Sunday, April 08, 2012

New York, New York, Sister City of Dearborn, Michigan

And while on the subject of nuance, Reuters reported last week that investigation by the staff of Representative Peter King, chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, has determined

that "hundreds" of people he described as "Iranian and Hezbollah terrorists" were in the United States. But interviews with U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials, as well as private experts, about the Iranian-sponsored group paint a more nuanced picture. There is a threat, though whether it is imminent or extensive is far from clear, they say. (“U.S. officials debate virulence of Iran-backed Hezbollah's threat”).

As for the part of the picture that’s not so nuanced, Reuters explains it this way:

An alarming part of the officials' assessments focuses on the apparent surveillance missions that Iranian diplomats and possible Hezbollah operatives have been seen conducting at sensitive targets such as New York subways and bridges, and at nuclear power plants and tunnels elsewhere in the United States in the past 10 years.

The Reuters report then goes on to list only a sample of incidents that have been the cause of concern.

One factor heightening U.S. officials' concern about Hezbollah-related attacks is the accumulation of accounts of alleged attempts by Iranian operatives to "case" potential U.S. targets.

According to a New York law enforcement source, there have been several notable incidents of this nature involving individuals who turned out to be accredited to Iran's U.N. mission.

In a 2003 incident, New York police patrolmen observed a group of men videotaping the tracks out of the front window of a subway train traveling between Queens and Manhattan at 2 a.m. The Iranians were arrested, but later released after they produced diplomatic credentials. The law enforcement source said they were asked to leave the country.

In a 2006 incident, the captain of a sightseeing boat became suspicious after a group of Iranians taking his cruise along the East River broke into two smaller groups and started snapping pictures of the undersides of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. The six men all turned out to be covered by diplomatic immunity, the law enforcement source said.

In September 2008, three more Iranians with diplomatic status were observed taking pictures of rail tracks going into Grand Central Station that are not routinely accessible to members of the public.

And in a 2010 incident, security personnel at a heliport near Wall Street observed a group of men who claimed to be affiliated with an Iranian broadcasting network taking pictures of the framework supporting the heliport deck which was cantilevered over the river.

A federal official said that similar surveillance incidents had been reported in other cities such as Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Targets under observation included nuclear power plants, tunnels and casinos.

And then there is this:

U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials, along with private experts, say there is little doubt Hezbollah has an extensive network of supporters, fund-raisers and potential operatives in the United States.

A law enforcement official said that the New York Police Department, whose monitoring of Muslim communities has prompted political controversy, believes that between 200 and 300 Hezbollah sympathizers live in New York City. Between 10 and 20 of those are relatives of Hezbollah leaders or fighters who were killed in action, said the official.

The NYPD's knowledge of Hezbollah's infrastructure is sufficiently detailed that it has identified three Lebanese towns - Bint Jbeil, Yanoun and Yatar - to which suspected sympathizers of the group have ties. At least a handful of people in New York connected with Hezbollah have also undergone military training in Lebanon, the official said.

But didn’t Reuters mention that too much of an alarm may not be the best thing, because some other very smart people put all this information together to form “a more nuanced picture”?:

U.S. officials caution that Hezbollah, a Shiite militia based in Lebanon, has largely avoided attacking U.S. targets since it carried out mass-casualty bombings in the 1980s against the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut. One reason may be that it does not want to endanger its lucrative North American fund-raising operations.

Read the article for yourself, and that’s pretty much all the nuance you’ll see. We’re cautioned against being too upset about Hezbollah because they’ve “avoided” attacking us since the Beirut bombing.   (But we did some avoiding ourselves by evacuating Lebanon shortly afterwards, never to return).

I don’t think they’ve avoided attacking us at all.  We know Hezbollah was active in killing our guys in Iraq, (read here, here, and here.) And in 1983 they were attacking us in their own backyard, in Lebanon, at a time when no jihadists were attacking us on our own soil. That changed on 9/11, and ever since jihadists have grown in sophistication and capability.  Now jihadis would rather martyr themselves killing us at home than anywhere else – if they can only figure out how to do it. And unlike 1983, according to Small Wars Journal, in the intervening years since 1983 “Hezbollah's operatives have infiltrated the Western Hemisphere from Canada to Argentina.”

And will Hezbollah fighters in America really abstain from attacking us just to spare their fund-raising? Again, according to Small Wars Journal, fund-raising is only a “second-tier priority” to Hezbollah cells, which are first and foremost committed to conducting terrorist operations.

Jihad is a duty of Hezbollah's operatives and according [to Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan] Nasrallah, no one is excused, including its parliamentary representatives. "Hezbollah cells are frequently involved in fundraising activities, even if they are primarily operational cells.” Hezbollah's cells are versatile, though people in those cells may have diversified roles. "[T]he idea that they are coming over here simply to make contacts with a mosque in order to get a few thousand dollars, I think, has been counterproductive to the FBI and intelligence." Improperly assessing the Hezbollah's intent clouds the knowledge of its severity. It is a mistake that is easily avoided if one just sees its history or tactics.


No comments: