In light of the recent terror attack in the U.K., it’s important to remember that radical Islamic extremists still pose a threat to ordinary people living in the west. But it’s not just the Islamic State (ISIS) who wishes to carry out terrorist activities in the west. Hezbollah, which is arguably the most well-organized and funded terrorist group in the world, is active in the United States as well as other western nations.
Ali Kourani, a 35-year-old New Yorker convicted of providing material support to Hezbollah was sentenced to 40 years in prison. The operative was helping the terrorist organization identify potential targets in New York City. U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman issued a statement explaining that Kourani conducted surveillance for the Iran-backed group for years. He is the first Hezbollah agent to be convicted and sentenced for his crimes in the United States.
Kourani immigrated to the United States legally in 2003. He earned multiple degrees and became a citizen in 2009. Hezbollah recruited Kourani after a family residence was destroyed during its war with Israel in 2006. He traveled to Lebanon, the country where Hezbollah operates, in 2011. Once there, he learned how to use a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, assault rifles, a submachine gun, a machine gun, and a variety of different weapons. His role was to help the organization prepare for future attacks against the United States.
Trial evidence revealed that Kourani looked for suppliers to provide weapons that could be used in attacks. He also identified individuals who could be recruited into the cause and others who might be prime targets for violence. These activities were in addition to finding targets for other operatives to attack.
Kourani might be the first terrorist operative convicted and sentenced in the U.S., but there is at least one more on the horizon. Earlier this year, the authorities apprehended Alexei Saab, a 42-year-old naturalized citizen living in New Jersey. He was engaging in similar activities to Kourani’s. He also sought out potential sites for terrorist attacks.
A grand jury recently charged him for his activities as a Hezbollah operative. The complaint filed against Saab alleges that he “understood that the information he provided to the IJO would be used to calculate the size of a bomb needed to target a particular structure and the ideal location in which to place explosive devices to maximize damage.”
Hezbollah is likely the most dangerous terrorist organization on the planet — especially now that ISIS has been decimated and lost nearly all of its territory. The group essentially serves as Iran’s paramilitary arm in Lebanon, but it operates in many countries across the globe. In the past, the organization’s activities were limited as it was a smaller group.
But it has since grown into a multinational terrorist enterprise funded by its international criminal activities. In fact, the Obama administration had a chance to prevent Hezbollah’s growth in 2008 when the Drug Enforcement Administration(DEA) launched Project Cassandra.
This was an operation designed to obtain evidence revealing that the organization grew from a military force into a full-on crime syndicate engaging in activities such as drug and weapons trafficking, money laundering, and host of other illegal actions. Obama shut down the operation because he feared it would interfere with the ill-fated Iran Nuclear Deal. This decision allowed Hezbollah to drastically increase its numbers and the ability to conduct its operations.
Unlike ISIS, Hezbollah’s operations are more calculated and would likely not involve lone wolf attacks like we have seen in Europe. It is possible that the organization is preparing for a potential conflict between the U.S. and Iran. If the U.S. attempts to apply too much pressure or launches a military strike against the regime, it could trigger terrorist attacks in the U.S.
The authorities managed to capture two of Hezbollah’s operatives so far, but it’s unlikely that these were the only agents that the organization has planted in the country. It has been some time since the U.S. has experienced a terrorist attack, but the recent revelations about Hezbollah indicate that the threat of radical Islamic terrorism is not over.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!
Follow me on Twitter: @JeffOnTheRight