U.S. Experts Discuss How to Combat Hezbollah’s Growing International Reach and Influence

The Los Angeles branch of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) — the leading Jewish advocacy organization in the United States — partnered with the Consulate General of Romania on May 28 at Wilshire Boulevard Temple to discuss Hezbollah’s vast terror reach and ways civil society and government officials can actively combat them.

AJC JINSA 5-28-2019

Nearly 200 people attended to hear the important, and timely, panel discussion with Lt. Gen (Ret.) and member of the Jewish Institute for National Security (JINSA) member John “Jocko” Toolan Jr., AJC Transatlantic Institute Director Daniel Schwammenthal, Southwestern Law School Professor, Lt. Col. of the U.S. Air Force (Ret.) and JINSA Hybrid Warfare Task Member Rachel VanLandingham, U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps Col (Ret.) and JINSA Hybrid Warfare Task Force member Ian Corey, and JINSA Managing Director Leo Nayfeld, who moderated the talk. Members of the French consulate and the Israel consulate were present as well.

“Hezbollah has one goal and it shares the same goal with other radical Islamic organizations and that is to establish an Islamic State where Sharia law rules supreme,” Schwammenthal said. “And they use a number of different tools to achieve that goal.”

Hezbollah was established in 1982 in Lebanon by Ali Akbar Mohtashemi—Iran’s then-ambassador to Syria; Imad Fayez Mughniyeh; Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah; and Abbas al-Musawi. It has been Iran’s primary terrorist proxy for decades. It is also one of the world’s most notorious anti-Israel and anti-American radical groups. Its main places of operation are Lebanon, Syria, Germany, Mexico, Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates.

Schwammenthal noted that terrorism is not Hezbollah’s only use of warfare and acknowledged the group’s use of political influence in Lebanon through “welfare organizations” which are used to provide “subsidized healthcare for the population in southern Lebanon.” He noted that Hezbollah gets a lot of help from Iran. “They do this in the same way as the mafia in Sicily.”

He noted the terrorist organization’s hand in transnational crimes like drug trafficking in South America, with drug cartels and money laundering. He said they also operate in Europe and that everyday people he’s spoken to there “recognize this problem” that dates back to the 19th century with immigrants who are with Hezbollah and are seeking to establish an Islamic caliphate there.

“While we pay a lot of attention to Sunni radical Islam, ISIS and Al Qaeda, we cannot ignore the similarities that exist between these two branches of radical Islam,” Schwammenthal said.

“Antisemitism is a core part of their belief,” Schwammenthal said. “Hezbollah is a wholly owned and funded organization of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” He noted that, “as matter of fact, Khomeini was to a large degree inspired by radical Sunni ideas brought to him by Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists.”

According to Matthew Levitt’s book “Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God,” Hezbollah originated, in the early 19080s, from an Iranian attempt to coalesce various Lebanese Shia militias around the goal of combating the U.S. and Israeli military presences in Lebanon. Levitt notes in his book that by 1985, the Central Intelligence Agency had declared that Iranian-sponsored terrorism was the greatest threat to American personnel and facilities in the Middle East.

Following intense pressure from the AJC and Congress, the European Union in 2013 designated Hezbollah’s military wing a terrorist organization. However, Hezbollah’s own leadership has also stated, matter-of-factly, that there is no distinction between the group’s political and military wings, which is why the international community is urging the EU to declare all of Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

In March 2016, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Arab League officially designated the entirety of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, joining the United States, Canada, Israel, and the Netherlands in making that determination.

Intelligence sources have indicated that Hezbollah has over 120,000 rockets and missiles prepared to be launched at Israel at any given moment.

Hezbollah “knows their civilians are going to die and they want that to happen so they can show the carnage” on social media and television, VanLandingham said. She referred to Hezbollah’s use of civilians in Southern Lebanon as human shields in response to Israel’s retaliatory attacks against them out of self-defense, in order to drive up civilization casualties to present to the world and international governing bodies; many of which have an established and intrinsic bias against Israel.

The panel also addressed concerns about how to push back against Hezbollah and to “counter the narrative that Hezbollah is the only force powerful enough [to control Lebanon].” This includes maintaining good relations with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). The group agreed that increased international condemnation for Hezbollah is also necessary as well as requiring Lebanon to disarm militias.

Another speaker said education is key, particularly in the Middle East, to help the civilian population understand what the challenges are.

The other grand challenge, Schwammenthal noted, was taking on the parallel propaganda war being propelled by the media which actually misportrays the conflict due to their bias against Israel. Schwammenthal also said, “Western diplomats must understand that their comments are “crucially important” in addressing and countering the misled “group think” that paints Hezbollah in a very different light than what it truly stands for and is, including its imminent and growing threat to the Middle East and the Western world. He said these politicians should not be pushed by the “misleading media coverage” of the actual issues on the ground.

