(CNSNews.com) – The leader of Hezbollah, in a rare public admission, has boasted that due to Iran’s generous support, new U.S. sanctions targeting his group – a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization – will have no impact.
In a televised speech Friday, Hasan Nasrallah dismissed as “childish dreams” claims in some Lebanese and regional media about Hezbollah facing financial collapse as a result of sanctions legislation enacted late last year.
“We are open about the fact that Hezbollah’s budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, are from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Hezbollah’s official Al Ahed newspaper quoted him as saying.
“As long as Iran has money we will have money,” Nasrallah added. “Hezbollah gets its money and arms from Iran, as long as Iran has money, so does Hezbollah.”
Obama administration officials have conceded that funds released to Iran under the nuclear deal may benefit terrorist groups like Hezbollah, although they also suggested the impact would be limited as Tehran had more pressing economic priorities.
“If President Rouhani and his administration do not [use the freed-up funds to] take care of the people of Iran, they will have an enormous problem,” Secretary of State John Kerry told the BBC shortly after the nuclear deal was announced last July.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest, too, argued that while Iran as a sovereign country would make its own decisions about how it spends the money, it was “common sense” to expect the regime would use it to improve the ailing economy, rather than increase funding for terrorism or other destabilizing activity in the region.
Days after the nuclear deal’s “implementation day” in January, Kerry again admitted that some of the money Iran gets will go to “entities, some of which are labeled terrorists to some degree.”
Republican lawmakers responded scathingly, with Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) saying it was “certain,” rather than merely likely, that that would come to pass.
“You might as well as have written the check to [Syrian President Bashar] Assad yourself,” he said in comments directed at Kerry. “You might as well have funded Hezbollah yourself.”
The U.S. Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act, passed in December, imposes sanctions against any institution that knowingly facilities financial transactions benefitting Hezbollah.
Hezbollah has been angered by Lebanese banks’ compliance with the legislation.
Nasrallah in the speech complained that some banks had gone so far as to shut down the accounts of “charitable associations.” He also accused banks of targeting “a third of the population” – a reference to Lebanon’s Shi’ite community.
Despite those complaints, Nasrallah declared that “all the banks of the world cannot stand as an obstacle to Hezbollah.”
His speech has delivered to mark the 40th day since the “martyrdom” in Syria of top terrorist Mustafa Badreddine, who was linked to attacks including the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut.
Hezbollah, which was set up with Tehran’s support soon after the 1979 Iranian revolution, has been a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization since 1997.
While its main priority and enemy is Israel, it is also responsible for hundreds of American deaths in terrorist attacks dating back to the 1980s.
Until 9/11, the U.S. government held Hezbollah accountable for the deaths of more Americans than any other terrorist group in history.