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R adicalism South

of the Border

Jon B. Perdue

T
 he point at which the United States’ southern border
changes from a political issue to a security issue has been
reached. While it has been utilized primarily as a politi-
cal tool in recent years, new revelations of actual terror cells
in Mexico have made border security a far more serious issue.

When General Douglas Fraser, Commander of U.S. Southern Command,


mentioned the increased presence in Venezuela of the Quds Force, the section
of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps responsible for foreign operations, in a
hearing in March, it put Islamist infiltration on the radar amongst policy circles
in Washington, though the issue received little attention in the media.
But the issue received greater scrutiny after June 23rd of this year, when
Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) wrote a letter to Director of Homeland Security Janet
Napolitano requesting a task force be set up and a report to Congress issued
on the cooperation between Islamic terrorist groups and Mexican drug cartels.
Myrick’s letter quoted former Chief of Operations for the Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA) Michael Braun, who reported: “Hezbollah relies on the
same criminal weapons smugglers, document traffickers and transportation
experts as the drug cartel… They work together; they rely on the same shadow
facilitators. One way or another they are all connected.”1
The issue was given further import with the July 22 presentation to the Per-
manent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) by Colombia’s

Jon B. P erdue is the Director of Latin America Programs at The Fund for
American Studies in Washington, D.C. This article is excerpted from his
forthcoming book on Iran and Venezuela, The War of All the People (Potomac
Books).
Jon Perdue

OAS representative Ambassador America has been supplanted by the


Luis Alfonso Hoyos, revealing that far more radicalized and menacing
Venezuela was allowing the region’s threat of Islamic terrorism. To gauge
most lethal terrorist group, the Revo- the problem, it is important for policy
lutionary Armed Forces of Colombia makers to understand the differences
(FARC), a safe haven within its ter- between long-term migration and
ritory. Hoyos’ two-hour presentation strategic infiltration in the Western
included intelligence reports, satel- hemisphere.
lite photos and witness testimonies The first Muslim to arrive in the
that laid out the case with embarrass- Americas, Estavanico, or “Stephen
ingly irrefutable evidence to an OAS the Moor,” traveled to Cuba and
that had grown accustomed to little Hispaniola (present day Dominican
more than supportive silence about Republic and Haiti) in 1527 with Pán-
the region’s rogue regimes. 2 filo de Narváez’s futile expedition to
colonize Florida. In the nearly 500
The history of Middle Eastern years since, only Suriname, where
Muslims make up 21 percent of the
and Latin American terrorist country’s small population of some
cooperation is long and varied, 510,000 people, boasts a Muslim
and belies the notion that regimes population greater than 10 percent
that use radicalized religion of the total.
Just 30 years ago, Roman Cathol-
to gain and hold power are icism claimed almost 90 percent of
incompatible with those that use the total population in Latin America.
radicalized political ideology. Today, only 55 to 65 percent of Latin
Americans count themselves as Cath-
The religious of the olic. While there has been a large
Middle East and the increase in “evangelicos,” or non-
secular of Latin America Catholic Christians, there has also
The nexus of Middle Eastern been an effective recruiting effort by
Islamist terrorist groups with Marxist various Muslim groups.
and Maoist terrorists in Latin America Whereas the influence of Islam in
is often treated as a novel and unusual the past in Latin America was mostly
partnership between strange bedfel- based on smaller immigrant Muslim
lows that share no cultural or ideolog- enclaves, there has been some recent
ical ties. This “burqa-bikini paradox,” success in proselytizing indigenous
so to speak, is too often mistaken as tribes and remote populations by both
a new, and likely ephemeral, relation- Shi’a and Sunni preachers and activ-
ship of convenience. ists. Muslim populations significant
In truth, the history of Middle in numbers if not total percentages
Eastern and Latin American terror- exist today in Argentina, Panama,
ist cooperation is long and varied, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and
and belies the notion that regimes Brazil, which contains the largest
that use radicalized religion to gain Muslim community in South Amer-
and hold power are incompatible with ica with estimates of its size ranging
those that use radicalized political from 250,000 to nearly one million.
ideology, despite their ostensible cul- The most successful Islamic prosely-
tural differences. Since the end of the tizing movement in Latin America is
Cold War, Soviet influence in Latin believed to be Spain’s al-Murabitun.

