by Clare M. Lopez
….The Washington Institute’s Matthew Levitt believes that Iran has tasked Hezbollah with reviving the operational capabilities of its sagging international terrorist unit, the Islamic Jihad Organization (IJO). In part due to Hezbollah’s decision to keep a lower profile following its deep involvement in the 9/11 attacks, and in particular since the February 2008 assassination of Hezbollah’s terror chieftain, Imad Mughniyeh, IJO performance had declined.
The uptick in Hezbollah plots since 2012, however, points to a decision at the top level of the Iranian regime to rejuvenate IJO capabilities and terror activity, not only to avenge Mughniyeh’s killing, but to respond to Tehran’s tasking in the “shadow war” against Israel.
As Levitt described in a late April 2013 piece for the West Point Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) “Sentinel” publication, the Cyprus trial that month of Hossam Yaacoub, a Lebanese-Swedish dual national Hezbollah operative, provided a revealing look at the terror group’s current tradecraft training and procedures.
Under interrogation, Yaacoub admitted that he was recruited by Hezbollah in 2007 and underwent extensive training in building a cover story, conducting pre-attack casing of potential targets (frequented by Israeli tourists), and mastering communications codes and signals before being dispatched to Cyprus for the first time in 2009.
Although Yaacoub eventually was arrested in July 2012 by the Cypriot police before any attack there could be carried out, Levitt concludes that the lengthy, professional tradecraft training he had received, along with the “successful” Hezbollah attack against the Israeli tourist bus in Bulgaria, together indicate a return to traditional tradecraft standards by Hezbollah.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force operatives serve under cover in Iranian embassies worldwide; they are tasked with liaison to Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations, narcotrafficking cartels and organized crime groups.
Together with the Iranian intelligence service, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), the Qods Force and Hezbollah operate as integral elements of the global Shi’ite terror network. That narcotrafficking, organized crime, terror network is very much present and functioning in the Western Hemisphere, where the Iranian presence is anchored by its outpost in Venezuela, which it uses as a staging ground for supervising an extensive network of Hezbollah operational cells whose activities stretch northward through Mexico and into the U.S. and Canada.
The accelerating pace of attack and counterattack by the Shi’ite terror network has alerted U.S. security officialsand their Israeli partners that the threat to both countries’ interests at home and abroad is becoming increasingly critical.
As the Syrian conflict spirals ever more out of control, with the U.S. already deeply involved in supporting the al-Qa’eda and Muslim Brotherhood rebels (and looking to become more so), the potential for retaliatory strikes from Hezbollah, acting alone or in conjunction with its Qods Force handlers, will only increase.
Given the renewed emphasis on operational tradecraft plus its well-established bases throughout the Western Hemisphere, Hezbollah is a menace to be monitored.