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Masked gunmen of the pro-Iranian Shiite Muslim Hezbollah party in the village of Sohmor, Lebanon, in 1989. Photo: AP

The Obama administration railroaded a U.S. effort to dismantle a Hezbollah drug-trafficking scheme since it conflicted with aspirations to strike a nuclear deal with Iran, according to a Politico report by Josh Meyer.

What happened: The Drug Enforcement Agency's top-secret effort to trace the trafficking found links to state sponsors in Iran. Requests that the DEA's team put in at the Departments of State, Justice, and Treasury to advance the investigation were delayed or denied. Officials have said publicly they believed roadblocks were constructed for political reasons, namely, to keep conversations about a nuclear deal with Iran going.

  • "During the negotiations, early on, they [the Iranians] said listen, we need you to lay off Hezbollah, to tamp down the pressure on them, and the Obama administration acquiesced to that request…It was a strategic decision to show good faith toward the Iranians in terms of reaching an agreement," a former CIA officer told Politico.
  • "[T]hese [Hezbollah-related] investigations were tamped down for fear of rocking the boat with Iran and jeopardizing the nuclear deal," Katherine Bauer, a Treasury official in the Office of Terrorist Financing told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs last February.
  • Within months of Obama's announcement of the successfully-forged Iran nuclear deal, some of the most senior officials on the project, including the DEA agent who supervised it, were transferred to other assignments.

Former officials denied to Politico that they provided roadblocks to the campaign to end Hezbollah's drug-trafficking. One former national security official in the Obama administration suggested members of the DEA project were simply speculating about political motivations.

An Obama spokesperson, Kevin Lewis, told Politico: "There has been a consistent pattern of actions taken against Hezbollah, both through tough sanctions and law enforcement actions before and after the Iran deal."

Why it matters: Losing sight of this project has cost the U.S. Not only has the U.S. government reportedly lost track of this drug-trafficking campaign, which is believed to still operate, it has also reportedly lost insight into other criminal activities around the world. That includes Hezbollah's conspiracies with the Iranian, Syrian, Venezuelan, and Russian governments.

On a grander scale, Hezbollah is working with Iran, Russia, and Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria and trains Shiite militants that seek to undermine the U.S. in Iraq, per U.S. officials.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Pentagon warns of ISIS-K capabilities outside Afghanistan

The site of an airstrike conducted by the U.S. against a planner for ISIS-K in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan in August. Photo: Xinhua via Getty Images

U.S. intelligence believes ISIS-K has the "intent" to eventually launch attacks outside of Afghanistan and could be capable of doing so "somewhere between six or 12 months," a top Pentagon official told senators Tuesday.

Why it matters: The U.S. withdrawal and subsequent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has raised fears that terrorist groups will reconstitute and potentially pose a renewed threat to the U.S. homeland.

Exclusive: Billionaires back new media firm to combat disinformation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A new public benefit corporation backed by billionaires Reid Hoffman, George Soros, and others is launching Tuesday to fund new media companies and efforts that tackle disinformation.

Why it matters: Good Information Inc. aims to fund and scale businesses that cut through echo chambers with fact-based information. As part of its mission, it plans to invest in local news companies.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Scoop: Sequoia Capital just blew up the VC fund model

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Sequoia Capital, one of the world's oldest and most successful venture capital firms, is forming a single fund to hold all of its U.S. and European investments, including stakes in publicly-traded companies, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Venture capital is the money of innovation, but the industry itself rarely innovates. This is a radical exception.

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