“The dangers for Europe come from Hezbollah and Salafists” (Panorama 20.10.2020)

by Stefano Piazza – Luciano Tirinnanzi

“I can reveal that Hezbollah’s secret weapons depots have been moved through Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. I can also reveal that significant ammonium nitrate deposits have been discovered and destroyed in France, Italy and Greece.” This is stated by Nathan A. Sales, the Coordinator for Counterterrorism with the rank and status of Ambassador-at-Large. That is, the man personally chosen by Donald Trump – who gave him the rank and status of extraordinary ambassador of the United States – to lead the front line in the fight against Islamic jihadism of every matrix, so dear to the president. The lawyer Sales, a former member of Homeland Security, told to Panorama (an Italian weekly magazine): “The involvement of Hezbollah (the Shia Islamist political party and militant group financed by Tehran, which dominates Lebanese politics, has great influence throughout the Middle East, and has about 50,000 members, ed.) in recent years in terrorist plots and other activities in Europe is very well documented. Hezbollah continues to consider Europe as a vital and strategic operational, logistic, procurement and fundraising platform.”

Nathan A. Sales

And, on this, he also has some earfuls for Brussels: “We never comment on the definitions that individual countries give to terrorism. But for the reasons just highlighted the European Union should expand that of Hezbollah as a terrorist group, including in this category the entire organization and not only its ‘military wing’. A fact that has clearly not deterred the Lebanese organization from continuing to engage in terrorist activities throughout Europe.”

These are harsh words, determined and oriented to sensitize those responsible for European defense and security, especially after the events in Beirut. That is, when the devastating explosion of a warehouse of weapons and chemical agents on 4 August last, swept away all doubt about the criminal activities of the “Party of God”. Yes, because Hezbollah is in the dock for having stored and hidden (under the eyes of the Lebanese authorities) large quantities of ammonium nitrate. That is to say a compound much loved by terrorists around the world for its explosive properties and the ease in finding it, it is nicknamed “the terrorists’ gold”. Hezbollah has made extensive use of it in Syria, mostly car bombs, and aims to replicate the same lethal scenario in Europe.

Sales’ appeal at this moment, in fact, does not come by chance. Rather, it is part of an alarm launched by Washington after the American intelligence antennas in the Old Continent have recorded a worrying escalation of Hezbollah activities: in fact, just last April, German counter-terrorism foiled the plan of a Hezbollah terrorist cell, found in possession of large quantities of the same fertilizer, hidden in an instant ice warehouse. While in June 2019 the British intelligence services admitted to having requisitioned tons of the same chemical material from Beirut in four different locations in London, run by local Shiite militia cells. Previously, in 2015, in Cyprus the police had arrested Hussein Bassam Abdallah, Lebanese with Canadian passport, found in possession of more than 8 tons of ammonium nitrate (Abdallah then confessed his affiliation to Hezbollah and agreed to a reduced sentence of six years).

Thus, the map of terrorist activities of the Lebanese Shiite militia is spreading like wildfire: Italy, Belgium, France, Greece, Spain, United Kingdom, Germany, Cyprus and Switzerland. As if to say that Hezbollah is fully an international terror organization. In fact, it is still stockpiling weapons and explosives “in preparation for a new terrorist offensive”, as Kash Patel -a deputy assistant to President Trump and the top White House counterterrorism official- suggested to shore up the statements of Sales. To do this, Hezbollah has focused heavily on Northern Ireland and the new Iraq, heir to the Irish Republican Army whose armed wing sowed terror in Britain from the 1970s to 2010.

And with whom Hezbollah has had several secret meetings, through officials of the Iranian Embassy in Dublin. Wrath traffics weapons and ammunition and is historically linked also to the use and manufacture of explosives; and here is the reason to talk with the Lebanese “colleagues”. In such a perspective, it is not by chance that, after the death of the Iranian General Hassan Souleimani by American hands, the political wing of the New IRA issued a communiqué stating to be “outraged for the murder”. Hezbollah’s reach is not limited to Europe but has long been global: branched mostly through the Lebanese diaspora, it has created a network that extends from Chile in South America to Angola and Ethiopia, to China, Japan and even Australia. And it also involves drug trafficking, a primary source of revenue to carry on the “battle”. In particular, it is dedicated to cocaine trafficking from South America, hashish and methamphetamines from the Middle East.

Sales knows well how international the threat of the “Party of God” is. And it reaches American officials everywhere. Like the attempted assassination of Lana Marks, U.S. ambassador to South Africa, who was to die in retaliation for Souleimani: “Although I cannot comment on intelligence matters, Secretary Pompey noted that the Islamic Republic of Iran, either directly or through affiliates (such as Hezbollah, ed.) has engaged in assassination attempts around the world. They have assassinated people in Europe as well. I want to make it very clear to the Islamic Republic of Iran that this kind of activity – attacking any American anywhere and at anytime, whether it be an American diplomat, an ambassador or one of our service members – is completely unacceptable to us.

Hezbollah militiamen are not the only concern of the State Department for the European Union. Sales believes, in fact, that Isis is also recreating a concrete threat to international and European security: “Despite our destruction of the so-called Isis caliphate, we have seen the global network of the group adapt and remain a threat. The Islamic State and its associated subsidiaries will undoubtedly continue to threaten the interests of the United States and our European allies. That is why we are working together to strengthen border security, improve information sharing and strengthen law enforcement capabilities to detect and counter terrorist threats.”

Moreover, the State Department’s Counter-Terrorism Coordinator has no doubt that, after the death of Caliph Al Baghdadi, there is an even bloodier element at the head of the Islamic State: “We confirm that Amir Muhammad Sa’id Abdal Rahman al-Mawla has succeeded Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the new leader of Isis. Born in Mosul, Iraq, in 1976, he was a religious scholar in the organization that preceded the Islamic State of Iraq, and has constantly climbed the ranks to assume a leadership role in the current terrorist organization. He is one of the most important ideologists in the organization, and has helped to lead and justify the kidnapping, massacre and trafficking of members of the Yazida religious minority group in north-western Iraq. We also believe that he has supervised the group’s global terrorist operations for some time.” These statements are an important alarm for the security files that Europe will have to manage. Because, ultimately, the terrorist virus is as persistent as today’s pandemic and yet it is planning to claim many more victims.

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