Did the current administration “collude” with Russia? So far no evidence at all has emerged to support that hypothesis, but Politico’s Josh Meyer digs deep into another curious set of circumstances in the Obama White House and its own operations with a foreign power. Perhaps the media will start asking whether the previous administration colluded with Iran to let terrorists and drug dealers go free in order to score one of the worst deals ever in international relations.
Before Barack Obama decided to pursue the nuclear deal with Iran, the DEA had a major operation called Project Cassandra. This operation had identified Hezbollah as a major supplier of cocaine to the US and other countries, along with its usual terrorist activities on behalf of its sponsors in Tehran. The DEA and FBI had built criminal cases against major players in Hezbollah’s drug and arms networks, succeeding in getting sealed indictments and finding witnesses for prosecution.
And then the Obama administration stepped in to drain it of all resources, just to protect its deal with Iran:
One Obama-era Treasury official, Katherine Bauer, in little-noticed 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 result, some Hezbollah operatives were not pursued via arrests, indictments, or Treasury designations that would have blocked their access to U.S. financial markets, according to Bauer, a career Treasury official, who served briefly in its Office of Terrorist Financing as a senior policy adviser for Iran before leaving in late 2015. And other “Hezbollah facilitators” arrested in France, Colombia, Lithuania have not been extradited — or indicted — in the U.S., she wrote. …
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.”
Cassandra turned out to be an ironic code name for the operation. In Greek mythology, Cassandra, the daughter of King Priam of Troy, was doomed to utter accurate prophecies that went unbelieved by all who heard them. This years-long effort to identify Hezbollah’s drug and arms operations and to find their financial resources ended up going the way of Cassandra’s prophecies, too — being utterly ignored despite their truth. (In fact, the project name derived specifically, if indirectly, from this myth.)
Not all of these cases involved international operations, either. The DEA and FBI found Hezbollah operations in the US, and yet the Department of Justice refused to prosecute the cases:
In Philadelphia, the FBI-led task force had spent two years bolstering its case claiming that Safieddine had overseen an effort to purchase 1,200 military-grade assault rifles bound for Lebanon, with the help of Kelly and the special narcoterrorism prosecutors in New York.
Now, they had two key eyewitnesses. One would identify Safieddine as the Hezbollah official sitting behind a smoked-glass barricade who approved the assault weapons deal. And an agent and prosecutor had flown to a remote Asian hotel and spent four days persuading another eyewitness to testify about Safieddine’s role in an even bigger weapons and drugs conspiracy, multiple former law enforcement officials confirmed to POLITICO.
Convinced they had a strong case, the New York prosecutors sent a formal prosecution request to senior Justice Department lawyers in Washington, as required in such high-profile cases. The Justice Department rejected it, and the FBI and DEA agents were never told why, those former officials said.
According to Meyer’s sources, Hezbollah has a lot of tentacles in the US, including in rental car companies on the legal side, and a booming cocaine smuggling and distribution business on the illegal side. It should have been easy to pursue those cases in US courts. And yet the Obama administration wanted nothing to do with cutting off Hezbollah’s economic underpinnings in the US, even while listing them as a terrorist organization.
All of this was in service to a deal that did nothing for American security but allowed Iran to pursue its hegemonic policies in the Middle East unfettered. Hezbollah has been Tehran’s proxy for decades, including among its many crimes the bombing of Marines in Lebanon during a peacekeeping mission. They are a key part of Iran’s strategy to link through Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean and to dominate the Sunni Arab states in the Arabian peninsula — and of course to threaten Israel.
That policy was bad enough. The politicization of the DoJ to allow terrorists to operate unfettered in the US is nothing short of unconscionable. We’ve allowed ourselves to get distracted by the Russia story long enough. It’s long past time for Congress to take a very hard look at the Iran deal and the Obama administration’s operations in support of it. Let’s not allow this to be yet another Cassandra moment.