The Obama administration allowed Hezbollah terror group members to engage in drug-trafficking and money-laundering operations—including activities carried out within the United States—in a bid to secure a nuclear agreement with Iran, an extensive investigation conducted by Politico magazine reveals. The first part of the investigation was published Monday.
Project Cassandra was an ambitious law enforcement campaign launched in 2008 by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), aimed at targeting the Lebanese terror organization’s criminal activity.
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 terrorist 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 Politico, 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.
Under the Trump administration, the operation has picked back up.
A 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.