Did Venezuela’s Relationship with Hezbollah Prompt US Suspension of Flights?
Security expert Joseph Humire argues that, "the actions that the US is taking with Venezuela, should not be separated from those in other parts of the world such as Iraq."
The decision that the United States has recently taken to suspend flights to and from Venezuela could be related to the international conflicts that link Iran, Hezbollah, and its “tentacles” in the South American country.
Joseph Humire, a hemispheric security expert and executive director of the Center for a Free and Secure Society based in Washington DC, told the PanAm Post that both the Department of Transportation and the Department of Homeland Security considered suspending flights not only because of the “unpredictable situation” in Venezuela but also because of the relations that Nicolás Maduro maintains with Russia, Cuba, China, Iran and the terrorist group Hezbollah.
He pointed out that there are three issues to take into account: the crisis in Venezuela, the conflict with “external enemies,” and the obligation to protect American citizens
“The situation in Venezuela is unpredictable, it is a crisis that very quickly is becoming a conflict that is not only internal between Maduro and President Juan Guaidó, but also a conflict between the countries that support the dictatorship such as Russia, Cuba, China, and Iran and the democratic countries that now number more than 55,” he said.
“It is difficult to know what is going to happen and what these entities are going to do, therefore I think it is prudent to cancel flights that may put citizens at risk,” Humire added.
The actions that the US government is taking in Venezuela, bear resemblance to other actions it is taking in other parts of the world such as Iraq, where it has also reduced its diplomatic corps.
He stressed that Cuba, Russia, Hezbollah, and China are creating an alliance to generate conflicts to provoke an alleged war with the United States.
“In Washington, there is a lot of talk about whether there is going to be a war with Iran, and faced with this, the United States has to consider that Iran also operates from Venezuela. It could be that this action is being taken after an analysis of international risk,” he said.
“What we are seeing is that the solution for Venezuela will not come quickly, and the United States must protect its citizens and protect themselves from any action by enemies,” he said.
Iran and Venezuela have become a threat
The tension that the United States maintains with Iran seems to be reaching the boiling point. On May 10, the Pentagon said it would send a naval ship and a Patriot missile interceptor to the Middle East, in addition to a previous shipment of a group of aircraft carriers and bombers, due to potential threats from Iran and allied Arab militias.
That confrontation has escalated since Trump decided a year ago to leave the nuclear agreement with Iran. Tehran announced its own partial withdrawal in early May, and threatened to continue production of nuclear fuel unless Europe acts to undermine US sanctions that have devastated Iran’s oil revenues.
There are also allegations that Iranian troops are in Venezuela. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, the renowned Israeli organization for human rights, addressed a letter to the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, calling for the prevention of the “transplant of the Middle East to the Americas.”
The organization refers to the offer made by the Islamic Republic of Iran to send to Venezuela members of its Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), recently designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, according to information from Infobae.
Although neither the Iranian nor the Venezuelan regime have officially and publicly confirmed this offer, the proposal coincides with the inauguration on April 8 of a direct flight between Tehran and Caracas with the Iranian airline, Mahan Air, as part of the bilateral agreements between Iran and Venezuela.
Mahan Air is controlled by IRGC, and the airline is also known to be a means of transporting weapons. In fact, countries like Germany and France have banned its flights on their territory, while the United States sanctioned it in 2011.
Hezbollah and Venezuela
The regimes of Chavez and Maduro have also supported the operations of the Iranians and the Islamic Resistance Movement of Lebanon (Hezbollah).
The United States has issued dozens of reports in which it warns that the South American country has become a threat to the security of the region, after discovering and documenting the alliances and cooperation on the part of the Venezuela government, and leaders of the Islamic terrorist group.
Hezbollah, which translates to “the party of God”, is an organization that was founded in Lebanon in 1982 after the Israeli occupation. It has political and military arms, and works with the support of Iran and the Syrian Government of Bashar Al Assad, current allies and friends of the Chavista-Madurista regime. Hezbollah is considered a terrorist group by most Western countries.
In the book “Búmeran Chávez” it is revealed that, according to testimony of Rafael Isea, then Vice Minister of Finance and president of the Bank of Economic and Social Development (Bandes), who was present at the meeting held in Damascus in 2007, Maduro (then Foreign Minister), and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, signed a pact which covered drug trafficking, money laundering, arms supply, and passport delivery, as well as the deployment of that radical Shia organization in Venezuela.
And there is further evidence that Chavez decided to ally with the terrorist group. A report in the Spanish newspaper ABC revealed, in May of this year, that between 2008 and 2012, approximately 173 individuals from Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Iran registered as Venezuelan citizens to facilitate their participation in the drug trafficking business.
In 2015, an official of the Scientific and Criminal Investigation Corps (CICPC), identified as Misael López Soto, who supposedly was counselor of the Venezuelan embassy in Iraq, confessed that he witnessed that the Venezuelan government delivered diplomatic documents to terrorists from the Middle East.
Lopez explained in a video that employees of the embassy sell visas, passports, identity cards, and Venezuelan birth certificates to people from Syria, Palestine, Iraq, and Pakistan who pay between USD $5,000 and USD $15,000 to obtain the documents “under the complacent eye of the Venezuelan diplomatic authorities.”
The statements of Lopez Soto coincide with the apprehension of individuals who have been found Venezuelan passports.
In 2003, Hasil Mohammed Rahaham-Alan, who was traveling with an alleged Venezuelan passport, was arrested on a British Airways flight to Heathrow Airport, which serves the city of London.
His flight departed from Caracas and made stops in Colombia and Barbados. He was carrying a grenade in his luggage, which led to the evacuation of the terminal, and the arrival of the military.
In 2008, the US Treasury Department issued a statement in which it stated that “it is extremely worrisome to see that the government of Venezuela is providing refuge for Hezbollah facilitators and fundraisers.”
This response was prompted when Ghazi Nasr al Din (identity card number 18.190.527), who was wanted by Interpol, allegedly served as Chargé d’Affaires of the Venezuelan Embassy in Damascus, Syria, and was subsequently named Director of Political Affairs of the Embassy of Venezuela in Lebanon. Currently he is a member of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council, despite his position in Damascus, Syria.
According to the Brazilian magazine Veja, sources said in 2015 that Nasr al Din ran a network of manufacturing and distribution of authentic Venezuelan passports that were provided to hide the true identities of the terrorists.
The Center for a Secure Free Society (SFS), based in Washington, published in 2014 a paper entitled: “Canada on guard: assessing the threat of Iran, Venezuela and Cuba to immigration security.” Therein, the authors claim that Venezuela issued at least 173 Venezuelan passports to radical Islamists seeking to enter North America.
The authors of this report, Victoria Henderson, Director General of the Canadian Institute of Social and Economic Analysis (ISEA); Fernando Menéndez, SFS researcher and Joseph Humire, director of the SFS, linked Tareck El Aissami, who headed the Ministry of the Interior between 2008 and 2012, and allegedly created a money laundering network to cover the financing of extremist groups of the Middle East. In addition, they assure that during years El Aissami has been arranging the entry of Iranian terrorists on Venezuelan territory.