The Looming Islamist Threat… in Latin America
Ties between radical Islamic forces and Latin American state (and nonstate) actors have also already hit U.S. shores, which is why prioritizing this issue is long overdue. U.S. officials managed to tie the Iranian elite military unit, the Quds Force, to a failed attempt to try and hire Mexican cartels to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington in October 2011. Hezbollah-affiliated individuals are also trying to use the U.S. banking system to launder ill-gotten gains from drug trafficking in collaboration with Latin American cartels, as law enforcement officials put a halt to this money laundering activity in Miami back in October 2016.
It is absolutely critical that a Trump administration work closely with congressional leaders, such as Rep. Robert Pittenger, vice chairman of the Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing of the House Financial Services Committee, along with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, among others, who are well-versed in and passionate about stopping radical Islamic terrorism in Latin America. Trump should also look at the conclusions of the Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing report from December 2016, which concluded that the U.S. Department of the Treasury needs more resources to be at the forefront of preventing and combatting terror finance.
President Trump campaigned on both strong support for Israel and a commitment to defeat radical Islamic terrorism across the world. If a Trump administration is serious about following through on those two promises, then it must invest the necessary resources into eliminating the threat of radical Islamic terrorism emanating from Latin America. Given that Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri (inaugurated in December 2015) and Brazil’s President Michel Temer (who came to power in August 2016) are relatively new at their respective jobs, Trump should be able to build a strong and fresh relationship with the two leaders in defeating radical Islamic terrorism in the Tri-Border Area. There can be no safe haven for radical Islam, especially in the same hemisphere as the United States.
J.P. Carroll is a freelance national security and foreign affairs reporter based in Washington, DC, with a particular focus on U.S. relations with Latin America and Europe. Follow him on Twitter @JPCarrollDC1.
Image: Iran’s Velayat 94 military exercise, January 2016. Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons/Erfan Kouchari