Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 7 July 2020

Hezbollah's murky dealings in Iraq unveiled

This is not the first time the group has been caught red-handed while meddling in Iraqi affairs

A mask-clad woman sits next to portraits of late Hezbollah leader Abbas Mussawi, late commanders Imad Mughnieh and Ragheb Harb, at a Hezbollah centre in Beirut's southern suburbs. AFP 
A mask-clad woman sits next to portraits of late Hezbollah leader Abbas Mussawi, late commanders Imad Mughnieh and Ragheb Harb, at a Hezbollah centre in Beirut's southern suburbs. AFP 

These pages have extensively covered Hezbollah – an Iran-backed Lebanese armed proxy that doubles as a political party – and its hold on politics in Beirut. The group’s murky dealings in South America have been well documented, where the militant party has profited from relative lawlessness in the remote Tri-Border Area between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, to carry out a range of illegal activities, including money laundering and drug-smuggling. These crimes, in addition to a plethora of terror-related operations, have earned Hezbollah designation as a terrorist entity in Argentina, Paraguay, Honduras and Colombia. The group’s illegal activities also span the African continent, and it is considered to be a terrorist group by the US, Arab League and the UK, among others.

And now, The National has revealed another dimension of how the Lebanese proxy’s tentacles extend to nearby Iraq. Mohammad Abd Al Hadi Farhat, a US-sanctioned Lebanese citizen, has been uncovered as an operative working for Hezbollah in Iraq. He helped to gather intelligence for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in the country, and its Al Quds Force branch, an elite group responsible for foreign operations and the management of Iranian proxies. Farhat also appears to be involved in money-laundering operations in Iraq and Lebanon for the benefit of his Iranian patrons.

This is not the first time Hezbollah has been caught red-handed while meddling in Iraqi affairs. In August of last year, The National found out that Samir Berro, a Lebanese man wanted by the US for allegedly supplying drones to the terrorist group, had links to Iraqi politicians and militia leaders.

Proponents of Hezbollah will argue that the US’s maximum pressure campaign, which has slapped several Iranian and non-Iranian entities and people with ties to the regime in Tehran with strict economic sanctions, has pushed these groups to the brink, forcing them to find resources illegally. These operations, however, are far from new. The US began imposing tougher sanctions in 2018, after withdrawing from a flawed nuclear deal with Iran, while illegal activities and acts of terror have been part of the modi operandi of these groups since their inception.

Hezbollah has undermined the authority of the state in Lebanon, and now it is working towards the same goal in Iraq

Some supporters of Hezbollah, in Lebanon and abroad, are ordinary people enamoured by the group’s claims of being a religious organisation that aims to fight corruption and stand up for those in need. Unveiling Hezbollah’s misdeeds is an integral part of showing how in reality it acts as a mafia-like organisation, and revealing its hypocrisy. Hopefully, these investigations will prevent unsuspecting individuals from falling for the group’s continued propaganda. Hezbollah has undermined the authority of the state in Lebanon, and now it is working towards the same goal in Iraq, a country that is already plagued by brutal rivalries for power between competing Iran-aligned militias. This situation does not benefit anyone – not Iraqis nor the Lebanese, who are left with a crumbling healthcare system during a pandemic after decades of mismanagement and corruption. Nor does it even benefit Tehran, which is now facing the largest outbreak of coronavirus in the Middle East while reeling under sanctions.

Now more than ever, countries need strong, competent and rational leadership. Undermining responsible governance in these times is not only damaging to the rule of law, it is also a serious hazard to public health. It is time that Hezbollah is held accountable for its militant actions, in its homeland and abroad.

Updated: April 5, 2020 04:10 PM

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