WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has imposed an “unprecedented” economic pressure campaign on Iran that is forcing its proxy Hezbollah to beg for spare change, a top Department of State (DOS) official told House lawmakers on Wednesday.
Brian Hook, the U.S. Special Representative for Iran and senior policy adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, told the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and International Terrorism:
Today by nearly every metric the regime and its proxies are weaker than when our pressure began. … Our pressure campaign is working. It is making Iran’s violent and expansionist foreign policy cost prohibitive.
The top State official acknowledged that, even with limited economic resources, Iran remains a threat.
“Iran still, even with very little revenue has asymmetric capabilities that terrorists have,” Hook testified, noting that Tehran has responded to the sanctions with violence.
He revealed that the sanctions have made it difficult for Iran to expand its military capabilities and continue funding Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Tehran-allied Shiite militiamen in Iraq.
The State official’s revelation that Iran and Hezbollah are going broke came less than two years after Forbes, in January 2018, designated Hezbollah the wealthiest terrorist group in the world with an annual income of $1.1 billion, generated primarily by “aid funding from Iran, drug manufacture, and trade.”
The narco-terrorist group Hezbollah is heavily involved in lucrative drug trade and money laundering activities across the Western Hemisphere, particularly Latin America, according to the U.S. government.
Hook told House lawmakers that Trump’s maximum pressure campaign on Tehran has forced “Hezbollah and Hamas” to enact “unprecedented austerity plans due to a lack of funding from Iran,” adding:
In March, Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, went on TV and made a public appeal for donations. Hezbollah has placed piggy banks in grocery stores and in retail outlets seeking the spare change of people.
On June 4, Breitbart News learned from the Long War Journal that Iranian-backed Shiite Houthis in Yemen — considered the poorest country in the Muslim world —recently launched a fundraising campaign for Hezbollah after the U.S. sanctions limited Tehran’s ability to continue funding the narco-terrorists.
Hook also noted that Iran has told its proxies in Iraq, which include the Baghdad-sanctioned umbrella organization known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), “that they need to start looking for new sources of revenue.”
“Shia militant groups in Syria have stated that Iran no longer has enough money to pay them as much as they have in the past,” Hook added.
The Trump sanctions have also made it difficult for Iran to expand its military capabilities.
Beginning in 2014 when the [nuclear] deal was near completion Iran’s military budget increased every year through 2017. When we put our pressure into effect starting in 2017 to 2018 in the first year we saw a reduction in Iran’s military spending by 10 percent and in March their most recent budget has a 28 percent cut in defense spending and that includes a 17 percent cut for IRGC [Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps] funding.
In April, President Trump sanctioned the IRGC and officially named it a foreign terrorist organization.
Hook stressed, “It is the case that the regime has tens of millions of dollars of less revenue than what it did before our sanctions took effect. That does not mean we have eliminated their asymmetric threat.”
Hook pointed out that Iran has responded to Trump’s maximum pressure campaign with violence.
In his written testimony, he told the House panel:
Our diplomacy does not entitle Iran to take violent action against any nation or to threaten maritime security.
While threatening maritime shipping and plotting attacks against U.S. forces and interests, the Islamic Republic is also engaging in its longstanding practice of nuclear extortion to deter the Administration’s maximum pressure campaign. This week’s announcement that Iran is expanding its uranium enrichment reminds us of the fatal flaws of the Iran nuclear deal.
Echoing the Pentagon, Hook declared that while the Trump administration does not seek war with Iran, it stands ready to “defend our citizens, forces, and interests, including against attacks by Iran or its proxies.”
“We stand with our partners and allies to safeguard global commerce and regional stability,” he added.
Amid intensified U.S.-Iran tensions, the Trump administration approved the deployment of an additional 1,000 troops to the Middle East this week. The deployment follows another 1,500 deployed in May.
Reflecting his presidential campaign pledge to take a tougher stance against Tehran, Trump’s maximum pressure efforts against Iran began soon after his inauguration in early 2017.
Throughout his campaign, Trump accused former President Barack Obama’s administration of being weak against Iran, explicitly singling out the 2015 nuclear pact between Tehran and U.S.-led world powers as a bad deal.
The day after the U.S. announced the nuclear pact, former President Obama admitted that Iran would use sanctions relief money to fund the terrorist group Hezbollah.
President Obama administration turned a blind eye to Hezbollah’s drug trafficking activities in the Western Hemisphere to secure approval of the controversial Iran nuclear deal, Politico reported.
Last year, Trump pulled the United States out of the nuclear agreement, arguing that it was not tough enough on Iran. He reimposed sanctions suspended under the pact as part of a historic wave of restrictions that remain in place today.