Israeli intelligence sources indicate a serious financial crisis is brewing for Hizballah, with the Jerusalem Report reporting that Iran has cut aid to the group by 40%. The cutbacks are a result of international economic sanctions against Iran and have caused created a row between Hizballah and its patron.
Iran is Hizballah's primary funder and arms source, with upwards of $1 billion in direct military aid flowing to the group in recent years. Much of this aid is used to purchase advanced weaponry, establish and maintain military posts, and pay and train its operatives, the Post reported. Other financial sources for the organization include Lebanon's Beka'a Valley drug trade, tithes paid by wealthy Shia, and overseas criminal activities, such as a North Carolinian cigarette smuggling operation busted in 2002.
Despite the cutback, Iran tried to give a boost to Hizballah in October when President Ahmadinejad visited Lebanon. "In Lebanon Iran wants what the Lebanese people want: That it be an independent and sovereign people, present in the regional balance. There is no other Iranian project," Hizballah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah told audiences during the visit. "In my [position of] responsibility in Hezbollah, I bear witness before you that Iran, which has always supported us and still does, has never demanded of me that I take a [particular] stance. It has never issued a command and never expected thanks from us, although we take pride in our deep faith in the guardianship of the just, wise, and courageous jurisprudent."
Hizballah is also under pressure from the impending publication of the first round of indictments by the UN's Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is expected to name Hizballah officials as responsible for the 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Hizballah has promised a "new era for resistance" unless the Lebanese government shuns the tribunal's findings.