Experts: Hizbullah Exports Drugs, Weapons with Lebanon Government’s Knowledge
After massive drug and weapons seizures, Saudi Arabia bans import of Lebanese produce, with support from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and the UAE
Saudi Arabia on Sunday imposed a ban on the import or transit through the kingdom of all fruits and vegetables from Lebanon after a series of seizures of drugs and weapons in shipments coming from the Land of the Cedars to the Gulf countries.
On Friday, Saudi authorities intercepted 2,466,563 amphetamine pills concealed in a shipment of pomegranates coming from Lebanon.
Walid al-Bukhari, the Saudi ambassador to Beirut, tweeted on Sunday that his country had seized more than 600 million narcotic pills and hundreds of kilograms of hashish smuggled from Lebanon over the last six years.
And Greece announced on Thursday evening that, following information received from the US Drug Enforcement Administration, it had seized four tons of cannabis in Piraeus Port, hidden in a shipment of industrial cupcake-making machines bound from Lebanon to Slovakia.
The decision, which will also affect Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, as all such imports transit Saudi Arabia after passing through Syria and then Jordan, will lead to more than $70 million in estimated annual lost sales, NGOs concerned with agriculture in Lebanon told local media outlets.
Four Gulf countries issued statements of support for the Saudi decision by press time, namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and the UAE, while Qatar had yet to issue a reaction.
Newspapers in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait reported that decisions will be issued soon related to permanently banning imports from Lebanon until a solution is found to the problem of drug and weapons smuggling.
The products coming from Lebanon constitute at most 10% of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries’ produce imports, authorities in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman said, and countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan and India will be able to fill the gap.
R.O., a former Hizbullah member who used to export arms and drug to various countries, and whose full name has been withheld for fear of assassination, told The Media Line, “Hizbullah relies mainly on [the sale of] drugs since the lack of funding caused by US sanctions on a number of party members and the sanctions against Iran, in addition to the collapse of the Lebanese state.
“We were working all day on Hizbullah farms in villages like Yammoune [in the Baalbek-Hermel Governorate] and other Lebanese villages in Shebaa Farms [known in Israel as Mount Dov], which are the main source of drugs in Lebanon and are under the protection of the party’s forces, in addition to sections of the Lebanese army,” R.O. said.
“The volume of drugs that the party used to ship from Lebanon alone up to 2016 was estimated at more than $5 billion annually, not including its cooperation with Iranian facilities at drug farms in certain Latin American countries. It is a network of drug cartels,” he continued.
“As for farms that export vegetables, they are not owned by Hizbullah, but whoever does not cooperate with it, their agricultural crops are burned, or they are threatened or killed, and this is done with the knowledge of the Lebanese state, which cannot do anything about it,” R.O. said.
He explained: “More than 10,000 people, all of them Lebanese, work with salaries not exceeding $100 a month at packing drugs and sometimes weapons, and no truck driver who does not cooperate with the party can obtain permits for his exit from Lebanon or regarding other security measures.
“Weapons are imported from Iran, Syria or Iraq, and they are also sent via shipments of vegetables and fruits and some other products exported by Lebanon, such as electrical appliances,” R.O. said.
“Arms constitute only a small part of these exports, given the difficulty of exporting them, and the countries to which arms are exported in the Gulf are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain,” he said.
“Hizbullah owns more than five camps to train fighters from the Ansar Allah Al-Houthi [Iran-backed Yemeni rebel] group as well as fighters from Bahraini and Kuwaiti groups belonging to the Shiite sect, who undergo training courses of between two weeks and six months in duration,” R.O. added.
“The weapons that are exported are machine guns and handguns, in addition to detonators, and [explosive] materials such as TNT and C-4. As for the rest of the materials from which bombs are made, they are available in the local market,” the former Hizbullah operative said.
“The Lebanese security services are aware of all these transactions, but they cannot talk about them what with the collapse of the Lebanese state, and what happened in the port of Beirut [the huge explosion last August] was a small example of what Hizbullah owns inside Lebanon. The army, Interior Ministry, customs service, ports and airport are all under the control of Hizbullah,” R.O. said.
Ibrahim Al Moussawi, a Shiite member of the Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc, the political wing of Hizbullah in the Lebanese parliament, told The Media Line that accusations against Hizbullah of smuggling and trading in drugs are untrue, saying, “What Saudi Arabia did is part of the campaign to starve the Lebanese people in the service of American, Western, and Israeli interests. We do not trade in drugs, and it is forbidden according to Sharia, and the secretary-general of the party, Hassan Nasrallah, has denied these accusations several times.”
He added, “This is nonsense and false accusations against the Lebanese resistance. Saudi Arabia must tighten its security, but not at the expense of the Lebanese people.”
Ibrahim Al-Tarshihi, head of the farmers and peasants’ association in Lebanon’s Bekaa region, told local Lebanese media outlets that “Lebanese agricultural production is innocent of the charge of exporting drugs to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
He added, “Lebanon does not have pomegranates to export. We have noticed for several years that there are goods from several countries that are exported as Lebanese goods. … Perhaps Syria is the one who exported this shipment as Lebanese.”
Badr Abdulaziz, a Bahraini political and security expert, told The Media Line that Bahrain had several times “confiscated land shipments of Lebanese goods containing weapons or drugs.
“There are dozens of [Bahraini Shiite] fighters whom Bahrain previously announced that Hizbullah had trained in camps in Shebaa Farms or in the southern suburbs of Beirut, but the Lebanese state did not respond to Bahrain or even the Gulf states in this matter,” Abdulaziz said.
“The Saudi decision should have been taken a long time ago, and what Saudi Arabia announced about 200 million [sic] narcotic tablets is but a small part of what Hizbullah tried to smuggle,” he said.
“We all know that the Lebanese state is weak and that Hizbullah controls all the important institutions in it, but the Gulf states cannot allow Lebanon to be a source of drugs or weapons or a training ground for outlaws to destabilize security and stability in the Gulf states,” Abdulaziz said.
“Previously, five or six shipments were seized coming from Lebanon, and this shipment that Saudi Arabia has now seized is perhaps the largest. We in the Gulf countries have not been harmed [by the import ban]. We have other sources to compensate for the simple shortage of vegetables, fruits and other Lebanese products, so the only loser is the Lebanese people,” the Bahraini analyst said.
“An investigation in Bahrain proved that the Lebanese Hizbullah group was planning to try to smuggle weapons into Bahrain, which were seized on a bus coming from Iraq carrying Bahraini Shiite visitors, and although the shipment was coming from Iraq, Hizbullah was responsible for smuggling it,” Abdulaziz said.
Muhammad al-Qubban, a Saudi security expert, told The Media Line, “Over the past six years, Saudi Arabia has seized more than 600 million drug pills arriving in shipments from Lebanon.”
“The decision of the Saudi authorities is a message to Lebanon, that the state, and not political parties and militias in the country, is the responsible actor. Saudi Arabia has informed the Lebanese authorities several times about the smuggling of weapons and drugs from Beirut, but there was no response,” he said.
“Seventy-five percent of the shipments that Lebanon sends to the Gulf contain drugs or weapons and other prohibited items. It is the responsibility of the Lebanese authorities to inspect all containers before they leave Lebanon,” Qubban said.