Responding to a request from Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), the Congressional Research Service prepared a report detailing monies spent by Iran supporting terrorist organizations in the Middle East.
The report, obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, outlined the massive expenditures by the Iranian regime on Hezbollah in Lebanon, Shiite militias Syria and Iraq, the Assad government, the Houthi rebels in Yemen and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, as well as Iran’s own military program.
These expenditures will only increase with the expected release of $150 billion in sanctions relief due to the current nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers.
Iranian Military Spending
Although in May 2015, U.S. President Barack Obama stated Iran’s military budget was “$15 billion compared to $150 billion for the Gulf States,” Press TV, an Iranian-owned media outlet, reported in March the Iranian parliament had approved a $300 billion budget for the military for 2015.
The report names the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force as the main vehicle that carries out terrorism for the regime, citing one study that claims the actual funding for the force is “much greater” than the amount allotted to it in the official budget “as the group’s funds are supplemented by its own economic activities.”
Iran provides an estimated $6-20 billion per year in aid to the Assad regime in Syria. One source estimated in 2013 Iran was giving $600-700 million per month to Syria, while another says that the amount has since doubled. The money funds militias, weapons and military training as well as the purchase of subsidized oil from Iran and other commodities.
Although Iran claims to be cash strapped because of international sanctions, this past July, Iran extended $1 billion in additional financial credit to the Syrian regime.
Shiite Militias in Syria
Iran provides training for Iraqi Shiite militias who are fighting for the Assad regime in Syria. An estimated 5-10,000 Iraqi Shiites are said to comprise these forces that fight alongside Hezbollah and form sniper teams, lead ambushes, establish checkpoints and provide infantry support for Syrian armored corps. Iran also recruits fighters for the Assad regime from Afghanistan and from within Syria itself. Iran pays each fighter an estimated $500-1,000 per month.
Shiite Militias in Iraq
One Iranian cleric cited in the congressional report estimates Iran has spent more than $1 billion in military aid to Iraq since the Islamic State swept through the country and captured large swathes of territory in the north last summer.
The militias Iran funds in Iraq are theose that fought against the United States between 2003 and 2011. Iraqi intelligence officials say just one of these militias, As’aib Ahl Al Haq (League of the Righteous), receives between $1.5 and $2 million per month from Iran.
A report published by Amnnesty International in 2014 titled Absolute Impunity: Militia Rule in Iraq documented the horrific kidnapping and murder of Sunni men by these Shiite paramilitary groups.
The latest State Department Country Report on Terrorism (2014) states Iran provided Hezbollah with “training, weapons, and explosives, as well as political, diplomatic, monetary, and organizational aid.” The Department of Defense estimates Tehran gives Hezbollah between $100-200 million in aid per year.
In 2006, it was estimated Iran was providing Hamas with $20-25 million per month to cover its governing budget as well as supplying the Gaza-based terror group weapons, technical assistance and military training.
In the years following, it was reported the aid had been cut, while at the same time Iran began sending more assistance to an alternate terror group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Most recent media reports say Iran has resumed its support of Hamas, providing “tens of millions of dollars” to Hamas’ military efforts including the rebuilding of tunnels destroyed the 2014 Israel-Gaza war, the replenishment of rockets and the salaries of fighters.
Over the past number of years, Iran has been increasing its activities in Yemen. The Islamic republic is currently supporting the Houthi rebels who are fighting against the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, providing them with “tens of millions of dollars.”
The infusion of $150 billion dollars in sanctions relief due to the current nuclear agreement with the world’s powers, in addition to monies garnered through vast business dealings with the West, will provide Iran will more fodder as it fans out its terrorist fires across the globe.
Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org