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Iran Spent $17 Billion Regionally While US Spent Trillions, General Claims

Iran spent only $17 billion on cultural outreach, diplomacy and regional defense in the past three decades compared to $7 trillion spent by the United States, a general in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards told Iranian television on Sunday [January 3].

Brigadier-General Mohammad-Reza Naghdi, Coordination Deputy Commander of the IRGC, was speaking in a program aired by the state broadcaster IRIB in a week where Palestinian and Lebanese officials have highlighted support supplied by Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, who was killed by a US drone near Baghdad airport on January 3, 2020.

The figure Naghdi mentioned about Iranian expenditures is not possible to verify, because most of the outlays for its proxy groups and weapons supplies to militants is not public information. However, experts are in general agreement that Tehran has given the Lebanese Hezbollah alone at least $500 million annually, which in 30 years would total $15 billion.

Iran has also spent up to $30 billion in Syria to support Bashar al-Assad’s government as well as large sums in Iraq and Yemen. On May 19, 2020, Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, an influential conservative lawmaker told Etemad Online that Iran has spent 20-30 billion dollars in Syria and that money has to come back.

On December 27 Mahmoud Al-Zahar, a founding member of Hamas, told Iran’s state-run Arabic news channel Al-Alam that Soleimani, who commanded the extraterritorial Qods Force, passed him suitcases containing $22 million during a visit to Tehran in 2006 as foreign minister in the Palestinian administration of prime minister Ismail Haniyeh.

Abu Mujahid, spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees, a Palestinian group allied to Iran, also on December 27 praised assistance delivered by Soleimani to the “Palestinian resistance” including Russian-made ground-fire Kornet missiles – a weapon successfully used by Hezbollah against invading Israeli tanks during the 33-day war in 2006.

Declaring that Soleimani was instrumental in aiding Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, the group’s leader, on December 27 said that Iran had for a year paid the rent and living expenses of 200,000 families who lost their homes in Israeli attacks during the 2006 war. That amount alone could be more than $4 billion.

Iran’s ties with Hamas strained after 2012 as Tehran supported President Bashar Al-Assad in the Syrian War while Hamas backed Syrian, mainly Sunni rebels and withdrew its external headquarters from Damascus. Relations have improved in recent times, with Haniyeh, as head of the Hamas political bureau, visiting Tehran in January 2020 in the wake of Soleimani’s assassination.

Despite the serious challenge of three years of stringent US sanctions since 2018, Iran has continued support, though reportedly at a reduced level. On December 22, Israeli Defense Minister and Alternative Prime Minister Benny Ganz signed an order to seize $4 million transferred from Iran to Hamas. The decree targets Gaza businessman Zuhir Shamalch and his money-changing outfit Al-Mutahadun.

A British-Iranian journalist, political analyst and former correspondent of The National and journalist at Iran International
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