A Hizballah fighter holding an Iranian-made antiaircraft missile (file photo)
by RFE/RL Journalists for RFERL.org Nov 16 2018 –
The United States is claiming that Iran spends nearly $1 billion a year providing support to Hizballah, Hamas, and other allied militant groups in the Middle East.
U.S. Ambassador Nathan Sales, a coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department, told reporters in Washington late on November 13 that Iran spends about $700 million a year on Hizballah, the Lebanese militia that has fought wars with Israel and has provided critical support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his seven-year civil war against Sunni rebels.
In addition, Sales said Tehran gives Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that controls the Gaza Strip, and other “Palestinian terrorist groups” another $100 million a year.
He did not specify where the rest of the funding goes, but he claimed the total spending by Iran supporting militant activities primarily in the Middle East is close to $1 billion a year.
“Iran is the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. It has held that dubious distinction for many years now, and it shows no signs of relinquishing the title,” Sales said.
“Sadly, it is the Iranian people who are forced to pay this price. The resources that Iran uses to fund its global terrorist ambitions are resources that come directly out of the pockets of everyday, average Iranians.”
U.S. President Donald Trump has said the sanctions he reimposed on Iran this year were aimed in part at forcing Tehran to curb its support for militant activities in the Middle East, making such financial outlays more difficult and burdensome.
A principal goal of the U.S. sanctions imposed last week was to cut Iran's revenues from exporting oil, which have provided a large share of funding for the government and Iran's military, including its Quds Force, which conducts foreign military operations involving Hamas and Hizballah.
Iranian officials have said the sanctions will do nothing to deter the country's support for allies in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, and elsewhere.
But in street protests that broke out in Iran earlier this year, some demonstrators expressed concern about the money the government is spending in Syria and elsewhere outside Iran.
Sales made his comments as the United States announced a new round of sanctions against the son of Hizballah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, as well as other senior commanders of Hizballah and Hamas.