In part one of the ground-breaking report on the Obama administration’s interference in DEA and FBI investigations into Lebanese terror group Hezbollah’s illegal activities, all in the name of completing the notorious Iran nuclear deal, we documented the extent to which federal agents were hamstrung by a wrongheaded political agenda. International terror targets, drug-pushing kingpins, and a well-organized network of an Iranian-supported proxy army was permitted to flourish at the Obama administration’s behest.
It’s shocking, to say the least. A nuclear Iran is dangerous enough, but the systematic interference in prosecution-ready cases involving prolific gun runners, drug traffickers, and suspects who had plotted to murder American government officials is unprecedented as far as we know. And for what? To maintain political optics that were optically despicable to begin with, and to grant Hezbollah even greater power as a political organization in addition to the paramilitary outfit and international crime syndicate we now know them to be.
Part One ended with the Justice Department’s refusal to designate Hezbollah, which is inextricably linked with Iran, as a “significant transnational criminal organization” despite overwhelming evidence supporting this label. Eventually, the administration was able to keep the global crime network quiet enough – hindering investigations, refusing extraditions, etc. – to get their precious nuclear deal passed. But the revelations of the extent of Hezbollah’s transformation from paramilitary, narco-terroristic regional power into a well-organized, major player in international drug trafficking with their reach in several major governments would only come to light after ‘Project Cassandra’, as the DEA’s probe into Hezbollah was dubbed, died in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal’s passage. While the Trump administration has vowed to revive Project Cassandra, or something like it, agents harbor doubts about whether or not their sources are still willing to testify, beholden to information, or even alive, for that matter.
When the Iran deal was signed, and the Obama administration began their victory charade pretending that we had finally turned a mortal enemy into a trusted, honest, and compliant ally. All the while, the administration was well aware that Iran had continued to utilize Hezbollah to reap monstrous amounts of cash and arms. Despite this, the agreement essentially meant the end of Project Cassandra, and most all of the intel that had been gathered over a matter of nearly ten years. Information that linked Hezbollah not only to Iran, but to other governments who, it appears, have been and continue to engage in various degrees of drug and arms trafficking. Many of those drugs would enter the United States, but because the former administration wanted to play pals with a known supporter of a narco-paramilitary organization, we just decided to let those drugs and arms go untraced.
‘As a result, the U.S. government lost insight into not only drug trafficking and other criminal activity worldwide, but also into Hezbollah’s illicit conspiracies with top officials in the Iranian, Syrian, Venezuelan and Russian governments — all the way up to presidents Nicolas Maduro, Assad and Putin, according to former task force members and other current and former U.S. officials.
derailment of Project Cassandra also has undermined U.S. efforts to determine how much cocaine from the various Hezbollah-affiliated networks is coming into the United States, especially from Venezuela, where dozens of top civilian and military officials have been under investigation for more than a decade.’ (Politico)
Here’s some background on Hezbollah’s traditional modus operandi. A Lebanese-originated paramilitary organization which originated in the 1980s, they always had their hands in the drug game. However, their primary tactic was narcoterrorism, charging drug dealers and suppliers who operated in the region at risk of violence. However, the DEA’s Project Cassandra – before it was shut down, of course – unearthed the reality that Hezbollah had changed its tactics significantly, doing much of the drug trafficking themselves. The Trump administration recently designated Venezuela’s vice president, Tareck El Aissami, who is a close ally of Hezbollah and of Lebanese and Syrian descent, as a global drug kingpin. Venezuela is a narco-state, and Hezbollah is regularly engaging in agreements that allow them to remain as such. The reach of Hezbollah, and by association Iran, in the most deplorable, drug-running governments in the world cannot be overstated. A number of Cassandra-like operations over the past ten years or so have exposed this reality.
‘Operation Titan, in which the DEA worked with Colombian authorities to explore a global alliance between Lebanese money launderers and Colombian drug trafficking conglomerates, was one. Operation Perseus, targeting Venezuelan syndicates, was another. At the same time, DEA agents in West Africa were investigating the suspicious flow of thousands of used cars from U.S. dealerships to car parks in Benin.
Meanwhile, in Iraq, the U.S. military was probing the role of Iran in outfitting Shiite militias with high-tech improvised explosive devices known as Explosively Formed Penetrators, or EFPs, that had already killed hundreds of U.S. soldiers.
All of these paths eventually converged on Hezbollah.’ (Politico)
And when it comes to Hezbollah’s illicit, anti-American activities, drug trafficking is just the tip of the iceberg. They have their hands deep in the development of chemical and nuclear weapons, weapons that Hezbollah has proven unafraid and more than willing to use against U.S. forces.
‘“They were a paramilitary organization with strategic importance in the Middle East, and we watched them become an international criminal conglomerate generating billions of dollars for the world’s most dangerous activities, including chemical and nuclear weapons programs and armies that believe America is their sworn enemy,” said Kelly, the supervisory DEA agent and lead coordinator of its Hezbollah cases.’ (Politico)
The DEA says international drug traffickers, the Obama administration says willing ally. The FBI says international crime syndicate with their hands deep in gun running, anti-American plots, and affiliations with the likes of Nicolas Maduro. The Obama administration says a fixable, uncorrupted political organization that can be an agent for positive change.
And, thanks to the nuclear agreement entered into on January 17th, 2016, there is no denying that they are, formally, a country with whom we have an active agreement. Most believe that agreement will not last for long, especially if Trump’s vow to re-open a Cassandra-like investigation is followed through upon. But, as DEA and FBI agents know all too well, many of those potential indictments may have already sailed.
“You can’t let these things disintegrate,” said Kelly. “Sources evaporate. Who knows if we can find all of the people willing to testify?”
We don’t know for certain, but we can hope. And we can thank our lucky stars that the most corrupt government in American history is no longer entering into under-the-table deals with international criminal organizations.