Thursday, December 21, 2017

A Tale of Collusion : Obama and Hezbollah (2)

THE REAL NEWS ABOUT THE OBAMA - HEZBOLLAH COLLUSION. Politico's Josh Meyer on Monday published serious allegations about the Obama administration 'go-slow' attitude toward Hezbollah criminal actions inside the US because President Obama didn't want to endanger his Iran nuclear deal. • The Meyer report also describes Hezbollah's international operations, branching out from Lebanon to extend its criminal reach to Latin America, Africa and the United States. • • • HEZBOLLAH INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES. Meyer describes an event on February 12, 2008 : "the CIA and Israeli intelligence detonated a bomb in the car of Imad Mughniyeh, the Hezbollah mastermind who oversaw its international operations and, the DEA says, its drug trafficking, as head of its military wing, the Islamic Jihad Organization. Mughniyeh's car was leaving a celebration of the 29th anniversary of the Iranian revolution in Damascus, Syria. He was killed instantly, in a major blow to Hezbollah, but soon after, wiretapped phone lines and other US evidence showed that his criminal operation was busier than ever, and overseen by two trusted associates, according to interviews with former Project Cassandra officials and DEA documents." One of Murghniyeh's successors was financier Adham Tabaja, a Lebanese businessman, and says Politico, the "alleged co-leader of Hezbollah Business Affairs Component and key figure directly tying Hezbollah’s commercial and terrorist activities." The other successor, according to Politico interviews and document review, was Abdallah Safieddine, the key link between Hezbollah -- run by his cousin, Hassan Nasrallah and his own brother Hashem -- and Iran, Hezbollah’s state sponsor, which saw the group as its strategic ally in defending shiite Moslems in the largely sunni Moslem states that surround it. Politico says : "Investigators were also homing in on several dozen key players underneath them who acted as 'super-facilitators' for the various criminal operations benefitting Hezbollah, Iran and, at times, their allies in Iraq, Syria, Venezuela and Russia. But it was Safieddine, a low-key, bespectacled man with a diplomatic bearing, who was their key point of connection from his base in Teheran, investigators believed." DEA Colombia and Venezuela investigations "linked him to numerous international drug smuggling and money laundering networks, and especially to one of the biggest the DEA had ever seen, led by Medellin-based Lebanese businessman Ayman Saied Joumaa, an accused drug kingpin and financier whose vast network allegedly smuggled tons of cocaine into the US with Mexico’s Zetas cartel and laundered money." Joumaa’s network, says Politico : "rang alarm bells in Washington when agents discovered he was working with Mexico’s brutal Los Zetas cartel to move multi-ton loads of cocaine directly into the United States, and washing $200 million a month in criminal proceeds with the help of 300 or so used car dealerships. The network would funnel huge amounts of money to the dealerships to purchase used cars, which would then be shipped to Benin, on Africa’s west coast." • Hezbollah's drug and money-laundering scheme is painted this way by Meyer's DEA sources : Drugs from Colombia and Venezuela were shipped to the US via Mexico and sold. Used cars were bought in the US, shipped to West Africa for resale, and the used car proceeds couriered to Lebanon, The newly laundered money was then returned to the US to buy used cars, thus putting one part of the circular scheme in place. Drugs were also sent from Colombia and Venezuela to Europe via West Africa, and the money was laundered either in Europe or in Lebanon for re-use in buying drugs in Venezuela and Colombia, as the circular trade continued. • As the DEA tracked this trade, David Asher contacted them. Asher, according to Politico, was a veteran US illicit finance expert sent from the Pentagon to Project Cassandra to attack the alleged Hezbollah criminal enterprise -- Asher had been at Special Operations Command tracking the money used to provide Iraqi shiite militias with sophisticated weapons for use against US troops, including the new and lethal IED known as the “Explosively Formed Penetrator,” whose armor-piercing charges were so powerful that they ripped M1 Abrams tanks in half. Asher’s curiosity had been piqued by evidence linking the IED network to phone numbers intercepted in the Colombia investigation. Before long, he traced the unusual alliance to a number allegedly used by Safieddine in Iran. Asher said he "had no clue who he was. But this guy was sending money into Iraq, to kill American soldiers.” Meyer says thanks to that chance connection, the Pentagon’s then-head of counter-narcotics, William Wechsler, lent Asher and a few other Defense Department experts in tracking illicit money to the DEA : "to see what they might find. It was a fruitful partnership. Asher was accustomed to toiling in the financial shadows. During his 20-plus years of US government work, his core expertise was in exposing money laundering and schemes to avoid financial sanctions by rogue nation states, terrorist groups, organized-crime cartels and weapons proliferation networks....his work was strictly classified. For Project Cassandra, however, he got