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Radicalism South of the Border

The al-Murabitun, an Islamist In March 2009, the then-com-


revival movement founded by a Scot- mander of U.S. Southern Command,
tish convert to Islam who goes by Admiral James G. Stavridis, told the
the name Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir House Armed Services Committee
as-Sufi, draws inspiration from the that the connection between illicit
Almoravids, a Berber dynasty of the drug trafficking and Islamic radical
western Sahara who ruled North terrorism was a growing threat to the
Africa and Spain in the 11th and 12th United States, and stated that the pre-
century and included a significant vious August, “U.S. Southern Com-
population of converts to Islam from mand supported a Drug Enforcement
Spain and other European countries. Administration operation, in coor-
The al-Murabitun advocate a dination with host countries, which
“collective reversion to Islam and a targeted a Hezbollah-connected drug
return to the region’s true heritage,” trafficking organization in the Tri-
as opposed to what most Muslims Border Area.”
would consider a true conversion to Stavridis also mentioned that an
Islam. The al-Murabitun preach a interagency operation the previous
form of Islam that is not imbued with October led to the arrest of dozens of
“imperialism,” but instead claims to Colombians associated with a Hezbol-
serve as a “remedy for the oppres- lah-connected narco-trafficking and
sion and destruction brought by money-laundering ring that funded
Spanish conquest.” 3 Hezbollah terrorism worldwide.5
It has been reported that the Recently, numerous cases have
al-Murabitun made an attempt, been reported of Hezbollah operat-
though unsuccessful, to form an ing on the border with Mexico. In
alliance with Mexico’s Subcoman- 2008, Salim Boughader Mucharra-
dante Marcos, the head of the fille, a Mexican of Lebanese descent,
Zapatista Army of National Libera- was sentenced to 60 years in prison
tion (EZLN) of Mexico, after his on charges of organized crime and
unsuccessful 1994 uprising in Chi- immigrant smuggling. Mucharra-
apas. Although Marcos refused fille had been arrested six years ear-
the offer, many of the Zapatista lier for smuggling immigrants into
insurgents that belong to the the United States, some of whom
Tzotzils, a Yucatan tribe, did con- were connected to Hezbollah. A year
vert to Islam, a fact that alarmed before, in 2001, Mahmoud Youssef
Mexican President Vicente Fox Kourani illegally crossed the Mexi-
enough to accuse them of having can border and traveled to Dear-
links to al-Qaeda. 4 born, Michigan, where he was later
Since the 1980s, the terrorist charged and convicted for “material
group Hezbollah has been recruit- support and resources ... to Hezbol-
ing and raising money from Leba- lah,” according to the indictment.6
nese and Syrian immigrants living In July 2008, it was reported in
mostly in three specific areas—the the Mexican newspaper El Universal
Tri-Border (TBA) Area at the inter- that a U.S. Drug Enforcement Admin-
section of Argentina, Brazil and Para- istration (DEA) document suggested
guay, Venezuela’s Margarita Island, that since 2005 two Mexican drug
and the Caribbean coastline of cartels had been sending operatives
Colombia, concentrated in the towns to train in Iran with the Revolutionary
of Maicao and San Andres. Guard Corps. Reportedly, the train-

The Journal of International Security A ffairs 103


Jon Perdue

ing included instruction in sniper ish High Court Judge Eloy Velasco
tactics and use of rocket launchers.7 issued warrants for 13 ETA and
Though the DEA would not confirm FARC terrorists, one of whom was
the report, it clearly indicated that a Venezuelan government employee
there was now a link between Latin who was born in Spain. The Span-
American narco-traffickers and ish High Court declared that the
Middle Eastern terrorists. Venezuelan government had served
In a speech in Mexico in 2007, as a go-between for ETA and FARC,
Robert Grenier, the former head of and that, after the contact, the FARC
the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, had sought logistical assistance from
warned that the U.S. was concerned ETA if it chose to assassinate Colom-
that Hezbollah or Hamas would try bian officials visiting Spain. Colom-
to set up operations in Mexico in bia’s President Alvaro Uribe, the
order to infiltrate America’s south- court said, was one of the targets.
ern border and carry out terrorist According to the magistrate,
attacks.8 His warning proved pre- several ETA terrorists had traveled
scient when, as recently as July of to Venezuela to train members of the
this year, a Hezbollah cell was busted FARC to use cell phones as detona-
by Mexican police in Tijuana, where tors for bombs containing the explo-
Mexicans of Lebanese origin had sive C4, and members of Venezuela’s
been recruited to set up a cell to armed forces had accompanied them
train for attacks against Israel and on at least one occasion. Several
the West. The head of the opera- ETA terrorists had also traveled to
tion, Jameel Nasr, had been under FARC camps in Colombia, via Ven-
Mexican police surveillance as he ezuela, to receive guerrilla training.
traveled frequently back and forth to The same day that the magistrate’s
Lebanon, and also spent two months report was released, Spanish police
in Venezuela in the summer of 2008. 9 released the names of three ETA
Nasr’s 2008 stay in Venezuela terrorists that were captured the day
has become more troubling since the before. One of those terrorists, José
2010 publication of the book El Pales- Ayestaran, was wanted by Spainish
tino, by Antonio Salas. Salas, a Span- authorities in connection with 10
ish journalist known for his earlier killings. Ayestaran had lived in Ven-
book, Diario de un Skin, in which he ezuela for many years.10
infiltrated a skinhead group, repeated
the exploit by going undercover as a The Chávez problem
Muslim terrorist-in-training. Salas As Hugo Chávez has consoli-
was able to travel worldwide amongst dated power in Venezuela and used
terrorist operatives, and shot under- his country’s oil wealth to spread his
cover video of several supposed terror- influence into other countries in the
ist training camps inside Venezuela. region, his relationship with Iran has
Spain, whose socialist president emerged as a growing threat to both
José Luis Zapatero would normally the United States and his neighbors.
maintain a close relationship with And while many have blithely dis-
fellow traveler Venezuela President missed Chávez as more of a sideshow
Hugo Chávez, demanded that Vene- than a threat, his ability to function
zuela explain its assistance to Basque as a sanctions buster for Iran makes
ETA terrorists plotting attacks on him a much bigger problem. But the
Spanish soil. In March of 2010, Span- threat does not stop there.

