Hezbollah: Party of Fraud
MATTHEW LEVITT is Director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and an Adjunct Professor at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Affairs. He is the author of the forthcoming book Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon's “Party of God.”See more by this author
In June, Lebanon’s new prime minister, Najib Mikati, announced the formation of a government dominated by members and allies of the Shiite terrorist organization Hezbollah. The creation of the new government has made Hezbollah the most dominant political force in Lebanon just six years after the “Cedar Revolution,” which placed the group on the defensive and forced its Syrian patrons to leave the country. With control of the Lebanese government, a vast social-service network, an army of soldiers and operatives, and an arsenal of more than 40,000 rockets, Hezbollah has arguably never been more powerful.
Hezbollah would not have achieved its current stature without the assistance of its creator and chief sponsor, Iran. Since founding Hezbollah in 1982, Iran has armed, funded, and trained the organization, transforming it into a potent terrorist and fighting force. Yet Hezbollah has not relied entirely on Iran to finance its operations. Instead, it has raised funds through criminal activities, including counterfeiting currencies and goods, credit-card fraud, and money laundering. In 2002, for example, Hezbollah operatives in North Carolina were convicted for smuggling cigarettes across state lines and sending a significant portion of their profits -- estimated to be more than $1.5 million -- back to their commanders in Lebanon.