In a highly cited investigative report published by Politico, Barack Obama’s administration is accused of undermining a long and painstaking law-enforcement investigation into Hezbollah’s drug and weapons trafficking operations.
The U.S. led operation to track and uncover the Iranian allied Lebanese group’s illicit activities was code-named Cassandra and started well before Obama took office.
But as Obama took over, Politico says, it was apparent that the new administration’s policy was to bolster “moderate” elements within Hezbollah and improve relations with Iran.
As Hezbollah was becoming more a crime syndicate the investigation was uncovering a billion dollar a year profit making drug and weapons trafficking operation.
Eventually, with more information collected, investigators tried to arrest Hezbollah operatives but the administration began throwing roadblocks in their way; Politico cites dozens of participants.
David Asher, who was deeply involved in Project Cassandra told 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 said that as the Iran nuclear negotiations progressed, the administration showed less willingness to pursue the case against Hezbollah and its operatives.
The Politico report mentions a case of a suspected Hezbollah operative and arms dealer, Ali Fayad, who was arrested in 2014 in the Czech Republic but the Obama administration failed to put serious pressure for his extradition for two years, even though he was indicted in U.S. courts on charges of planning the murders of U.S. government employees.
One former Obama administration official, Kevin Lewis told Politico, “There has been a consistent pattern of actions taken against Hezbollah”.
Other former officials also denied derailing actions against Hezbollah, although they conceded that some efforts were undoubtedly constrained by considerations related to the nuclear deal and relations with Iran.
Israeli politicians reacted harshly to the Politico report, saying that Israel had warned the U.S. not to link anti-terror efforts to the Iran nuclear deal. One politician said, “Obama must return his Nobel Peace Prize”, if the Politico story is correct, Jerusalem Post reports.