- Experts: Iran will use unlocked funds to bolster terror proxies despite administration’s claim to the contrary
Bloomberg reported on Monday that experts believe Iran will use sanctions relief to boost support for its terrorist proxies, contradicting the Obama administration’s claims that the regime would primarily use these funds to address its domestic economic needs. Even after acknowledging that sanctions pressure has not caused the Iranian regime to reduce its support for terrorism or destabilizing activities, Press Secretary Josh Earnest argued on Tuesday that Iran’s “priority will be to use those resources to address the persistent economic problems in their country.” However, Mark Dubowitz, Executive Director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, disagreed, arguing that sanctions relief will allow Iran to funnel more funds to support its destabilizing activities and terrorism in the region.
Regarding the possibility of an Iranian windfall, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah boasted that “A rich and strong Iran will be able to stand by its allies and friends, and the peoples of the region, especially the resistance in Palestine, more than in any time in the past.” Iran already gives Hezbollah up to $200 million per year, and between 2006 and 2011, Iran provided Hamas with $250-$300 million annually. According to the United Nations envoy to Syria, Iran spends as much as $35 billion per year to prop up the Assad regime in Syria. At a hearing last month, former Treasury Department official Jonathan Schanzer was asked if there would be an increase in Iran’s funding of terrorists upon the completion of a deal with Iran. He responded, “Absolutely, across the board. Houthis, the Assad regime, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas. Every one of these groups stands to benefit.”
Israel and the Gulf states are particularly concerned that the emerging agreement on Iran’s nuclear program and consequent sanctions relief will allow Iran to bolster support for its proxies and expand its influence in the region. At a conference in Israel, Obama’s former Undersecretary for Defense and current Center for a New American Security (CNAS) CEO Michele Flournoy argued that the US should work with its Gulf allies and Israel to do more to counter Iran’s influence in the region. She acknowledged that the US, Israel, and the Gulf states need “to be having a more explicit conversation about a more aggressive stance against those destabilizing activities beyond the nuclear question.” Similarly, former deputy national security advisor Ambassador James Jeffrey urged the administration to commit to “taking further steps to resist Iran's encroachments in the Arab world.”