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July 18, 2017 4:25 pm

Expert Urges Trump to Present Ultimatum to Latin American Governments Over Hezbollah Financing

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Venezuelan Vice President Tarek El Aissami is a prominent symbol of Iranian influence in Latin America. Photo: Screenshot.

As Argentina marked on Tuesday the 23rd anniversary of the Iranian-directed bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires, a leading expert on the Islamic Republic’s global terror networks urged US President Donald Trump to present Latin American governments with a choice: either cooperate in the fight against Iranian terror financing or face penalties for not doing so.

Emanuele Ottolenghi — a national security expert at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) who closely monitors Iranian and Hezbollah activities in Latin America — told The Algemeiner that since the AMIA bombing of July 1994, “Hezbollah and Iran are as active as ever in Latin America.”

“This is happening because of the collusion and the benign neglect of the local governments,” Ottolenghi said. “Just because they are not Sunni radicals doesn’t mean their Islam is moderate. They are spreading a hateful ideology across the region in addition to becoming enmeshed in illicit activities which they use to fund Hezbollah in the Middle East.”

Hezbollah has flourished in the lawless tri-border area where Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil intersect, running money laundering activities for local criminal networks worth millions of dollars. Hezbollah is also heavily involved with the trafficking of narcotics — a business that involves local cartels with links to individuals at the highest levels of government, such as the Venezuelan regime’s vice president, Tarek El Aissami. Sanctioned by the US in February 2017 for playing “a significant role in international narcotics trafficking,” El Assaimi retains close links with Hezbollah, Iran and Syria. According to research conducted by the Center for a Secure Free Society,  a Washington, DC think tank, El Assaimi authorized Venezuelan passports for nearly 200 Islamist radicals while in his previous post as interior minister.

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Ottolenghi argued that the US now had to present governments in the region with a choice.

“They can come with us into the fight against the financing of radical Islamist terror, or face sanctions, penalties and punishments for not doing their job,” he said.

Tuesday’s AMIA bombing anniversary also coincided with a new Iranian offer to Interpol, the global law enforcement agency, to “cooperate” with its investigation into the bombing. However, as The Algemeiner reported last week, Iran’s main goal is to secure Interpol’s removal of the six outstanding “red notices,” or international arrest warrants, issued in 2007 for six Iranian officials in connection with the AMIA bombing.

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