The US Justice Department has announced that they will create a task force and investigate alleged drug trafficking by Hezbollah, the terrorist group that is state-sponsored by Iran.
Justice Department officials are trying to crack down on what they labeled “narcoterrorism” by the terror group that is based in Lebanon. The announcement follows reports that the Obama administration had dropped the probe during talks for the Iran nuclear deal.
The unit will be made up of specialists in money laundering, drug trafficking and terrorism, the department said. It will seek to target Hezbollah’s entire sprawling network, which is thought to reach from Africa to as far as Central and South America.
“The Justice Department will leave no stone unturned in order to eliminate threats to our citizens from terrorist organizations and to stem the tide of the devastating drug crisis,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “The team will initiate prosecutions that will restrict the flow of money to foreign terrorist organizations as well as disrupt violent international drug trafficking operations.”
The move comes on the back of a December report published by US news magazine Politico, which accused the Obama administration of stymieing a probe into Hezbollah’s drug trafficking operations for fear of jeopardizing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
In 2011, the Obama administration said it had uncovered billions of dollars worth of laundered money that had been filtered through the Beirut-based Lebanese Canadian Bank, a supposed “primary money laundering concern.” Meanwhile, funds from overseas operations were laundered through Panamanian shell companies.
According to Derek Maltz, a former official at the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the proceeds were used by Hezbollah to buy weapons for its operations in Syria and to support Iran-backed rebels in Yemen, who are fighting Saudi-sponsored government forces over control of the country.
This latest move against Hezbollah, whose power is growing in the Middle East, could signal that President Trump is looking to move away from the Iran nuclear deal. This deal that the Obama administration was behind and that the President during the 2016 election was so critical of has been a contentious thorn in Trump’s side.
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