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Radicalism South of the Border

Within the Chávez regime, there of other Chávez acolytes with con-
are a large number of apparatchiks nections to Hezbollah, Iraq’s Ba’ath
and bureaucrats with ties to Hezbol- Party, and other terrorist and radical
lah and other terrorist groups in posi- groups:
tions that allow them to aid not only
Iran, but other terrorists in the region Tarek William Saab Halabi, gover-
as well. nor of the province of Anzoategui;
The Miami Herald reported George Kabboul Abdelnour, who
heads Bariven, the purchasing
on Tarek El Aissami as far back as arm of state-owned Petroleos de
2003—a young Chávez confidante Venezuela, SA (PDVSA); Imaad
who serves as both Minister of Inte- Saab, Venezuela’s ambassador to
rior and Minister of Justice. El Ais- Syria; Radwan Sabbagh, president
sami, age 34, was previously a radical of a mining company operating in
student leader at the Universidad de the province of Orinoco; Aref Rich-
los Andes, where, during his tenure any Jimenez, a brigadier general
in the Venezuelan army who heads
as student body president, “support-
the military’s industrial company
ers are alleged to have consolidated and is a director of PDVSA; Fadi
their control of the Domingo Salazar Kabboul Abdelnour, PDVSA’s
student dormitories and turned them director of planning; the minister
into a haven for armed political and of interior’s sister, Amin Obayda
criminal groups.”11 El Aissami Maddah, an execu-
The Miami Herald article about tive in PDVSA’s technology arm;
Kamal Naim Naim, president of
El Aissami noted that a report done
the Bolívar provincial assembly.12
by Oswaldo Alcala, the vice-rector
of academic affairs at the univer-
sity, stated that “of 1,122 people As he has purged many of his
living in the eight residences, only former closest friends and military
387 are active students and more colleagues that have denounced his
than 600 have no university con- descent into dictatorship, Chávez’s
nections.” In other words, radical cabinet has become both younger
groups with strong connections to and more radical.
both Marxist terrorists as well as
Hezbollah and the Syrian and Iraqi
Ba’ath Parties had taken over the The Venezuela-Iran axis
university’s dormitories. The modern relationship
The vice-rector also mentioned between Venezuela and Iran began
to the Miami Herald that, in the resi- in the 1960s, when both countries
dences where this group of radical became founding members of the
students lived with other students, Organization of Petroleum Exporting
“There’s always weapons there. This Countries (OPEC). Despite the suc-
is something you see in the movies.’’ cess of OPEC in keeping petroleum
Before he was named minister of inte- prices high and the coffers of its mem-
rior and justice, El Aissami served bers, including several terrorism-
as deputy director in the ministry sponsoring states, filled, the most
that issues cedulas (national identity current threat to the hemisphere
cards) and passports. didn’t arrive until Hugo Chávez was
Roger Noriega, former Assis- elected president of Venezuela.
tant Secretary of State for Western Almost immediately after he took
Hemisphere Affairs, reported a cadre office in 1999, Chávez made his first