special dispensation from the Pentagon to build networks of unclassified information so it could be used in criminal prosecutions. Asher and his team quickly integrated cutting-edge financial intelligence tools into the various DEA investigations. With the US military’s help, agents translated thousands of hours of intercepted phone conversations from Colombia in Arabic that no one had considered relevant until the Hezbollah links appeared." • The surprise came when the translations painted a picture of Safieddine, Hezbollah’s longtime envoy to Iran, whose alleged “Business Affairs Component” involving international drug trafficking seemed to operate with him as the human hub of a criminal enterprise with spokes emanating from Teheran into Latin America, Africa, Europe and the United States via hundreds of legitimate businesses and front companies. Safieddine did not respond to requests from Meyer for comment....a Hezbollah official, however, denied that the organization was involved in drug dealing : “Sheik Nasrallah has confirmed lots of times that it is not permitted religiously for Hezbollah members to be trafficking drugs. It is something that is preventable, in that we in Islam have things like halal [permitted] and haram [prohibited]. For us, this is haram. So in no way is it possible to be done.” The Hezbollah official called the accusation that Hezbollah is involved in drug trafficking “part of the campaign to distort the image of Hezbollah as a resistance movement against the Israelis. Of course, it is possible to have Lebanese people involved in drugs, but it is not possible for them to be members of Hezbollah. This is absolutely not possible.” • But, the Meyer Politico report says that while : "Safieddine’s cousin Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, has publicly rejected the idea that Hezbollah needs to raise money at all, through drugs or any other criminal activity, because Iran provides whatever funds it needs. Safieddine himself, however, suggested otherwise in 2005, when he defiantly refuted the Bush administration’s accusations that Iran and Syria supplied Hezbollah with weapons. Those countries provided 'political and moral' support only, he told Agence France-Presse, adding, “We don’t need to arm ourselves from Teheran. Why bring weapons from Iran via Syria when we can procure them anywhere in the world?” • Meyer says Safieddine was right : "Agents found evidence that weapons were flowing to Hezbollah from many channels, including networks that trafficked in both drugs and weapons. And using the same trafficking networks that hummed with drugs, cash and commercial products, agents concluded, Safieddine was overseeing Hezbollah efforts to help Iran procure parts and technology for its clandestine nuclear and ballistic missile programs." • • • US INTEL IN-FIGHTING? The DEA role was not appreciated by other US Intel groups, according to Meyer : "Much of the early turbulence stemmed from an escalating turf battle between federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies over which ones had primacy in the global war on terrorism, especially over a so-called hybrid target like Hezbollah, which was both a criminal enterprise and a national security threat. The 'cops' from the FBI and DEA wanted to build criminal cases, throw Hezbollah operatives in prison and get them to turn on each other. That stoked resentment among the 'spooks' at the CIA and National Security Agency, who for 25 years had gathered intelligence, sometimes through the painstaking process of having agents infiltrate Hezbollah, and then occasionally launching assassinations and cyberattacks to block imminent threats." • And, says the Meyer Politico report, there was the State Department, "which often wanted to quash both law-enforcement actions and covert operations due to the political backlash they created. Hezbollah, after all, was a leading political force in Lebanon and a provider of human services, with a sincere grass-roots following that wasn’t necessarily aware of its unsavory actions. Nowhere was the tension between law enforcement and diplomacy more acute than in dealings with Hezbollah, which was fast becoming a key part of the Lebanese government." • As an example, Meyer reported that at the end of the Bush administration : "a DEA agent’s cover was blown just as he was about to become a Colombian cartel’s main cocaine supplier to the Middle East -- and to Hezbollah operatives. A year later, under Obama, the State Department blocked an FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force from luring a key eyewitness from Beirut to Philadelphia so he could be arrested and turned against Safieddine. In both cases, law enforcement agents suspected that Middle East-based spies in the CIA had torpedoed their investigations to protect their politically sensitive and complicated relationship with Hezbollah. The CIA declined to comment [to Meyer]....The Obama State Department and Justice Department also declined to comment in response to detailed requests about their dealings with Hezbollah." • • • OPERATION TITAN. An early flash point was Operation Titan, a joint investigation with Colombian authorities into a global money-laundering and drug-trafficking alliance between Latin American traffickers and Lebanese operatives. Meyer states : "After its undercover agent