A team at the Drug Enforcement Administration had been working for almost a decade to bring down the Lebanon-based militant organization’s sophisticated $1 billion-a-year drug-trafficking and money-laundering operation — some of which was unfolding inside the U.S., Politico reports.
“This was a policy decision, it was a systematic decision,” David Asher, who helped establish Project Cassandra as a Defense Department illicit finance analyst in 2008, told Politico. “They serially ripped apart this entire effort that was very well supported and resourced, and it was done from the top down.”
Obama’s determination to close a nuclear deal with Iran was at the expense of the DEA’s efforts, a team of experts working out of a top-secret facility in Virginia with help from 30 American and foreign security agencies. It involved eight years of wiretapping and surveillance to learn of and map out Hezbollah operations. This included following drug shipments, dirty cash and the laundering process. According to Politico, the administration’s Justice and Treasury Department officials often delayed, hindered or rejected requests for significant investigations, prosecutions, arrests and financial sanctions.
Project Cassandra team members told Politico that administration officials prevented them from going after and taking down top Hezbollah officials, including ‘The Ghost’, who is reported to be among the world’s largest cocaine traffickers, as well as a major supplier of conventional and chemical weapons to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Former Obama administration officials told Politico anonymously that their decisions were guided by improving relations with Iran, stalling its nuclear weapons program and freeing four Americans prisoners held by the country. They also denied they “derailed” actions against Hezbollah out of politics.
“There has been a consistent pattern of actions taken against Hezbollah, both through tough sanctions and law enforcement actions before and after the Iran deal,” Kevin Lewis who worked at both the White House and Justice Department during the Obama administration, responded.
However Asher, 49, told Politico that the closer the U.S. got to finalizing the Iran nuclear deal, the more difficult it was to conduct Hezbollah investigations. After President Obama announced the deal in January 2016, Project Cassandra officials were transferred to other assignments.
“The closer we got to the [Iran deal], the more these activities went away,” Asher said. “So much of the capability, whether it was special operations, whether it was law enforcement, whether it was [Treasury] designations — even the capacity, the personnel assigned to this mission — it was assiduously drained, almost to the last drop, by the end of the Obama administration.”
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)