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Jon Perdue

overtures to Mohammed Khatami, Chávez would continue helping


then the Iranian president. Chávez Iran by running interference and
partnered with Khatami to persuade buying influence in the United Nations
the cartel to cut back oil supplies, and other international bodies. Vene-
which tripled the price per barrel on zuela, Syria, and Cuba were the only
the world market from $12 to $36 a countries on the 35-member board
barrel by the year 2000.13 In return, of the UN’s International Atomic
Khatami lobbied for Caracas to host Energy Agency (IAEA) to vote
OPEC’s Second Summit in Septem- against reporting Iran’s nuclear activ-
ber 2000. The last time that Venezu- ity to the Security Council.15 Khatami
ela had hosted an OPEC meeting had would visit Chávez two more times
been in 1975, when OPEC declared before he left office, once to boost
an oil embargo against the West for the oil price at an OPEC meeting,
its support of Israel in the 1973 Yom and once to sign bilateral cooperation
Kippur War.14 agreements to solidify the Venezuela-
Iran partnership. But the Venezuela-
As Hugo Chávez has consolidated Iran relationship wouldn’t reach its
power in Venezuela and used his zenith until Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
became president of Iran on August
country’s oil wealth to spread his 3, 2005.
influence into other countries in In July 2006, Chávez made a spe-
the region, his relationship with cial trip to Tehran to try to thwart
international criticism of Iran for its
Iran has emerged as a growing nuclear intransigence and for aiding
threat to both the United States Hezbollah terrorists. He would visit
and his neighbors. again in November 2007, and after a
two-hour closed-door meeting with
Chávez’s 2000 OPEC meeting Ahmadinejad, Chávez stated, “Here
was considered a great success, as he are two brother countries, united
rolled out the red carpet and put the like a single fist… God willing, with
power of the state and his supporters the fall of the dollar, the deviant U.S.
to work making sure that the visi- imperialism will fall as soon as pos-
tors were treated like royalty. At the sible, too.”16
meeting, Chávez was able to secure Chávez was later given Iran’s
an agreement by the cartel to restrict highest honor, the Higher Medal of
production in order to keep the price the Islamic Republic of Iran, for “sup-
of oil high. porting Tehran in its nuclear standoff
The fact that Chávez secured with the international community.”
the OPEC summit made him a major Upon receiving the medal, Chávez
player within the organization. To took the occasion to condemn Israel
consolidate his status, Chávez toured for the “terrorism” and “madness” of
ten OPEC countries, including Iraq, its 2006 attacks in Lebanon, and also
where he became the first head stated, “Let’s save the human race,
of state of any nation to meet with let’s finish off the U.S. empire.”17
Saddam Hussein since the first Gulf After handing Chávez the medal,
War. Saddam Hussein used the visit Ahmadinejad said, “Mr. Chávez is a
to polish his image in the interna- kindred spirit, and my brother. He is
tional community after being isolated a friend of the Iranian nation and the
for the previous decade. people seeking freedom around the

106 The Journal of International Security A ffairs


Radicalism South of the Border

world. He works perpetually against new gravitas. Chávez promised to sell


the dominant system. He is a worker 20,000 barrels of gasoline per day to
of God and a servant of the people.” Iran, a sanctions-busting maneuver
Many of those in the foreign designed to help the regime, which,
policy establishment didn’t take though awash in oil, lacks sufficient
Hugo Chávez seriously until New refining capacity for its domestic
York County District Attorney Robert needs. He has also been implicated by
Morgenthau decided to hold a public various security agencies in provid-
press conference in September 2009, ing the uranium necessary to effectu-
where he reported the following: ate an Iranian nuclear warhead.19
Last year, Ha’aretz reported on
In April 2008, Venezuela and Iran a secret three-page memo that Israel
entered into a Memorandum of prepared before Deputy Foreign
Understanding pledging full mili- Minister Danny Ayalon’s visit to an
tary support and cooperation. It
has been reported that since 2006
Organization of American States
Iranian military advisors have conference in Honduras. Chávez
been embedded with Venezu- and Bolivian President Evo Morales
elan troops. Asymmetric warfare, strenuously denied the report’s find-
taught to members of Iran’s Revo- ing that Venezuela and Bolivia were
lutionary Guard, Hezbollah and providing Iran with uranium. 20
Hamas, has replaced U.S. Army But it was recently announced
field manuals as the standard
Venezuelan military doctrine.18
by the Iranian minister of industry
and mines, Ali Akhbar Mehravian,
that Iran is providing $250 million
Morgenthau laid out a very good in funding for mining operations
case for taking the Iran-Venezuela in Bolivia that include geological
partnership seriously, even more so prospecting for uranium and lith-
with the world watching Iran’s esca- ium. “President Mahm[o]ud Ahma-
lating belligerence and its nuclear dinejad has ordered us, in keeping
intransigence. As the IAEA tries to with whatever priorities and proj-
monitor Iran’s nuclear program, and ects are suggested, to begin assist-
the United States tries to implement ing and transferring technology to
sanctions designed to stop the rogue Bolivia through Iranian and Libyan
nation’s ability to develop a deploy- experts,” the Iranian minister said
able nuclear warhead, the veteran at a joint press conference in La Paz
DA’s statement sounded even more with President Evo Morales.
ominous: “based on information
developed by my office, the Iranians The method within the
with the help of Venezuela are now madness
engaged in… economic and prolifera- It is hard not to dismiss Hugo
tion sanctions-busting schemes.” Chávez as a madman or buffoon. He
Though the active policy has a weekly television show, Alo Pres-
throughout the Bush and Obama idente! (Hello President!), in which
administrations has been to ignore he pontificates for Castro-length epi-
Hugo Chávez’s histrionics, the abil- sodes on everything from novel ideas
ity of oil-rich Venezuela to undermine on statecraft that pop into his head to
the sanctions regime designed to the length of time that Venezuelans
deter Iranian nuclear ambitions has should spend in the shower (in order
given this cross-cultural relationship to save water during state-induced

