April 4, 2013

Combating Hizballah's Global Network



Seminar Summary: “Combating Hizballah's Global Network” with Keynote Speakers Dr. Matthew Levitt, Professor Amit Kumar and Dan Mariaschin and moderated by Prof. Yonah Alexander

4 April 2013 at the Potomac Institute For Policy Studies


                As the European Union debates classifying Hizballah as a terrorist organization in light of recent events in Bulgaria and Cyprus, the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies hosted an event titled “Combating Hizballah’s Global Network.” Led by Inter-University Center for Terrorism Studies Director, Professor Yonah Alexander, and Potomac Institute CEO Mike Swetnam, a panel of experts discussed various aspects of the Hizballah threat, as well as the steps the international community can take to mitigate it. The three-person panel consisted of Dr. Matt Levitt from the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Professor Amit Kumar of Georgetown University and Dan Mariaschin, Executive Vice President at B’nai B’rith International. After their individual presentations, the panelists then answered questions from the audience.

            The event was opened by Mr. Swetnam and Prof. Alexander, who introduced the panel, provided some background information and then turned the floor over to the first speaker, Dr. Levitt. Dr. Levitt, author of the forthcoming book “Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God,” covered many topics in his speech but focused on the complex relationship between Hizballah and Iran as well as the current debate in the EU on whether or not to classify Hizballah as a terrorist organization. Dr. Levitt stressed that the relationship between Iran and Hizballah is more complicated than many would make it seem; Hizballah is much more than Iran’s proxy, and has numerous activities and interests, outside of those it shares with Iran. Furthermore, Dr. Levitt warned against giving Hizballah a “get out of jail free card,” by refusing to punish it for its illegal activities – such as the Burgas bus bombing – simply because of all the good and legitimate things it does. This unwillingness to punish Hizballah is manifested in debates like the one going on in the EU right now; and while Dr. Levitt acknowledges that the Europeans’ hesitance is largely based on genuine concern that designating Hizballah would destabilize Lebanon, he argued that such a stance ignores the single most destabilizing force in modern Lebanon – Hizballah itself.

            Professor Kumar followed Dr. Levitt’s comments with an extended discussion about Hizballah’s finances, particularly as they relate to South American criminal networks and the North American banking system. Examples of Hizballah’s penetration into North American financial markets included the recent Lebanese Canadian Bank case as well as various other money-laundering schemes that have been discovered over the years, ranging from cigarette to used car-smuggling rings. Also stressed was the importance of working with Latin American governments to help mitigate the threat posed by Hizballah’s links with criminal groups ranging from Mexico to Colombia and especially in the Tri-Border Region. Prof. Kumar noted, though, regardless of the origin of Hizballah’s funds, the funds’ destination is the global banking system and he pushed for the development of a “multi-front, concerted strategy” that would make it much harder for Hizballah to move and spend the money it raises both legally and illegally.

            Building on the South American theme, Dan Mariaschin focused on the 1992 and 1994 Hizballah-linked bombings in Argentina. In the experience of Argentina, Mr. Mariaschin found a cautionary tale for Europe regarding how it decides to respond to the Burgas bombing and the arrest, and subsequent trial, of an admitted Hizballah operative in Cyprus. The initial Argentine investigations were fraught with mismanagement, but still turned up ample evidence against Islamic Jihad, Iran and Hizballah. Various Iranian officials – including the current defense minister, Ahmad Vahidi – have been implicated in the bombing and have issued arrest warrants issued for them by Argentina, as well as Interpol. Disconcertingly, though, Argentina recently signed an agreement with Iran to establish a joint “Truth Commission” to investigate the 1994 AMIA bombing – a Truth Commission that Mr. Mariaschin said would be anything but. Thus, as Argentina moves in the wrong direction, vis-à-vis dealing with Hizballah’s terrorist threat, Mr. Mariaschin argued that it is even more important for Europe to set the tone for how countries in every hemisphere respond to Hizballah’s terrorist actions.

IUCTS Highlights



March 28, 2019

"Biological Terrorism: International Dimensions"


July 25, 2018

"The Role of Diplomacy in Combating Terrorism: Past Lessons and Future Outlook"


April 30, 2018

"Combating Terrorism: National, Regional, and Global Lessons for the Next Decade and Beyond"


March 1, 2018

"Balkan Security Challenges: Past Lessons and Future Outlook"


February 27, 2018

"Punctuated Equilibria Paradigm and Security in the Modern World"


February 9, 2018

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January 31, 2018

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December 19, 2017

Security Challenges in the Balkans: Quo Vadis?


December 7, 2017

Egypt-U.S. Strategic Partnership


November 20, 2017

Spanish-U.S. Strategic Partnership


November 13, 2017

Czech Republic-U.S. Strategic Partnership


October 31, 2017

Can the State System and Separatism Co-Exist?


September 11, 2017

Al-Qa'ida: Sixteen Years After 9/11 and Beyond


August 24, 2017

Combating Biological Terrorism: Roadmaps for Global Strategies


June 29, 2017

The Role of Diplomacy in Combating Terrorism


June 9, 2017

European and U.S. Counter-Terrorism Strategies: Quo Vadis?


May 24, 2017

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April 20, 2017

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April 13, 2017

"Security Challenges in Africa: Review of 2016 and Outlook for 2017"


March 23, 2017

"Preventing WMD Terrorism: Past Lessons and Future Outlook" 


February 23, 2017

"International Cooperation in Combating Terrorism: Review of 2016 and Outlook for 2017"


December 16, 2016

"Latin America's Security Outlook: Challenges and Opportunities in the Post-Castro Era"


Additional past events 



The Times of Israel
on January 25, 2019: "There's good reason to fear Iran's global reach" by Prof. Yonah Alexander and Dr. Milton Hoenig


The Times of Israel on September 26, 2018: "The battle for the new Syria"

by Prof. Yonah Alexander and Dr. Milton Hoenig