In 2008, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) launched an ambitious campaign against arms and drug trafficking into Syria by the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah. The campaign, called Project Cassandra, sought to track the activities of top Hezbollah operators involved in major international drug operations.
New revelations now show that as Project Cassandra progressed, the Obama administration took deliberate action to obstruct the investigation targeting Hezbollah. The reason? They didn’t want to offend Iran, a major sponsor of Hezbollah’s terrorist activities.
The goal of Project Cassandra was to track and monitor Hezbollah’s trafficking of illegal guns, drugs, money laundering, and other related activities, some of which were occurring within the United States.
When the DEA sought approval from Eric Holder’s Justice Department, they were met with a myriad of never-ending administrative and bureaucratic delays, hindrances, and denials of requests.
Former Defense Department finance analyst David Asher stated:
This was a policy decision, it was a systematic decision…they serially ripped apart this entire effort that was very well supported and resourced, and it was done from the top down.”
Investigators and members of Project Cassandra say Obama officials deliberately blocked and prevented their efforts to locate and track top Hezbollah operatives, most notably one of the world’s largest cocaine traffickers who coincidentally happened to also be a top supplier of chemical weapons to Syrian President Bashar Assad which would later be used against his own citizens.
But as 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.
Former Obama administration officials claim their actions were “guided by improving relations with Iran.” As Politico put it:
Obama had entered office in 2009 promising to improve relations with Iran as part of a broader rapprochement with the Muslim world. On the campaign trail, he had asserted repeatedly that the Bush administration’s policy of pressuring Iran to stop its illicit nuclear program wasn’t working, and that he would reach out to Tehran to reduce tensions..
In practice, the 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, according to Project Cassandra members and others.
This itself is damning. The Obama administration purposefully shielded a top terror organization that was trafficking in drugs and arms in order to appease Iran, a state sponsor of terror.
Obama made the Middle East and America less safe
Negotiation from a position of strength was apparently not Obama’s style. In fact, appeasement would be a better description for his foreign policy.
To all appearances, Iran wanted its nuclear deal, and Obama was willing to do what he could on his end to put a stop to any American operations in the Middle East that would adversely affect the deal. In confirmation of that fact, in January of 2016 when Obama announced the now infamous “Iran Deal,” Project Cassandra officials were all transferred to other projects and reassigned.
But does any of this really surprise us? It was Obama’s CIA Director John Brennan who said in a policy paper in 2008 that “the next president has the opportunity to set a new course for relations between the two countries” through not only a direct dialogue, but “greater assimilation of Hezbollah into Lebanon’s political system.”
Dialogue and assimilation with Hezbollah? Wasn’t Hezbollah designatedas a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the Clinton Administration in October of 1997? Wasn’t Hezbollah also condemned by 22 member states of the Arab League not a month ago as a terrorist organization?
Two years later when Brennan was assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism (ironically) he remarked that the administration was looking for ways to “build up moderate elements” within Hezbollah.
It was either arrogance or naivete on Obama’s part to think that he could make peace with one of the most notorious terrorist organizations in the entire world. This type of flagrantly incompetent foreign policy has done more than its share to destabilize the entire region.
Catch and Release
In one example of the Obama adminsitration’s approach, Lebanese arms dealer Ali Fayad, a Ukraine-based arms dealer who Project Cassandra investigators suspected of being a Hezbollah operative moving large caches of weapons to Syria, was arrested in Prague in the spring of 2014.
Fayad was held by the Czech Republic but never extradited to the United States by Obama and Holder’s Justice Department despite having been indicted in U.S. courts on charges of masterminding the murders of U.S. government employees, providing material support to terrorist organizations in both the Middle East and South America, and attempting to acquire, sell and use anti-aircraft missiles.
U.S. officials today now believe him to be back in business on the battlefield helping to arm Hezbollah militants in Syria and similar groups across the Middle East with Russian-supplied weapons.