January 25, 2013 | Democract and Chronicle

Hezbollah’s Terrorism a Threat to Upstate NY

Are residents in Rochester and Buffalo vulnerable to terror attacks from the Iran-backed Hezbollah organization? Upstate New York Congressman Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, co-sponsored a bill with his colleague Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., to assess the dangers of Hezbollah’s presence in Toronto and in the western hemisphere. President Barack Obama rapidly signed the bill into law in late December.

Speaking on the House floor in September, Higgins stated that based on expert testimony culled from the Homeland Security Committee, Hezbollah “has an active membership in fourteen North American cities, including in Toronto, which is 90 miles from my western New York home.”

Though the law is formally titled the Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act, the counterterrorism legislation correctly views Hezbollah and Iran’s anti-American clerical regime as a merged terror apparatus.

Iran’s rulers generously fund Hezbollah’s global terrorism activities. And there is no shortage of compelling evidence to explain why Hezbollah remains a lethal threat to Americans and U.S. interests in both North and South America. Hezbollah — a Lebanese-based Shiite group founded in 1982 — launched a terror campaign against the United States shortly after its 1982 inception. David Cohen, under-secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in August, “Before Al Qaeda’s attack on the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, Hezbollah was responsible for killing more Americans in terrorist attacks than any other terrorist group.”

In 1983, Hezbollah bombed the U.S. military barracks in Beirut, killing 243 Marines and 58 French paratroopers. In 2007, Hezbollah operative Ali Musa Daqduq played a key role in the murder of five U.S. soldiers in Iraq, according to U.S. military officials.

The United States designated Hezbollah a terrorist entity in 1995. The growing involvement of Hezbollah in the Mexican narcotics trade coupled with its clandestine operatives across the U.S. and Canada present a significant security threat. “Does Hezbollah use Buffalo as a pathway to its other operations in the U.S.?” Higgins asked, according to the Buffalo News. “Or do they use Buffalo as a pathway to Canada?”

The new legislation will require the U.S. State Department to address the types of questions posed by Higgins in a study and examine other gaps in U.S. national security in connection with Iran and Hezbollah. The terrorism reach of Iran and Hezbollah has inflicted damage on our allies in Europe and in the Middle East. U.S. and Israeli intelligence officials attributed the suicide bombing in July, which blew up a bus full of Israeli tourists in the Bulgarian village of Burgas, to a joint Iran-Hezbollah operation. The terror attack resulted in the murders of five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver.

Now that the United States has ramped up its efforts to counter Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah terrorism, it is time for the European Union to follow the U.S. lead and ban Hezbollah’s operations within its territories.

Benjamin Weinthal attended Brighton High School and is a fellow with the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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