An explosive investigation documented in detail by Politico’s Josh Meyer cites the anonymous testimonials of several members of a law enforcement campaign aimed at taking down high-ranking members of Hezbollah. While the heavily-armed militant group with Lebanese origins and direct ties to Iran has long been considered a formidable force for war and terror, their expansion into further illegal activities brought them under the jurisdiction of American authorities including the DEA and the FBI.
The bombshell-aspect of the in-depth report comes not from Hezbollah’s significant forays into drug and arms trafficking, however. It comes from the numerous instances in which the Obama administration’s Department of Justice prevented the capture and extradition of high-value targets with links to or direct involvement in Hezbollah. As the administration stated publicly early in their tenure, establishing deeper connections with Iran, and forming Hezbollah in a political image that would suit Obama’s vision of American-Iranian relations, was a primary goal. Few would have believed that this goal would come at the expense of doling out justice to members of Hezbollah known to be funneling drugs and weapons globally, including into the United States.
The joint law enforcement campaign into the increasingly non-military yet highly illegal activities began in 2008, given the title ‘Project Cassandra’. The primary impetus was the finding that Hezbollah had begun facilitating high-level cocaine trafficking into the United States. Between drugs and weapons sales, the DEA found that Hezbollah had become capable of raking in nearly $1 billion per year to fund their military and political activities.
And these were the people that the Obama administration was determined to cozy up to, and, as they would put it, reform as part of the effort to improve relations with Iran. However, as the investigations into Hezbollah’s illegal activities fell deeper and deeper into a rabbit hole, agents working as part of the Project Cassandra task force report that they were met with increasing resistance from the Obama justice department and the CIA. There is no shortage of specific examples which illuminate the greater trend of interference which posed a direct risk to American national security.
‘The Justice Department declined requests by Project Cassandra and other authorities to file criminal charges against major players such as Hezbollah’s high-profile envoy to Iran, a Lebanese bank that allegedly laundered billions in alleged drug profits, and a central player in a U.S.-based cell of the Iranian paramilitary Quds force. And the State Department rejected requests to lure high-value targets to countries where they could be arrested.
“This was a policy decision, it was a systematic decision,” said David Asher, who helped establish and oversee Project Cassandra as a Defense Department illicit finance analyst. “They serially ripped apart this entire effort that was very well supported and resourced, and it was done from the top down.”’ (Politico)
The administration’s commitment to increasing the bond with Hezbollah was delusional from the start. Long known as a proxy army of Iran, John Brennan – who would become CIA director in 2013 – spoke of them in 2010 as if they were some group who had abandoned their terroristic ways in favor of traditional political modes. This could not have been further from the truth, as they were only become more ambitious in their criminal activities, venturing deeper into the world of money and drug laundering.
‘“Hezbollah is a very interesting organization,” Brennan told a Washington conference, saying it had evolved from “purely a terrorist organization” to a militia and, ultimately, a political party with representatives in the Lebanese Parliament and Cabinet, according to a Reuters report.’
One cannot separate these words of fondness for the Iranian-backed Hezbollah from the Obama administration’s determination to establish the deal that would eventually allow Iran to expand their nuclear arsenal with virtually no oversight. In the process, the number of targets that the Obama DoJ either refused to extradite or directly blocked law enforcement agencies from capturing is stunning.
‘Lebanese arms dealer Ali Fayad suspected top Hezbollah operative whom agents believed reported to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a key supplier of weapons to Syria and Iraq, was arrested in Prague in the spring of 2014. But for the nearly two years Fayad was in custody, top Obama administration officials declined to apply serious pressure on the Czech government to extradite him to the United States’ (Politico)
Fayad was not a run-of-the-mill gun runner with no discernible ties to American national security. He had been indicted on charges of plotting to murder American government officials. At least we know that the State Department was consistent when it came to their apathy toward the lives of American diplomats and officials. He also was indicted on charges of attempting to provide material support to terrorist organizations as well as working to acquire, transfer and use anti-aircraft missiles. Trust when I say that he wasn’t using them to aid American causes in the region, unless they were the causes of Obama’s American agenda, which was not American at all.
Because the Obama administration refused to extradite Fayad, he was ultimately sent to Beirut, and it is now believed that he is up and running his arms dealing business again, as if no arrest ever happened. In case you are wondering, this is not how indicted, murderous terrorists are treated by any American president other than our previous one.
Then there is the case of the man they call ‘Ghost’.
‘Project Cassandra members say administration officials also blocked or undermined their efforts to go after other top Hezbollah operatives including one nicknamed the Ghost allowing them to remain active despite being under sealed U.S. indictment for years.
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.’ (Politico)
Individuals with known plans to materially harm United States citizens is bad enough. But Project Cassandra was, at its core, an attempt to undermine Hezbollah as the criminal organization that it is. That, it appears, was the Obama administration’s worst fear as they tried to pretend that Iran was just as friendly to America as, say, Israel. American law enforcement agencies were ready to drop the RICO statute on Hezbollah, but once again, it was the Obama DoJ that put the nix on the plan.
‘when Project Cassandra agents and other investigators sought repeatedly to investigate and prosecute Abdallah Hezbollah’s longtime envoy to Iran, whom they considered the linchpin of Hezbollah’s criminal network, the Justice Department refused, according to four former officials with direct knowledge of the cases.
The administration also rejected repeated efforts by Project Cassandra members to charge Hezbollah’s military wing as an ongoing criminal enterprise under a federal Mafia-style racketeering statute. And they allege that administration officials declined to designate Hezbollah a “significant transnational criminal organization” and blocked other strategic initiatives that would have given the task force additional legal tools, money and manpower to fight it.’ (Politico)
This general approach – blockade, interfere, deny requests for manpower and extradition – is merely a primer for the Obama administration’s dedication to maintaining appearances in their dealings with Iran. It is egregious in its disregard for the most fundamental tenets of justice and national security, but its effects would ultimately range beyond mere targets in the Middle East and Iran. As Hezbollah’s influence and criminality grew, unimpeded by the ample yet hamstrung resources of U.S. law enforcement agencies, so would the reach of Hezbollah’s criminal network, as we will see in the next iteration of this saga.