The Jerusalem Post
Did Obama block Hezbollah drug investigation over Iran deal?
Israeli politicians lashed out at former US president Barack Obama after an exposé in Politico alleged that his administration had blocked a major investigation into Hezbollah’s global drug trafficking activities so that Iran would sign the 2015 deal to curb its nuclear activities.
“Obama must return his Nobel Peace Prize,” if the Politico story is correct, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said.
“Israel warned repeatedly that there can be no connection between the nuclear deal and anti-terror activity, certainly against Hezbollah... We also warned of this specifically, because of the proven link between Hezbollah and Iran.”
Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi wrote on Facebook that the report is not surprising, due to Obama’s “persistent efforts to give Iran, Nasrallah’s patron, legitimacy at any price.
“Up until the Obama Administration, every American President fought terrorism uncompromisingly... I am convinced that the Trump administration will not turn from that tradition, and that the outrageous and mistaken policy that was revealed this week will not be repeated,” Hanegbi said.
The Politico piece details the efforts of the US Drug Enforcement Administration, which launched Project Cassandra in 2008. The group tracked Hezbollah’s global criminal-syndicate operation, backed by Iran, including drug and weapons trafficking worth $1 billion annually.
But while DEA gathered evidence, including of Iran-backed activities in Latin America and the US, Politico charged that the Justice Department and other US authorities refused to file charges against major players.
This included, according to Politico, “Hezbollah’s high-profile envoy to Iran, a Lebanese bank that allegedly laundered billions in alleged drug profits, and a central player in a US-based cell of the Iranian paramilitary Quds force.”
Among those against whom no US action was taken, was Ali Fayad, a suspected Hezbollah operative held from 2014 to 2015 by the Czech Republic.
“The administration also rejected repeated efforts by Project Cassandra members to charge Hezbollah’s military wing as an ongoing criminal enterprise under a federal Mafiastyle racketeering statute, task force members say,” according to the Politico article.
It further charged that the administration blocked other initiatives to give the Cassandra Project legal tools to halt Hezbollah’s activities.
Even as far back as 2007, the article claimed, planes flew from Caracas to Syria and then on to Tehran with drugs and cash, returning with arms and agents.
The article relied heavily on the testimony of a former US Defense Department financial analyst, David Asher, who worked for the Cassandra Project.
“This was a policy decision, it was a systematic decision,” said Asher, according to Politico. “They serially ripped apart this entire effort that was very well supported and resourced, and it was done from the top down.”
Asher also publicly testified to Congress in 2015 on the need to do more to combat Hezbollah’s criminal and financial activities.
The article also put forward counter theories that would have accounted for the Obama administration’s actions, including turf wars among different US agencies, the destabilization of Lebanon and reprisal terror attacks.
Former Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren, currently a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, said the news “wouldn’t surprise any Israeli involved in the attempts to prevent a bad nuclear deal with Iran.
“It was clear that the government was willing to do anything to reach an agreement, including ignoring Iranian terror that took the lives of hundreds of Americans and Israelis and hundreds of thousands of Syrians,” Oren said. “This exposé and others that may be published in the future must strengthen our resolve to dance or at least significantly change this dangerous agreement.”
Communications Minister Ayoob Kara called the report “excellent,” tweeting that the Obama administration allowed Hezbollah to grow stronger.
“Does anyone still doubt why Obama was bad for Israel and how Trump is better for us?” Kara asked.