The Journal of International Security A ffairs 107


Jon Perdue

water shortages). He has changed eral Warfare and Revolutionary


the name of the country to match his Islam: Origins, Rules and Ethics
ersatz socialist governing program, of Asymmetric Warfare), by Jorge
and on a whim changed Venezuelan Verstrynge, a Spanish social-
standard time by 30 minutes. ist, distributed to the Venezuelan
It would be foolhardy to dismiss Army as its new training manual.
Chávez’s machinations as the ravings The manual calls Islamic ter-
of a lunatic caudillo, however. He has rorism “the ultimate and preferred
been part of a fifth column group method of asymmetric warfare
within the Venezuelan military since because it involves fighters willing to
at least 1980, where he and others sacrifice their lives to kill the enemy.” 22
have planned coups as well as how The manual also includes instruc-
they would govern once their coup tions for building and exploding a
succeeded. And it should be noted nuclear “dirty bomb.” Verstrynge has
that the main reason that the coup since become a consultant to the Ven-
to remove Chávez in 2002 failed is ezuelan Army, whose members have
because the opposition had no plan also been forced by Chávez to recite
in place to make a constitutional tran- the Cuban-style pledge “Fatherland,
sition in the event of a coup. Yet the Socialism or Death.” 23
Chávez plan has continued apace. The “peripheral” portion of Ver-
And whether coordinated or coinci- strynge’s title defines the strategy
dental, Venezuela and Iran have fol- used by Iran of gradually increas-
lowed similar military paths since ing its military capacity through
Chávez became president. surrogates along the borders of its
Since the Iran-Iraq War, although adversaries. Iran used Hezbollah
Iran has built up all branches of its and Hamas on Israel’s northern
military forces, it has not budgeted and southern borders to prepare
for a war-ready conventional army. specialized missile crews. These
Instead, Iran has focused on missile Hezbollah terrorists would be the
technology to harass its neighbors ones responsible for starting the
and naval capacity to be able to cause 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War by firing
problems in the Persian Gulf. But Katyusha rockets into Israeli civil-
more importantly, Iran has fortified ian areas. 24
its networks for international sub- Even before the United States
version with groups like Hezbollah government decided to remove
and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iran had
Corps, or IRGC, that specialize in been utilizing this peripheral warfare
asymmetrical warfare. tactic by financing, supplying and
Similarly, Chávez began train- training several Shiite groups within
ing his military in this method in Iraq. Iran continued this strategy
2004, at the “1st Military Forum on by building up a presence in Sudan,
Fourth Generation War and Asym- just south of Egypt, in order to sup-
metric War,” where he encouraged port terrorist operations against
his soldiers to change their tactical President Hosni Mubarak’s govern-
thinking from a conventional style to ment, and supported or infiltrated
a “people’s war” paradigm. 21 anti-government groups into Yemen
Chávez then had a special to enable them to threaten Saudi Ara-
edition of La Guerra Periferica bia’s oil infrastructure. 25
y Islam Revolucionaria (Periph-

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Radicalism South of the Border

The Hezbollah influence of warfare in which at least one of


on Chávez the combatants is not a state but a
Hugo Chávez also utilizes violent non-state entity. It has since
“peripheral warfare” methods mod- been elaborated upon by military
eled after Hezbollah’s war with Israel. and security experts, but it has yet
He recently sent an invitation to sev- to be internalized within the state
eral mayors in the Amazon region of security bureaucracy in Washing-
Peru whose municipalities lie near ton, although military commanders
the area where the borders of Peru, and the Department of Defense have
Colombia and Brazil meet. Although shown a much greater comprehen-
some mayors refused the invitation, sion and acceptance of the concept.
others stated that they knew of some More recently, as cooperation
that had accepted. One of the mayors has increased between Iran and Ven-
explained, “Chávez is searching for ezuela against the U.S., the necessity
friends on the border with Colom- of effectively countering the threat
bia, probably because he considers has become a higher priority among
Colombia an enemy and a threat.” 26 policy circles.
In this region of Peru, FARC
members have also forced farmers to Iranian involvement
grow coca leaves to supply its cocaine south of the border not
operations that have been displaced unnoticed
by the Colombian government’s On January 27, 2009, Secretary of
aggressive anti-drug and counter- Defense Robert Gates testified about
terror policies. Chavez’s entreaties to the threat of Iran in Latin America:
mayors in the region, it is also specu-
lated, are to buy their acquiescence I’m concerned about the level
in the cross-border gambit of both of, frankly, subversive activity
drug smuggling and coca cultivation, that the Iranians are carrying
as well as providing a FARC refuge on in a number of places in Latin
within Peru. America, particularly in South
America and Central America.
Peripheral warfare conducted by
Hugo Chávez also includes the use
They’re opening a lot of offices
of “ALBA houses,” ostensible medi- and a lot of fronts, behind which
cal offices for the poor that serve as they interfere in what is going on
recruitment centers for insurgents in some of these countries. To
in neighboring countries. These are be honest, I’m more concerned
modeled after Cuba’s “Barrio Aden- about Iranian meddling in the
tro” program that has been utilized region than I am the Russians. 27
for years to infiltrate spies and agi-
tators into neighboring countries Still, there has been a tendency
under the guise of doctors, coaches among regional security analysts to
and advisors to help the poor. downplay this threat in America’s
The concept of asymmetric backyard. Chris Zambelis, a Middle
or fourth generation warfare was East analyst with the Washington-
first defined in a 1989 Marine Corps based Jamestown Foundation, has
Gazette article, “The Changing Face stated that, although Latin Ameri-
of War: Into the Fourth Generation,” can islands like San Andres and Isla
as a return to a decentralized form Margarita do have large numbers of
Muslims, “there’s no evidence at all”

