ANALYSIS: How to tackle Obama’s ‘cover up’ of the Hezbollah drug scandal

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, 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.

Bending backward

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 backwards 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.

Morally wrong

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 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 back door 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.

‘Vast network’

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 were able to illegally move $500,000 into Miami banks through a series of sophisticated financial transactions extending from Australia to Europe, the report adds citing US authorities.

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.

Crippling sanctions

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.

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ANALYSIS: Does the Middle East’s stability hinge on Iran’s expulsion?

As developments across the Middle East continue to signal landmark breakthroughs in the near future, Iran is resorting to desperate measures to safeguard a fading role.

As over 85 percent of Yemen is retaken by the Saudi-backed coalition, reports indicate a second ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s armed Iran-supported Houthi militias targeting Saudi soil was shot down on Thursday near the south-western city of Khamis Mushait.

In Syria there are signs of hostilities nearing an end after nearly seven years of carnage. This is in fact against Iran’s interests as this regime thrives on unrest outside of its borders to keep the flame of turmoil burning and focus attention at bay from its domestic woes back home.

Desperate times, desperate measures

While standard viewpoints and common sense lead us to the conclusion that certain measures signal Iran’s strengths, this piece is meant to argue otherwise. Iran, nowadays, is forced to choose between bad and worse.

With Yemen slipping out of its control, Tehran is desperate and resorting to a variety of measures to maintain a straight face despite significant setbacks. This includes deadly clashes between Houthi forces and those loyal to ousted Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Salah, significantly endangering Tehran’s future interests.

The circumstances in Yemen are obvious. It has become a no-brainer that Tehran supports the Shiite Houthis against the internationally-recognized government of Yemen. Yet Iran cannot engage directly in Yemen through ground, air or sea measures. Launching missiles from Iran to Yemeni soil against the Saudi-led coalition or into Saudi soil is also out of the question.

Remains only the option of smuggling arms and missile parts through Oman and other routes into Yemen to support the Houthis and have the missiles assembled and readied to target Saudi targets. Riyadh’s missile defense units have defended their territories. Despite all the calamities, Iran is left with the sole option of continuing such measures, or succumb to forgoing its Yemen campaign and accepting defeat.

To make matters worse, the European Parliament recently adopted a resolution calling on Iran to halt its support for the Houthis. With 539 votes in favor against a mere 13 against, the European Parliament condemned the Houthis’ recent missile attacks targeting Saudi interests, especially a civilian airport in Riyadh and the King Khaled International Airport.

A confidential United Nations sanctions monitors report seen by Reuters indicates the remains of “four ballistic missiles fired into Saudi Arabia by Yemen’s Houthi rebels this year appear to have been designed and manufactured by Riyadh’s regional rival Iran.”

Iran’s meddling has escalated tension across the region to unimaginable levels. (Reuters)

Publicity stunt

A similar mentality and practice of understanding is needed to compensate a recent move by a reporter of Iran’s state broadcaster embedded with Tehran’s foot-soldiers in Syria.

It is common knowledge that recruiting juveniles for war is banned by international law. All the while, a November 25th video showing a 13-year-old boy in the Syrian border city of Abu Kamal made a frenzy on Iranian websites and social media channels.

Describing himself as a “defender of the shrine”– using terminology branded by the Iranian regime for foot-soldiers and cannon-fodders recruited for battles in Syria and Iraq – the young boy says he is from the northern Iranian province of Mazandaran and resorts to various explanations about his motivation for being in such circumstances while expected to be attending school.

Although obviously a publicity stunt, why would Iran resort to such a measure knowing organizations such as the Human Rights Watch would raise major concerns? If Iran is boasting about major victories in Syria, why the need to resort to such a PR measure with more cons than pros?

Adding to the controversy is remarks made by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif over Tehran’s forces insisting to remain in the Levant. “The US and Russia cannot decide for Iran… It’s our region… We are going nowhere,” Zarif said in remarks going against Iran’s claims of maintaining a presence in Syria to fight ISIS and “defend Islamic shrines.”

It is becoming an undeniable reality that Iran is losing hegemony in Syria to a long slate of players. And after wasting dozens of billions of dollars in the Levant, bringing death to hundreds of thousands and literally destroying an entire nation, Tehran is desperately in need to save face.

