Aside from al Qaeda, no terrorist group has killed more Americans than Hezbollah, which is bankrolled by Iran to the tune of at least $100 million a year. Hezbollah’s main theaters of operation are Lebanon, its home country (where it killed hundreds of Americans during the 1980s), and the West Bank and Gaza, where it helps Palestinian rejectionists target Israel. But the group is active in the United States as well. Hezbollah is believed to have cells in at least 10 U.S. cities.
Although the organization has yet to launch an attack on U.S. soil, its U.S. activities are far from benign. Its work in this country has two major purposes: One is to raise money and smuggle arms to Hezbollah fighters, often by criminal activities ranging from credit-card fraud to cigarette smuggling; and the other is to conduct surveillance behind enemy lines, with a possible eye toward launching attacks on U.S. targets in the event of an armed conflict between the United States and Tehran. Like his backers in Iran, Hezbollah boss Hassan Nasrallah routinely denounces the United States and Israel as his organization’s main enemies. Given the events of September 11, and given Hezbollah’s own record of kidnapping, torturing and killing Americans when it has had the opportunity, we ignore the group’s operations in this country at our peril.
Outside of metropolitan Detroit, last month’s arrest of Nemr Ali Rahal, a 41-year-old businessman, at his Dearborn home on charges of smuggling funds to Hezbollah, went largely unreported by the news media around the United States. But the story deserves our attention. In Mr. Rahal’s house, agents found a videotape of a Hezbollah rally he attended in Lebanon three years ago. The FBI said it found $600 worth of change in buckets in the Rahal home, and that he said the money was meant to go to “orphans” — the children of suicide bombers. Mr. Rahal has been charged with stealing more than $400,000 by means of credit-card fraud. When Mr. Rahal returned Feb. 9 from a trip to Canada, Customs agents found traces of explosives on his passport.
In March, Mahmoud Kourani of Dearborn pleaded guilty to providing material support for Hezbollah. He will be sentenced next month. Kourani ( whose brother is Hezbollah’s chief of military security in southern Lebanon) is an illegal alien who sneaked into the United States from Mexico in February 2001. Federal authorities have repeatedly arrested suspected Hezbollah operatives for attempting to smuggle night-vision goggles and other military equipment to the organization. One suspect, arrested in 1998, skipped bail and fled to Lebanon before returning to the United States last year to face federal charges. In 2003, a federal court convicted a Hezbollah cell based in Charlotte, N.C., on charges of aiding Hezbollah by operating a cigarette-smuggling ring. The leader of that group, Mohammed Hammoud, received 155 years in prison.