General Fraser Rightly Defends Southern Command's Budget
Southern Command's chief, Air Force General Douglas Fraser, had recently briefed the Senate Armed Services Committee on the growing threat of Iranian-backed terror networks in South America. His insight contradicts Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's most recent national threat assessment, which failed to mention anything about Iranian proxies. Is the growing Iranian-South American alliance threat truly new, or was this briefing intended to secure USSOUTHCOM's budget?
At the same time the current administration seeks to cut defense spending, virtually every major command needs sound reasons to justify sustaining, far less growing, budgets. Of the major commands, USSOUTHCOM is in danger. Very few have spoken about Southern Command's activities and needs until now.
Pacific Command appears to be the most financially secure, considering President Obama's recent push for extensive military alignments with nation-states in that region. Central Command will likely see dramatic cuts in the future solely because of the recent Koran-burning incident, the Ft. Lewis soldier allegedly going on a killing spree, and the tentative 2014 troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. No one knows what will take place in AFRICOM. President Obama claimed he was adamant about destroying the Lord's Resistance Army and other fanatical groups in the region, but to date, all he has done in Africa is send one hundred advisers to help Ugandan forces capture or kill Joseph Kony. In South America, however, needs apparently are both directly connected to U.S. security and more immediate.
For well over thirty years, U.S. Intelligence had witnessed a very alarming migration of Iranian assets into South and Central America. Hezb'allah, an Iranian-backed Shi'ite terrorist group, created a base in the Tri-Border Region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. Some reports claim that this base was created in the late 1990s. However, many intelligence professionals argue that this base was quickly established soon after Hezb'allah was born in the late 1980s.
Evidence proves Hezb'allah's existence in South America much earlier than the late 1990s. A series of bombings targeting Jewish assets in Argentina occurred in 1992 and 1994. While the Islamic Jihad terror group rushed to claim responsibility, it was later discovered in 1994, after six Lebanese Hezb'allah operatives were arrested for narcotic operations, that the attacks were in fact conducted by Hezb'allah.
Along with Hezb'allah, a plethora of Islamic groups to have moved into the region include Egypt's Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group) and Al-Jihad (Islamic Jihad); al-Qaeda; Hamas; al-Muqawamah (the Resistance -- also spelled "al-Moqawama"), which is a pro-Iran wing of the Lebanon-based Hezb'allah; and even Somalia's Al Shabaab.
These terror-based groups, operating in USSOUTHCOM's area of responsibility, conduct everything from money-laundering to narco-trafficking to and jihadist training. They often coordinate their activities with other non-indigenous organized crime groups from Russia, China, and, of course, even Iran.
Three key Hezb'allah operatives -- Assad Ahmad Mohammed Barakat, Sobhi Mahmoud Fayad, and Ali Khalil Mehri -- are believed to be based in the South American region. With them, Hezb'allah associate Marwan Adnan al-Qadi is also assumed to be operating in the region. Each of their profiles characterizes them as High Valued Targets. This means that if the U.S. truly seeks to marginalize global terror threats, these Islamists should be either killed or captured.
As Congresswoman Sue Myrick, Congressman Peter King, and Senators Jim DeMint and Joe Lieberman have pushed for further insight on the Islamic South American threat, the current administration has done very little. In fact, some may argue that this administration has actually assisted the South American terror threat. That argument, no matter how strong or weak it may be, falls in line with Operation Fast and Furious.
Air Force General Douglas Fraser is doing the right thing. He is finally going public about the Islamic threat south of the U.S. border. Unfortunately, that threat is no longer in just the Tri-Border region. That threat has spread like a wildfire, and evidence proves that the fire has breached our southern border, making its way into the United States.
Wayne Simmons, a retired CIA clandestine operative, is author of the book THE NATANZ DIRECTIVE (St. Martin's Press, September 2012). You can follow him at www.waynesimmons.us and pre-order his book there. Kerry Patton, a combat service disabled veteran, is a senior analyst for WIKISTRAT. You can follow him on Facebook or at www.kerry-patton.com.