was compromised, DEA and Colombian authorities scrambled to build cases against as many as 130 traffickers, including a Colombian cartel leader and a suspected Safieddine associate named Chekry Harb, nicknamed El Taliban. For months afterward, the Justice Department rebuffed requests by [Cassandra] task force agents, and some of its own prosecutors, to add narco-terrorism charges to the drug and money-laundering counts against Harb, several sources involved in the case said. Agents argued that they had evidence that would easily support the more serious charges. Moreover, Harb’s prosecution was an essential building block in their larger plan for a sustained legal assault against Hezbollah’s criminal network....a prosecution under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), that would increase the severity of penalties for crimes committed as part of organized crime....A RICO case would give the task force the ability to tie many seemingly unconnected conspiracies together, and prosecute the alleged bosses overseeing them, like Safieddine, participants say. It would also allow authorities to seize potentially billions in assets, they say, and to use the threat of far longer prison terms to wring more cooperation out of Harb and others already charged or convicted. After the Justice Department’s final refusal to bring narco-terrorism charges against Harb, Kelly sent an angry email to the DEA leadership warning that Justice’s 'obstruction' would have 'far reaching implications including threats to our National Security' given Hezbollah’s mushrooming criminal activity." • • • THE OBAMA IRAN AGENDA KICKS IN. Politico says a lot of DEA information was : "shared with other law enforcement and intelligence agencies -- and the White House....But by early 2009, Obama’s national security team batted down Project Cassandra’s increasingly urgent warnings as being overly alarmist, counter-productive or untrue, or simply ignored them, according to Kelly, Asher, and other participants in and out of government." By following the money, Asher had become convinced that the Cassandra task force was not overhyping the threat posed by Hezbollah’s criminal activities -- rather, "it was significantly underestimating it. Because Hezbollah’s drug trafficking was bankrolling its Islamic Jihad military wing and joint ventures with Iran, as Asher would later testify before Congress, it represented 'the largest material support scheme for terrorism operations' the world had ever seen. Foreign and resident bank deposits in Lebanese Central Bank grew despite war and global financial crisis, suggesting to investigators that drug proceeds were flooding the financial system." • Politico states : "Privately, Asher began to tell task force colleagues, the best way to take down the entire criminal enterprise...was to go after its money, and the financial institutions assisting it. Their first target would be one of the world’s fastest-growing banks, the Beirut-based Lebanese Canadian Bank and its $5 billion in assets." Asher knew how to successfully take down the financial underpinnings of an illicit, state-sponsored trafficking network because he’d already done -- as the Bush administration’s point man on North Korea, when he used the post-9/11 Patriot Act to cut off Pyongyang by going after Banco Delta Asia, a Macau-based bank that made illicit financial transactions on behalf of the North Korean regime. • In Beirut, according to Politico, "Asher and his team worked with an Israeli intelligence operation to penetrate the Lebanese bank’s inner workings and diagram its Byzantine money flows." [See yesterday's blog about Israel and the bank.] They gathered evidence showing how Ayman Saied Joumaa’s network alone was laundering $200 million per month in 'bulk proceeds of drug sales' through the bank and various money exchange houses, according to Justice and Treasury department documents. Much of the freshly laundered cash, the records show, was then wired to about 300 US used-car dealers to buy and ship thousands of vehicles to West Africa." • Cassandra task force agents also documented "how Safieddine was a financial liaison providing Hezbollah -- and, of potentially huge significance, Iran -- with VIP services at the bank, including precious access to the international financial system in violation of US sanctions, according to those records." • The Cassandra task force worked closely with federal prosecutors in a new Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit in the Justice Department’s Southern District of New York, as Meyer outlines it in his Politico report : "The Manhattan prosecutors agreed to file criminal charges against the bank and two senior officials that they hoped to turn into cooperating witnesses against Hezbollah and Safieddine, several participants said. Federal authorities filed a civil action against the bank in February 2011 and later seized $102 million, ultimately forcing it to shut down and sell its assets without admitting wrongdoing. But the Justice Department never filed the criminal charges, and also stymied investigations into other financial institutions and individuals that task force agents targeted as part of the planned RICO case." • The Obama White House, according to Politico, said privately that it "feared a broader assault on Lebanese financial institutions would destabilize the country." But without the threat of prison time, complicit bank officials "clammed up." And without pressure on the many other financial institutions in Lebanon and the region, Hezbollah "simply moved its banking business elsewhere." • Soon afterward, Kelly told Politico, he ran into one of the unit’s top prosecutors and asked if there was : “something going on with the White House that explains why we can’t get a criminal filing. 