(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday played down concerns that Iran will use the windfall from sanctions relief under the nuclear agreement to boost sponsorship for terrorists, suggesting that groups like Hezbollah do not benefit all that much from Iranian financial support in the first place.
The notion that the $100 billion which Iran will obtain “is going to make all the difference in the world is just – it’s not true,” Kerry told the BBC in Vienna after the Iran nuclear agreement was announced. He was responding to a question about concerns that Iran could use funds gained through sanctions relief to increase support terrorists.
“What Iran has done for years with Hezbollah does not depend on money,” he said, in reference to the Lebanese Shi’ite group, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization. Similarly, he said, Iran’s controversial activities in Yemen and Iraq have not “depended on money.”
“Sure, something may go additionally somewhere,” Kerry continued. “But if President [Hasan] Rouhani and his administration do not [use the money to] take care of the people of Iran, they will have an enormous problem.”
He said it was the U.S. intelligence community analysis that whatever amount of money accrued by Iran “that finds its way somewhere, is not the difference in what is happening in the Middle East.”
In a 2010 report to Congress on Iran’s military power, the Department of Defense said that Iran “provides roughly $100-$200 million per year in funding to support Hezbollah.”
The State Department’s most recent terrorism report calls Hezbollah Iran’s “primary beneficiary, and says Tehran in 2014 continued to provide the group “with training, weapons, and explosives, as well as political, diplomatic, monetary, and organizational aid.”
“Iran has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in support of Lebanese Hezbollah in Lebanon and has trained thousands of its fighters at camps in Iran,” it states.
Previous State Department terrorism reports have noted that, until the al-Qaeda attacks on 9/11, Hezbollah was “responsible for more American deaths than any other terrorist group.”
Last spring, White House press secretary Josh Earnest conceded that the administration will not be able to proscribe how Iran uses the money it gets from sanctions relief, but said it was “common sense” to expect the regime would use it to improve the ailing economy, not to increase funding for terrorism or other destabilizing activity in the region.
“I’m not going to make any predictions about what they are going to do, and I’m certainly not going to be in a position to prescribe what they should do,” he said. “This is a sovereign country that will make their own decisions.”
Amid concerns in Congress and among America’s Mideast allies about Iran’s support for terror, the White House firmly opposed efforts by Republican lawmakers to link Iran’s support for terrorism to the nuclear negotiations which have now been finalized. Early this year it threatened to veto legislation providing for congressional review of a nuclear agreement unless it was revised to remove terrorism-related provisions.
The administration contended that although Iran’s support for terror and other troubling regional activity was cause for serious concern, they had to be kept separate from the nuclear talks, where the goal was to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran that would be even more dangerous than it is now.