President Barack Obama torpedoed a DEA-led effort to stop Hezbollah from smuggling cocaine into the country. POLITICO broke the bombshell news Sunday night. The reason for allowing the Iran-backed terror group’s criminal enterprise to continue? Obama’s desperate desire for better relations and a nuclear deal with Iran.
The DEA teamed with dozens of agencies here and abroad in 2008 after discovering Hezbollah had grown beyond Middle East politics and thuggery into international crime. The special task force was called Project Cassandra. For eight years Project Cassandra worked to unravel Hezbollah’s drug and weapons trafficking, money laundering and other criminal activities.
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.
Hezbollah isn’t just smuggling cocaine. A November piece in The Hill noted, “Hezbollah’s involvement in producing and selling counterfeit medicines such as Captagon — a powerful amphetamine — is well documented.” Captagon is dubbed “chemical courage.” It was the drug of choice for ISIS. As Canada’s CBC reported, Captagon is “widely used by fighters in the Syrian civil war for its ability to make people alert, fearless and ready to kill with abandon.”
Project Cassandra traced the crime syndicate to “the innermost circle of Hezbollah and its state sponsors in Iran.”
In Steps Obama
However, the higher Project Cassandra reached, the harder Obama officials threw “an increasingly insurmountable series of roadblocks in its way.”
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.
This included the DOJ refusing to file charges against:
Hezbollah’s high-profile envoy to Iran.
A Lebanese bank that allegedly laundered billions in alleged drug profits.
A central player in a U.S.-based cell of the Iranian paramilitary Quds force.
Pause right there. The Quds Force is the special forces unit of Iran’s feared Revolutionary Guards responsible for their foreign operations. Since 2007, the U.S. has designated the Quds Force as a supporter of terrorism. In other words, Obama rejected the chance to take down an Iranian terror cell leader operating on our soil.
Further, his State Dept. refused requests to lure other “high value” targets to countries where they could be arrested.
The Administration also rejected calls to extradite Lebanese arms dealer Ali Fayad. Fayad is thought to be Vladimir Putin’s key supplier of weapons to Syria and Iraq. He was also wanted in the U.S. for planning the murders of U.S. government employees, among other terror-related crimes.
Project Cassandra members also say they were blocked in efforts go after an operative nicknamed the ‘”Ghost.”
People familiar with his case say the Ghost has been one of the world’s biggest cocaine traffickers, including to the U.S., as well as a major supplier of conventional and chemical weapons for use by Syrian President Bashar Assad against his people.
Pause again. In other words, Obama rejected a chance to slow or stop Assad’s stockpiling of chemical weapons.
One analyst told POLITICO: “They serially ripped apart this entire effort that was very well supported and resourced, and it was done from the top down.” In POLITICO’s words Obama “let Hezbollah off the hook.”
The question turns to “Why?”
Answer: He wanted to embrace Iran and get that nuclear deal.
Coddling Iran’s Terrorist Wing to Get a Signature on the Dotted Line
President Obama came to office vowing to improve relations with Iran. (From what, “Death to America” to “Maiming to America”?) He dreamed of drawing the bloodthirsty Islamist regime into the family of nations. This Iran embrace included attempting to build up “moderate elements” within Hezbollah. Reaching a nuclear deal — any deal — was his singular objective.
As Project Cassandra members told POLITICO, these factors made Obama reluctant to move against top Hezbollah operatives. Ultimately, Project Cassandra was scattered to the wind.
Obama officials are not denying that Project Cassandra’s efforts were thwarted. They’re just denying the motives were “political.”
A former national security official who played a role in the Iran nuclear negotiations all but tells POLITICO there were bigger fish to fry. What Obama was doing was above Project Cassandra’s pay grade. You can smell the smugness as strong as pine in a Christmas tree lot. “I get the feeling people who don’t know what’s going on in the broader universe are grasping at straws,” said the official. “The world is a lot more complicated than viewed through the narrow lens of drug trafficking.”
An Obama-era Treasury official named Katherine Bauer makes it less complicated. She admitted in written testimony last February 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.”
Tied Up in a Christmas Bow
Let’s tie it up what Obama did with a Christmas bow: Iran shouts “Death to America.” A terror group operated by Iran is allowed to funnel cocaine into America and commit whatever other mayhem on our shores. They’re also allowed to make the drug that helps give ISIS the chemical boost to slaughter whole villages. America allows this just so America can reach a deal with Iran. A deal which puts billions in Iran’s pocket. A deal which in a decade puts a nuclear bomb in their hands. And still Iran shouts “Death to America.”
The mainstream media’s reaction to POLITICO’s devastating, shocking story? A story that makes Iran-Contralook like Elmo & Patsy? Let’s just say that thus far, the media have shown more interest in the Trump’s Diet Coke drinking habits than Obama’s coke smuggling.
Al is the managing editor of The Stream. He was formerly the VP/creative director for All Comedy Radio, Voice of America producer and Passion Arts minister at Living Faith Christian Church in So. Cal. He is the co-author of the counter-terrorism memoir Hostile Intent, and several plays, including A Christmas Scene, The Table and the original musical Bethlehem. He’s married, with two puppies.