The United States has assumed the presidency of the United Nations Security Council — and that means the council is about to put Iran under the hot lights.
In a press conference Tuesday, Ambassador Nikki Haley announced the new focus by saying, “It’s hard to find a place where there is conflict and Iran isn’t in the middle of it.”
Tehran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, immediately denounced the move to put Iran in the dock, saying it isn’t how things are done at the United Nations. American officials, though, think it should: After all, they say, Iran’s got its hands in narco-trafficking, the global spread of corruption, and terrorism. So it only makes sense for the “world body” to give it the attention it deserves.
There’ll be other firsts in September, Mrs. Haley vowed: President Trump will chair an unprecedented council meeting on global corruption and another on the illicit narcotics trade.
On Wednesday, Mrs. Haley overcame objections from Russia, China and Bolivia and conducted another first: a meeting on deteriorating conditions in Nicaragua and its regional implications.
The focus on Iran will offer a perfect opportunity to excavate and make public some dangerous trends in Tehran’s global troublemaking.
Example: Iman Kobeissi, a Lebanese businesswoman busted in 2015 after a sting operation, awaits trial in New York’s Eastern District. Ms. Kobeissi, the indictment alleges, is a big fish in Hezbollah’s global network, specializing in using profits from illicit drug sales and money laundering to buy arms and increase financing for Iran-backed militant terrorists.
According to a court filing, Ms. Kobeissi connected with Drug Enforcement Agency operatives who presented themselves as members of a Latin American drug cartel, offering to launder their profits and increase their global reach.
The DEA agents handed her money they said was earned from drug sales. She told them about her connections to shady groups in “Lebanon, Iran, France, Belgium, Bulgaria, Benin, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Nigeria, Cyprus and cities across the United States,” according to the indictment. She proposed schemes to use that network to launder profits and widen drug sales to faraway markets, which the cartels are yet to penetrate (a slice of the profits would go to Hezbollah, of course).
Ms. Kobeissi also told the agents she could traffic drugs to the United States through Puerto Rico. And she’d buy arms from the cartel for Hezbollah and Iran, in violation of United Nations sanctions.
Hezbollah and its Iranian patrons are in deep with Latin America’s drug syndicates, says Emanuele Ottolenghi, fresh from a visit to the Brazil-Argentina-Paraguay border area.
Iran and its proxy, Mr. Ottolenghi told reporters this week, are looking to increase their political influence in Latin America. They also use the region’s corruption-plagued countries and narco-traffickers to finance increasingly expensive military adventures in Syria, Yemen and beyond.
Muslim clerics sermonize against drug use, but Iran isn’t just about devotion to Shiite-revered icons. Its revolutionary ideology is “Imam Hussein meet Che Guevara,” Mr. Ottolenghi, of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the reporters gathered at the Manhattan home of Dani Dayan, Israel’s consul general in New York.
The drug cartels, for their part, latch on to Hezbollah’s worldwide network to increase their global reach, he added — making the partnership good for both sides and twice as bad for global safety. It’s a match made in hell.
The Kobeissi case, as the Eastern District acting attorney at the time, Kelly Currie said, was about a “vast money laundering, drug trafficking, and international arms trafficking network that spanned multiple continents and attempted to provide a pipeline of dangerous weapons to a designated terrorist organization.”
So yes, the Buenos Aires bombings in the early 1980s and the more recent plan to assassinate a Saudi ambassador at an upscale Washington restaurant exposed Iran’s terrorist intentions in the region. But involvement with Latin America’s drug cartels and increasing Iranian political influence in the hemisphere are just as menacing.
Mrs. Haley declined to answer a question about Iran’s Latin America infiltration this week. She, and President Trump, would do well to use their United Nations meetings to ring alarm bells about it.
This column first appeared in the New York Post.