Did Obama Ignore Hezbollah to Secure the Iran Deal?

Hezbollah fighters put Lebanese and Hezbollah flags at Juroud Arsal, Syria-Lebanon border

Old ideological foes are lining up on opposite sides of the emerging debate.

“I mean it’s one thing to say, look, we’re not going to hassle Iranian diplomats, or we’re going to look the other way, at nonsense going in Lebanon. But Hezbollah teaming up with the Zetas -- the Mexican drug cartel -- to import tons of cocaine into the United States in the middle of a drug epidemic? Seems like a pretty big thing to overlook,” Carlson said last week, while hosting neocon Bloomberg News columnist Eli Lake. But for those on the restrainer Right -- and for those who think this story in mainly a trojan horse for escalation of conflict with Iran, which Hezbollah has sworn loyalty to, Ottolenghi and others note -- Carlson, who also founded and retains an ownership stake in The Daily Caller, seemed to assuage some concerns Wednesday by going after his old foil Max Boot for an article on “white privilege.” “Max Boot will say anything if they just let him invade Iran,” Carlson’s account tweeted. Earlier this year, I highlighted the brutal exchanges he had with both Boot and uber-hawkish commentator Ralph Peters, and concluded, that Carlson had essentially declared war on the neoconservatives.

For that other Trump-era star, Steve Bannon, and “the Breitbart crowd,” the issue is also more complicated than it initially appears. Bannon is leary of greater intervention in Latin America, and as White House chief strategist occasionally went back and forth with those in the administration and in Congress who seek a harder line on for instance, Venezuela. “Venezuela, over the last several years, has been a command-and-control hub for the movement of cocaine worldwide,” Maltz said at event on Capitol Hill in October attended by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce and Ranking Member Eliot Engel. But, at the same time, Bannon is a hawk on Iran, as I’ve reported extensively.    

And for critics of the Meyer story, this is about really Iran, and Hezbollah but a prelude for beating the war drums for regime change in Tehran, as prominent neocons such as Bill Kristol have openly called for. “You can say, without blushing, that you called it,” veteran national security journalist Mark Perry tells me by email, noting my coverage in October of the FDD’s renewed focus on Hezbollah. The FDD continues to wield powerful influence in the administration, especially on Iran. Expertise on the machinations of terrorist financing is also an emerging speciality of the group. As I reported last week, Juan Zarate, of FDD and the first-ever assistant U.S. secretary of the treasury for terrorist financing and financial crimes, is poised to come aboard as CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s right-hand man, should Pompeo ever succeed Rex Tillerson at the State Department.

Another veteran national security reporter is more blunt about the Meyer report, emailing: “The Hezbollah in Latin America theme should be exposed for what it is. It's not whole cloth, but … This is pure and simple, a march to war with Iran, on behalf of Israel and saying otherwise is simply a dodge.” Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council, concurs. “I think this is part of a larger effort to start war with Iran. The pretext is unimportant to the backers,” he emailed Wednesday night. “War is key because they are desperately seeking to shift back the balance of power in the region in favor of Israel and Saudi Arabia. ... The real question - which the backers of war have successfully managed to dodge - is: In what ways does war with Iran serve America's interest?”