By: Heshmat Alavi
Al Arabiya, 25 December 2017-- Long ago I wrote explaining how Congress is taking the lead on Iran policy. Recently, major developments involving the United States, Iran, and the entire Middle East have placed the powerful US legislative body before obligations in the face of arguably the world’s most dangerous regime.
At a time when Iran’s foreign meddling and ballistic missile drive continues to raise eyebrows out of deep concern, an important spotlight is being focused on a shadowy aspect of Tehran’s notorious schemes.
Politico released what has been described as a bombshell, exposing how Iran literally demanded the Obama administration facilitate a major drug trafficking/money-laundering campaign across four continents.
While senior Obama administration officials must be held accountable for their ties with the terrorist Lebanese Hezbollah, the main issue at hand is how to tackle the root: Iran.
Congress has called on the Department of Justice to provide, no later than 5 pm on January 8th, 2018, all documents and communications in any way related to Obama officials literally bending backward and allowing Hezbollah to flood US homeland with drugs. Lawmakers also have demanded a DOJ briefing on the subject no later than Jan. 12th, 2018.
In response to a request filed by Representatives Jim Jordan and Ron De Santis, reports indicate US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered a review into Project Cassandra, the decade-long Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) initiative said to be hindered by the Obama administration.
The highly controversial Iran nuclear deal came at an extraordinary cost. The Obama administration has long been criticized of going the limits to appease Iran, and this new controversy of killing an investigation into a drug ring that most likely provided an annual revenue of $1 billion to Hezbollah is morally wrong, to say the least.
This die-hard terrorist group is known to be Iran’s offspring from the early 1980s and also involved in propping the brutal Bashar Assad regime in its relentless carnage against the Syrian people.
And despite the fact that the 2003 war against Iraq was a strategic mistake by the Bush administration and playing into the hands of Iran, at that time Hezbollah provided training for Iraqi militias to attack and kill the US and coalition forces stationed in the country.
A disturbing reminder lies in the fact that back in May 2010, John Brennan, then Obama’s counterterror chief, argued that Hezbollah was evolving into a political party. This important figure in Obama’s team went on to become the CIA Director, conveniently during the negotiations over the Iran nuclear deal when Tehran sought a backdoor from Washington for Hezbollah’s obvious wrongdoings.
According to Politico, Hugo Carvajal, known as an alleged drug kingpin in Venezuela, was arrested in Aruba in 2014. Venezuela is known to have close relations with Iran, and despite the massive potential of generating important knowledge regarding the cocaine trafficking network, extraditing Carvajal was, conveniently for the Obama administration, out of the question.
“Within a few years, cocaine trafficking from Venezuela to the US soared from 50 tons a year to 250 tons, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Statistics,” as reported by Newsweek.
Mysteriously, the Netherlands reportedly intervened to have Carvajal returned to Venezuela. There is always room for arguments and speculation, yet one cannot deny the possibility that the Dutch Royal Shell Oil Company most likely sought to do Iran a favor in return for lucrative post-nuclear deal contracts.
Hezbollah’s terrorism finance operations are known to thrive throughout Latin America despite the DEA long linking the militant group to local drug cartels in the region, according to former DEA operations chief Michael Braun who testified before US lawmakers in June 2016.
Hezbollah moves “[multiple] tons of cocaine” from South America to Europe and developed “the most sophisticated money laundering scheme or schemes that we have ever witnessed,” Braun explained.
Under pressure from Republican lawmakers, Obama’s State Department in 2013 issued a report claiming Iran was not supporting any active terrorist cells in the region and concluding Tehran did not enjoy vast influence in Latin America as critics claimed. Quite arguably another episode of Obama’s kowtowing before Iran.
Hezbollah enjoys a “vast network” in Latin America, especially in Brazil, home to an estimated one million Shiite Muslims.
Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior fellow on Iran at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, at the same hearing “cited a 2014 report by the Brazilian newspaper O Globo that outlined a connection between Hezbollah and the Primeiro Comando da Capital, a Sao Paulo-based prison gang, which is widely regarded to be among the country’s biggest exporters of cocaine,” according to The Washington Times.
While falling on deaf ears with the Obama administration, Ottolenghi’s advice for Congress and the administration to “aggressively focus” on Hezbollah’s presence in Latin America is a definite necessity for the Trump White House.
Going even further back to November 2012, a congressional report focused on border security highlighted how Latin America had “become a money laundering and major fundraising center” for Hezbollah, according to the Miami Herald.
Three men, suspected to have ties to none other than Hezbollah, were arrested on charges of laundering cocaine money a Colombian cartel. The trio
Another message to Tehran
The fact that the Trump administration has adopted a far contrast policy in comparison to his predecessor is beyond question. This practice has extended to America’s stance on North Korea, a staunch ally of Iran and known to have cooperated with Tehran’s nuclear and ballistic missile drives.
In response to Pyongyang’s defiance and continued ballistic missile tests, the UN Security Council on Friday adopted tough new sanctions slashing up to 90 percent of the rogue regime’s petrol imports.
To the surprise of many, and certainly, senior Iranian regime officials who most definitely followed the UNSC session up close, Russia and China both voted in favor of the measure. This adds to North Korea’s already escalating woes, alongside other restrictions imposed by the US, UN and the European Union.
Ottolenghi has correctly called for sweeping measures against Hezbollah: “The Trump administration should move swiftly to revive Project Cassandra and make it the centerpiece of a comprehensive effort to take down Hezbollah.”
Also needed now are meaningful measures targeting the root of this entire crisis, being Iran. This regime benefits from Hezbollah’s belligerence, and this terrorist entity is dependent on Tehran’s logistical and financial support.
Therefore, the US Congress taking the lead in imposing severe sanctions against Iran’s main source of revenue, being its oil exports, and effectively restricting its access to the international banking system are necessary measures for starters.
Crippling sanctions targeting Iran’s ruling regime and its Revolutionary Guards have the potential of fueling major social unrest. This Tehran cannot tolerate and will definitely succumb to the international community’s demands of significantly curbing its slate of bellicosities.