The Journal of International Security A ffairs 109


Jon Perdue

to suggest that local Arab merchants same activities performed by


are financing Hezbollah. other groups make up the greater
criminal network so prominent in
Zambelis’ reasoning is worth
the AOR [Area of Responsibility].
considering, as there is an incentive Illicit activities, facilitated by the
to cast any suspect activity within a AOR’s permissive environment,
host government’s territory as ter- are the backbone for criminal
ror-related. According to Zambelis, entities like urban gangs, narco-
“Colombian and regional govern- terrorists, Islamic terrorists, and
ments have played on U.S. concerns worldwide organized crime. 30
by moving to curry favor with the
United States to further their own The Treasury Department
domestic agendas and international issued memos in 2002 and 2006
standing. In doing so, they often high- that stated that there were “clear
light the alleged threat of al Qaeda or examples” of Islamic groups in
other brands of radical Islamist ter- the region that “finance terror-
rorism within their own borders.” 28 ist activities” through ventures in
the Tri-Border A rea. The groups
The Tri-Border Area mentioned in the memos included
Still, this tendency to understate al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Egypt’s al-
the potential threat sounds oddly sim- Gama’a al-Islamiyya, and Islamic
ilar to the treatment given al Qaeda Jihad, among others. 31
following the 1993 World Trade In this Tri-Border Area, there
Center bombing, and more impor- exists a sophisticated operation of
tantly, it ignores previous attacks counterfeiting in everything from
such as the 1994 bombing of the main luxury goods to health and beauty
Jewish community center in Buenos products, alongside a growing popu-
Aires, Argentina, in which 85 people lation of Hezbollah converts that are
died. The bombing was traced back to suspected of terrorist fundraising.
Hezbollah members that planned the While many of the converts may be
operation from within the Tri-Border far from radical, the ability of the
Area where the borders of Argentina, enclave to harbor terrorist elements,
Paragay and Brazil come together. 29 even unwittingly, makes its presence
The U.S. Southern Command, a concern.
which oversees coordination opera- The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Gold-
tions in Latin America and the Carib- berg described the Tri-Border Area
bean, said the following concerning as follows:
security in Latin America:
The sidewalks are dense with
stands selling sunglasses and
We have detected a number of perfume, and with tables of por-
Islamic Radical Group facilita- nographic videos. Marijuana is
tors that continue to participate sold openly; so are pirated CDs.
in fundraising and logistical sup- The music of Eminem came from
port activities such as money one shop; from another, there
laundering, document forgery, were sounds familiar to me from
and illicit trafficking. Proceeds South Lebanon and the Bekaa
from these activities are support- Valley—martial Hezbollah music.
ing worldwide terrorist activi- I bought a cassette recording of
ties. Not only do these activities the speeches of Sayyid Hassan
serve to support Islamic terrorist Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader. 32
groups in the Middle East, these

110 The Journal of International Security A ffairs


Radicalism South of the Border

As non-state actors utilize United States, as we have done [for]


peripheral warfare tactics around a long time, continue to strongly
border areas, the affected states will support your approach, your execu-
be forced to decide to use asymmet- tion, and obviously your results.” 33
ric tactics in retaliation, or to watch The chairman’s remarks were a vin-
their borders be used against them. dication for Uribe, who had been
When Ecuador, under Chávez acolyte criticized for the very tactics that
Rafael Correa, let the FARC cross its would turn the tide against a terror-
borders while the Colombian Army ist insurgency that killed and kid-
was denied the same right in order napped civilians as a policy.
to pursue them, Colombian Presi- For the previous five years, most
dent Alvaro Uribe decided to invoke American military leaders and politi-
Colombia’s right to attack on either cians had treated Uribe as radioac-
side of the border. tive, since he had made a speech in
Uribe’s predecessor, President September 2003 in which he called
Andres Pastrana, had ceded a Swit- human rights groups “spokesmen
zerland-sized swath of Colombian ter- for terrorism” and “politickers of ter-
ritory to the FARC while they worked rorism,” challenging them to “take
on a peace treaty – a strategy that off their masks... and drop this cow-
illustrated a lack of understanding of ardice of hiding their ideas behind
asymmetric warfare. And while Pas- human rights.”
trana’s administration subsequently Uribe was referring to the pan-
crumbled for its failure to understand oply of soi disant “human rights”
the conflict, the FARC consolidated groups that seemed to find abuses
its power and utilized the “peace and atrocities everywhere that
zone” as a rest and staging area for could be blamed on state police or
increased terrorist operations. When military, but hardly commented on
Uribe won the presidency after cam- the atrocities of the FARC and other
paigning on using the “mano dura” terrorist groups that killed and
(iron hand) against terrorism, the kidnapped civilians as a matter of
FARC had grown such that it was policy. Moreover, these groups had
able to fire mortars within striking been successful in bringing pros-
distance of the reviewing stand at ecutions against members of the
Uribe’s inauguration. military while defending the FARC
as beleaguered freedom fighters.
Advent of fourth Although Uribe was attacked fero-
generation war ciously for his comments, he would
President Uribe, more than any be later vindicated when some of his
other president in the hemisphere, critics’ names showed up in FARC
demonstrated an understanding of documents as allies or abettors of
the need to break from conventional the terrorists. 34
techniques to fight a fourth genera-
tion war. On a visit to Colombia in Fighting and winning a
March 2009, Admiral Mike Mullen, fourth generation war
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of In a fourth generation war, for
Staff, congratulated Colombian every tactic that terrorist groups
leaders “for the great successes utilize to gain an advantage over
you have achieved” against narco- the state security apparatus, they
terrorists, and stated, “We in the expose themselves to having those

