by David Axe
Is Shi'ite terror group Hezbollah using submarines to run drugs in South and Central American waters ... and funneling the proceeds into the Middle East?
The Royal Navy painted the capture as a blow against "the flow of cocaine into Europe," but if we believe one U.S. admiral, it might also have been a hit on Hezbollah's finances.
"In 2006, we were tracking ... around three of these," said Admiral James Stavridis, southern Command boss, referring to the crude, four-man, fiberglass semi-submersibles that have become favorite tools of drug smugglers down south. "In the year 2007," Stavridis continued, "it jumped to about 30.
This year so far, in three months, we've seen about 30." (British magazine Warships International Fleet Review reported Stavridis' comments in its latest issue.)
So what's the Hezbollah connection? "I continue to be concerned about the tri-border area [between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay]," Stavridis said. "It is, in my view, principally Hezbollah activity.
There is clearly fund-raising, money laundering, drug trafficking. And, certainly a portion of the funds that are raised in that are making their way back to the Middle East."
If true, the Hez-South America connection might help explain the U.S. Navy's spike in interest in the Caribbean, South Atlantic and eastern Pacific. In July, the sea service stood up the new Fourth Fleet, a dedicated headquarters for South American ops, with a Navy SEAL in command.
A month later, the assault ship Kearsarge set sail on a four-month cruise delivering medical aid to the continent, making her the third large vessel to undertake South American "medical diplomacy" since last year.
Meanwhile the experimental, stealthy "Stilleto" ship is prowling the Caribbean looking for drug runners -- or, dare I say, "terrorists."