What the future may hold

Iran’s meddling across the region has escalated tension across the region to unimaginable levels and left a path of ruins. Tehran currently seeks a corridor to its main proxy, the Lebanese Hezbollah, to easily provide necessary logistics and maintain influence throughout the Middle East.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir raised the stakes by accusing Hezbollah of using Lebanese banks for smuggling and money laundering to finance their terrorist activists. Riyadh’s top diplomat went as far as describing Lebanon as another country’s hostage, most likely referring to Iran.

The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) has long called for strict measures aimed at evicting Iran from the region, especially Syria and Iraq. The war in Syria is coming to an end against Iran’s interests.

The forces supported by Tehran in Yemen are losing ground fast. Hezbollah is coming under increasing pressure in Lebanon and in Iraq, after the routing of ISIS, Iran can no longer justify the presence of proxy forces.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday met with Iraqi Kurdistan leaders in Paris and called on Iraq to dismantle the Iran-backed militia known as the Popular Mobilization Forces. This is a very public call for such a measure considered highly sensitive for Iraq and Iran.

All the while, the Iranian regime is no entity to remain silent or inactive. There are ongoing conspiracies to obtain further influence in Iraq’s upcoming general elections set for May 12th. Establishing underground missile factories and a land-bridge are in the blueprints for Lebanon.

Wreaking endless havoc in Yemen and creating obstacles one after another in the Syria talks are Iran’s agenda. In response, a strong and united international effort is needed to confront Tehran’s ambitionsand deter it back once and for all.

How Iran’s People Suffer From Regime Belligerence

From the early days of its rule Iran’s regime has been increasing economic pressure on the people, especially the lower class and most deprived. A vivid result of such practice has been the astonishing phenomenon of many Iranians willing to sell their kidneys and other organs, and even mothers pre-selling their unborn fetus. This is parallel to the growing phenomenon of child labor, a swelling number of homeless people roaming the streets and people even resorting to making homes out of graves.

Tehran has a history of increasing domestic pressure and skyrocketing prices to provide for the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, exporting terrorism and fundamentalist across the region, and currently, the onerous finances needed to confront international sanctions and managing an economy in ruins.

Iran’s regime has shown it cares less about such matters as billions are poured into various domestic and international campaigns. This includes meddling in Middle East countries, boosting its nuclear and ballistic missile drives, and launching dozens of military and security forces imposing an intense atmosphere of internal crackdown.

In a recent initiative Iran’s regime seeks to increase the price of bread and medicine. A large portion of Iran’s lower class is currently deprived of a daily portion of bread. Bakeries in Iran’s poor neighborhoods are already selling bread based on monthly payments.

“… the price of bread will be increased by 32 percent… the Minister of Industries spoke of decreasing government supervision over wheat and bread sales,” according to a report broadcast by state TV.

Such price increases, originally 15 percent for bread, have resulted in alarming dilemmas for ordinary life.

“…prices of various goods have risen significantly while annual salary increases are equal to the value of a few kilograms of fruits,” according to the Baharestaneh website.

Conditions have sank to such lows that even Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), reportedly controlling a large portion of the country’s economy and allocating billions for regional meddling, have attacked other institutes to escape from any such criticism.

“The 10th parliament can be described as lacking courage, and being fluid and unpredictable. Members of parliament no longer have any sensitivity over the people’s economic woes, especially increasing poverty in our society,” according to Mashreq News, another state-run outlet in Iran.

Although having concerns about ordinary Iranian’s welfare is not one of the IRGC’s strong attributes.

In response, a member of Iran’s parliament, Amir Khojaeste, resorted to remarks seeking to place the blame on the government of President Hassan Rouhani.

“Why have they increased bread prices by 15 percent and imposing pressure on the people? Salaries are low and the lower class are enduring enormous pains,” he said.

This is the same parliament that adopted a bill providing $600 million dollars to further develop Iran’s already controversial ballistic missile program and the Quds Force, pursuing the IRGC’s extraterritorial campaigns. This includes recruiting foot-soldiers and cannon fodders, from as far as Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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Iran is known to recruit foot-soldiers and cannon fodders from as far away as Pakistan and Afghanistan for the Syria war. (al-araby.co.uk)