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Did The Iran Deal Lead Obama To Stop Fighting Hezbollah Cocaine Trafficking?

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Several Obama administration-era security officials are claiming that the administration’s pursuit of the Iran nuclear deal frustrated their pursuit of what they described as Hezbollah’s expanding drug-dealing empire.

In a long article published over the weekend, Politico quoted three officials who ran Operation Cassandra, a task force principally run by the Drug Enforcement Agency, as saying their efforts to bring down the Lebanon-based terror group’s drug-running network was derailed in part because of the progress made by the administration during its second term in securing the nuclear agreement.

The network, they said, was particularly expansive in Latin America, and financed Hezbollah’s arms purchases and terror operations.

Obama administration officials quoted in the article denied that the Iran deal drove the obstructions faced by the former Cassandra officials, saying that interagency spats and broader concerns about U.S. interests caused the problems.

The assessments by the three officials are based on their recall of interactions with other unnamed officials during Obama’s two terms and their impressions.

“They will believe until death that we were shut down because of the Iran deal,” Derek Maltz, who headed DEA’s Special Operations Division until 2014, said of his colleagues. “My gut feeling? My instinct as a guy doing this for 28 years is that it certainly contributed to why we got pushed aside and picked apart. There is no doubt in my mind.”

There were a number of arrests and prosecutions during the period the article covers, but the agents said their requests for broader racketeering prosecutions — which would have allowed them to piece together disparate alleged crimes into a conspiracy — were consistently turned down and that diplomatic support was lacking.

The Iran nuclear deal traded sanctions relief for Iran’s rollback of its nuclear program. Israel’s government and a number of pro-Israel groups vehemently criticized the deal.

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