How the Obama Administration Shielded Hizballah from Criminal Investigation to Protect the Iran Deal

Dec. 19 2017

In a detailed report, Josh Meyer explains how the Obama White House, for the sake of securing a nuclear deal with Tehran, stymied a major federal investigation that came close to dismantling the financing network of the Islamic Republic’s Lebanon-based proxy Hizballah.

The campaign, dubbed Project Cassandra, was launched in 2008 after the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) amassed evidence that Hizballah had transformed itself from a Middle East-focused military, political, [and terrorist] organization into an international crime syndicate that some investigators believed was collecting $1 billion a year from drug and weapons trafficking, money laundering, and other criminal activities.

Over the next eight years, agents . . . used wiretaps, undercover operations, and informants to map Hizballah’s illicit networks, with the help of 30 U.S. and foreign security agencies.

They followed cocaine shipments, some from Latin America to West Africa and on to Europe and the Middle East, and others through Venezuela and Mexico to the United States. They tracked the river of dirty cash as it was laundered by, among other tactics, buying American used cars and shipping them to Africa. And with the help of some key cooperating witnesses, the agents traced the conspiracy, they believed, to the innermost circle of Hizballah and its state sponsor, Iran.

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’s 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.

Among those active in protecting Hizballah was John Brennan, Barack Obama’s senior counterterrorism adviser and later CIA director, who argued that there were “moderate elements” within the terrorist group that the U.S. should strengthen.

In the course of the investigation, agents working with Cassandra uncovered Hizballah’s role in providing Iraqi insurgents with the sophisticated explosives that they used to kill hundreds of American soldiers. The same arms-trafficking network also supplied Iran with parts for its illegal nuclear and ballistic-missile programs. At its head was one Ali Fayad, who worked for the Russian-backed Yanukovych regime in Ukraine and was Vladimir Putin’s chief arms dealer, responsible for getting weapons to Syria to aid Bashar al-Assad. When DEA officials had Fayad in their sights, and pressured the State Department to arrange for his extradition, Foggy Bottom demurred.

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More about: Barack Obama, Drugs, Hizballah, Iran, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy

Palestinian Acceptance of Israel as the Jewish State Must Be a Prerequisite to Further Negotiations

Oct. 19 2018

In 1993, in the early days of the Oslo peace process, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) under Yasir Arafat accepted the “right of the state of Israel to exist in peace and security.” But neither it nor its heir, the Palestinians Authority, has ever accepted Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, or the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. Robert Barnidge explains why this distinction matters:

A Jewish state for the Jewish people, after all, was exactly what the [UN] General Assembly intended in November 1947 when it called for the partition of the Palestine Mandate into “the Arab state, the Jewish state, and the city of Jerusalem.”

Although the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state does not stand or fall on this resolution—in declaring the independence of Israel on the eve of the Sabbath on May 14, 1948, the Jewish People’s Council, [the precursor to the Israeli government], also stressed the Jewish people’s natural and historic rights—it reaffirms the legitimacy of Jewish national rights in (what was to become) the state of Israel.

The Palestinians have steadfastly refused to recognize Jewish self-determination. [Instead], the PLO [has been] playing a double game. . . . It is not simply that the PLO supported the General Assembly’s determination in 1975, rescinded in 1991, that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” It is that that the PLO leadership continues to speak of Jews as a religious community rather than a people, and of Zionism as a colonial usurper rather than the national liberation movement that it is.

The U.S. government, Barnidge concludes, “should demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace and security as a Jewish state” and refuse to “press Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians unless and until that happens.”

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Israel & Zionism, Peace Process, PLO, US-Israel relations, Yasir Arafat