Former U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration “derailed” a DEA operation targeting Hezbollah’s multi-million-dollar drug trafficking activities in Latin America to secure approval of the controversial Iran nuclear deal, reports Politico.
Iran’s narco-terrorist proxy Hezbollah is involved in a plethora of criminal activities in Latin America, ranging from money laundering to massive drug trafficking.
“This was a policy decision, it was a systematic decision,” David Asher, a veteran Pentagon illicit finance expert deployed to combat the alleged Hezbollah criminal enterprise, told Politico, referring to the DEA operation, dubbed Project Cassandra. “They [Obama administration] serially ripped apart this entire effort that was very well supported and resourced, and it was done from the top down.”
For years, the U.S. military has been sounding the alarm on the threat against the United States posed by the presence of Iran and Hezbollah in America’s backyard — Latin America.
However, the Obama administration argued that Iran’s influence in the Western Hemisphere was “waning,” reported the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress’ watchdog arm, in late September 2014, months before world powers and Iran approved the nuclear deal in July 2015.
In its determination to secure a nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration derailed an ambitious law enforcement campaign targeting drug trafficking by the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, even as it was funneling cocaine into the United States, according to a POLITICO investigation.
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.
Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC), the chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, chastised the Obama administration for undermining the DEA operation.
In a statement, Pittenger, the vice chairman of the House Financial Services Committee Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing, declared:
The nexus between terrorists organizations, including Hezbollah, and Latin American drug cartels is a subversive alliance which provides hundreds of millions of dollars to global jihad. “The witnesses providing account of the Obama administration derailing and stonewalling the prosecution of this illicit funding investigation has resulted in the most serious consequences of the misguided and injudicious actions of President Obama and his team.”
In June 2016, Michael Braun, a former DEA agent, told lawmakers that Hezbollah is generating hundreds of millions from a “cocaine money laundering scheme” in Latin America that “provides a never-ending source of funding” for its terrorist operations in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Iran has deployed thousands of Hezbollah militants to fight on behalf of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, a move that has allowed the ruthless leader to remain in power.
Both the U.S. military and State Department have warned against the menace that Hezbollah and Iran’s presence in Latin America represents.
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.
Soon after U.S.-led world powers and Iran approved the nuclear pact, Obama predicted that Iran would use sanction relief funds to boost its terrorist proxies, namely Hezbollah, saying in August 2015:
Let’s stipulate that some of that money will flow to activities that we object to … Iran supports terrorist organizations like Hezbollah. It supports proxy groups that threaten our interests and the interests of our allies — including proxy groups who killed our troops in Iraq.
A day after the deal’s approval, Obama also said:
Do we think that with the sanctions coming down, that Iran will have some additional resources for its military and for some of the activities in the region that are a threat to us and a threat to our allies? I think that is a likelihood that they’ve got some additional resources. Do I think it’s a game-changer for them? No.
They are currently supporting Hezbollah, and there is a ceiling — a pace at which they could support Hezbollah even more, particularly in the chaos that’s taking place in Syria. So can they potentially try to get more assistance there? Yes.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Iran has dramatically increased its financial support to Hezbollah from $200 million to $800 million per year, two years after the nuclear deal was signed by Iran and world powers.
In 2010, John Brennan, Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser and then CIA director, confirmed that former president’s administration was trying to build up “moderate elements” within Iran’s terror proxy Hezbollah.
“Hezbollah is a very interesting organization,” Brennan told a Washington conference, saying it had evolved from “purely a terrorist organization” to a militia and, ultimately, a prominent Shiite political party in Lebanon, reported Reuters.