11 attacks, it is now much more difficult to carry out terrorist attacks in general, and in developed Western countries in particular. Hizballah has tried to counter this operational reality in part by reaching out to local criminal networks in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Over the past several years, a string of investigations have exposed the broad range of Hizballah’s criminal activities in the Americas, from weapons smuggling and fencing stolen goods to drug trafficking and money laundering. The group could leverage those relationships for operational purposes as well.

Homegrown violent extremism. Finally, sympathizers or other individuals without formal ties to Hizballah could decide to carry out lone-wolf terrorist acts in solidarity with the group and/or Iran. The homegrown radicalism trend, which to date has been limited to violent Sunni extremists, could manifest itself among Shiite extremists in the event of a direct confrontation with Hizballah or Iran.
From my trips to the US, my sense is that Americans are completely unprepared for this scenario. With the exception of downtown office buildings (a tip of the cap to the 9/11 attacks?), and sporting venues where you are mainly searched for alcohol, I don't have the sense that you are searched before entering most public places. For example, if a terrorist wanted to walk in to a shopping mall and blow himself up, God forbid, as best I can tell, there is almost no place in the US where he would be stopped.

What could go wrong?

Labels: , ,


At 1:39 PM, Blogger Sunlight said...

It's a conundrum... drugs are ruining so many people all across the U.S. (and everywhere else). And only individual parents are making the effort to get their kids not to buy, use, or sell drugs. The govt reps basically just don't bring it up.

On the other hand, if you dig into the law enforcement writings a little, you find out that the reason the U.S. has not been subjected to the kind of attacks you've described in this post is that the drug people (remember I sent you a link last week about Hezbollah doing fundraising with the drug cartels in Mexico) will go way out of their way not to do the kind of crimes and attacks that will actually end up shutting our border and/or disrupting their drug/returning cash routes.

That is apparently why the U.S. hasn't become Mad Max land (yet).

At 11:05 PM, Blogger Findalis said...

Blow themselves up in a shopping mall, supermarket, Walmart, etc... is one thing. Could you imagine if Hizbollah took over an elementary school? Now that is a scary idea.

At 3:23 AM, Blogger Sunlight said...

Findalis, we've seen how that would be. Beslan.


Post a Comment

<< Home