London, 4 May – Last month, Iranian officials announced that Iran’s defense budget increased by 145 percent under President Hassan Rouhani, and the military is moving forward with massive restructuring to make it “a forward moving force,” according to regional reports. This is very concerning to U.S. national security insiders and sources on Capitol Hill,
as leaders have stated that they are using the money released under the agreement to purchase new military equipment and other armaments. Iran also has pursued multi-million dollar arms deals with Russia.
Congress and U.S. officials working on the review of Iran policy believe that at least part of the $1.7 billion cash payment to Iran has been used to fund and support terrorists in the Middle East.
Adam Kredo in an article for The Free Beacon said, “The latest disclosure about Iran’s military buildup is further fueling concerns that U.S. cash assets returned to the country—which were released with no strings attached by the Obama administration—are helping Iran pursue a more aggressive military stance against U.S. forces in the region.” He added, “President Obama flat-out caved in to Iran when he handed them the disastrous nuclear deal and $1.7 billion in cash payments that could assist Iran’s military.”
“So it’s no surprise that the world’s lead sponsor of terrorism would feel emboldened to become more aggressive in the region and flex its military muscle,” said Rep. Sean Duffy (R., Wis.), an opponent of the nuclear deal.
The military buildup was announced by Iranian Brigadier General Kiumars Heidari during Iran’s annual Army Day. According to conversations with multiple sources, U.S. National Security insiders have been discussing the announcement for weeks.
Iran is attempting to revamp its army, including improving logistical capabilities, weaponry, and other armaments, with the goal being to turn its army into an “offensive” force, which is a major shift from its historic role as a support agent for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, or IRGC, according to Kredo.
An Iran analyst writing in Middle East Eye, Mahan Abedin, described the announcement as a major shift in Iranian military policy, and will allow the Islamic Republic to intervene in the Persian Gulf region, where the U.S. military has a significant presence. Abedin wrote, “This is a major policy announcement with far-reaching consequences for foreign policy and internal defense-related power dynamics. If implemented properly, Heidari’s proposed modernization policy would not only radically alter Iranian defense doctrine, but just as importantly, it would also reverse the army’s subservient relationship to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).”
Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser and expert on rogue regimes, said, “First, there’s history: Between 1998 and 2005, European Union trade with Iran more than doubled and the price of oil quintupled,” Rubin explained. “Iran took that hard currency windfall and invested the bulk of it in its nuclear and missile programs. The person coordinating Iran’s strategy? Hassan Rouhani who was at the time secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.” Rubin added, “Obama and Kerry might as well have wired the money directly into the accounts of those seeking to enhance Iran’s military, kill Sunnis, or sponsor terrorism.”
A senior congressional source tracking the matter is concerned about the safety of U.S. forces in the region, which already are routinely harassed by Iranian military personnel. “This is certainly grounds for concern,” the source said. “An Iranian military buildup coupled with an offensive posture is a threat to the United States and our allies. This also serves as an important reminder of why the Obama administration’s cash infusion to Iran was so dangerous.” Regarding the money provided by the United States and European countries, he said it is “fungible and hence can be used for everything from sponsoring terror proxies to developing ballistic missiles. Congress will continue to take action to counter Iranian terrorism and ensure this regime never acquires a nuclear weapon.”
Iran’s military announcement has already pushed Capitol Hill to reimpose economic sanctions on Iran. One senior congressional adviser working on the sanctions effort stated, “The Iranians know that the party will end this fall, when Congress will pass bipartisan legislation that begins to roll back Iran’s military growth.” This source added, “The Obama administration avoided any serious action for years, and so Iran kept growing its arsenal and using it against our allies, against Syrian civilians, and increasingly against our military. Now they’re rushing to accomplish as much as they can before Congress and the Trump administration get around to reversing Obama’s policies.”