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Truck Drivers Strike Over Unacceptable Wages in Iran

Truck drivers in dozens of Iranian provinces have reportedly gone on strike in the country over low wages and analysts are speculating this could usher in a wave of new protests throughout certain parts of the Islamic Republic.
The strikes arrive weeks after President Donald Trump announced the United States’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iran nuclear deal.The Associated Press reported that “The semi-official ILNA news agency reported on Wednesday that the strike is taking place in Qazvin, Lorestan, East Azerbaijan and Mazandaran province.”

The truck drivers began striking on Tuesday and complained that their expenses have increased since last year. According to the Voice of America’s Iran news service, the increase in expenses include the costs for tires, air filters, insurance, road tolls, commissions, repairs and spare parts.

The strikes reportedly took place in 93 cities in 25 provinces, including the provinces of West Azarbaijan, East Azarbaijan, Kermanshah, Kurdistan, Isfahan, Ilam, Khorasan Razavi, North Khorasan, South Khorasan, Chahar Mahal and Bakhtiari, Khuzestan, Zanjan, Sistan and Balouchestan, Semnan, Fars, Qazvin, Kerman, Gilan, Mazandaran, Markazi, Hormozgan, Hamedan, Yazd and Bushehr.

The strikes have reportedly caused fuel shortage in some parts of Iran because the trucks are instrumental in delivering gas to fueling stations.

According to the VOA, “It was not clear how long the strike would continue. There was no immediate response to the truckers’ demands from Iranian authorities on state media.”

Nationwide protest took place on December 28 over rising costs, financial mismanagement, and the Iranian regime’s decision to use billions of dollars to finance terrorism and involvement in foreign countries like Syria and Libya, instead of taking care of its ailing people at home.

The December protests, which have carried on in varying stages, were the largest since the so-called “Green Revolution” of 2009 over the fraudulent re-election of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who won in a “landslide.”

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Documents, Letter Reveal Dual U.S.-Turkish Citizen Allegedly Used Cash to Skirt U.S. Sanctions on Iran

A number of dual United States citizens have skirted U.S. sanctions on Iran, to the benefit of the Islamic Republic’s recently-sanctioned Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). While several of these cases have been brought to light recently, there are still many others that have potentially been overlooked by the United States Treasury Department.

These individuals and companies have illegally bypassed sanctions through wholesale methods or by opening businesses in countries not listed on the U.S. Treasury Department’s sanctions list to conduct business with Iran. However, the Treasury Department’s sanctions apply to U.S. citizens and U.S. residents, all defined as “U.S. persons” under the law.

For example, in February, the Department of Justice charged multiple dual U.S. persons and a foreign airline with attempting to skirt federal anti-terror restrictions by illegally shipping aircraft parts to Syria, where Iran has a substantial presence. These parts have dual military and civilian uses.

In October, three dual U.S.-citizens pleaded guilty in a Miami, Florida federal court to conspiring to defraud the U.S. and to illegally exporting dual-use military parts to Syrian Arab Airlines; a government-run airline that the Treasury Department says is “blocked by OFAC for transporting weapons and ammunition to Syria in conjunction with Hezbollah, a terrorist organization, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).”

There is also an ongoing probe and lawsuit into an Iranian-born Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab for “conspiring to use the U.S. financial system to conduct hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of transactions on behalf of the government of Iran and other Iranian entities, which were barred by United States sanctions.” Also charged in the same case is Hakan Atilla who is the deputy manager of a Turkish state-owned bank named Halkbank.

However, one dual United States-Turkish citizen could potentially be in violation of U.S. sanctions law for allegedly skirting U.S. sanctions on Iran by paying the Iranian regime with cash while he was the owner of a privately-held, Turkey-based jet company.

Exclusive documents and a hand-written testimony indicate that Dr. Yalcin Ayasli, the former owner of Turkey-based Borajet, which has offices in Iran, allegedly paid cash to the Iranian regime, thus violating U.S. sanctions which prevent said transactions from taking place as a result of the Iran nuclear deal.

Ayasli was living in Massachusetts for over 25 years before moving to New Hampshire, where he has lived for the last decade. In his own words, Ayasli said he has “lived in the U.S. for over 40 years.”

U.S. law prohibits American citizens located anywhere in the world, from conducting business with or trade with Iranian companies. The Treasury Department notes that “both an Iranian citizen who is a permanent resident alien of the United States and an individual who is a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen meet the definition of a U.S. person set forth in section 560.314 of the ITSR, regardless of where in the world they are located.” Treasury Department sanctions apply to both U.S. citizens and U.S. residents, all defined as “U.S. persons” under the law.