The Journal of International Security A ffairs 111


Jon Perdue

tactics turned against them. But this trained in Latin America, make the
can only occur once the state actu- issue of Islamist infiltration in the
ally makes the decision to take the region a security priority. Since then,
threat seriously. The primary arma- there has been constant cooperation
ment in a fourth generation war is between Latin American and Middle
psychological or political warfare, Eastern terrorist groups. As Mexico
or better stated, the will to use one’s battles its own escalating war against
armaments carries as much impact narco-terrorists, the U.S. border will
as the amount of killing power that become an increasingly precarious
they contain. security issue as Hezbollah and other
The decision by President Bush operatives take advantage of the
to do the “surge” in Iraq was as much chaos to infiltrate the United States.
a psychological warfare tactic as it And as Iran’s nuclear brinksmanship
was a conventional tactic. Although brings the world closer to confron-
the increase in troops would be used tation, its proxies in Latin America
to secure and hold territory, it was will become an increasingly perilous
the decision itself, to send in more threat much closer to home.
troops despite worldwide condem-
nation, that let Iraq’s people and
politicians know that the U.S. was
serious and in for the long haul. The
“message” was as important as the
number of troops. 1. Myrick Calls for Taskforce to Investi-
gate Presence of Hezbollah on the US
The enemies of modernity under- Southern Border, Letter to Homeland
stand this too, though policymakers Security Director Napolitano, June 25,
may not yet. In a 1982 article in The 2010, http://myrick.house.gov/index.
New York Times, Salvadoran guerrilla cfm?sectionid=22&itemid=55.
2. Uribe Ramps up Tension with Venezuela,
Hector Oqueli summed up fourth Financial Times, July 25 2010, http://www.
generation warfare succinctly, stat- ft.com/cms/s/0/01a671f8 -981a-11df-b218 -
ing, “We have to win the war inside 00144feab49a.html.
the United States.” 35 This sentiment 3. Chris Zambelis, “Radical Islam in Latin
America,” Terrorism Monitor, Jamestown
was reinforced two years later by the Foundation, Vol. 3, No. 23, December 2,
Sandinista leader Tomas Borge in a 2005.
Newsweek interview, when he stated, 4. Ibid.
“The battle for Nicaragua is not being 5. Ibid.
6. “EXCLUSIVE: Hezbollah Uses Mexican
waged in Nicaragua. It is being fought Drug Routes into U.S.,”Washington Times,
in the United States.” 36 This type of March 27, 2009, http://www.washington-
political warfare, as these men under- times.com/news/2009/mar/27/hezbollah-
stood, is much closer to think tank uses-mexican-drug-routes-into-us/.
7. “Iran Increases Its Political and Economic
warfare than tank warfare, and its Presence in Latin America,” Israel News,
combatants understand that winning April 19, 2009, 34.
the hearts and minds of some policy- 8. Roee Nahmias, “Expert: Hama, Hizbollah
makers in Washington is a far more Cells May Be Active in Mexico,” YNET,
November 2, 2007.
attainable objective than winning 9. “Mexico Thwarts Hezbollah Bid to Set Up
over their own populations to their South American Network,” Ha’aretz, June
threadbare ideologies. 7, 2010, http://www.haaretz.com/news/
The two bombings in Argentina diplomacy-defense/mexico -thwarts-hez-
bollah-bid-to-set-up -south-american-net-
in 1992 and 1994, already believed to work-1.300360.
be the work of Hezbollah terrorists

