How far did the Obama administration go to reach a nuclear agreement with Iran?
An investigative report in Politico, “The secret backstory of how Obama let Hezbollah off the hook,” has gotten the attention of the US Congress because of its comprehensive documentation, centrist origin, and potentially devastating findings.
According to its author, Josh Meyer, “In its determination to secure a nuclear deal with Iran the Obama administration derailed an ambitious law enforcement campaign (Project Cassandra) targeting drug trafficking by the Iranian backed terrorist group Hezbollah, even as it was funneling cocaine into the United States.”
Did the Obama administration really impede a DEA probe into Hezbollah’s billion-dollar narcotics trafficking so as to not antagonize Iran during the secret negotiations? If true it might dwarf the Reagan- era Iran-Contra scandal because of the magnitude of what was given to the Iranians in the nuclear agreement.
Add to that the public disinformation campaign by Obama adviser Ben Rhodes, who bragged of deliberately manipulating the press to influence the passage of the Iran agreement, and how profoundly American national security interests will be affected for generations by the deal, and this potentially becomes a huge story.
What makes the report so credible is that it did not come from a right-wing media source, where it would have been quickly dismissed as another partisan attack, but arose from a respected centrist news source on Capitol Hill.
Leaving aside the liabilities of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), does it still matter if these allegations are true, knowing that the Iran agreement is a fait accompli and Obama is out of office?
Obama’s allies will defend his legacy no matter what, especially because the new president is so hated in their circles, and his policy on Iran is diametrically opposed to Obama’s.
In addition, Obama administration officials’ reputations are on the line and they have pre-emptively claimed this is much ado about nothing, telling like-minded members of the media that this is just another Republican political hatchet job on the former president.
Some Democrats, if they weren’t under a Trump administration, would be seriously interested in finding out the truth about impeding a massive narcotics operation in cooperation with a state sponsor of terrorism.
So are these allegations against the Obama administration plausible? The Obama administration strategy of rebalancing and realigning American interests to Iran began in 2009 with the abandonment of the Iranian people in the Green Revolution, refusing to see how fragile the Iranian government was.
When new sanctions were placed on Iran, the president watered down their full effect.
In Syria the president chose not to interfere with the Iranian- supported slaughter or its carving out the foundation for a land corridor to the Mediterranean Sea, as negotiations for a nuclear agreement were proceeding in secret.
The distancing of American allies was part of the appeasement of Iran. This realpolitik strategy might be excused if only the negotiated deal indefinitely stopped the Iranian nuclear program as promised.
Poor choices in foreign policy come with the territory for any administration, Republican or Democratic, and should not be challenged for purely political ends.
However, the profound national security implications of the way the deal was negotiated makes finding out the truth regarding the Obama-Hezbollah- Iran connection vital to our interests going forward.
Getting that truth in this toxic hyper-political environment in Washington will be difficult, as we live in an era where politics trumps national security.
So how far did the administration go in order to placate the Iranians during the negotiations? According to the Politico report, the State Department and the Justice Department were used as roadblocks to avoid criminal charges against money-laundering banks, and even a member of the Iranian Quds force, a designated terrorist organization.
Lets remember that Hezbollah is a transnational narco-terrorist organization that works with other criminal enterprises to traffic weapons, while laundering profits to sponsor terrorism.
The see-no-evil Europeans have created a distinction between the political and terrorist divisions of Hezbollah, allowing its “political” wing to operate freely in Europe. Let’s be clear: there is no distinction to anyone who isn’t deliberately morally obtuse.
This policy is analogous to differentiating the North Korea military and its narco-trafficking from its political wing, as if they were two independent entities.
Administration defenders have claimed enforcement of criminal inquiries and sanctions relating to Iran and Hezbollah were never diminished intentionally.
Derek Maltz, who oversaw Project Cassandra as the head of the DEA’s Special Operations Division ending in July 2014 said, “There is certainly an argument to be made that if tomorrow all the agencies were ordered to come together and sit in a room and put all the evidence on the table against all these bad guys, that there could be a hell of a lot of indictments.”
So what should be done going ahead?
Congress has already written new legislation urging Europe to end the false distinction between the terrorist and political arms of Hezbollah, while increasing sanctions.
Based on my meetings in Washington, the Trump administration needs to increase its funding to enforce Hezbollah and Iranian sanctions, and let its federal agencies know that this is an administrative priority to starve Hezbollah of funds. According to Vox, under Trump the “State Department eliminated the Coordinator for Sanctions Policy Office,” decreasing the staff from five to one.
There is currently a bipartisan consensus in Congress that understands Hezbollah is a criminal organization undermining American foreign policy interests.
Therefore even in this difficult political climate, Congress should be able to come together to write stronger legislation to unambiguously designate Hezbollah as a transnational criminal organization subject to RICO statutes. It should be fast-tracked in Congress and coordinated with the executive branch.
And yes, a thorough investigation to determine if the Obama administration crossed the line in its pursuit of an Iran nuclear agreement is mandatory.