UK’s Hezbollah revelations part of worrying trend of Iran appeasement

Thirty US and foreign security agencies were involved.

A Hezbollah member carries his weapon on top of a building on May 25, 2016. (photo credit: HASSAN ABDALLAH / REUTERS)
A Hezbollah member carries his weapon on top of a building on May 25, 2016.
The UK’s MI5 and the Metropolitan Police uncovered the foundations of a Hezbollah plot when they raided four sites in London in September 2015, according to a shocking report in The Telegraph.
Although then prime minister David Cameron and home secretary Theresa May were briefed on the raid, it was “kept hidden from the public,” the report says.
This fits a disturbing pattern of attempts by intelligence and law enforcement agencies to track Hezbollah’s global activities, only to have them met with the cold shoulder at political levels. This may be part of a wide-ranging attempt by Western countries to curry favor with Iran’s regime and downplay the depth of Iranian penetration of foreign countries.
In 2008, the US Drug Enforcement Administration began investigating Hezbollah’s drug trade, according to an article in Politico in 2018. Thirty US and foreign security agencies were involved. They mapped a global trade from South America to Africa and the Middle East, which they linked “to the innermost circle of Hezbollah and its state sponsors in Iran.”
But the investigators began to run into a problem from the highest levels of the Obama administration. The US was seeking to change its relations with Iran and to put forward the Iran Deal. As such, the US felt it needed to be more flexible with Iran’s allies, such as Hezbollah. The Politico report says that John Brennan, former CIA director, even said he believed that Hezbollah should receive “greater assimilation into Lebanon’s political system.”
Instead of confronting the massive Hezbollah link to illegal drug trade, the US set upon a different course. While acknowledging that there were parts of Hezbollah that were a “concern,” the US wanted to diminish that influence and “try to build up the more moderate element.” Similarly, the article on the UK bust notes that while the UK had labeled the “armed wing” of Hezbollah a terrorist organization, it waited until February 2019 to see the whole organization that way. While in the UK the raid on alleged bomb-making material sites was quietly hushed up, and the suspects apparently released, in the US the hunt for the global Hezbollah drug trade was “undermined” by senior officials.
The question about the timing leaves open the question whether the operation was hushed up because of the deal. But had the deal already been done by the time of the raid? Was quiet necessary to preserve the deal and not embarrass the signers? Was the raid put off until after the signing? It is not clear. Or was the stockpiling a result of the deal, with Iran feeling the deal now gave it carte blanche to do whatever it wanted?
Politico notes that in January 2016, Czech officials released a suspected Hezbollah operative in exchange for five Czechs who had been kidnapped. European countries also detained Hezbollah members connected to the drug trade in the same years.
Iran also conducted assassinations of dissidents in Europe between 2015 and 2017, further evidence that it felt that with the deal concluded, it could do as it wanted. The EU finally spoke up about these incidents in January. But there were more plots linking Iran in France, Holland, Germany and Denmark. Holland also recalled an envoy in March.
In addition, there is other evidence about the role the Iran deal had in reducing US pressure on the Assad regime. Added together with the stories about how Iran received a cash payout of $1.8 billion from the deal, some of which was infamously sent on pallets to Iran, and the role that the deal had in exacerbating tensions between Israel and Iran and also between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the deal becomes murkier with each revelation. For instance, what role did the deal have in empowering Assad’s war against the Syrian rebels and fueling the conflict in Yemen with the Iranian-backed Houthis?
The revelations in the UK are another point of light in an otherwise opaque cloud that has hung over the Iran deal. Why was so much effort put in by Western powers to do this deal? Given Iran’s track record and its continued behavior in Europe – among Iran and its proxies – why did Western governments think it would be moderated by the deal, when in fact it appears Iran got more brazen after 2015?
In addition, with each story such as the current one in the UK, questions remain about efforts that were put in to keep information from the public, media and even members of parliament in different countries.