- A new report in Politico claims that the terror group Hezbollah was operating a massive drug and weapons smuggling operation that the DEA was poised to take down.
- DEA agents claimed that Obama administration officials intentionally prevented them from taking actions that would have dealt a major blow to Hezbollah.
- DEA and other officials believe it is because the Obama administration was laying off Hezbollah to not anger Iran and secure the nuclear deal that was being negotiated.
Former security officials claim that the Obama administration intentionally stonewalled a Drug Enforcement Agency investigation against a major terror group, according to a Politico report.
Officials tell Politico’s Josh Meyer that the Obama administration ultimately derailed the DEA’s investigation into Hezbollah’s massive drug trade operations that investigators believed provided the terror group with up to $1 billion in funds a year. According to the report, the White House cut support for the investigation – known as Project Cassandra – in order to gain favor for the Iran nuclear deal.
“The administration’s willingness to envision a new role for Hezbollah in the Middle East, combined with its desire for a negotiated settlement to Iran’s nuclear program, translated into a reluctance to move aggressively against the top Hezbollah operatives, according to Project Cassandra members and others,” Meyer writes.
Sources claim the link to the Iran deal was explicit.
“During the negotiations, early on, [the Iranians] said listen, we need you to lay off Hezbollah, to tamp down the pressure on them, and the Obama administration acquiesced to that request,” a former CIA officer told Politico. “It was a strategic decision to show good faith toward the Iranians in terms of reaching an agreement.”
Katherine Bauer, an Obama-era Treasury Department official, said in a written congressional testimony to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs 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.”
DEA agents found evidence of cooperation between Hezbollah, Mexican and Colombian drug cartels, and the highest level officials of the Syrian, Russian, and Venezuelan governments, according to the report.
The enterprise involved trafficking tons of cocaine into the US from Venezuela, laundering the money through front companies like a massive used car dealership in Benin, and using foreign banks to store and legitimize the transactions.
The investigators were at one point reportedly so close to the criminal operations, that they were tracking individual couriers as they were transporting money – sometimes as much as $2 million per suitcase across Africa.
But Project Cassandra officials say that as they got deeper into the case and close to actually detaining high ranking and important members of Hezbollah, the Obama administration spurned those efforts.
David Asher, a Defense Department official who helped establish and oversee Project Cassandra, told Politico, “The closer we got to the [Iran deal], the more these activities went away.”
- REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
‘These revelations are shocking and infuriating’
A number of Obama administration officials denied the accusations to Politico and have bashed the report since its publication.
“There’s no evidence in this story to back up their allegations,” former State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said on Fox News. “They quote a couple of low level ideological sources who clearly don’t like the Iran deal, but everything I know just doesn’t back up this narrative.
Critics have also noted a possible bias of two sources used in Politico’s report, Asher and Bauer. Asher now works for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and Bauer works for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies – think tanks that are notably hawkish on Iran.
Other active and former CIA, DEA, and FBI officials, however, also spoke with Politico.
The report has gained some traction on the right.
Slate details how the story dominated conservative media on Monday, as writers accused Obama of negligence and collusion.
Rep. Robert Pittenger, a Republican from North Carolina, called for a congressional investigation into the Politico report on Monday.
“These revelations are shocking and infuriating,” Pittenger said in a statement to Fox News. “This is the same administration that sent $1.7 billion in cash ransom to Iran.”