Cross posted by Findalis of Monkey in the Middle
For all its ranting and raving, Hizbollah has kept very quiet these last weeks.
Thousands of supporters of the militant Hezbollah group swarmed Beirut’s southern suburbs Friday, demanding Israel lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The Hezbollah’s supporters, including black-clad Shiite women with their children, waved flags and carried banners denouncing the Gaza blockade as they marched in the neighborhoods devastated by Israeli airstrikes in the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war.
Chants of “Death to America” and “Israel is the enemy of Muslims” rang out from the crowd.
The protests were in response to a call by Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah to people across the Arab and Muslim world to help end the siege and support the Palestinians in Gaza.
Yet there hasn’t been a repeat of the 2006 War between Israel and Hizbollah. It isn’t due to the UN and their fake Resolution 1701. The resolution that Hizbollah has repeatedly violated with UN support and help. It isn’t because they now recognize Israel’s right to exist. And it isn’t because they have no real fighters left.
The real reason that Hizbollah, a group aligned with and funded by Iran, is not attacking Israel is that they might be too overstretched and cannot wage the same war with Israel that they did in 2006.
The Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia has taken root in South America, fostering a well-financed force of Islamist radicals boiling with hatred for the United States and ready to die to prove it, according to militia members, U.S. officials and police agencies across the continent.
From its Western base in a remote region divided by the borders of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina known as the Tri-border, or the Triple Frontier, Hezbollah has mined the frustrations of many Muslims among about 25,000 Arab residents whose families immigrated mainly from Lebanon in two waves, after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and after the 1985 Lebanese civil war.
An investigation by Telemundo and NBC News has uncovered details of an extensive smuggling network run by Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim group founded in Lebanon in 1982 that the United States has labeled an international terrorist organization. The operation funnels large sums of money to militia leaders in the Middle East and finances training camps, propaganda operations and bomb attacks in South America, according to U.S. and South American officials.
U.S. officials fear that poorly patrolled borders and rampant corruption in the Tri-border region could make it easy for Hezbollah terrorists to infiltrate the southern U.S. border. From the largely lawless region, it is easy for potential terrorists, without detection, to book passage to the United States through Brazil and then Mexico simply by posing as tourists.
They are men like Mustafa Khalil Meri, a young Arab Muslim whom Telemundo interviewed in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay’s second-largest city and the center of the Tri-border region. There is nothing particularly distinctive about him, but beneath the everyday T-shirt he wears beats the heart of a devoted Hezbollah militiaman.
“If he attacks Iran, in two minutes Bush is dead,” Meri said. “We are Muslims. I am Hezbollah. We are Muslims, and we will defend our countries at any time they are attacked.”
Iran and through its proxy, Hizbollah, has made it no secret that they have been aiding rebels, Muslims and drug lords in South and Central America in an attempt to disrupt American interests. Take the tractor plant Iran built and has manned in Venezuela.
Iran is pursuing increased political and economic cooperation with Venezuela and Sudan as part of a series of calculated foreign policy moves that looks certain to exacerbate an already tense stand-off with the Bush administration.
Faced by growing pressure from the US, Britain and other European countries over its nuclear activities, Tehran is anxious to win international support for its position. High-level meetings have been held in recent weeks with Russia, China and numerous Arab and Muslim states.
“We have intensified our diplomatic activity to explain the situation to other countries,” Hamid-Reza Asefi, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, told the Guardian.
But Iranian cooperation and investment in Venezuela, which is led by George Bush’s tormentor-in-chief, President Hugo Chávez, and new business ventures with Sudan, where the US has said genocide is taking place, may be viewed as a bridge too far in Washington. It regards all three countries as “rogue” states.
“Our relationship with Venezuela has improved a lot,” Mr Asefi said. “We have good cooperation in construction, oil and gas, and in infrastructure projects. Our people are busy there making houses, roads, dams and in transport.”
There were about 100 Iranians working in Venezuela, Mr Asefi said, providing “know-how and knowledge”. Both countries are significant oil producers and members of Opec. Iranian officials have estimated that actual and planned investment in Venezuela could ultimately total $9bn (£5bn).
Mohsen Shaterzadeh, deputy industries and mines minister, said this week that the two countries had finalised an agreement to build a giant car plant in Venezuela. Iran will have a 51% stake in the project.
Tractors are another of Iran’s strengths. Mohsen Khadem Arab-Baghi, who heads the Iran Tractor Manufacturing Company, said the company is expected to make up to 30,000 tractors by March 2007. Though its products are exported to 30 countries, “our greatest target market is Venezuela, which accounts for $85m of our tractor exports,” he said.
Iran is not known for its tractors, on the other hand, one of my South American sources who has lived in that area said about it:
I never could figure out why a huge Iranian tractor factory was in the least agricultural state of Venezuela, but very close to the jungle with it’s uranium deposits. They brought in hundreds of Iranians and their families to work there. We were the only non Venezuelans in the town besides the Iranians.
Hundreds not just 100 of Iranian workers in an area with very little agricultural production, near the jungle and more importantly, near uranium deposits. Any guesses on what they really were doing there?
Hizbollah lost between 10,000 and 20,000 fighters in 2006, they are spread through out Europe, Asia, South and Central America, Mexico, Canada and the US. There are hundreds of “sleeper cells” in Europe, Canada and the US alone. And is it any wonder to all why Hizbollah is watching what is happening in Gaza to Hamas, and wondering if it can survive an onslaught from Israel again.