'You don’t know the half of it,' the prosecutor replied, according to Kelly. 'Right now, we have 50 FBI agents not doing anything because they know their Iran cases aren’t going anywhere,' including investigations around the US into allegedly complicit used-car dealers.' " • By the end of 2012, Meyer reports that "senior officials at the Justice Department’s National Security and Criminal divisions, and at the State Department and National Security Council, had shut down, derailed or delayed numerous other Hezbollah-related cases with little or no explanation, according to Asher, Kelly, Maltz and other current and former participating officials. Agents discovered 'an entire Quds force network' in the US, laundering money, moving drugs and illegally smuggling Bell helicopters, night-vision goggles and other items for Iran, Asher said. 'We crashed to indict' the elite Iranian unit, and while some operatives were eventually prosecuted, other critically important indictments 'were rejected despite the fact that we had excellent evidence and testifying witnesses,' said Asher, who helped lead the investigation." • Meanwhile, according to Meyer : "In Philadelphia, the FBI-led task force had spent two years bolstering its case claiming that Safieddine had overseen an effort to purchase 1,200 military-grade assault rifles bound for Lebanon, with the help of Kelly and the special narco-terrorism prosecutors in New York. Now, they had two key eyewitnesses. One would identify Safieddine as the Hezbollah official...who approved the assault weapons deal. And an agent and prosecutor had flown to a remote Asian hotel and spent four days persuading another eyewitness to testify about Safieddine’s role in an even bigger weapons and drugs conspiracy, multiple former law enforcement officials confirmed to Politico. Convinced they had a strong case, the New York prosecutors sent a formal prosecution request to senior Justice Department lawyers in Washington, as required in such high-profile cases. The Justice Department rejected it...the FBI and DEA agents were never told why, those former officials said. Justice Department officials declined to comment." • • • OBAMA POLICY : STAND DOWN ON HEZBOLLAH. After Obama won re-election in November 2012, Politico says "the administration’s pushback on Hezbollah drug cases became more overt, and now seemed to be emanating directly from the White House, according to task force members, some former US officials and other observers. One reason, they said, was Obama’s choice of a new national security team. • The appointment of John Kerry as Secretary of State was widely viewed as a sign of a redoubled effort to engage with Iran. Obama’s appointment of John Brennan -- the public supporter of cultivating Hezbollah moderates -- as CIA director, and the President’s choice of DOJ top national security lawyer, Lisa Monaco, to replace Brennan as the White House counter-terrorism and homeland security advisor..."put two more strong proponents of diplomatic engagement with Iran in key positions." • Another factor, according to Meyer : "was the victory of reformist candidate Hassan Rouhani as president of Iran that summer, which pushed the talks over a possible nuclear deal into high gear. The administration’s eagerness for an Iran deal was broadcast through so many channels, task force members say, that political appointees and career officials at key agencies like Justice, State and the National Security Council felt unspoken pressure to view the task force’s efforts with skepticism. • One former senior Justice Department official confirmed to Politico that some adverse decisions might have been influenced by an informal multi-agency Iran working group that 'assessed the potential impact' of criminal investigations and prosecutions on the nuclear negotiations....Some Obama officials warned that further crackdowns against Hezbollah would destabilize Lebanon. Others warned that such actions would alienate Iran at a critical early stage of the serious Iran deal talks. And some officials, including Monaco, said the administration was concerned about retaliatory terrorist or military actions by Hezbollah, task force members said." • One former Obama national security official told Meyer : “That was the established policy of the Obama administration internally,...the reluctance to go after Hezbollah for fear of reprisal. He said he criticized it at the time as being misguided and hypocritical. 'We’re obviously doing those actions against al Qaida and ISIS all the time,' the Obama official said. 