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Five Facts You Need to Know About ‘Project Cassandra’

The Obama administration allowed Hezbollah terrorists to freely traffic drugs and launder money in order to broker the Iranian Nuclear Deal.

A new shadow looms over the legacy of the Obama presidency.  Echoing the scandal of Operation Fast and Furious, new investigative reporting has revealed that President Obama’s White House dismantled an operation targeting Hezbollah in order to get Tehran to agree to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the deal designed to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

What was Project Cassandra?

Launched in 2008, Project Cassandra was an operation led by the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) dedicated to reducing the amount of money the terror organization Hezbollah could raise via drug trafficking and money laundering.  Hezbollah has been designated by the US State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization since October 8th, 1997.  Over the last decade, Hezbollah has become increasingly involved with the trafficking of cocaine and other illegal drugs.

“These drug trafficking and money laundering schemes… provide a revenue and weapons stream for an international terrorist organization responsible for devastating terror attacks around the word.” – DEA Acting Deputy Administrator Jack Riley

How is Hezbollah connected to Iran?

Hezbollah is a Shi’a Islamic political party and terror organization based in Lebanon. Hezbollah was formed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in 1982 to fight Israel’s invasion of Beirut. They are recognized as a foreign terror organization by the United States, Canada, Israel, the United Kingdom, Australia, the European Union, the Arab League, and the Gulf Cooperation Council.  Hezbollah has been funded by and acted as a proxy for the Islamic Republic of Iran.  Hezbollah has launched proxy offensive operations on behalf of Iran in Iraq and Syria, as well as against Israel and Saudi Arabia.

What role did President Obama play in ending Project Cassandra?

According to DEA agents involved with Project Cassandra, officials inside the Obama administration routinely blocked their investigations in the period leading up to the final nuclear agreement with Iran.  The Obama administration began to delay or reject task force requests to arrest, prosecute, or impose financial sanctions as part of the operation.

“This was a policy decision, it was a systematic decision.” – Dr. David Asher, illicit finance expert who helped start Project Cassandra

In order to protect the nuclear deal, the Obama administration went so far as to allow a senior member of Hezbollah to return back to Lebanon, rather than pressuring the Czech government to have him extradited to the US after he was indicted for planning the murders of US government employees.  Ali Fayed is reportedly back in the arms dealing business, supplying fighters in Syria with heavy weapons.

After the deal was announced to the public, leaders inside Project Cassandra were immediately transferred to other unrelated assignments.  The bureaucratic dismantling came at a time when it was estimated that Hezbollah was collecting $1 billion a year from drugs and weapons trafficking.

Was Project Cassandra successful in the first place?

According to testimony before Congress last year, the Iranian-backed Lebanese terror group’s financial operations were thriving across South America, having made connections with drug cartels throughout the continent.  According to former DEA operations chief Michael Braun, Hezbollah had been moving multiple tons of cocaine from South America to Europe.  Braun called their money laundering operations “the most sophisticated money laundering scheme or schemes that we have ever witnessed.”

For almost a decade, the DEA led Project Cassandra, a multi-agency coordination center called the Special Operations Division.  The agency empowered law enforcement and intelligence communities to share information and cooperate much more efficiently than in the past.  Project Cassandra’s extensive successes include the shutting down of the Lebanese-Canadian Bank and indictment of a Hezbollah money launderer that was handling over $200 million in funds from Mexican and Colombian drug cartels.  Right before being administratively dismantled, Project Cassandra conducted a joint operation with European counterparts that shut down Hezbollah operations that were using cocaine sales to fund Syrian fighters.

Why did the Obama administration prevent Project Cassandra from conducting operations?

In the initial Politico expose, Josh Meyer quotes Obama treasury official Katherine Bauer as saying “under the Obama administration … these [Hezbollah-related] investigations were tamped down for fear of rocking the boat with Iran and jeopardizing the nuclear deal.” The success of Project Cassandra in targeting and eliminating Hezbollah operations became “problematic” for the negotiations leading up to the nuclear deal;  out of fear of the deal being sabotaged by DEA operations, the Obama White House took on a policy that would result in a deal, regardless of cost.

Obama had campaigned on promises of improving relations with Iran, as well as the rest of the Middle East.  He called previous administrations’ attempts to stop Iran’s nuclear program unsuccessful and promised a different, more direct approach.

Congressman Robert Pittenger has called on the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to conduct an investigation into the Obama administration’s interference with Project Cassandra.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Chris Erickson

Chris Erickson is a former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier. He spent over 10 years in the Army and performed multiple combat deployments, as well as various global training missions throughout the world. He is still active in the veteran community and currently works in the communications industry. Follow him @EricksonPrime on Twitter.

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