Hezbollah is a greater and more longstanding foundational threat to our homeland than ISIS. This was brought to the forefront last week when two Hezbollah operatives were arrested on charges of surveilling targets for the Iranian-backed terror group on our own soil. They were also naturalized citizens who were admitted from Lebanon as immigrants years ago.
Sadly, this story received very little media coverage. President Trump would be wise to give a televised address making the case for his immigration moratorium and travel ban by using this case as a perfect case study for the need for smarter vetting and more controlled immigration.
Last Thursday, the Justice Department announced the arrest of Ali Kourani, 32, of the Bronx, New York, and Samer el Debek, 37, of Dearborn, Mich. – both naturalized U.S. citizens from Lebanon – for engaging in terror operations for Hezbollah.
Per federal prosecutors, both Kourani and Debek got training from Hezbollah in Lebanon over the past decade. Debek allegedly conducted espionage for Hezbollah, likely using the terrorist organization’s extensive Latin American network to identify U.S. and Israeli targets in Panama. Kourani was surveilling targets in New York City, including U.S. military bases and Israeli military personnel.
These two terrorists were working for the Islamic Jihad Organization (IJO), which is the arm of Hezbollah responsible for carrying out terrorist attacks and counterintelligence outside of their Lebanon base. According to the official complaint filed in the Southern District Court of New York, “Kourani transmitted some of the products of his surveillance and intelligence-gathering efforts back to IJO personnel in Lebanon using digital storage media.”
Once again, these were individuals we should have never admitted from the Middle East. Kourani was born in Lebanon in 1984 and underwent weapons-training from Hezbollah at the tender age of 16. Nonetheless, he was allowed to immigrate here in 2003 without any questions asked. Yet, he still travelled back and forth a number of times to his home country.
According to the filed complaint, Kourani and his family members were present in Lebanon during the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel war and was recruited by the IJO in 2008. Later that year, Kourani applied for U.S. citizenship and, after lying on his application about ties to terrorism, he was granted a U.S. passport in 2009. He continued to travel overseas thereafter on suspicious missions that should have raised red flags.
The arrest of two official Hezbollah operatives raises a number of questions:
How many family members are associated with these terrorists, and how many have we admitted to the U.S.?
How many other Hezbollah operatives are in our country?
Why are immigrants able to travel so easily to the Middle East without any scrutiny?
Why are so many terrorists becoming naturalized citizens? Who is vetting them?
The hallmark of all these domestic terrorist attacks or domestic terror plots is that the perpetrators tend to fly back and forth to dangerous Islamic countries before engaging in terrorism. This is why Trump must give a televised speech laying out the case for an immigration cool-off and a travel ban. In fact, this case demonstrates the need to expand the travel ban to all countries with a significant presence of terrorism.
Unlike ISIS, which is mainly a threat rooted in the belief of a caliphate that has electrified the Islamic diaspora in the West, Hezbollah has a serious operation on our shores and throughout the Western hemisphere.
They are funding narco-terrorism and have ties to many smuggling groups in Central and South America. They have bases in Venezuela, Columbia, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Panama, and are particularly close with the Paraguay government. That is why they pose the single biggest border/illegal immigration threat of any Islamic terror group.
President Trump should use last week’s arrests in New York to announce the following policies:
-Nullify the Iran nuclear deal and re-impose all of the sanctions on Iran. Sanctions relief has been a big boon to Hezbollah
-Cut off all military and economy aid to Lebanon, which has essentially been flowing to Hezbollah.
-Designate all banking and funding sources for Hezbollah in Latin America as secondary terror groups to further pressure Hezbollah
-Expand the immigration moratorium and severely limit travel to the Middle East, particularly for green card holders, unless we can confidently verify there is no danger associated with their travel. If not a full moratorium, we must at least place greater restrictions and scrutiny on travel.
-Stop helping Hezbollah in Iraq: While we are bombing Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Syria, we are helping them take back Mosul and other parts of Anbar province from ISIS. The Hezbollah Brigades, along with fellow Shiite militias, such as the Sayyid al Shuhada Brigades and the Imam Ali Brigades, are benefiting from our support in Iraq, even though they are controlled by the Iranian Qods Force. While ISIS is a problem, we should not be fighting them to the extent that such ground will be held for Iran. That is why Iran hasn’t cared about ISIS until now. We’ve been serving as the Shiite air force in Iraq
-Build the wall: We’ve already called on the president to demand a supplemental funding bill for the border wall. The president needs to make it clear that securing the southern border will not only help stem the flow of illegal immigrants, but will protect us against terror infiltrations and slam the door shut on the narco-terrorist scheme that keeps Hezbollah funded.
Or … we can focus on Comey and Russia all day!