Iran and Hizballah Prioritize Terrorism Funding Over Societal Development
Despite facing growing unrest and a weakening economy, Iran continues to funnel massive amounts of money and resources to its main terrorist proxies, especially Hizballah, in order to expand its reach.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's recent budget allocates far more funds to regime-controlled religious charities and regional terrorist activities at the expense of domestic social and economic programs, according to an analysis Sunday in Al-Arabiya English.
Rouhani's government claims to be focused on reducing poverty and improving employment opportunities, yet it continues to cut subsidies on basic commodities and financial transfers to poor families amid rising fuel and food prices.
Instead of supporting its own people, Iran is devoting $7.4 billion to the military – primarily toward its ballistic missile program and Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)'s regional expansion.
Iran has flat out rejected any efforts to renegotiate the nuclear agreement, amid reports of European efforts last month to constrain Iran's regional expansion and ballistic missile program.
The Lebanese terrorist organization Hizballah is a major beneficiary of the latest budget. Iran "is believed by some analysts to fund it [Hizballah] to the tune of $300 million a year, although many now believe the sum is more like $1 billion," writes Tony Duheaume.
Combined with its international criminal enterprise and drug-smuggling network, Hizballah has no shortage of resources to continue consolidating operating bases to target Israel.
Hizballah's involvement in the international drug trade is well documented.
It cultivates a major base of operations in the Tri-Border Area (TBA), straddling Brazil and Argentina and Paraguay. With a large Muslim population featuring significant numbers of Hizballah sympathizers, the terrorist organization uses this area for recruitment, arms smuggling and drug trafficking, and logistics planning for terrorist operations.
The TBA remains "an important regional nexus of arms, narcotics, pirated goods, human smuggling, counterfeiting, and money laundering – all potential funding sources for terrorist organizations," the U.S. State Department has said.
A significant portion of the profit earned from Hizballah's illegal activities is laundered via car sales to Africa, in addition to used car dealerships in the United States.
With Iran's help, Hizballah has evolved from a clandestine terrorist group to a full-fledged guerilla organization and is now one of the most powerful hybrid terrorist-militaries in the Arab world. Iran continues to equip Hizballah with the latest sophisticated and advanced weaponry that poses a direct threat to Israel's national security.
Beyond military and terrorist capabilities, Hizballah enhances its propaganda infrastructure worldwide, publishing its own newspapers, magazines, and books promoting the Islamic Republic's ideology. Iran helps cover the $15 million per year required to sustain Hizballah's Al Manar satellite television network intended to broaden its ideological reach to Shi'a communities worldwide.
Hizballah's devotion to Iran's revolutionary ideology takes precedence over Lebanon's constitution, Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah said in a March 10 speech delivered to Iranians in Lebanon. Hizballah adheres to Ayatollah Khamenei's orders, Nasrallah added, and avoids engaging in any behavior that irritates the supreme leader. While Hizballah claims to be Lebanon's protector and vanguard, the speech reaffirms Hizballah's primary commitment to carrying out Iran's directives, even at the expense of Lebanese domestic interests.