As we all know, the Iran Nuke Deal executed by the Obama administration has proven to be very controversial. In my opinion, we gave up a lot for very dubious benefits. Be that as it may, the purpose of this blog is not to argue the merits and demerits of that deal. Suffice to say, it is very controversial. Some people like it; others don’t.
The purpose of this blog is to examine a hidden aspect of this deal, one which we are now learning about that, heretofore, was hidden not only from the American people, but also from Congress as they voted on the deal. The following story was first reported by Politico’s Josh Meyer. It reflects very badly on the Obama administration, which pursued the Nuke Deal very aggressively and spent considerable political capital to finalize it. As is often the case with a negative story about the Obama Administration, CBS, NBC and ABC have ignored it. Only Fox has reported it extensively, so if you don’t watch Fox chances are you don’t know about it.
The essence of the story is as follows:
As we know, Hezbollah is a terrorist arm funded and supported by the Iranian government. Its members have been fighting alongside Iranian troops in Syria and Iraq. Iran has long employed Hezbollah operatives to foment terror attacks and has provided needed funding, sanctuary and other support for it.
Hezbollah had established a sizable drug trafficking and money laundering operation. A significant part of that operation was teaming up with Mexican drug cartels to sell drugs in the US.
This operation was providing a considerable amount of funds that were used to support Hezbollah’s terrorist activities.
The DEA was running a major investigation of that operation called “Operation Cassandra” and was closing in on key members of the group. Over an eight-year period, the DEA had employed wire taps, undercover operatives and informants. It had traced cocaine shipments through a labyrinthine route through Latin America, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and, finally, to the US. It had tied the network to the “innermost circle)[s]” of Hezbollah and Iran. It appears it had them “dead to rights.”
Shutting down the operation would have had a dual benefit: (1) Obviously, it would have significantly reduced the supply of drugs entering the US. (As an illustration of the gravity of the domestic drug problem I should like to denote that according to the CDC some 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses during the 12 month period ending January 2017.) (2) It would have denied Hezbollah of its primary source of revenue.
It appears that members of the Obama Administration, fearing the DEA operation might impair the delicate negotiations with Iran, shut down the DEA investigation. How? The Justice Department declined to file charges against any of the major players or a Lebanese Bank that was at the center of the money laundering scheme. Also, agents working on the operation were re-assigned.
One of Meyer’s sources was David Asher, who was one of the primary operatives in “Cassandra.” Asher told him the Administration “serially ripped apart [the] entire effort that was very well supported and resourced, and it was done from the top down.”
For example, the Czech government had arrested and was holding Ali Fayad for extradition to the US. Fayad had been indicted by US courts for murder and other serious crimes. Furthermore, the DEA suspected him to be a major Hezbollah operative in the drug network and a major weapons supplier in Iraq and Syria with a direct link to Vladimir Putin. Rather than pressuring the Czech government to extradite him, the Obama Administration stood down (perhaps, under lobbying pressure from Putin), and Fayad was released. Now, safely ensconced in Lebanon, he has returned to his old ways, supplying arms to Iranian-backed terrorists.
Another example concerns “the Ghost,” who is reputed to be one of the largest cocaine traffickers and arms dealers in the world. DEA officials claim the Obama Administration hindered their efforts to pursue him as well.
Of course, representatives of the Obama Administration who were willing to go on the record have disputed elements of this story, but such defenses appear weak. For example, spokesman Kevin Lewis, who worked at both the Justice Department and the Obama White House, denoted that other Hezbollah operatives were also arrested and held by other countries. True, but, Meyer reported that these arrests occurred after the nuke deal had been consummated.
There is considerably more to this story, but this is a blog, not a book, so I have only presented a brief summary. Those of us who remember the vigor with which the press pursued the Iran-Contra Deal and the weapons of mass destruction controversies during the Reagan and Bush 43 Administrations, respectively, hope the mainstream press will pursue this story with the same zeal. I won’t hold my breath.
In any event, there is no excuse for hiding this from the American people or, worse, from Congress as they were voting to approve the deal. As you may recall, the deal was very controversial, and the vote was close. It was “sold” as a means to get Iran to suspend its nuclear program (a dubious proposition) in return for just lifting sanctions. Later, we found out about a sizeable cash payment to Iran, which was bad enough. Now, this story, if true, casts a pall on the entire agreement and, by extension, President Obama’s legacy.