A stunning investigative report by Josh Meyer in Politico has revealed that the Obama Administration interfered with and then shut down a campaign by the Drug Enforcement Agency and other law enforcement agencies against a billion-dollar drug and weapons trafficking empire run by Hezbollah, in order to keep from damaging relations with Iran.
The campaign, dubbed Project Cassandra, was launched in 2008 after the Drug Enforcement Administration amassed evidence that Hezbollah had transformed itself from a Middle East-focused military and political organization into an international crime syndicate that some investigators believed was collecting $1 billion a year from drug and weapons trafficking, money laundering and other criminal activities.
Over the next eight years, agents working out of a top-secret DEA facility in Chantilly, Virginia, used wiretaps, undercover operations and informants to map Hezbollah’s illicit networks, with the help of 30 U.S. and foreign security agencies.
They followed cocaine shipments, some from Latin America to West Africa and on to Europe and the Middle East, and others through Venezuela and Mexico to the United States. They tracked the river of dirty cash as it was laundered by, among other tactics, buying American used cars and shipping them to Africa. And with the help of some key cooperating witnesses, the agents traced the conspiracy, they believed, to the innermost circle of Hezbollah and its state sponsors in Iran.
Sounds like precisely the sort of operation that the civilized world should be carrying out against those who want to destroy it. The administration apparently didn’t see it that way:
But as Project Cassandra reached higher into the hierarchy of the conspiracy, Obama administration officials threw an increasingly insurmountable series of roadblocks in its way, according to interviews with dozens of participants who in many cases spoke for the first time about events shrouded in secrecy, and a review of government documents and court records. When Project Cassandra leaders sought approval for some significant investigations, prosecutions, arrests and financial sanctions, officials at the Justice and Treasury departments delayed, hindered or rejected their requests.
The Justice Department declined requests by Project Cassandra and other authorities to file criminal charges against major players such as Hezbollah’s high-profile envoy to Iran, a Lebanese bank that allegedly laundered billions in alleged drug profits, and a central player in a U.S.-based cell of the Iranian paramilitary Quds force. And the State Department rejected requests to lure high-value targets to countries where they could be arrested.
“This was a policy decision, it was a systematic decision,” said David Asher, who helped establish and oversee Project Cassandra as a Defense Department illicit finance analyst. “They serially ripped apart this entire effort that was very well supported and resourced, and it was done from the top down.”
The conjecture is that this was done in order to protect the developing nuclear deal with Iran:
Asher, for one, said Obama administration officials expressed concerns to him about alienating Tehran before, during and after the Iran nuclear deal negotiations. This was, he said, part of an effort to “defang, defund and undermine the investigations that were involving Iran and Hezbollah,” he said.
“The closer we got to the [Iran deal], the more these activities went away,” Asher said. “So much of the capability, whether it was special operations, whether it was law enforcement, whether it was [Treasury] designations — even the capacity, the personnel assigned to this mission — it was assiduously drained, almost to the last drop, by the end of the Obama administration.”
There is much more. The report is well-sourced and clearly documents a consistent policy to ignore criminal and terrorist activity by Iran’s Hezbollah proxy, doubtless in response to signals from Iran.
This policy will doubtless be justified by those responsible on the grounds that the Iranian nuclear deal was of such major importance to the US that nothing could be allowed to interfere with it – assuming that they are ever called on it, which the mainstream media doesn’t seem to be interested in doing (in the US, only Fox News and conservative media have covered it, at least so far).
The nuclear deal itself was the culmination of a process that started in 2006, when James Baker and Lee Hamilton, along with a young assistant named Ben Rhodes, who would later attain great influence as a foreign policy adviser and speechwriter for Barack Obama, produced the Iraq Study Commission report. The report advised persuading Israel to give the Golan heights to Syria and Judea and Samaria to the PLO, in return for which Iran and Syria would stop helping Iraqi insurgents kill Americans.
Although further developments showed the plan to be unworkable, Obama never gave up on the idea of “engagement” (that is, siding with) Iran in the maelstrom of Mideast conflicts. In the process, he prevented Israel from destroying Iran’s nuclear program and allowed Bashar al-Assad’s survival as Syrian ruler, as well as the entry of Russia as a major player in the Syrian conflict. The nuclear deal, rather than preventing Iran from developing deliverable nuclear weapons, actually facilitated its progress and protected it from interference by Israel or anyone else. As a side benefit, it freed up billions of dollars of Iranian money that had been embargoed after the 1979 revolution, and even paid additional hundreds of millions of dollars in cash as ransom for Americans being held in Iran.
Naturally, Iran immediately used its windfall to build up its armed proxies, Hezbollah and the Iraqi Shiite militias that have done much of the fighting in Syria on behalf of Assad. It strengthened its terrorist cells in South and Central America, and almost certainly in the heart of the US.
The imprimatur placed on the deal by the UN Security Council weakened the limitation on ballistic missile development formerly in place, and Iran is spending some of its gains on missiles that can reach most of Europe, and at some point, the USA. Iranians haven’t stopped chanting “death to America,” although now the “devil” they hate is Trump.
Obama’s was the most consistently anti-Israel administration since the founding of the state of Israel, considering the deliberate insults and provocations directed at Israel’s PM, its pressure to make dangerous concessions to the Palestinians with no reciprocity, its lack of support and even sabotage of Israel in her periodic conflicts with Hamas, its nuclear deal, and its lame-duck abstention on an anti-Israel Security Council resolution. But the administration’s spin machine argues that its policy is, in the final analysis, favorable to American interests.
It’s hard to see how. As time has passed and the weaknesses of the deal became more and more evident, as Iran has become more powerful and US influence in the region has waned, as direct threats to the US (both from Iran and from its ally North Korea) become more apparent, it is harder and harder to maintain this fiction. The revelations contained in the Politico report make it even more difficult than before. Hezbollah’s narco-terrorism has a dual purpose. It not only pays for its weapons and murderous activities, the drugs it sells rip at the fabric of our society.
I have an acquaintance, a sweet Jewish grandmother, who liked to post pictures of the Obamas on Facebook with comments about how much “class” they had. Once she even commented “I love my President!” and she would not listen to anything negative about him. She managed to “love” him while his policies were assisting terrorists who were killing Americans in Iraq and Jews in Israel. But those things were far away.
It would be interesting to ask how she feels about him having helped to bring drugs to her grandchildren’s schools.