There are also questions as to whether Borajet, which also had offices in Iran, transported IRGC fighters which is a common practice for other Iranian airlines.

In 2016, a Turkish company, SBK Holding acquired Borajet for $260 million. The airline had 10 small airliners and at least two other jets for its charter business. In April, just before the opening of the new airport in Istanbul, it suspended operations

However, documents acquired exclusively indicate Dr. Ayasli’s company allegedly paid Iran in cash during the years he owned the corporation.

On the first page of a 36-page document, dated from 2013, a line reads, “$20,000 USD is delivered by Borajet aviation transportation aircraft maintenance and commerce corporation to Ali Cemal Arslan.”

There are three signatures on the page. The first is from the person giving the money (Onder OLGE), the second signature belongs to the receiving party (Ali Cemal Arslan), and the third signature is from the person approving the transaction (Kadir Peker); who was Borajet’s general manager before the sale of the company.

The document is written in both Turkish and Persian (or Farsi).

Another page from that same document includes a hand-written note that reads, “From myself, $5,000 USD is given to Mr. Ali Shams and $5,000 to Valeh Alizadeh.” Both these names are Iranian.

On the third page of said document, another handwritten note states the funds were used to pay for “Iran per diem”, meaning an allowance for a trip to Iran.

The document also lists conditions or terms of the transaction. It states, “The Representative is responsible for ensuring the smooth and uninterrupted service of Borajet Flight, including the designation of the required flight permits on the Iranian side, the designation of the hours of trial work, the designation of top travel permits, contracts for all round trips, airports.”

It also notes that, “Borajet will instantly notify the representative of any touristic transportation, passenger, cargo, ticket reservation and sales, airplane rental, etc. that will come from the Iran airport” and states that “each ticket, cargo, airplane sales, etc. that is collected from the representative shall be transferred to the Borajet account within three business days.”

The letter is signed by Kadir Peker, Borajet’s general manager. It is addressed to Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization and the Iran Ministry of Road and Transportation.

A hand-written statement letter from Peker to a Turkish court was provided to the prosecutor during the court case involving Dr. Ayasli. Peker’s letter was taken as a testimony against Dr. Ayasli.unnamed.jpg

The letter of testimony from Peker indicates Borajet was operating in cash in Iran to evade U.S. sanctions.

Part of Peker’s letter reads, “In the files against me by Borajet at the bankruptcy court, the source of the debt is shown as the money withdrawn from the company as an advanced payment to me. However, the money was really for the purpose of these expenses we listed but due to the embargo, they listed me as the payee (receiver).” Peker goes on to note, “in reality, the money is a payment for the office in Iran, and the company’s establishment [in Tehran] and the people making the connections.” He wrote, “All these payments are made by the instructions of the board member in charge of finance. Zahideh, and Yalcin Ayasli were aware of these payments.” He also stated that he does not owe money to anyone and kindly requested his testimony to be accepted as a petition in proceeding with the case.

Although Peker’s letter does not specifically mention cash, it says “in hand” which is known to mean “cash” in Turkish business transactions.

It further states that due to the American capital or money in the company, they had to pay cash, indicating their intention to conceal the transactions.

It is not uncommon for dual United States citizens to dance with the targets of U.S. sanctions, to the benefit of the Islamic Republic’s recently-sanctioned Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The letter was written because Borajet declared bankruptcy in court and because of the SBK Holdings group filed a lawsuit against Borajet’s previous owners.

On page four of a 17-page document, Peker addresses a typed letter to Mr. Mohsen Goharkhah listing him as the “mandate to negotiate and collect offers for Iran Civil Aviation Organization.” The letter is dated August 14, 2012.

The Turkish-focused news outlet Turkish-American News posted a response to its article “How Did Borajet’s Previous Owner Yalcin Ayasli Bypass Iran Sanctions?” on Sept. 12The outlet also posted a letter to the editor by Dr. Ayasli on Sept. 18:

First of all, contrary to the allegations made in the article, BoraJet was not founded in the United States. It happens to be a Turkish company established in Turkey and is a part of the $400 million investment that I, as a Turkish citizen, have made in Turkey. Furthermore, the allegations in the article about BoraJet establishing a company in Iran and flying to Iran concern the years 2012-2013, when I was not on the BoraJet board, contrary to what is reported.

According to sources familiar with the case, Dr. Ayasli has not showed up to the Turkish court that summoned him, breaking both Turkish law and U.S. law in the process. 

His case is likely one of several others that will soon be brought to the Treasury Department’s attention.

