Welcome back to the Two Navy Guys and a Novel blog series, the place where you can follow along as two ex-Navy guys write a military thriller. If you’re here for the first time, you can view previous episodes on our webpage.
Alright, truth time: how much do you know about Hezbollah?
If you’re like me (David here), I do my best to stay current on world politics, but the Middle East sometimes confuses me. I hear about Hezbollah on the news, but who are they?
Hezbollah is a Shiite militant group and political party based in Lebanon. They were founded (and funded) by Iran following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. You’ve likely heard about them in the last few years since their involvement in the Syrian civil war in 2012. Hezbollah fights on the side of the Assad government, likely under orders from Iran, Assad’s ally in the region. Even today, Hezbollah remains on the U.S. Department of State’s terrorist watch list.
These are the kinds of things I see about Hezbollah on any of the major news networks, but there’s more. A lot more.
Here’s JR to drop some unexpected knowledge on the topic of Hezbollah and South America.
When I was a young U.S. Navy lieutenant, serving at U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, I got to know a really solid U.S. Army major, also an intelligence officer. This gentleman had a rich tapestry of experience operating in Central and South America, and his wife was also from Central America. He spoke fluent Spanish and had traveled extensively throughout both regions for pleasure and for work.
During my assignment at USSOCOM, I served as the lead intelligence analyst for all special ops in the entire Pacific theater. It was during that job (one of a few I held while assigned at USSOCOM) that I first heard about Hezbollah and their existence in the tri-border area of South America.
Hezbollah in South America? Like a lot of you, I thought of Hezbollah as strictly a Middle East terrorist organization. I was shocked to learn about their presence in the Americas.
Welcome to No Man’s Land
The Triple Frontier, or Tri-Border Area, is where Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil meet and where the Iguazu and Parana Rivers converge. Wikipedia lists it as “an important tourism area.” Before you rush out to book your plane ticket, Wikipedia then goes on to talk about terrorism, explaining the combination of political corruption, a weak judicial system, and lack of anti-terrorism laws has created a safe haven for terrorist groups.
If you’re a Vince Flynn fan, you may recall this area being used by terrorists in the novel Extreme Measures, and also in the NCIS episode An Eye for an Eye, where a set of peepers (minus the rest of the body) show up in the mail. The region is also home to a population of 25,000 Lebanese Arabs and according to the Pentagon’s National Security Study Group, the area is “the most important base for Hezbollah outside Lebanon itself.”
If you’re a glutton for punishment, here and here a few unclassified resources for your expanded reading pleasure. There are also accounts of Hezbollah acting in concert with South American and Mexican drug cartels and narco-terror groups.
If, like me (David again), you thought of Hezbollah or other terrorist organizations as being “over there” in the Middle East, think again. If these are the unclassified reports, can you imagine what the classified ones look like?
JR can’t tell me, of course, but now I know why he says he has trouble sleeping at night.
Over there is really over here. One look at a map shows a land route from the Tri-Border Area to the United States. (Okay, it’s a really long land route, I’ll grant you).
As I’ve said before, we write fiction, but we like to make sure our plots are as plausible as possible… so if you were looking for a staging area for a Hezbollah-backed terrorist strike against the US, where might you look?
David Bruns is the creator of the sci-fi series The Dream Guild Chronicles, and one half of the Two Navy Guys and a Novel blog series about co-writing the military thriller, Weapons of Mass Deception. Check out his website for a free sample of his work.