The next war between Israel and Hezbollah will be devastating, and Hezbollah will be the guilty party, journalist Willy Stern wrote in the June 20 issue of The Weekly Standard. Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed terrorist group based in Lebanon, has an arsenal of more than 130,000 rockets, more than all NATO countries, excluding the U.S., combined. This number includes long-range rockets and M-600 ballistic missiles, which carry a high payload and would be able to “wipe out a good chunk of Times Square and maim and kill people four football fields away from the point of impact.” Hezbollah has approximately 100,000 short-range rockets trained on schools, homes, and hospitals in northern Israel that would unleash chaos and potentially kill hundreds of Israeli civilians. Geoff Corn, an international military law expert, explained the difficult choices Israeli officers face when Hezbollah purposefully places such weaponry in civilian areas. If Israel were to strike in this instance, he concluded that “both legally and morally, the cause of these tragic consequences will lie solely at the feet of Hezbollah.” Because of this, Corn said, “Hezbollah should be pressured starting today to avoid locating such vital military assets among civilians.” Otherwise “the instinctual condemnation of Israel will only encourage continuation of these illicit tactics.”
Stern explained that while Hezbollah has the manpower and weapons arsenal “of a nation-state…its tactics are those of a terrorist organization.” Because of this, the destruction inflicted upon Lebanon in the event of war will be massive. This is despite the fact that the IDF wages war in a cautious way to minimize civilian casualties; in fact, Michael Schmitt, chairman of the Stockton Center for the Study of International Law at the U.S. Naval War College, said, “The IDF’s warnings certainly go beyond what the law requires, but they also sometimes go beyond what would be operational good sense elsewhere. People are going to start thinking that the U.S. and other Western democracies should follow the same examples in different types of conflict. That’s a real risk.”
In a New York Times article in May 2015, Israeli military officials detailed how Hezbollah has “moved most of its military infrastructure” in and around Shiite villages, which “amounts to using the civilians as a human shield.” One official stated that Lebanese civilians are “living in a military compound.” He told the Times: “We will hit Hezbollah hard, while making every effort to limit civilian casualties as much as we can…We do not intend to stand by helplessly in the face of rocket attacks.” Stern, who was shown maps of the locations of Hezbollah weapons, said that they are not only being stored in these southern villages, but in Beirut itself.
Yaakov Amidror, Israel’s former national security advisor, met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the summer of 2013 and showed him “detailed evidence of Hezbollah’s deadly arsenal and the fact that it was strategically placed within densely populated civilian centers.” When Amidror asked Ban what the Israelis should do, he “offered no response and no suggestions.” Stern concluded his piece, “Nobody, it seems, in times of peace is willing to offer Israel a constructive suggestion on how to deal with an Iranian-backed terrorist organization in possession of a massive arsenal on its northern border. But these same organizations stand front and center to criticize Israel for acting legally and proportionately for protecting its own citizens in wartime.”
A $1.7 billion payment by the U.S. to Iran that coincided with the release of American hostages in January is helping Tehran boost its military budget by 90% in the next year, Eli Lake of Bloomberg View reported on Thursday.
The $1.7 billion payment was transferred from a taxpayer-funded account called the Justice Fund, which is used to pay claims against the U.S. when there is no other source of money. Iran’s Guardian Council ordered the country’s central bank to transfer the payment to the military last month.
“Article 22 of the budget for 2017 says the Central Bank is required to give the money from the legal settlement of Iran’s pre- and post-revolutionary arms sales of up to $1.7 billion to the defense budget,” explained Saeed Ghasseminejad, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. The order was reported by a number of Iranian news sources.
The sum claimed by Iran came from a $400 million payment made by the government of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to buy arms from the U.S. before the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. After the revolution and the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran, the U.S. cancelled the arms sale and the money remained in a trust. In order to meet Iranian claims, the U.S. paid $1.7 billion to cover the initial payment plus $1.3 billion in interest for the past 36 years.
Rep. Mike Pompeo (R – Kan.) has called for an investigation into the payment because of its proximity to the release of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, Pastor Saeed Abedani, Amir Hekmati, and two others from Iranian prisons. A few days after the hostages were freed and the funds were transferred to Iran, The Wall Street Journal reported that there were growing concerns that the money was in fact a ransom payment.
While the Obama administration claims the payments and the hostage release was unrelated, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi, commander of Iran’s Basij militia, identified the payment as a ransom in January. “This money was returned for the freedom of the US spy and it was not related to the [nuclear] negotiations,” Naqdi said.
“The fact that U.S. taxpayers appear to be funding Iran’s military is outrageous,” Pompeo told Lake.
Lake characterized the 90% increase in Iran’s defense budget as an “irony,” which comes as Iran’s leaders are alleging that they haven’t received the benefits they were expecting from last year’s nuclear deal.
Ghasseminenad wrote in greater detail about Iran’s military budget in a policy brief last week.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in April of last year that “Iran is expected to use new revenues chiefly to address those needs, including by shoring up its budget, building infrastructure, maintaining the stability of the rial, and attracting imports,” rather than funding terrorism. President Barack Obama similarly said last August in his speech at American University that “our best analysts expect the bulk of this revenue to go into spending that improves the economy and benefits the lives of the Iranian people.” (via TheTower.org)