The US Justice Department has set up a team to investigate individuals and organizations providing support to Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Islamist group in Lebanon that the US has branded a terrorist organization, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Thursday.
Republicans have criticized former President Barack Obama following a December Politico report that the Obama administration hindered a Drug Enforcement Administration program targeting Hezbollah’s trafficking operations during its negotiation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal for fear of jeopardizing it.
Politico reported the DEA program known as Project Cassandra had been targeting the terrorist group’s trafficking of cocaine into the US and abroad but was stymied by Obama officials. The administration at the time was eager to improve relations with Iran and stall its nuclear weapons program.
Republican President Donald Trump says Obama gave away too much to Iran to secure the agreement, which gives Iran relief from sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.
Sessions said the Justice Department will assemble leading investigators and prosecutors for the Hezbollah Financing and Narcoterrorism Team to ensure all investigations under the DEA program will be completed.
Sessions added that the review will evaluate "allegations that certain matters were not properly prosecuted" and ensure the investigations were correctly handled.
"Operations designed to investigate and prosecute terrorist organizations that are also fueling that drug crisis must be paramount in this administration," he said in a statement. "While I am hopeful that there were no barriers constructed by the last administration to allowing DEA agents to fully bring all appropriate cases under Project Cassandra, this is a significant issue for the protection of Americans.
"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."