We don’t know how Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump administration will play out, but if it’s half as bad the Obama administration’s coddling of terror-supporting Iran, it should be a massive national scandal.
Empowering terrorist groups. Paying ransom that emboldened our enemies to kidnap Americans. Creating an echo chamber that undermined a free press. Releasing spies, terrorists, and criminals who assisted not only our enemy and her terrorist proxies, but Russia as well. In the Iran deal, we have clear-cut case of the United States handing over extensive concessions to a nation that openly aimed to destabilize our interests, attack our allies, and kill our people — for nothing in return. It’s worse than anything we know about “Russian collusion.”
On Sunday night, Politico sent an email previewing an another investigative article alleging that the Obama administration had “derailed an ambitious law enforcement campaign targeting drug trafficking by the Iranian-backed, Bashar al-Assad-allied, Justice Department-designated terrorist organization Hezbollah, even as it was funneling cocaine into the United States.”
This email dramatically underplays the outlet’s reporting. While it looks like the Obama administration neutralized efforts to stop a terrorist group from funding its operations through criminal enterprises in the United States — which should be a major scandal itself — according to Josh Meyer’s source-heavy reporting, it also decided to let a top Hezbollah operative named Ali Fayad, who had not only been indicted in U.S. courts for planning to kill American government employees but whom agents believed reported to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a key supplier of weapons to Syria and Iraq, to skate free.
You can, I’m sure, imagine what the reaction would be if this story had Trump’s administration rather than Obama’s secretly released Putin’s Middle East arms dealer?
“This was a policy decision, it was a systematic decision,” David Asher, an on-the-record source and Defense Department official charged with tracking Hezbollah’s worldwide criminal enterprise, told Politico. “They serially ripped apart this entire effort that was very well supported and resourced, and it was done from the top down.” (Read the whole thing.)
This is hardly surprising, considering what we already know President Obama was willing to do to help Iran. Reminder: In his January 2016 speech announcing the lifting of sanctions, the president claimed that as a “reciprocal humanitarian gesture” the United States would release a number of Iranian-born “civilians” who “were not charged with terrorism or any violent offenses.”
This too was a lie. Far from mere “civilians,” the administration was releasing Iranian spies whom its own Justice Department had tagged as threats to national security. Of the 14 innocent souls freed on humanitarian grounds, at least one had sought weaponry for Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah. Another was serving an eight-year sentence for “conspiring to supply Iran with satellite technology and hardware.” Then there was Seyed Abolfazl Shahab Jamili, who had been charged with participating in a conspiracy to procure “thousands of parts with nuclear applications” for Iran — which supposedly didn’t need them — through China.
In addition to this, according to officials, the Obama administration was “slow-walking” investigations against Iranian spies here in the United States and efforts to extradite suspects who were in the custody of allies.
It’s clear that the Iran deal remained President Obama’s predominant concern in his second term. It seems increasingly plausible that Obama was hamstrung to act in Syria by the overriding need to avoid upsetting the Iranians (and Russians). Putin, lest we forget, was a big fan of the Iranian deal.
The question is, what wouldn’t the Obama administration do to save the Iran deal? When the Iranians released American hostages, including Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, Secretary of State John Kerry claimed it was due to “the relationships forged and the diplomatic channels unlocked over the course of the nuclear talks.” In actuality, the Obama administration secretly airlifted $400 million $1.7 billion worth of cash as ransom to obtain the release of four Americans so as not to derail the Iranian deal.
And because all of it was above board and was absolutely not ransom, it was sent in wooden pallets stacked with euros, Swiss francs, and other currencies on an unmarked cargo plane. “We do not pay ransom for hostages,” Obama claimed. But State Department spokesman John Kirby later acknowledged that Iran’s release of the hostages was “contingent” upon the $400 million cash payment. Soon after, Iran began taking hostages again.
Of course, the administration didn’t want the American people to know any of this. Iran’s leading booster here at home, Ben Rhodes, set up a team of White House staffers whose entire job it was to promote a false narrative about the deal. “We created an echo chamber,” he bragged to The New York Times magazine. “They [independent experts] were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.”
Other staffers bragged about how easy it was to hoodwink reporters, although that presupposes many of these reporters weren’t open to playing along. This might not be as offensive to modern-day resistance truth-seekers as an ill-mannered Trump tweet, but the damage to media’s credibility and truth was far more consequential.
Many of Obama’s foot soldiers — now-sneering podcasters, media personalities, and lobbyists — smeared (or perhaps spied on) anyone who had reservations about the deal by pushing the ludicrous false choice that it was either Obama’s way or war. Many intimated that anyone who opposed giving Iran everything it wanted for merely living by deals it had already signed had dual loyalties. Obama preposterously claimed that those who were against the deal had made common cause with Iranian hardliners. They tried to smear Politico’s Meyer, who is by every conceivable standard more courageous than the pretend sentinels of journalism.
Despite what many Americans seem to believe, being favorably predisposed towards Russia, though bad policy and bad thinking, isn’t illegal. But as friendly as Trump feels towards Putin, has there been an administration since World War II that’s shown more deference to an outright enemy of the United States as the previous administration did towards Iran. One administration’s sins do not erase the other’s, but at this point the Iranian deal should be a colossal scandal. That it’s not tells us a lot about what’s wrong with American journalism and political discourse.