In the fall of 2015, shortly after Congress failed to pass two resolutions disapproving the Iran nuclear deal, British authorities found evidence that an Iran-backed militia group was stockpiling bombs in London.
But, according to a new report in the Telegraph, not a word was said to the public or lawmakers about the matter.
In a story that was published Sunday, the British newspaper questioned why there was such secrecy in light of the major development.
“It raises questions about whether senior UK government figures chose not to reveal the plot in part because they were invested in keeping the Iran nuclear deal afloat,” the report read.
Though the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was not designated a treaty by the U.S. State Department and therefore not subject to Senate confirmation, under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 Congress was given the authority to approve or disapprove of the deal, or to do nothing.
Two resolutions to disapprove the deal — one in the House and one in the Senate — failed during the 60-day review period mandated by that act.
According to the outlet, a tip from a “foreign intelligence agency” prompted Britain’s MI5 and the Metropolitan Police to raid four Hezbollah-associated locations in north London that fall — months after British lawmakers threw support behind the nuclear deal.
The raids discovered thousands of disposable ice packs filled with ammonium nitrate, the same chemical used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
Overall, more than 6,000 pounds of the substance was found and one man was arrested, the Telegraph reported.
“MI5 worked independently and closely with international partners to disrupt the threat of malign intent from Iran and its proxies in the UK,” the British intelligence source reportedly indicated.
The outlet proceeded to offer the official explanation for why the raid was kept quiet.
“The Security Service and police work tirelessly to keep the public safe from a host of national security threats. Necessarily, their efforts and success will often go unseen,” Minister of State for Security Ben Wallace said.
The Telegraph said its report was based on a three-month investigation in which “more than 30 current and former officials in Britain, America and Cyprus were approached.”
Then-Prime Minister David Cameron and then-Home Secretary Theresa May were reportedly briefed after the raids.
At the time, the issue of Hezbollah was politically challenging in Britain, where the organization was not labeled as a terrorist group. Only this year did Britain begin referring to the militarized arm of the group as a terrorist organization.
The Telegraph said the raid was linked to planned Hezbollah activities in New York, Thailand and Cyprus — all targeting Israeli interests.
The revelations about UK raids on Hezbollah in 2015 reveal a disturbing patten that appears to link other attempts to whitewash Iran and Hezbollah activities, including global drug trade and assassinations in Europehttps://t.co/rVBbJJX16D
— Seth Frantzman (@sfrantzman) June 10, 2019
The possibility that the 2015 raid was kept quiet to address political interests aligns with comments made by former officials in the years that followed concerning Obama-era investigations into potential illegal drug sales by Hezbollah.
According to Politico, Obama-era Treasury official Katherine Bauer told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs that “under the Obama administration … these investigations were tamped down for fear of rocking the boat with Iran and jeopardizing the nuclear deal.”
David Asher, a contractor with the Defense Department, made similar comments while discussing investigative efforts to limit Hezbollah’s drug trafficking operation.
“The closer we got to the [Iran deal], the more these activities went away,” Asher said.
“So much of the capability, whether it was special operations, whether it was law enforcement, whether it was [Treasury] designations — even the capacity, the personnel assigned to this mission — it was assiduously drained, almost to the last drop, by the end of the Obama administration,” he added.
Former Obama administration officials have, however, rejected these claims from the Politico report.
CORRECTION, Jun 11, 2019: As originally published, this article implied that the discovery of the explosives may have been kept quiet by British authorities to prevent the U.S. Congress from disapproving the Iran nuclear deal. However, Congress had already taken action by Sept. 17, whereas the explosives were reportedly not discovered until the “fall,” i.e., after Sept. 22, 2018. Certainly, the possibility exists that the discovery was hushed up to prevent embarrassing the many American and British politicians who had supported the deal, but the idea that any attempt was made to influence the congressional votes by withholding this information does not stand up to scrutiny.
We have corrected the article by removing that implication and added an explanation regarding the review period by Congress for clarity.
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