'I thought it was bad policy that limited the range of options we had,' including criminal prosecutions." • Cassandra task force agents told Politico they tried "to work around the obstacles presented by the Justice and State Departments and the White House," often choosing to build relatively simple drug and weapons cases against suspects rather than the ambitious narco-terrorism prosecutions that required the approval of senior Justice Department lawyers, as interviews and records show. • But, at the same time, they redoubled efforts to build a RICO case. Their ace in the hole, Kelly and Asher said they told Justice officials, wasn’t some "dramatic drug bust," but "thousands of individual financial transactions, each of which constituted an overt criminal act under RICO. Much of this evidence grew out of the Lebanese Canadian Bank investigation, including details of how an army of couriers for years had been transporting billions of dollars in dirty US cash from West African car dealerships to friendly banks in Beirut....The couriers were lugging suitcases stuffed with as much as $2 million each, and the task force was on the tail of every one of them....on-the-ground spadework, combined with its worldwide network of court-approved communications intercepts, gave Project Cassandra agents virtual omniscience over some aspects of the Hezbollah criminal network....they watched with growing alarm as Hezbollah accelerated its global expansion that the drug money helped finance." • • • HEZBOLLAH AND IRAN EXPANSION. We all know that Iran and Hezbollah move military paraphenalia and soldiers and weapons into Syria. And, we know that Obama's precipitous US military withdrawal from Iraq allowed Iran, with the help of Hezbollah, to consolidate its control and influence over wide swaths of Iraq and Syria. • But, Meyer states : "Iran and Hezbollah began making similar moves into Yemen and other sunni-controlled countries, and Hezbollah networks in Africa trafficked not just in drugs, weapons and used cars, but diamonds, commercial merchandise and even human slaves, according to interviews with former Project Cassandra members and a review of Treasury Department documents. Hezbollah and the Quds force also were moving into China and other new markets." But, according to Meyer : "Project Cassandra’s agents were most alarmed, by far, by the havoc Hezbollah and Iran were wreaking in Latin America....[where] Hezbollah and Iran cultivated alliances with governments along the 'cocaine corridor' from the tip of South America to Mexico, to turn them against the United States. The strategy worked in Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela, which evicted the DEA, shuttering strategic bases and partnerships that had been a bulwark in the US counter-narcotics campaign. In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez was personally working with then-Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Hezbollah on drug trafficking and other activities aimed at undermining US influence in the region, according to interviews and documents." • Within a few years, Venezuelan cocaine exports skyrocketed from 50 tons a year to 250, much of it bound for American cities, as shown by UN Office of Drugs and Crime statistics. And, says Meyer : "Beginning in 2007, DEA agents watched as a commercial jetliner from Venezuela’s state-run Conviasa airline flew from Caracas to Teheran via Damascus, Syria, every week with a cargo-hold full of drugs and cash. They nicknamed it 'Aeroterror,' they said, because the return flight often carried weapons and was packed with Hezbollah and Iranian operatives whom the Venezuelan government would provide with fake identities and travel documents on their arrival. From there, the operatives spread throughout the subcontinent and set up shop in the many recently opened Iranian consulates, businesses and mosques, former Project Cassandra agents said. BUT, when the Obama administration had opportunities to secure the extradition of two of the biggest players in that conspiracy, it failed to press hard enough to get them extradited to the United States, where they would face charges, task force officials told Politico." • The DEA task force actually arrested two kingpins, Meyer said -- Syrian-born Venezuelan businessman Walid Makled, alias the “king of kingpins,” who was arrested in Colombia in 2010 on charges of shipping 10 tons of cocaine a month to the United States -- while in custody, Makled claimed to have 40 Venezuelan generals on his payroll and evidence implicating dozens of top Venezuelan officials in drug trafficking and other crimes. He pleaded to be sent to New York as a protected, cooperating witness, but Colombia -- a staunch US ally -- extradited him to Venezuela. The other was retired Venezuelan general and former chief of intelligence Hugo Carvajal, arrested in Aruba on US drug charges. Carvajal was "the main man between Venezuela and Iran, the Quds force, Hezbollah and the cocaine trafficking,” Kelly said, adding, “If we had gotten our hands on either of them, we could have taken down the entire network.” • • • THE OBAMA- IRAN NEGOTIATIONS. As Iran nuclear deal negotiations heated up, the Obama administration "pushed back against Project Cassandra," says Meyer, adding "Project Cassandra’s years of relentless investigation had produced a wealth of evidence about Hezbollah’s global operations, a clear window into how its hierarchy worked and some significant sanctions by the Treasury Department. • A confidential DEA assessment from that period concluded that Hezbollah’s business affairs entity 'has leveraged relationships with corrupt foreign government officials and transnational