Members of Lebanon’s Shia Hezbollah movement stand at attention in the southern town of Bisariyeh, August 2014. (AFP)

By Alireza Nader

May 22, 2021

Battered by American sanctions on Iran, its open-ended involvement in the Syrian conflict and Lebanon’s economic collapse, Hezbollah is relying more and more on the global drug trade to finance its political and military activities. And Canada appears to be an increasingly important part of its efforts to boost its finances through illicit activities, such as drug smuggling and money laundering.

Though it has been slow to react to Iranian and Hezbollah activities on Canadian soil, Ottawa has now reportedly launched an investigation into their Canadian money-laundering operations. While the government should be commended for taking action, to be more effective, Canada should address the root of the problem and designate the Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization, as it would allow law-enforcement agencies to take aggressive action against it.

The IRGC is responsible for commanding and co-ordinating Hezbollah’s global activities, including drug smuggling and money laundering, so it makes sense for the investigation to target both organizations. And Canada has many reasons to sanction the IRGC, especially as it is responsible for shooting down Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752, which resulted in the death of 176 people, including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents.

The IRGC and senior Iranian officials have refused to provide answers about the incident, with United Nations investigator Agnes Callamard stating that, “Inconsistencies in the official explanation and the reckless nature of the mistakes have led many, including myself, to question whether the downing of Flight PS752 was intentional.”

Ottawa has designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, yet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has refused to give the IRGC the same designation, despite a 2018 motion passed by the House of Commons, and backed by the Liberals, calling on the government to do so. Trudeau has so far provided no rationale for his government’s lack of action on this file.

What makes Hezbollah’s activities even more dangerous is its willingness to work with international drug cartels and Chinese gangs. The Iranian regime reportedly provides physical security to Chinese gangs in Canada, which are mostly interested in enriching themselves.

Drug smuggling and money laundering have allowed the regime to establish a North American network that could be used to attack American interests, in the event of a military conflict between the two countries. Hezbollah has previously used Canada as a base for potential operations against the United States, including deploying “sleeper agents” to scour potential U.S. targets at American and Canadian airports.

Even if the U.S. returns to the Iran nuclear agreement, it is unlikely to change the Islamic republic’s fundamental hostility toward the U.S., or the West in general, making Canada an ever-opportune base of operations — not just for Hezbollah, but for the IRGC, as well.

Foundation for Defense of Democracies

About Track Persia

Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.