- Iran spending billions to prop up Assad, deepening concerns over $150 billion nuclear signing bonus
Iran is spending billions of dollars annually to prop up the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, according to a Tuesday report by journalist Eli Lake of Bloomberg View. Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations special envoy to Syria, estimates that Iran invests $6 billion a year in the Assad regime, which is responsible for a war whose death toll exceeds 230,000 people and has committed atrocities such as mass chemical weapons attacks and barrel bombings of civilians. Nahim Shehadi, the director of the Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies of Tufts University, puts the number at between $14-15 billion per year in 2012 and 2013 in military and economic aid to Assad. Another expert, Steven Heydemann, who until last month was vice president of Applied Research on Conflict at the United States Institute of Peace, gives a number of $15-$20 billion annually.Iran is set to receive a signing bonus of up to $150 billion upon the announcement of the emerging deal over its nuclear program with the P5+1 powers. The Assad regime has recently suffered a series of setbacks on the battlefield and there is concern that the anticipated windfall would salvage Tehran's precarious position. Analysts estimate that over the past decade, Iran has provided Hezbollah with up to $200 million a year. In the past few months, Iran has supplied Hamas with tens of millions of dollars, reportedly to be used primarily for the reconstruction of tunnels that Hamas uses to smuggle weapons and fighters and to infiltrate Israel. In testimony before the House Financial Services Committee in April, Jonathan Schanzer, the Vice President for Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said Iran is “prolific” in terrorist financing and also invests in human capital by training Palestinian terrorists in rocket manufacturing. Schanzer said that he would anticipate an acceleration in terrorist financing upon the completion of any nuclear agreement: “[The] Houthis, the Assad regime, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas. Every one of these groups stands to benefit. They’re all salivating right now at this idea of a cash infusion.” Similarly in his piece, Lake concludes, “If Iran spends billions of its limited resources today to support its proxies in the Middle East, it would follow that it will spend even more once sanctions are lifted.”
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Dicretor General Yukiya Amano once again called on Iran to cooperate with his agency’s investigation into Iran’s past nuclear work on Monday, and said that IAEA inspectors would have to be in Iran for “years and years” in order to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes. Amano said that Iran “need[s] to accelerate” its cooperation in disclosing its past nuclear work with the IAEA. However, Amano also said that if a nuclear deal is concluded with Iran, his agency would still have to have a presence in Iran to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is strictly peaceful. As The Wall Street Journal reported (Google link) today:
Mr. Amano said it would take years for the U.N.’s atomic agency to come to a final broader conclusion that Iran’s nuclear program is fully peaceful. During that time, Iran’s obligations under the so-called Additional Protocol mean Tehran would have to give detailed explanations of its nuclear activities every three months. If the IAEA has concerns about the information, it can seek clarifications or request access to sites where it believes illicit activities may be taking place.
“We will continue these activities for quite a prolonged period of time and then, after making our efforts, we come to the point when we can provide credible assurance that there is no indication of activities other than peaceful activities,” Mr. Amano said at a news conference. “This is a long process and full cooperation from the country is needed.”
The IAEA chief said there was no way of telling in advance how long it would take the IAEA to declare Iran’s program is fully peaceful. “But it’s a matter of years at least. Not months. Not weeks. Years or years and years.”
If ratified and observed by Iran, the Additional Protocol would give IAEA inspectors greater access to Iran’s nuclear program. Iran signed the Additional Protocol a decade ago but still has not ratified it. Iran would be called on to ratify the Additional Protocol as part of any nuclear deal with the West. (via TheTower.org)