The Obama administration obstructed a law enforcement campaign, targeting drug trafficking by the Iranian-backed “Hezbollah” group in its determination to secure a nuclear deal with Iran, according to a POLITICO investigation.
Based on documents and interviews with former and current high-ranking US officials, the American magazine explained how “Hezbollah” had transformed itself from a Middle East-focused military and political organization into an international crime syndicate that some investigators believed was collecting $1 billion a year from drug and weapons trafficking, money laundering and other criminal activities.
The campaign was dubbed Project Cassandra and was launched in 2008.
The magazine said that the Justice Department and the State Department declined requests 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 US-based cell of the Iranian paramilitary Quds force.
“The US State Department rejected requests to lure high-value targets to countries where they could be arrested,” the magazine wrote.
Eight years from 2008, agents used wiretaps, undercover operations and informants to map “Hezbollah’s” illicit networks, with the help of 30 US and foreign security agencies.
“The agents traced the conspiracy, they believed, to the innermost circle of ‘Hezbollah’ and its state sponsors in Iran,” the magazine said.
Evidence also showed that “Hezbollah” is linked to more than a $480 million laundering scheme.
The money, allegedly laundered through the Lebanese Canadian Bank and two exchange houses, involved approximately 30 US car buyers.
According to POLITICO, the Obama administration’s willingness to envision a new role for “Hezbollah” in the Middle East, combined with its desire for a negotiated settlement to Iran’s nuclear program, translated into a reluctance to move aggressively against the top “Hezbollah” operatives.