criminal actors...creating a network that can be utilized to move metric ton quantities of cocaine, launder drug proceeds on a global scale, and procure weapons and precursors for explosives.' ” • An excerpt of a Confidential DEA assessment familiar to Meyer sources stated that Hezbollah “has at its disposal one of the most capable networks of actors coalescing elements of transnational organized crime with terrorism in the world." Some top US military officials shared those concerns, including the four-star generals heading US Special Operations and Southern Commands, who warned Congress that Hezbollah’s criminal operations and growing beachhead in Latin America posed an urgent threat to US security." • The Politico report says : "Kelly and other task force members...welcomed the opportunity to attend a May 2014 summit meeting of Obama national security officials at Special Operations Command headquarters in Tampa, Florida....The summit, and several weeks of interagency prep that preceded it, however, prompted even more pushback from some top national security officials. Lisa Monaco expressed concerns about using RICO laws against top Hezbollah leaders and about the possibility of reprisals, according to several people familiar with the summit....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." • After the meeting in Tampa, "the administration made it clear that it would not support a RICO case, even though Asher and others told Meyer they’d spent years gathering evidence for it. Also, a top intelligence official blocked the inclusion of Project Cassandra’s memo on the Hezbollah drug threat from being included in Obama’s daily threat briefing, they said. And Kelly, Asher and other agents said they stopped getting invitations to interagency meetings, including those of a top Obama transnational crime working group. That may have been because Obama officials dropped Hezbollah from the formal list of groups targeted by a special White House initiative into transnational organized crime, which in turn effectively eliminated DEA’s broad authority to investigate it overseas, task force members said." • After the Tampa meeting, Project Cassandra leaders....struck out repeatedly, they said, in obtaining the administration’s unseal the secret indictments of others....And task force officials pushed the Obama team, also unsuccessfully, to use US aid money and weapons sales as leverage to push Lebanon into adopting an extradition treaty and handing over all of the indicted Hezbollah suspects living openly in the country, they said." Kelly told Meyer : "Despite the DEA’s creation of a multi-agency 'Iran-Hezbollah Super Facilitator Initiative' in 2013, only the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection was sharing information and resources. 'The FBI and other parts of the USG [US Government] provide a little or no assistance during our investigations,' Kelly wrote the same in an email." • Douglas Farah, a transnational crime analyst, told Politico he tried to raise the Project Cassandra investigations with Obama officials -- to corroborate his own on-the-ground research -- without success : “When it looked like the [nuclear] agreement might actually happen, it became clear that there was no interest in dealing with anything about Iran or Hezbollah on the ground that it may be negative, that it might scare off the Iranians.” • Asher and others, according to Meyer, began hearing “from multiple people involved in the Iran discussions that this Hezbollah stuff was definitely getting in the way of a successful negotiation,” he said. One Obama national security official even said so explicitly in the same State Department meeting in which he boasted about how the administration was bringing together a broad coalition in the Middle East, including Hezbollah, to fight the Islamic State terrorist group, Asher recalled." • Indeed, the United States was seeking Iran’s help in taking on ISIS. As the nuclear deal negotiations were intensifying ahead of a November 2014 diplomatic deadline, Obama himself secretly wrote to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to say the two countries had a mutual interest in fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. • Secretary Kerry, overseeing the negotiations, rejected suggestions that the nuclear deal was linked to other issues affecting the US-Iranian relationship : “The nuclear negotiations are on their own....And no discussion has ever taken place about linking one thing to another.” But even some former CIA officials told Meyer the negotiations were affecting their dealings in the Middle East and those of the DEA : "DEA operations in the Middle East were shut down repeatedly due to political sensitivities, especially in Lebanon, according to one former CIA officer working in the region. He said pressure from the White House also prompted the CIA to declare 'a moratorium' on covert operations against Hezbollah in Lebanon, too, for a time, after the administration received complaints from Iranian negotiators. '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,' the former CIA officer told Politico. 