Members of a DEA task force that spent nearly a decade closing in on Hezbollah’s top players say Obama officials regularly blocked them from making arrests and seeking prosecutions so as to not rock the boat with Tehran ahead of a landmark nuclear deal, Politico reports. In an operation dubbed Project Cassandra launched in 2008, DEA agents worked out of a secret facility in Virginia with help from 30 U.S. and foreign security services to track the Iranian-backed group’s networks. As the task force began to zero in on Hezbollah’s key figures, the Obama administration began delaying or outright rejecting DEA requests to arrest, prosecute, or impose financial sanctions as part of the operation, according to task-force members cited in the report. “This was a policy decision, it was a systematic decision,” David Asher, an illicit-finance expert who helped establish Project Cassandra, was quoted as saying. A former CIA officer interviewed for the report said not only were certain DEA operations shut down for political reasons, but the CIA at one point was also pressured by the White House to declare a “moratorium” on covert operations against Hezbollah in Lebanon. “It was a strategic decision to show good faith toward the Iranians in terms of reaching an agreement,” the former officer said.
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