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Hezbollah: Global Merchant of guns, drugs and drones

 

Hezbollah has a vast network to distribute weapons and illegal arms around the world. The organization ships and produces AK-47’s, RPGs, missiles, rockets and drones, to Sudanese rebel groups, Jihadists in the Sahel, the Junta in Myanmar and Hamas in Gaza. The Lebanese Shia terrorist organization has large amounts of weapons in vast stockpiles all across Lebanon and Syria and needs to get rid of them because they are getting old and useless. 

Hezbollah soldiers standing in line Lebanon terrorism
Hezbollah soldiers standing in line

Ever since its inception in 1982 Hezbollah has been a strange but key player in world politics. They organized terror attacks against American, Israeli and Jewish targets all across the world. They became an influential political party in Lebanon, worked closely with the Assad regime in Syria, and became a proxy for the Iranian regime in places where Iran couldn’t openly operate. 

It is not a secret that Iran has been supplying Hezbollah with weapons and logistical support. But what is less known is that Hezbollah gets most of its funding from dealing in drugs. And not just the Gulf-favorite amphetamine Captagon, that is mainly produced by the Syrian regime, but also marijuana, cocaine and heroin. The South-American drug cartels and Hezbollah help each other out in transportation, finding new markets and setting up underground cells for terrorist activities, with a special position for the Irish mafia in Europe that “takes care” of Iranian dissidents in exchange for weapons and drugs.

Hezbollah has a “finance” department for its illegal activities. It is also made easier for Hezbollah to ship arms across the world as it is a part of Lebanon’s political system. Drug dealers connected to Hezbollah can gain special diplomatic titles and papers so they can go and sell across the globe.

Hezbollah posters on a wall in Lebanon political
Hezbollah posters on a wall in Lebanon

Since Hezbollah is on the terrorist list in most countries it has made illegal arms and drug trafficking harder for the organization in the past decade.

One of the major Hezbollah arms dealers, the Lebanese-Ukrainian businessman Ali Fayad, is on the board of Ukraine’s major weapon manufacturer Ukrspecexport, which has a special relationship with the Turkish company that makes the infamous Bayraktar drones. After being pursued by the US Drug Enforcement Agency he was eventually arrested in the Czech Republic in 2014. 

Ali Fayad, not to be mistaken with the other Hezbollah leader Ali Fayyad, made sure that rebels in Sudan, Myanmar and other places were fully supplied with Russian-made weapons, some even coming from the Soviet era. After the collapse of the Soviet Union Ukrspecexport started selling its vast weapon stockpiles on the illegal arms trade market. Customers could pay in hard currency, gold, blood diamonds, drugs or services and Ali Fayad was the middleman making sure he and Hezbollah got their cut. But when the DEA arrested him in 2014 the Czech government decided not to extradite him to the US but trade him for five Czech citizens who were in the hands of Hezbollah. The US complained, but quickly decided to not put too much pressure on the Czech Republic because the U.S.  did not feel like angering Hezbollah during negotiations with Iran on the infamous Iran Nuclear Deal.

In the meantime, Hezbollah has stockpile issues of its own and has been selling outdated weapons and ammunition to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, rebels in Sudan and to pro-Assad groups in Syria. Some estimates put Hezbollah’s arsenal at over 150,000 missiles and rockets. However, Hezbollah has had no active war since 2006. They began to set up a supply line to earn some extra money. They began to set up a supply line to sell off old weapons and purchase new equipment coming from Iran’s weapons program.

Men like Ali Fayad don’t work alone. The Hezbollah “Finance” department is staffed by influential Hezbollah leaders who are part of the wider drug and weapons smuggling ring, like Ayman Saied Joumaa, Adham Tabaja, Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi, Ali Youssef Charara, Imad Mughniyeh, Ali Fayyad, Abdallah Saffieddine and a mysterious middleman called the “Ghost”, who mostly deals in weapons of mass destruction

Hezbollah weapons cache terrorism fighters guerrilla rebel group Lebanon
A weapons cache

Now, with the war between Israel and Hamas, Hezbollah has tightened its grip on weapon sales to Shia terrorist groups around the Arabian Peninsula and has been actively trying to set up a new wave of terrorist attacks in Brazil and Argentina.

It is still unclear if, how and when Hezbollah will fully commit to the war with Israel, but it seems the organization is preoccupied with trying to hold on to its political power in Lebanon and does not want to endanger its lucrative weapons and drug enterprise. Hezbollah leader Nasrallah has harsh words for Israel and the U.S. but simply does not seem to want to do much more than launch a few anti-tank missiles and rockets at the north of Israel every now and then, to keep its supporters happy.

In the meantime the international policing agencies have their hands full trying to dismantle the Hezbollah network whilst facing geopolitical and diplomatic constraints, to not further antagonize countries like Iran so they will stay at the negotiation table.

Hezbollah commando soldiers standing at attention
Hezbollah commandos standing at attention
 
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