The Obama administration stymied a secret operation targeting Hezbollah’s global crime network in order to create an atmosphere conducive to concluding the Iran nuclear deal, Politico reported.
By: World Israel News Staff
The Obama administration reportedly hindered the efforts of a US task force targeting Hezbollah’s billion-dollar criminal drug trafficking enterprise as part of the administration’s attempts to curry favor with Iran ahead of the signing of the nuclear deal.
Politico reported Sunday that the Obama administration derailed a campaign run by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) targeting drug trafficking operations by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, which fund Hezbollah’s global terrorism network. The administration’s actions were allegedly designed to avoid antagonizing the Iranians.
The DEA campaign, dubbed Project Cassandra, tracked Hezbollah’s vast global criminal network, which trafficked drugs around the globe, collecting $1 billion a year from drug and weapons sales, money laundering and other criminal activities.
According to Politico interviews with dozens of participants in the campaign, and a review of government documents and court records, Obama administration officials threw more roadblocks in Project Cassandra’s way the closer the investigation got to Iran.
When Project Cassandra’s leaders sought approval for more significant investigations, prosecutions, arrests and financial sanctions, officials at Obama’s Justice and Treasury Departments delayed, hindered or rejected their requests, Politico reported.
“This was a policy decision, it was a systematic decision,” David Asher, who helped establish and oversee Project Cassandra as a Defense Department illicit finance analyst, told Politico. “They serially ripped apart this entire effort that was very well supported and resourced, and it was done from the top down.”
Project Cassandra members say Obama administration officials also blocked or undermined their efforts to go after other top Hezbollah operatives, allowing these operatives to remain active despite being under US indictment for years.
Former Obama administration officials declined to comment on individual cases, but several of them said they “were guided by broader policy objectives, including deescalating the conflict with Iran, curbing its nuclear weapons program and freeing American prisoners held by Tehran, and that some law enforcement efforts were undoubtedly constrained by those concerns.”
One Obama-era Treasury official, Katherine Bauer, in written testimony presented last February to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, acknowledged that “under the Obama administration … these [Hezbollah-related] investigations were tamped down for fear of rocking the boat with Iran and jeopardizing the nuclear deal.”
As a consequence, the US government “lost insight” into Hezbollah’s drug trafficking operation, as well as other aspects of its vast criminal operations worldwide, the report charged.
“They will believe until death that we were shut down because of the Iran deal,” said Derek Maltz, who oversaw Project Cassandra as the head of the DEA’s Special Operations Division for nine years. “My gut feeling? My instinct as a guy doing this for 28 years is that it certainly contributed to why we got pushed aside and picked apart. There is no doubt in my mind.”