In the second term of the Obama administration, searching for relevance and a legacy beyond ramming a terrible health insurance bill down the throats of American citizens, Obama bent over backwards to make a ‘nuclear deal’ with Iran. Iran, a well-known state sponsor of terrorism and a nation that has actively assisted enemies in attacks against U.S. military personnel deployed around the Middle East, was more than happy to make a deal. For a price. Till now, the price seemed to be simple cash, but now it looks like that price involved sabotaging an anti-Hezbollah program.
Up until now, the American people knew that the deal included at least $150 billion in cash, as well as releasing the assets and money the U.S. government seized from Iran and Iranian entities. In exchange, the United States gets vague promises that Iran will allow us to examine their nuclear sites at will, won’t build any more nuclear sites, and all that nuclear fuel that they’re buying is totally going to be used only for medical and energy purposes. Absolutely. Why would they lie?
In other words, the deal was a bad one in the first place, and likely one that Obama was simply seeking because he knew his legacy was going to be a negative one. But recently, more information has emerged concerning Obama and his willingness to undermine anti-terrorist activities in order to make a good impression.
The campaign Obama sabotaged was called Project Cassandra, and it was begun in 2008 under George Bush’s DEA. The DEA found evidence that Hezbollah, a group of violent radicals in the Middle East, had transformed themselves from being an extremist Islamic military organization into being an international crime organization that dealt in everything from money laundering to illegally shipping drugs and weapons. Further, they were making an immense profit of $1 billion a year doing this, and that money was then put to use in supporting their military operations.
For the next eight years, 30 U.S and foreign intelligence and security agencies worked together to track Hezbollah’s network, finding out who was supplying, selling, and buying everything that they had to offer. They tracked laundered money, cars bought in the U.S. and then shipped to Africa, opium shipped out of China or Afghanistan and bound for the U.S., and more. But as they got close to actionable intelligence that could break up the network, the Obama administration stonewalled them, according to members of the task force.
When Project Cassandra leaders began to seek approval to take real action such as arrests, prosecutions, and financial sanctions, the Justice Department and Department of the Treasury failed to assist them. The DoJ refused to grant permission to file charges against high-ranking members of the network, such as an envoy to Iran, a Lebanese bank engaged in laundering funds for Hezbollah, and a leader for a U.S.-based Iranian Quds cell.
Meanwhile, John Kerry’s state department was denying requests to lure high-ranking targets in the network to countries where they could be arrested and extradited.
David Asher, a member of the project who oversaw the analysis of illegal finances, said this wasn’t by accident; it was a policy decision. He says “they serially ripped apart this entire effort that was very well supported and resourced, and it was done from the top down.”
Kevin Lewis (no relation), an Obama spokesman who worked for both the White House and the DoJ during his time in government, tried to disguise the Obama administration’s record on Hezbollah, saying “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.” He goes on to list eight arrests and prosecutions of individuals connected to Hezbollah as proof. But the list rings hollow as an indicator of Obama’s devotion to prosecuting Hezbollah officials.
Members of the Project Cassandra team noted that the 2016 European arrests not only occurred after negotiations with Iran ended in 2015, but also that the team had to set up the arrests with European counterparts without the approval of Obama-era departments. As evidence of the Obama administration’s lack of cooperation, they cited the fact that the eight individuals arrested never had charges brought against them by the American DoJ, but rather only by European nations and agencies.
David Asher went on to say that the closer the Obama administration came to penning a final deal with the Iranians, the more the activities of Project Cassandra seemed to stall, saying that by the time the deal was signed, much of Project Cassandra’s ability to accomplish their objective “was assiduously drained, almost to the last drop, by the end of the Obama administration.” A few short months after the deal was signed, the reassignment of the team began, with government agents and employees assigned elsewhere and Asher, who was working as a contractor, finding his contract was not under consideration for renewal.
At the same time, Hezbollah was expanding into South American operations, and growing their ability to reach out to countries like the United States and other targets of opportunity. In order to make cheap political hay out of a terrible deal with Iran, Obama put not just the future of the Middle East at danger, but the future of America as well.
The Obama administration was well-known for their terrible stances on terrorism and their willingness to bargain with terrorist organizations. But until now, it has not been so obvious how far they were willing to go to win political points at the expense of sensible foreign and national security policy. Obama should be remembered for his consistent willingness to sell out America for personal fame, but his actions here demand a criminal investigation.