“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Islamic Fifth Column in the Americas

Brazilians of Arab origin number twelve million. They are mostly from Lebanese and Syria.

U.S. Officials: Hezbollah Gaining in Latin America

Middle East Times

The United States is stepping up scrutiny of Iranian security and military personnel in the Lebanese communities of Latin America, even as its proxy, Hezbollah, gains new momentum and strength there, U.S. officials said.
Part of Hezbollah's alarming expansion is being fueled by narco-dollars coming from Latin American drug cartels, and American concern stems from the possibility that al-Qaida and Hezbollah, both of which have contacts with wealthy and powerful Latin American drug organizations, could use the area to stage attacks on U.S. interests in the region or at home, these officials said.

U.S. officials said that in addition to boosting rates of recruitment, Hezbollah agents, supported by Iran, are using very effective routes to smuggle drug profits to the Middle East to aid anti-U.S. counterparts, thanks to cooperation with Cuban intelligence which has effective operations in southern Florida.

Last fall, Charles Allen, undersecretary of Intelligence and Analysis in the Department of Homeland Security said, "The threat of ties between criminal and drug smuggling networks and Islamic terrorism may be less pressing than the Middle East, but the threats in this hemisphere are genuine, insidious and not always limited to recruiting and finance."

Only last October, U.S. and Colombian law enforcement agencies broke up a Hezbollah drug trafficking ring that was funneling profits to markets in Europe, the United States and militias in Lebanon, according to Department of Justice reports. The ring's director was Shukri Mahmoud Harb, a money launderer, who was arrested with 130 Hezbollah colleagues.

In December 2006, nine Hezbollah operatives were captured running a rogue financial network in the tri-border area of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, according to U.S. Treasury Department officials. The tri-border area is considered a haven to arms traffickers, smugglers, and is home to thousands of Lebanese.

Hezbollah, founded in 1982, is backed by Iran. The group, which runs a formidable military structure within Lebanon, also attracts popular support from its broad network of political and economic activities that includes schools, clinics and social services along with news outlets, newspapers, television stations, and a telecommunications network. It has members in El Salvador, Argentina, Brazil, and as far north as Chapas, Mexico, a country which is known to have al-Qaida cells, several U.S. sources said.

"There is no doubt that Hezbollah is a formidable conduit for Iran's interests in Latin America," said a U.S. intelligence official. The arrest of Hezbollah operatives in Colombia was proof of that, he said.

Of particular concern is Iran's recent diplomatic initiative to tighten its ties with Venezuela led by virulently anti-American Hugo Chavez. Direct flights from Caracas and Tehran began in early 2007 and relations have grown, U.S. officials said.

While far-left states such as Cuba or Venezuela aren't natural allies with the jihadists, the religious philosophy of the former Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini "contains a good deal of Marxism in it," said Patrick Clawson, Middle East expert at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

He said that countries like Cuba and Venezuela share implacable anti-American goals that have brought them into an alliance "of convenience and common interest."

Although Hezbollah has sympathizers in almost all the Arab and Lebanese communities in Latin America, Clawson said that the main U.S. fear is a sharp Hezbollah increase in the northern Lebanese communities of the region,

"That will be a real breakout," Clawson said.

But U.S. intelligence officials told the Middle East Times that there was no evidence that such a thing had yet occurred. "We are keeping a close eye on it, you can bet on that," one serving U.S. official said.

But some are harshly skeptical. "The whole issue of Hezbollah expansion down there is overblown," said former CIA official Larry Johnson. "It's total bull – just another way for neocons to beat the Iranian fear drum so that we'll join Israel in a nice little war with Tehran."


  1. A few two man teams wreaked havoc in Mumbai. American prisons do nothing to stop the spread of Islam and leftist regimes in Venezuela and Nicaragua welcome Iranian advances in the region.

    Just wait and see.

  2. Stop feeding them and they will go away. It's really that simple. We need to transition away oil, and end the rivalry with Russia India and China using Jihadis as the point of the spear.

  3. Don't Fall for Citigroup's Fantasy

    Markets exploded today because of a memo from Citigroup (NYSE: C) CEO Vikram Pandit, telling employees that -- surprise! -- the bank was actually on track to post its best quarter in over a year ... and a profit! Maybe things aren't as bad as we thought! We're saved! We're saved! Whoo-hoo!

    Not so fast
    You can't blame the market's reaction. Since Feb. 6, the Dow Jones has risen all of five times. Even relatively healthy banks like JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) and Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) are being treated like basket cases. Anything that can be slightly spun as good news is bound to be clinged to. Just give us any good news -- even if it's not, you know, true -- and the market will run with it.

    This is no exception. Citigroup's announcement that "Hey, hey, we're actually profitable!" is twisted, tortured, and largely irrelevant to its ultimate fate.

    The gist of Pandit's memo was that operating profit was going gangbusters -- as if operating profit has been the problem all along. The problem is not a bank's ability to generate current income, but its ability to absorb losses on legacy assets that are worth a fraction of their purchase price -- using absurd amounts of leverage to boot.

    The memo disclosed numbers that point to an operating profit of about $8.3 billion this quarter, but Pandit didn't give any mention of what asset writedowns would be. "In January and February alone, our revenues excluding externally disclosed marks were $19 billion," he said. Great! Now... uh... about those "externally disclosed marks?" How are those workin' out for you?

    I'm not worried that Citigroup can't generate operating profit: I'm worried it's not solvent. There's a big difference. Imagine a person drowning in debt but insisting they're wealthy because their paycheck exceeded their grocery bills. You get the idea.

    Same game, different day
    You can't blame bank CEOs for trying to instill confidence these days. Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) tried a similar approach a few weeks ago, telling investors that Countrywide and Merrill Lynch were the "stars" of 2009, and that Merrill Lynch will be "a thing of beauty," pointing to, you guessed it, operating profits.

    It doesn't take a tremendous amount of thought to see that if a company has an operating profit of X and losses on existing assets of X times 100, things might not turn out so hot. Such is the case with Merrill Lynch, whose losses in 2007 and 2008 wiped out all profits earned over the preceding eleven years, and ultimately caused B of A to become the recipient of one of the largest federal bailouts ever. "A thing of beauty" indeed.

    Posting the occasional operating profit will indeed provide a cushion for banks to absorb impending writedowns, but it's a clown show to think it'll be enough to plug the black hole of losses, especially in Citigroup's case.

  4. Larry Johnson is less than reliable.