A bombshell report from Politico Sunday revealed that the Obama administration let Hezbollah’s money-laundering and drug-trafficking operations slide in order to protect the Iran nuclear deal from collapsing.
The Drug Enforcement Administration led a campaign dubbed Project Cassandra that reportedly targeted the criminal activities of the militant group.
However, Justice and Treasury Department officials reportedly delayed or outright rejected the DEA’s requests for investigations, sanctions and prosecutions against members of Hezbollah.
According to Josh Meyer of Politico, these players included: “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.”
In December 2011, U.S. attorney Preet Bharara filed a civil money laundering lawsuit against “Lebanese Financial Institutions That Facilitated a Hizballah-Related Money Laundering Scheme.”
The lawsuit claimed that “Lebanese Financial Institutions, Including Institutions Linked to Hizballah, Allegedly Wired Over $300 Million into the United States for the Purchase and Shipment of Used Cars to West Africa as Part of Money Laundering Scheme.”
The suit added that “Proceeds from Car Sales and Narcotics Trafficking Allegedly Were Funneled Back to Lebanon Through Hizballah-Controlled Money Laundering Channels.”
While Bharara originally sought over $480 million in the suit, it was eventually settled in 2013 for $102 million.
Another example of the Obama administration hindering DEA progress against Hezbollah was its decision to refrain from pressuring the Czech government from extraditing Lebanese arms dealer Ali Fayad back to the U.S. amid U.S. courts indicting him on charges involving attempts to acquire anti-aircraft missiles, attempts to provide material support to a terror cell and plans to kill U.S. government employees.
As reported by Politico, U.S. officials believe Fayad is now helping to weaponize Syrian militants.
Perhaps most surprisingly, members of Project Cassandra claim that officials in the Obama administration undermined the DEA’s efforts to take down of one of Hezbollah’s top operatives, a man named “Ghost,” — one of the world’s largest cocaine smugglers, including to the U.S.
Four former DEA officials with direct access to these cases say that the Justice Department also refused to investigate Abdallah Saffiedine, overseer of the Hezbollah’s “Business Affairs Component,” which involved international drug trafficking.
According to Defense of Department illicit finance analyst David Asher, these blockades set forth by the Obama administration, as well as other instances such as the DOJ’s refusal to charge the militant group’s military wing as an ongoing criminal syndicate, “was a policy decision, it was a systematic decision.”
“They serially ripped apart this entire effort that was very well supported and resourced, and it was done from the top down,” he added, referring to the Obama administration’s actions in handling the DEA’s requests for investigating Hezbollah.
In February, a Treasury official from the Obama-era, Katherine Bauer, stated in a written testimony, “under the Obama administration … these (Hezbollah-related) investigations were tamped down for fear of rocking the boat with Iran and jeopardizing the nuclear deal.”
However, former administration officials have countered these claims, stating that the decisions made during Obama’s tenure were not done out of politics.
“There has been a consistent pattern of actions taken against Hezbollah, both through tough sanctions and law enforcement actions before and after the Iran deal,” said Kevin Lewis, an official who worked at the Justice Department and White House during the Obama administration.
Fox News detailed that after announcement of the deal in January 2016, Project Cassandra members were given other assignments unrelated to the Hezbollah investigation.
The Lebanese militant group is one of the world’s largest cocaine traffickers and supplies chemical and conventional weapons to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad — weapons the dictator has reportedly used on his own people.
As reported by Fox News, Hezbollah was formed in 1982 by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in order to combat Israel’s invasion of Beirut. Under direction of a new leader in 1992, the group’s motive shifted from trying to implement an Islamic republic in Lebanon to fighting against Israel. (For more from the author of “Obama Allowed Hezbollah to Smuggle Drugs Into the US to Protect the Iran Nuke Deal” please click HERE)