'It was a strategic decision to show good faith toward the Iranians in terms of reaching an agreement.' The Obama team 'really, really, really wanted the deal,' the former officer said. As a result, 'We were making concessions that had never been made before, which is outrageous to anyone in the agency,' the former intelligence officer said, adding that the orders from Washington especially infuriated CIA officers in the field who knew that Hezbollah 'was still doing assassinations and other terrorist activities.' ” • An Obama national security official involved in the Iran deal told Meyer : "That the Iranians would ask for a favor in this realm and that we would acquiesce is ludicrous.” • • • THE AFTERMATH OF OBAMA'S IRAN DEAL. Kelly told Meyer he was transferred against his wishes to a gang unit at DEA headquarters, retiring months later on the first day he was eligible. Other key agents and analysts also transferred out on their own accord, in some cases in order to receive promotions, or after being told by DEA leaders that they had been at the Special Operations Division for too long, according to Kelly, Asher, Maltz and others. • Meanwhile, says Meyer : "The Obama administration was resisting demands that it produce a long-overdue intelligence assessment that Congress had requested as a way of finally resolving the interagency dispute over Hezbollah’s role in drug trafficking and organized crime. It wasn’t just a bureaucratic exercise. More than a year earlier, Congress -- concerned that the administration was whitewashing the threat posed by Hezbollah -- passed the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act...[that] required the White House to lay out in writing its plans for designating Hezbollah a 'significant transnational criminal organization.' The White House delegated responsibility for the report to the office of the director of National Intelligence [James Clapper], prompting immediate accusations by the task force and its allies that the administration was stacking the deck against such a determination, and against Project Cassandra..." • The Obama administration final report remains classified, but Meyer says it "significantly downplayed Hezbollah’s operational links to drug trafficking, which in turn further marginalized the DEA’s role in fighting it, according to a former Justice Department official and others familiar with the report." • And, in the final Obama Iran deal "legacy," Hezbollah -- with Iran, Russia and the Assad regime -- as Meyer says, "continues to help train shiite militants...and to undermine US efforts in Iraq, according to US officials. It also continues its expansion in Latin America and, DEA officials said, its role in trafficking cocaine and other drugs into the United States....In West Africa, satellite imagery has documented that the Hezbollah used-car money-laundering operation is bigger than ever, Asher told lawmakers in recent testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee." • • • DEAR READERS, Townhall wrote on Monday : "An ambitious US task force targeting Hezbollah's billion-dollar criminal enterprise ran headlong into the White House's desire for a nuclear deal with Iran....As we know, this is not the first report to suggest the Obama administration went to great lengths to secure the nuclear deal. A New York Times Magazine report revealed that former deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes intentionally mislead the American people and 'manufactured' a story about how Iranian leadership had new, moderate voices. 'The idea that there was a new reality in Iran was politically useful to the Obama administration,' the Times wrote." • But, in October 2017, President Trump did not re-certify the Iran nuclear agreement -- the deal will be reviewed by Congress and if sufficient changes are not made, the US will officially back out. • And, in possibly good news, Legal Insurrection reported on Wednesday that Politico’s Meyer bombshell report is leading to a congressional investigation, quoting the Washington Free Beacon. The Politico report states that Obama allowed Hezbollah to run cocaine through the US as a bargaining chip to secure the awful Iran deal. And, lawmakers are launching an investigation into Obama-era efforts to thwart a longstanding US investigation into the Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah, according to multiple congressional officials and insiders who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon. The Obama administration worked behind the scenes to stop a decade-long DEA investigation into Hezbollah and its highly lucrative drug trade in Latin America, according to the Politico report. Obama officials are believed to have run interference on the investigation in order to avoid upsetting Iran and jeopardizing the landmark nuclear deal. Senior Obama officials in the Treasury and Justice Departments are said to have undermined the DEA investigation at multiple junctures in order to avoid angering Hezbollah’s patron Iran and jeopardizing the nuclear agreement. Congress is now taking steps to formally investigate the reports, which multiple sources described to the Free Beacon as part of a larger Obama administration effort to overlook Iran’s global terror operations in order to cement the nuclear deal. • Despite the report’s implications, most US major media outlets have not covered the story. • It is time for a serious investigation of the damage Obama and his Iran deal inflicted on America and its citizens.

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