In the wake of a report earlier this week that the Obama administration ended an investigation into Hezbollah’s drug-trafficking operations in the Western Hemisphere in order to secure the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, a former United States Treasury Department official outlined steps that the Trump administration could take to effectively combat Hezbollah’s narcotics empire, in an op-ed published Monday in the New York Post.
Jonathan Schanzer, formerly a terror finance analyst at the Treasure Department and currently senior vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote that in order to fight Hezbollah’s narcotics empire in the Western Hemisphere, President Donald Trump first needs to appoint a new chief for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) who understands “the growing convergence between transnational organized crime and terrorist groups like Hezbollah.”
Once the agency has a new qualified leader, the DEA must be directed to “[fight] narco-terrorism abroad,” and supported to carry out this mission. The drug problem in the U.S. should be the jurisdiction of local law enforcement.
Once the DEA is positioned to fight Hezbollah’s drug trafficking, Schanzer argued that the Treasury Department should name Hezbollah a Transnational Criminal Organization, which would subject it to a wider range of economic sanctions.
Diplomacy would also be necessary in this battle against the Iranian-backed terrorist group. The U.S. would have to urge South American allies such as Brazil and Uruguay to clamp down on Hezbollah’s drug smuggling and insist that Europe stop maintaining the fiction that Hezbollah has separate military and political wings and acknowledge that it has a single unified leadership.
The last step Schanzer recommends is to hold Congressional hearings to learn exactly why the program that fought Hezbollah’s drug trafficking was ended. If Project Cassandra was ended to enable the nuclear deal with Iran, Schanzer observed, “exposing Americans to Hezbollah’s cocaine traffic hardly seems like a good tradeoff.”
While the Trump administration may not be targeting Hezbollah’s narco-terrorism yet, Matthew Levitt wrote last month that it appears that the administration “is clearly eager to counter Iran and sees Hezbollah as a key proxy for Tehran involved in many of what officials have called the Iranian regime’s ‘malign activities.'”
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