An Obama administration official has expressed concern that the billions of dollars in sanctions relief that will be awarded Iran after a nuclear deal could be used to promote terrorism, The Daily Beast reported today.
“We are of course aware and concerned that, despite the massive domestic spending needs facing Iran, some of the resulting sanctions relief could be used by Iran to fund destabilizing actions,” a State Department official told The Daily Beast.
Ahead of a widely-expected deal with Iran this week, the administration is talking tough: the State Department official said that “the U.S. sees Iran clearly for what it is: the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism; a supporter of terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas; a backer of the Assad regime’s brutality in Syria; and a force for instability in Yemen.”
Iran’s allies and detractors in the Middle East also expect that the funds freed up by sanctions relief will go to support Iran’s efforts to project its power throughout the Middle East.
The Daily Beast article quoted Hassan Nasrallah, head of the Iranian-backed Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, who said in an interview, “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.”
A Syrian opposition figure told The Daily Beast that “It was surprising how much financial resources Iran dedicated to Syria while it was under a choking sanctions framework. With a relaxation of this framework, Iran will only increase its support of the Assad regime and Shia militias, including Hezbollah, that are slaughtering the Syrian people every day.”
Even though the supporters of the deal argue that Iran will use the cash infusion to fund infrastructure and domestic spending, Matthew McInnis, a former Defense Department analyst said, “Even if they spent 60%, 70% on the money from the deal on hospitals and roads, it’s still going to have an enormous impact on what Iran is able to do in Iraq and Syria and Yemen.”
The fear that Iran will continue to sponsor terrorism and destabilize the Middle East in the wake of the deal was expressed recently by former Secretary of State and leading presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who noted that after a deal, Iran would remain the “world’s chief sponsor of terrorism.” Similar thoughts were conveyed by Andrew Bowen, a senior fellow at the Center for the National Interest, who wrote that the nuclear deal would allow Iran to create an “arc of instability” throughout the Middle East.
David Rothkopf, editor of Foreign Policy magazine, wrote earlier this year that “restoring cash flows and assets to Iran, as well as giving the country greater international standing, clearly exacerbates” the threat posed by Iran’s “35-year campaign of regional meddling.” Former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Shultz have argued that without stopping Iran’s destabilizing behavior, a nuclear deal would risk “empowering Iran’s hegemonic efforts.” In a similar vein, former State Department official Aaron David Miller wrote that a deal that doesn’t address Iran’s destabilizing behavior would have the effect of solving one crisis in exchange for facing a “bigger one down the road.” Mehdi Khalaji, Soner Cagaptay, and James Jeffrey, all fellows at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, wrote that a nuclear deal would not discourage Iran from pursuing its “imperial ambition” in the Middle East.
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