112 The Journal of International Security A ffairs


Radicalism South of the Border

10. “Hugo Chávez ‘Terrorist Link’ Sparks Dip- 25. The Rise of Nuclear Iran, by Dore Gold,
lomatic Row between Spain and Venezu- (Regnery Press, 2009), pp. 276-277.
ela,” The Guardian, Tuesday, 2 March 2010, 26. Interview by the author during travel to the
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/ Loreto region of Peru in October 2009.
mar/01/hugo-chavez-venezuela-spain-eta. 27. “Gates: Iran Opening ‘Offices and a Lot of
11. Phil Gunson, “Chávez Appoints Radical to Fronts’ throughout Latin America,” World-
Head Venezuelan Passport Agency,” Miami Tribune.com, Tuesday, February 10, 2009,
Herald, November 28, 2003. http://w w w.worldtribune.com/worldtri-
12. “Hugo Chávez’s Criminal Nuclear Network: bune/W TA RC/2009/la_iran0118_02_10.
A Grave and Growing Threat,” by Roger F. asp.
Noriega, Latin American Outlook, October 28. Chris Zambelis, “Al-Qaeda in the Andes:
2009. Spotlight on Colombia,” Terrorism Moni-
13. “U.S.: Will Oil Worries Send the Economy tor, Volume: 4 Issue: 7, April 6, 2006,
Skidding?” Business Week, January 20, 2003. ht t p://w w w.ja mestow n.org/prog ra ms/
14. “Venezuela: OPEC Should Become a Politi- gta/single/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=727&tx_
cal Actor against Imperialism,” Published ttnews[backPid]=181&no_cache=1.
on November 19th 2007, by Kiraz Janicke— 29. “Iran Increases Its Political and Economic
Venezuelanalysis.com. Presence in Latin America,” Intelligence
15. Iran’s Latin American Power Play, by Dina and Terrorism Information Center, April 8,
Siegel Vann, InFocus, Summer 2007. http:// 2009 (Hebrew Edition), 36.
w w w.jew ishpol icycenter.org/26/ira ns - 30. Gen. Brantz J. Craddock, U.S. Army Com-
latin-american-power-play. mander, U.S. Southern Command, State-
16. Chávez, Ahmadinejad Vow to Defeat U.S., ment to the 109th Congress, Senate Armed
The Associated Press, November 11, 2007. Services Committee, March 15, 2005.
17. “The Meeting of Minds and Moves: The 31. “Terrorist and Organized Crime Groups
Substance and Significance of the Middle in the Tri-Border Area (TBA) of South
East to Venezuela´s Foreign Policy 1999- America,” a report prepared by the Federal
2008,” Makram Haluani, Department of Research Division, Library of Congress,
Economics and Business Administration, July 2003, http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/pdf-
Simon Bolivar University, Caracas, Venezu- files/TerrOrgCrime_TBA.pdf.
ela, February 2009. 32. Jeffrey Goldberg, “In the Party of God,” Part
18. Remarks by NY County District Attorney 2 of 2, The New Yorker, 28 October 2002.
Robert M. Morgenthau at Brookings Institu- 33. “Lessons of Colombia Can Be Applied Else-
tion, Washington, D.C., September 8, 2009. where, Mullen Says,” by Jim Garamone,
19. “Venezuela to Export Gasoline to Iran,” American Forces Press Service, Mar 5,
CNN.com, September 7, 2009. www.cnn. 2009, www.southcom.mil/AppsSC/news.
com/2009/WORLD/americas/09/07/iran. php?storyId=1578.
venezuela.gasoline/index.html (accessed 34. “A FARC Fan’s Notes,” Mary Anastasia
October 7, 2009). O’Grady, Wall Street Journal, March 25,
20. “Secret Document: Venezuela, Bolivia Sup- 2008.
plying Iran with Uranium,” May 5, 2009, 35. Philip Taubman, “Salvadorans’ U.S. Cam-
Ha’aretz, http://www.haaretz.com/news/ paign: Selling of Revolution,” The New York
secret-document-venezuela-bolivia-supply- Times, February 26, 1982, p. A-10.
ing-iran-with-uranium-1.276675. 36. From Mainline to Sideline: The Social Wit-
21. Latin America’s New Security Reality: Irregu- ness of the National Council of Churches,
lar Asymmetric Conflict and Hugo Chávez, Lloyd Billingsley, University Press of Amer-
Max G. Manwaring, August 2007, published ica (February 12, 1990), p. 116.
by Strategic Studies Institute, pp. 23-24.
22. See Joe Sweeny, “Jorge Verstrynge: The
Guru of Bolivarian Asymmetric Warfare,” in
http://www.vcrisis.com/index.php?content
=letters/200509091152.
23. “Chávez Seeks Tighter Grip on Military,”
New York Times, May 29, 2009, http://
w w w.ny t imes.com/20 0 9/05/30/world/
americas/30venez.html.
24. “Clashes Spread to Lebanon as Hezbollah
Raids Israel,” International Herald Tribune,
The New York Times, July 12, 2006, http://
w w w.ny t imes.com/2 0 0 6/07/13/world/
a f rica/13iht-web.0713mideast. 218 8501.
html?_r=1.

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