Nitsana Darshan-Leitner: Bankrupting Hezbollah Will Help Contain Iran
posted by Christopher W. Holton
Up until the September 11, 2001, attacks against the United States, Hezbollah, Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Shiite Party of God, was responsible for the deaths of more Americans than any other terrorist group in the world. Hezbollah introduced suicide bombings into the regional vernacular. The group, supported and fueled by the Iranian revolution, blew up two U.S. embassies in Beirut, and destroyed the barracks of the U.S. Marine peacekeepers in the Lebanese capital.
Meir Dagan, Israel’s legendary special operations mastermind, created a financial warfare task force codenamed Harpoon when he led the prime minister’s counterterrorism bureau in 1996. Harpoon worked to undermine the vast fortunes of Yasir Arafat and the other Palestinian terrorist groups, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. When, in 2002, Dagan became the head of Israel’s Mossad, the country’s foreign intelligence service, Harpoon became an operational espionage unit. Harpoon took on financiers and banks — anyone and everyone that touched money destined for the suicide bombers; the task force’s motto was “follow the money, target the money, and kill the money.” In 2006, during the Second Lebanon War, Dagan saw to it that the Israeli Air Force obliterated Beirut banks where Hezbollah kept its cash reserves. Bankers’ homes were targeted too. When the Dollars, Dinars, and Euros burned, Hezbollah was forced to beg for a cease-fire.
Harpoon did more than just incinerate Hezbollah’s financial institutions. It uncovered the terrorist group’s leading role in a highly lucrative global cocaine smuggling operations involving Venezuela’s strongman and Syria; the espionage effort, ultimately working closely with U.S. law enforcement to forcefully crippling the network and bringing indictments of the ringleaders who were situated on the four corners of the globe; the bank used by Hezbollah to launder its multi-billion dollar drug ring, was eventually taken down by Israeli-assisted lawsuits and the long arm of the U.S. Departments of Justice and the Treasury. Harpoon used hackers and malware to subvert the financial connection between Iran’s intelligence services and their proxy gunmen for hire in Lebanon. During this period, “mysteriously,” a Ponzi scheme defrauded Hezbollah’s leadership of close to a billion dollars.
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