Cash from new deal with Iran will give boost to Lebanon’s Hezbollah: Report

The US State Department said in 2020 that Iran was providing Hezbollah with about $700 million per year.

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Critics of the now-defunct 2015 nuclear deal between world powers - mainly the US - and Iran cite the weak provisions in the agreement that fail to curb Tehran’s ability to acquire a nuclear weapon.

But more than that, fears are again rising that Iran will be flush with cash not to invest in its own people and infrastructure but rather to supply to its proxies and militias around the region.

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The State Department said in 2020 that Iran was providing Hezbollah with about $700 million per year.

A new report suggests that Iran would be on the receiving end of $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first of a new deal and more than $1 trillion by 2030.

The Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) sounded the alarm in a recent report that a significant portion of Iran’s new funds would go to Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Pointing to the 2015 deal, the original Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), FDD said Iran’s military budget increased by 90 percent, “enabling the regime to shower its regional proxies, including Hezbollah, with billions of dollars.”

Biden administration officials have defended efforts to reach a new agreement with Iran, saying that problems in the Middle East would not become easier to solve without a nuclear deal with Tehran.

US officials under the current administration had previously said they were looking to strike a “longer, stronger deal” than the original agreement.

However, recent reports show little difference between the text being discussed now and the initial 2015 deal.

In addition to greenlighting Iran’s work towards a nuclear weapon, the current discussions fail to address Iran’s support for regional proxies and terrorist groups and its ballistic missile program.

“Hezbollah is now assessed to have a military that is on par with several European armies. The group is now also amassing precision-guided munitions with help from Tehran,” said Jonathan Schanzer, senior VP for Research at the hawkish FDD. “The international community has stood by and watched amidst a massive arms buildup. This is a significant threat to the stability of the region.”

Hezbollah officials and supporters have previously publicized their appetite for a nuclear deal, which would ease pressure on the militant group.

And in 2015, Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah said his group’s ties with Iran were based on “ideological grounds and come before the political interests,” batting down the potential for Iran to distance itself from supporting Hezbollah.

Tony Badran, a fellow at FDD, said that cash from a new nuclear deal with Iran would enable Hezbollah to increase its arms buildup, “especially precision-guided munitions and unmanned aerial vehicles.”

Iran-backed Hezbollah has also boasted of having 100,000 fighters, a naval unit, drones, thousands of precision-guided missiles and rockets and air-defense missile systems.

A White House official said the US had “avenues” to deal with Iran if it chooses to use money from a new nuclear agreement to support proxies and terrorists. “If Iran chooses to use that money to continue to make the region less secure, then the US and our allies and partners have available to us avenues to address that, and we’ll do that,” National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby told Al Arabiya.

Read more: Congress calls on EU to designate Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist group

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