In a bombshell report by POLITICO‘s Josh Meyer, the Obama administration is accused of protecting Hezbollah drug and human trafficking rings to help ensure a nuclear deal with Iran was achieved.
Project Cassandra reached higher into the hierarchy of the conspiracy, Obama administration officials threw an increasingly insurmountable series of roadblocks in its way, according to interviews with dozens of participants who in many cases spoke for the first time about events shrouded in secrecy, and a review of government documents and court records. 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.
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, seasoned illicit finance expert 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.”
The Obama administration is believed to have deliberately put the kibosh on charging numerous drug dealers and arms dealing, such as Hezbollah operative nicknamed the ‘Ghost,’ and Abdallah Safieddine, the terrorist organization’s de facto envoy to Iran. All the while both Hezbollah and Iran made massive sums selling “drugs, weapons and used cars, [along with] diamonds, commercial merchandise and even human slaves,” say ex-Project Cassandra agents.
According to Meyer, Project Cassandra’s finding were so damning that the Obama administration believed they threatened fragile nuclear negotiations with Iran.
They said senior Obama administration officials appeared to be alarmed by how far Project Cassandra’s investigations had reached into the leadership of Hezbollah and Iran, and wary of the possible political repercussions.
As a result, task force members claim, Project Cassandra was increasingly viewed as a threat to the administration’s efforts to secure a nuclear deal, and the top-secret prisoner swap that was about to be negotiated.
“During the negotiations, early on, they [the Iranians] said listen, we need you to lay off Hezbollah, to tamp down the pressure on them, and the Obama administration acquiesced to that request,” a former CIA agent revealed to POLITICO.
With the operation largely neutered due to the Iran deal, Asher had no choice but to bring many of his findings public before a congressional hearing in May 2015.
Shortly after the Iran deal was signed, U.S. and EU law enforcement officers arrested a network of Hezbollah in France.
In announcing the arrests, the DEA and the Justice Department disclosed for the first time the existence of Project Cassandra
These dealers were small potatoes compared to the big fish the Obama administration seemingly refused to charge.
Under the Trump administration, the operation has picked back up.
Once the Obama administration left office, in January 2017, the logjam of task force cases appeared to break, and several task force members said it wasn’t a coincidence.
An alleged top Hezbollah financier, Kassim Tajideen, was arrested in Morocco — seven years after Treasury officials blacklisted him as a sponsor of terror — and flown to Washington to stand trial. Asher said task force agents had kept his case under wraps, hoping for a better outcome in whatever administration succeeded Obama’s.
But many DEA agents are still bitter about the Obama administration protecting the Islamic terror organization to achieve a nuclear agreement with Iran.
“They will believe until death that we were shut down because of the Iran deal,” Senior DEA official Derek Maltz told POLITICO.
“My gut feeling? My instinct as a guy doing this for 28 years is that it certainly contributed to why we got pushed aside and picked apart. There is no doubt in my mind.”