ANALYSIS: Funding Hezbollah terror, paid for by depriving struggling citizens

Tony Duheaume
Tony Duheaume - Special to Al Arabiya English
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With the Iranian people taking part in widespread demonstrations throughout the country, many of their grievances have been focused on the immense cost of foreign wars to the Iranian economy. Much of the cost stems from a vast amount of funds being channelled into the coffers of both Hezbollah and Bashar al-Assad’s war machine.

This cash is blown on funding the formers proxy war effort in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, as well as paying for its war against Israel, and the upkeep of its infrastructure within Lebanon. While for the latter, it comes in the form of propping up a vile dictator’s beleaguered regime in a bid to save him from annihilation, while back home the Iranian people pay the price through deprivation.

According to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, his latest budget was aimed at working toward full employment, eliminating poverty, and creating social justice. But as far as any of those goals are concerned, the methods put in place to attain them, which comprise of slashing subsidies on basic goods; including food, gas and electricity, which will mean the price of fuel rising by 50 percent, and with the price of poultry and eggs having already risen by 40 percent, adding this to the cutting of cash handouts to low income families, it seems to be a very odd way to attain such policies.

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While at the other end of the spectrum, a vast amount of money has been allocated from state funds to religious charities, which are mainly in the hands of the regime, with many controlled directly by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and there is also $7.4 billion that has been assigned to the military, going mainly to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Organization for the Basij, plus an increase for Iran’s ballistic missile program, and a vast sum to the Quds Force – the IRGC’s elite unit – which is charged with exporting revolution, quite often through its proxy militia Hezbollah, which is also handsomely funded by the regime.

With around 50,000 militia fighters in the ranks of Hezbollah, Iran is believed by some analysts to fund it to the tune of $300 million a year, although many now believe the sum is more like $1 billion. Within Lebanon itself, as Hezbollah has grown in stature, its funds boosted enormously by Iran, as well as various multi-million-dollar fundraising activities amongst Shiite diasporas, which include centrally-run enterprises in the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia, North America, South America and Europe, it has continued to thrive.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (R) and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attend a meeting in Hyderabad, India, on February 15, 2018. (Reuters)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (R) and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attend a meeting in Hyderabad, India, on February 15, 2018. (Reuters)

Wherever the party decides to settle, in whatever country across the globe, it soon finds enthusiastic support amongst the Shiite community, due to the vast number of social programs it finances; which include schools, hospitals and various other public utilities, all funded as a façade to cover up its murderous activities, to bring in new recruits as cannon fodder for terror attacks, with much of the cash financing it coming at the expense of the Iranian poor.

Whenever necessary, the group will stoop to bribing those it wishes to influence, both at home and abroad. In Lebanon itself, both in the community, and in parts of the national administration, Hezbollah has managed to maintain a certain amount of respectability for its political party amongst its hard-line supporters.

Due to its often-spouted claim of being the only armed group that has truly stood up to Israel, it has been able to use its so-called claim to fame, to hoodwink its more ardent followers into allowing it to use Lebanon as a base for its terrorist activities.

But such is the wealth that is needed to fulfil its financial needs, the Lebanese terror group also runs a vast criminal enterprise throughout the globe, which includes deep connections to the Colombian and Mexican drug cartels, through which Hezbollah facilitates the distribution of drugs across the entire Middle East, Western Europe and the US. Through its connections with the Taleban, the group swaps heroin it receives from its Afghan drug partners, with cocaine received in South America from its associates there, effectively cornering both markets.

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Hezbollah is also connected to vast counterfeiting rackets, which deal in car parts, DVDs, clothes, pharmaceuticals and forged cash. A vast amount of the cash made from these illicit activities, is then laundered through the sale of cars to Africa, as well as through its second-hand car dealerships in the USA, which eventually finds its way back to Hezbollah’s accounts in Lebanon.

With the Hezbollah having a powerful home base in Lebanon, its structure contains a powerful paramilitary wing, which since its inception, has been regarded by its dwindling supporters in the Arab world as being a resistance movement, while most see it as a terror movement, that has caused disruption throughout the area, through carrying out a long string of terror attacks at the behest of its Iranian paymaster.

In the 1980s, Hezbollah was just a fledgling guerrilla group, but through the guidance of Iran, and through the expert training of the IRGC Qods Force, Hezbollah’s militia army has become more powerful than the Lebanese military.

In reality, today’s Hezbollah is nothing more than a well-structured terror force, led by a bunch of top-notch hard-line commanders, who have been brainwashed into following the ideology of Khomeini, and due to its unwavering commitment to the Iranian regime, has been honed to perfection by the IRGC in the art of asymmetric warfare, and equipped at great expense with the latest high-tech weaponry.

A Hezbollah fighter stands in front of anti-tank artillery at Juroud Arsal, the Syria-Lebanon border, July 29, 2017. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A Hezbollah fighter stands in front of anti-tank artillery at Juroud Arsal, the Syria-Lebanon border, July 29, 2017. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Political wing

Another side to its structure is its political wing, which through both Syrian and Iranian backing has grown vastly in stature, and with the organization now having seats in the Lebanese government, it also runs its own radio, Nur, and also a satellite television station, Al-Manar (the lighthouse), which is watched throughout the Arab world.

The organisation also publishes its own newspapers and magazines, has its own book publishing venture to print books, all in line with the Iranian regime’s ideological requirements.

Hezbollah’s Al Manar satellite television network is believed to cost more than $15-million a year to run, which of course is said to be paid for by Iran. Through Al Manar, Nur, and use of the internet, Hezbollah preaches its messages of Iranian-inspired hate, and through the use of these media organs, it has the perfect hub with which to relay propaganda across the air waves, reaching all of those it wishes to influence.

Just like any legitimate state, Hezbollah’s political wing has its own police force patrolling the streets of its South Beirut stronghold, dressed professionally in khaki fatigues, and they also have a justice system based on Sharia law. When it comes to children, the organisation has a youth wing known as the Imam al-Mahdi Scouts, this group has branches in the Shiite communities of Beirut, the Beqa’a Valley and South Lebanon.

But this is no ordinary scout group, as its young members, aged between 8 and 16 dress in army fatigues, are indoctrinated with radical Shiite Islam - which takes in the Twelver apocalyptic beliefs connected to the return of the Mahdi – and these recruits are also taught how to use firearms, and also take part in military parades.

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Another way in which Hezbollah attract youths to the group, is by running youth clubs, as well as football teams. Then just to make sure that those indoctrinated within its ranks, remain tightly within the fold, the organisation has even setup a matrimonial agency, and through its comprehensive structure, Hezbollah is able to look out for its members from cradle to the grave.

Within Lebanon, Hezbollah is considered a state within a state, as it controls around 25 percent of the national territory, and due to its social programs, the organisation has maintained a very strong grassroots support among the local population.

Its well-constructed social program has been carefully designed to win hearts and minds, and with somewhere in the region of 400,000 of Lebanon’s estimated 4m population living under its control, Hezbollah collects its own taxes, and using its vast resources to run health clinics, hospitals, and centres setup for orphans and widows, it also runs schools which have syllabuses that have been constructed in Iran in the Shiite tradition.

Having built itself up as a crucial player in Lebanese politics on both a local and national level, Hezbollah has become a powerful partner in the government, and even with its leader’s constant extremist outbursts, it still claims to be a legitimate political party, always denying any connection to terrorism, which both the West, most of the Middle East, and Israel cannot accept.

With its deceitful rhetoric now only believed by diehard supporters, the war in Syria has shown it to be the true monster it really is, while all of its murderous acts are being subsidised by the deprived population of Iran.

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