Despite the differences between U.S. and European perceptions of and policies toward Hezbollah, there is one critical area where all parties’ mutual interests converge, namely law enforcement. Regardless of divergent political considerations or definitions of terrorism, combating crime and enforcing sovereign laws are straightforward issues. More than any other Islamist group, Hezbollah has a long record of engaging in criminal activity to support its activities. The United States and its European counterparts have a particularly strong shared interest in combating the group’s increasing role in illicit drug trafficking.
Just this past week Admiral James G. Stavridis, the Commander of U.S. Southern Command who has now been nominated to head NATO troops as Supreme Allied Commander Europe, testified before the House Armed Services Committee about the threat to the United States from the nexus between illicit drug trafficking — “including routes, profits, and corruptive influence” — and “Islamic radical terrorism.” While Hezbollah is involved in a wide variety of criminal activity, ranging from cigarette smuggling to selling counterfeit products, the connection between drugs and terror is particularly strong. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), 19 of the 43 U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations are definitely linked to the global drug trade, and up to 60 percent of terror organizations are suspected of having some ties with the illegal narcotics trade.