- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A House Republican is calling for a congressional inquiry into new reports that the Obama White House tried to obstruct an Department of Justice counternarcotics investigation into Shiite militant group Hezbollah in order to keep the talks with Iran on a nuclear deal on track.

In a letter to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Tuesday, Texas Rep. Robert Pittenger called on the panel to hold open hearings into reported efforts to undermine the Drug Enforcement Administration’s operation into Hezbollah’s narcotics trafficking and other illicit activities tied to its drug ties.

Known as “Project Cassandra,” the DEA operation was reportedly “successful in mapping Lebanon-based Hezbollah’s criminal operations in Latin America, West Africa, the Middle East and the United States,” Mr. Pittenger wrote in a letter to panel Chairman Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Republican.

The alleged effort to curb the probe into Hezbollah, considered Iran’s most effective proxy force in the Middle East, was first reported by Politico this week.

Officials at the Pentagon and in U.S. Southern Command have long testified to Hamas and Hezbollah’s fundraising and money-laundering efforts in Central and South America, including ties to narcotrafficking rings that utilize smuggling routes in West Africa to move cargo into southern and eastern European markets.

But the operation ground to a halt as Justice officials “purportedly faced increased obstacles from political appointees within the Obama administration,” Mr. Pittenger wrote, referencing the Politico article that cited former DEA members involved with the operation.

Top Obama White House officials feared a crackdown on Hezbollah could poison the atmosphere at talks aimed a curbing Iran’s suspect nuclear programs, talks that resulted in a deal signed by the U.S. and five global powers with Tehran in 2015.

“The previous administration was complicit in allowing Hezbollah … to fund terrorist activities and harm American interests and our allies,” Mr. Pittenger said, adding “this undermines both the rule of law and law enforcement’s efforts” to stem the flow of illicit narcotics and disrupt terrorist financing.

President Trump in October said he was no longer able to certify the Iran deal was in the U.S. national interest and called on Congress to approve new measures to curb Iran’s missile programs and moves to destabilize the region and challenge Israel and Washington’s Arab allies.

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