By Emanuele Ottolenghi, Jewish Policy Center—
Will the Biden administration go after Hezbollah’s drug trafficking and money laundering networks?
Hezbollah’s direct involvement in the drug trade is well documented, ongoing, and a threat to U.S national interests. The Biden administration needs to build on the past four years and pursue Hezbollah’s money laundering and drug trafficking networks even more vigorously than the Trump administration did.
Project Cassandra: Hezbollah’s Criminal Networks
Much of what we know today is the result of Project Cassandra, a decade-long operation run through the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Special Operations Division, which sought to stop Hezbollah from trafficking drugs into the United States and Europe.
Hezbollah’s intimate connection to Latin American drug cartels became known by coincidence when, in 2007, Colombian wiretaps meant to monitor La Oficina del Envigado, the Medellin cartel later named by DEA as a key partner to Hezbollah, picked up Arabic conversations traceable back to a man named Chekry Mahmoud Harb. DEA brought in an Arabic language expert who suddenly realized Hezbollah was arranging multi-ton shipments of cocaine to the Middle East while working with the Medellin cartel. The resulting investigation, code named Operation Titan, eventually opened a Pandora’s box, which led to numerous cases spanning more than a decade. The main takeaway was that this was not a small sideshow by loosely affiliated individuals. It was a multi-billion-dollar, worldwide operation orchestrated by top officials within Hezbollah’s inner circle.
Hezbollah still depends financially on Iranian largesse. But its growing budget – in itself a consequence of Hezbollah’s expanding role in the region as an Iranian terror proxy – means that outside sources of income have become more important in the past two decades. Hezbollah has financed itself not only by leveraging expatriate communities through charitable donations, but also by recruiting members of the Lebanese diaspora to build an elaborate global money laundering operation – Hezbollah’s laundromat – for the benefit of organized crime. Profits from such schemes help finance Hezbollah’s operations at the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Continue Reading….