US Capitol building 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jim Bourg)
WASHINGTON – A congressional report finds that Hezbollah fundraising cells are
rampant across the United States and that the Lebanese organization could
activate these cells to carry out lethal terrorist attacks.
compiled under the aegis of the US House Committee on Homeland Security,
estimates that there are several thousand sympathetic Hezbollah donors in the
country, with operatives probably in the hundreds.
Hezbollah is an
Iranian proxy, and should Iran want to carry out terrorism in the US, it could
then do so through these operatives. Though many in the US intelligence
community assumed after September 11 that Tehran would only use Hezbollah for
attacks inside America should the US or Israel strike Iran’s nuclear sites, that
thinking changed following the alleged Iranian plot to assassinate Saudi
Arabia’s ambassador in Washington.
“It is no longer clear that Iran sees
carrying out an attack in the United States as crossing some sort of red line,”
according to Matthew Levitt, director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism
and Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He testified
before the committee Wednesday at a hearing on the threat that Iran and
Hezbollah pose to America.
“Hezbollah has long had a substantial base of
supporters in North America,” he noted in his prepared testimony. “This includes
some operatives with military and operational training and a much larger pool of
sympathizers and supporters who provide funding and some logistical support to
the group but could be called upon to support operational activity should the
group decide to carry out an attack here.”
Levitt calculated that such a
decision became more likely if the organization perceived that the US was
directly targeting or seeking to undermine the group.
And he concluded
that “the odds are very strong that in the event of an attack on Iran’s nuclear
program, Hezbollah would retaliate.”
In addition to the possibility that
it would launch rockets at Israel, he assessed “its worldwide networks would
almost certainly be called upon to execute the kind of asymmetric terror attacks
that can be carried out with reasonable deniability and therefore make a
targeted response more difficult.”
Committee chairman Peter King (R-New
York), however, said that the heightened threat of retaliation on the American
homeland even from an Israeli attack doesn’t mean the military option should be
taken off the table.
“I don’t think we can rule out an Israeli attack,”
King told CNN ahead of the hearing. “I think we have to keep all the pressure
He continued, “The fact that there can be complications is
not a reason why Israel shouldn’t do it or we shouldn’t do it. We have to make
sure whatever we do that it is going to work... and realize that Iran cannot be
allowed to get a nuclear weapon.”