Lawrence Solomon: What the Iran deal means for terrorists

(July 17, 2015) Terrorist organizations world wide will soon be lining up to offer their services to Iran.

This article, by Lawrence Solomon, first appeared in the National Post

Until early this year, the economic outlook was downright scary for Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist groups around the world, which have faced budget cutbacks, layoffs and the need to curtail activities. Following Obama’s historic deal with Iran this week, the terrorists can breathe easy, drawing comfort in the knowledge that they’ll be able to continue with their life’s work.

The Great Recession took its toll on terrorists. In the case of Hezbollah in Lebanon, half of its budget disappeared after the 2008 recession hit Iran, Hezbollah’s paymaster and the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism. Iran lost most of its own revenues as oil prices plummeted from a high of almost $150 a barrel to $32, squeezing its ability to finance its terrorist proxies.

The belt-tightening that Hezbollah then had to endure was as nothing compared to the tough times earlier this year, after the Saudis hit Iran’s treasury by flooding the oil markets to draw prices down: Combined with the shale-fueled collapse of oil prices, it was a near death experience for Hezbollah. Civil servants went for weeks without being paid; fighters saw cutbacks in their families’ pensions and medical care. Hezbollah-affiliated politicians, who in the past could count on monthly bribes of $40,000 to $60,000 in performance of their duties, had their take slashed by two-thirds, to $15,000 to $20,000.

The lot of Hamas in Gaza was hardly better. Last year, Egyptian president Sisi, after ousting Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood, hit their Gaza wing by shutting down most of the smuggling tunnels between Egypt and Gaza. Gaza’s general economy suffered and so did Hamas, which suddenly lost its main source of revenue. The taxes levied on those smuggled goods — everything from cigarettes to gasoline to construction materials — had provided Hamas with $500 million of its $900 million budget.

Gaza’s government workers went for months on less than half pay, construction work dried up, bus drivers struck to protest the higher cost of fuel, power plants shut down much of the time. Public opinion turned against Hamas and there was talk the government could fall. Cash-strapped Iran, an off-again, on-again friend of Hamas, did what it could to help, but it had difficulties enough with its other priorities: maintaining Syria’s Assad in power, backing the Houthi rebels in Yemen and consolidating its hold over much of Iraq, quite apart from keeping up its sleeper cells in Nigeria, throughout Central and South America, in Asia and in North America.

Hezbollah, Hamas, those sleeper cells and other terrorist groups affiliated with Iran such as Islamic Jihad now know their tough times are behind them. After the U.S. sanctions on Iran are lifted, according to an April report by the U.S. Congressional Research Service, Iran will gain access to $100 billion in hard cash that foreign banks are now unable to release. That cash will be accompanied by other benefits — including an extra million barrels per day in oil sales — more than enough to fuel Iran’s existing terror operations, and future ones, too. Given this new-found wealth through a deal that has been dubbed a Jihadist Stimulus Package, terrorist organizations world wide will soon be lining up to offer their services to Iran.

One terrorist organization that isn’t cheering the deal is ISIS, which, like Iran, wants control of both Iraq and Syria. “A broad front can now fight ISIS,” stated Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, echoing Barack Obama’s plan to enlist Iran in a coalition against ISIS. Russia and Iran, both allied with Syria’s Assad, would dearly love to see setbacks for ISIS, the better to strengthen their hold over much of the Middle East. But ISIS has become potent in many countries: Such setbacks wouldn’t prevent ISIS from spawning terrorism in Africa and Asia as well as in Europe, Australia and North America.

Obama’s deal with Iran provides obvious benefits to Russia, obvious benefits to Iran, and obvious benefits to Iran’s vast terrorist network. How it benefits the West isn’t obvious at all.

Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe. Email: LawrenceSolomon@nextcity.com.

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About Lawrence Solomon

Lawrence Solomon is one of Canada's leading environmentalists. His book, The Conserver Solution (Doubleday) popularized the Conserver Society concept in the late 1970s and became the manual for those interested in incorporating environmental factors into economic life. An advisor to President Jimmy Carter's Task Force on the Global Environment (the Global 2000 Report) in the late 1970's, he has since been at the forefront of movements to reform foreign aid, stop nuclear power expansion and adopt toll roads. Mr. Solomon is a founder and managing director of Energy Probe Research Foundation and the executive director of its Energy Probe and Urban Renaissance Institute divisions. He has been a columnist for The Globe and Mail, a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, the editor and publisher of the award-winning The Next City magazine, and the author or co-author of seven books, most recently The Deniers, a #1 environmental best-seller in both Canada and the U.S. .
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