In a stunning expose, POLITICO reports that a top-secret group of federal law enforcement agents spent years building case after case against the growing threat of Hezbollah as it morphed from a relatively simple Iranian-backed terrorist group to a global narco-terrorist group, engaged in drug trafficking and money laundering from the Middle East to Latin America, only to be obstructed at every turn by the Obama administration because it feared attacking Hezbollah meant the death of Obama’s precious Iran deal.
In short, for the sake of the vanity project that gave Iran a pathway to nuclear weapons and an influx of cash, the Obama administration allowed Hezbollah to grow “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…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.
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 report, long and definitely worth a read in its entirety, goes into specifics about cases built toward the end of the Bush administration and into the Obama administration. Project Cassandra spent years developing these cases against Hezbollah operatives who had fingers in pies all over the world. They laundered money through used cars sent to Africa; they trafficked cocaine from South America through Mexican cartels into the United States; they attempted to extradite a Lebanese arms dealer, indicted in the U.S. for terrorist-related activities who had connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was being held by the Czech government. In all cases, Project Cassandra leaders told POLITICO the Obama administration obstructed their efforts. And, they say, it was all done to protect the Iran deal.
“The closer we got to the [Iran deal], the more these activities went away,” [Project Cassandra leader David] 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.”
…The administration’s eagerness for an Iran deal was broadcast through so many channels, task force members say, that political appointees and career officials at key agencies like Justice, State and the National Security Council felt unspoken pressure to view the task force’s efforts with skepticism. One former senior Justice Department official confirmed to POLITICO that some adverse decisions might have been influenced by an informal multi-agency Iran working group that “assessed the potential impact” of criminal investigations and prosecutions on the nuclear negotiations.
By the end of Obama’s second term, Project Cassandra had all but dissolved, and the fear is that their sources have evaporated and the work they started may not be easily picked up again — despite many officials now acknowledging Project Cassandra was right about the direction Hezbollah was heading and the crimes they were suspected of perpetrating.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah — in league with Iran, Russia and the Assad regime — has all but overwhelmed the opposition groups in Syria, including those backed by the United States. Hezbollah continues to help train Shiite militants in other hotspots and to undermine U.S. efforts in Iraq, according to U.S. officials. It also continues its expansion in Latin America and, DEA officials said, its role in trafficking cocaine and other drugs into the United States. And it is believed to be the biggest trafficker of the powerful stimulant drug Captagon that is being used by fighters in Syria on all sides.
Obama got his Iran deal and a photo-op. The world got a newer version of Hezbollah; a globally-connected, mafia-style terror network that has expanded its interests from simply resisting Israel to functioning as a wealthy drug cartel that also trains people for their desired jihad. Thanks Obama.