Earlier this summer, Italian port authorities in the city of Salerno announced that they had discovered a hidden shipment of 84 million pills of Captagon, an illegal amphetamine drug worth 1.4 billion Canadian dollars, in one of the largest drug seizures ever.
While Italy has remained quiet about the likely culprit, given the size of the find, it didn’t take long for Middle East analysts to identify a main player in the drug trade: Hezbollah. The Iranian-terror proxy Hezbollah has been connected in recent years to the trade of Captagon, including recent busts in the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere in Europe.
While most Canadians’ images of Hezbollah may be that of a Lebanese terrorist group banned by the Canadian government and occasionally mentioned in the news media as a group fighting in Syria and against Israel, Hezbollah is in fact one of the world’s most foremost paramilitary forces.
Founded in 1982 as the extremist Shiite “Party of God” aimed at attacking Israel, Hezbollah quickly became one of the main allies of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad in his civil war, forced displacement and genocide of hundreds of thousands of Syrians. Throughout the last nine years, Hezbollah has been an active combatant defending the regime, losing thousands of its fighters in the process, but gaining far more valuable combat skills and know-how as a result.
While Hezbollah is closely allied with the Islamic Republic of Iran and receives funding, training and weaponry from its patron in Tehran, Hezbollah also actively raises funds for its terrorist activities all over the world to finance its estimated 1.3 billion dollar (Canadian) annual budget.
And Hezbollah has shown itself to be surprisingly flexible in its willingness to do business with erstwhile enemies if it means it can make more money. That means that while the Shiite Hezbollah claims to be on a holy mission, it’s more than happy to work with drug cartels in Colombia, drug dealers and traffickers in Canada, and even groups affiliated with the Islamic State as reported by Global News.
In 2006, Hezbollah attacked an Israeli patrol on their shared border, abducting three soldiers and kicking off a 34-day conflagration. During the course of the conflict, Hezbollah fired about 4,000 rockets into Israel – or around 110 per day, which was the largest number of daily rockets fired in the region since the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War.
Today, Hezbollah is estimated to have 150,000 rockets in its possession, a significant increase since its war with Israel in 2006. And though Hezbollah’s full assets are difficult to ascertain, the group is indisputably stronger, richer and more capable than it was fourteen years ago. As we noted in a commentary published in the Canadian Jewish News last year, “Iran is trying to make Hezbollah the first terror group in the world with precision-guided missiles that can be remotely fired anywhere, and at any time, with devastating accuracy.”
But Hezbollah is far more than a problem for Israel, or the Middle East in general. As the main terrorist armed proxy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hezbollah also acts as an outstretched arm for the Iranian regime anywhere around the world.
That means that Iran can use Hezbollah as a useful resource to do its bidding. And Canada is far from immune, both as a potential target and as a means to murder innocent people elsewhere. Last year, Stewart Bell from Global News reported that the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) shared a report about Ali Kourani, a Hezbollah agent living in the United States, who had gone to Pearson Airport in Mississauga seven times to evaluate its security protocols before he was arrested.
It’s clear, then, that Hezbollah has long shed its skin as a regional terrorist organization aimed at attacking Israel, and has become a major global player, capable of raising funds through money laundering and international drug rings and carrying out terrorism operations around the world, as it did when it blew up Jewish targets at a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, Argentina in the 1990s, killing hundreds of innocent people.
Hezbollah appears to have the money, the weaponry and the intelligence to cause major damage anywhere in the world, and tragically, it has shown it has not avoided doing so when it fits its purposes.
Hezbollah is rightly listed as a terrorist entity according to the Canadian government, and that means joining, supporting or otherwise engaging with Hezbollah is illegal according to Canadian law. But evidence suggests that despite its official ban in Canada, Hezbollah is still very much active in the country, using Canada as a staging ground for intelligence, revenue-generation and more. It’s not surprising to see the Hezbollah flag waved in anti-Israel protests in Montreal, Ottawa or Toronto.
Our media outlets, therefore, owe all Canadians a duty of responsibility when discussing Hezbollah to remind readers and viewers of its role, not just in the battlefields of Syria or on the border with and fighting Israel, but here in Canada, as a global terrorist organization that’s operating very much in our own backyard.