The retired head of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s special-operations division said on Wednesday the Obama administration squandered a chance to dismantle Hezbollah due in part to political motivations to clinch a nuclear deal with Iran.
Derek Maltz, who was in charge of a major law enforcement operation targeting Hezbollah’s trafficking of cocaine, said the United States cannot again succumb to political distractions that allow the Iranian-backed terrorist to continue its narcoterrorism campaign.
“There’s an old saying, opportunities come and go,” Maltz testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “In my personal opinion, having been the guy in charge of the special operations for ten years, we lost a gold opportunity to crush Hezbollah.”
Politico in December first reported the Obama administration’s quiet dismantling of these efforts, dubbed Project Cassandra, out of apprehension over rattling Iran as President Barack Obama pursued a landmark nuclear deal with the country. The piece, written by Politico‘s Josh Meyer, extensively quoted Maltz, who said he had “no doubt” multilateral negotiations with Iran sidelined ongoing operations against Hezbollah’s drug trafficking network.
“There is certainly an argument to be made that if tomorrow all the agencies were ordered to come together and sit in a room and put all the evidence on the table against all these bad guys, that there could be a hell of a lot of indictments,” Maltz told Politico.
Maltz echoed this sentiment on Wednesday, telling lawmakers the United States needs better interagency cooperation to confront Hezbollah’s terrorism ambitions and the transnational criminal organizations that generate tens of millions of dollars for the Iranian-backed group.
“Sadly, 16 years after 9/11, we’re still talking about information sharing. It’s a disaster,” he testified. “If terrorists are turning to criminal networks for their funding, how can we have a system where the terrorist investigators and the intelligence community and others are not communicating properly with the law enforcement agencies?”
He said the Trump administration needs to identify who in the U.S. government is responsible for bringing together federal, state, and local agencies under an interagency task force to combat narcoterrorism.