Democrat Group Pulls Anti-GOP Pickup Truck Ad After Terrorist Uses Pickup Truck to Kill People in New York

Latino VIctory Fund


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Just one day after the Democratic Latino Victory Fund released an anti-GOP ad featuring a man driving a pickup truck, with a Confederate flag and bumper sticker supporting Republican governor hopeful Ed Gillespie, chasing down a group of minority children, an immigrant from Uzbekistan plowed a rented pickup truck into a group of patrons, killing eight people and seriously wounding 11 others, including children.

Sayfullo Saipov, who legally entered the United States in 2010 under the “Chuck Schumer beauty” Diversity Immigrant Visa program from Uzbekistan, shouted “Allahu Akbar” as he drove into the crowd of innocents.

The Latino Victory Fund pulled their ad after the terrorist attack. But the damage was already done.

The ad was meant to paint the Republican party, and its supporters, as racist, anti-immigrant bigots whose immigration policies translate into disdain for minority children. The pickup truck touch appeared to be an attack on “rednecks.”

It was released just one week prior to the highly-anticipated November seventh Virginia gubernatorial elections.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie’s campaign decried the Latino Victory Fund’s ad as “disgusting” and an “attack on the people of Virginia.”

On Wednesday, President Trump pointed out over Twitter that the Diversity Immigrant Visa program was introduced in part by then-Rep. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in 1990. On Thursday, he called for its termination and said it was “a disaster for our country.”

Instead, Trump wants merit-based immigration; immigration that would reward points to applicants based on education, high-paying job offers, their past achievements, and their proficiency in English.

Democrat Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, who is running against Gillespie in Tuesday’s gubernatorial election, did not disavow the Latino Victory Fund’s attack ad on Gillespie and Trump supporters. In fact, he even approved of a Democratic mailer that sought to link Gillespie to white nationalists who marched in Charlottesville. Gillepsie repeatedly condemned white supremacism. In return, Republicans blasted Northam and accused him of exploiting the violence, that resulted in one death, for personal political gain.

The left-leaning Washington Post editorial board, which endorsed Northam, also slammed the Latino Victory Fund’s ad saying it “was vile” and had “no place” in the Virginia governor’s race. “Among other faults, it glossed over the fact that Mr. Gillespie condemned the white-supremacist violence in Charlottesville far more directly than did President Trump,” they wrote.

On November 7, the people of Virginia will decide who they believe better represents their values.

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Iranian Official Warns Saudi Arabia: ‘The Moment We are Provoked, We Will Obliterate’ You

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A high-ranking Iranian official issued a stern warning to Saudi Arabia, letting them know that if Iran is provoked by the Sunni Kingdom, they will “obliterate” them.

“Please realize that we are people who control our anger,” Mohsen Rezaee, the secretary of Iran’s Expediency Discernment Council and a former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), said in a July interview on a state-run TV network that was posted on the Internet. “It takes a lot to make us angry. But the moment we are provoked, we will obliterate Saudi Arabia. We will not allow insecurities to continue.”

Rezaee added, “Therefore, we have told all our friends and supporters, such as Hezbollah to cool down and, for the time being, not to do anything against Saudi Arabia.” He said the Iranian regime has told their “supporters from Saudi Arabia to Yemen and many other places … to keep quiet for now.”

However, Rezaee predicted that a confrontation between both nations will likely occur. “But our prediction is that the path that Saudi Arabia has begun on is a harsh and painful path which may lead to a limited conflict. For example, Saudi will probably attack somewhere that will encourage us to respond.”

Saudi-Iran relations have deteriorated significantly, with each country supporting opposite sides in the conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Both countries have accused each other of destabilizing security in the region.

“If we face Saudi Arabia and even if they beg us to leave them alone, we will not leave them alone.”

Asked by the interviewer if he has ever warned Saudi Arabia, Rezai said, “Yes. My interview is a warning to them.”

The IRGC accused Saudi Arabia of being behind the Islamic State attack on Iran’s Parliament and shrine of the leader of the Iranian revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini on June 7. The Islamic State officially took responsibility for the attack which left 17 dead and dozens wounded.

Syria, in particular, has been a point of contention between both countries. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is backed by the Iranian regime and the nation has no formal diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia.

Last month, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, Assad’s government slammed Saudi Arabia for “politicizing” the pilgrimage and blocking Syrians from visiting the holy city. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani responded by saying Saudi Arabia “should stop backing terrorists” in Yemen and Syria.

Last week, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir reportedly said Iran’s talk of a possible rapprochement with the kingdom was “laughable” after Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif said the Islamic Republic would soon exchange diplomatic visits with Saudi Arabia.

“The comments of the foreign minister are laughable,” al-Jubeir said, according to Reuters. “If Iran wants to have good relations with Saudi Arabia, it has to change its policies. It has to respect international law.” He added, “at this time, we do not see… that they’re serious about wanting to be a good neighbor.”

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