US sanctions should pressure Iran to stop supporting terrorism and military activities in the Middle East

The Trump administration deserves credit for withdrawing from the disastrous Iran nuclear deal. A lot of pundits didn’t think President Trump was serious when he threatened to pull out of the agreement, but he showed otherwise. Now that the president has decided to impose “snapback” sanctions on Iran, we can now focus our economic power on the destabilizing behavior of the Iranian government.

It is clear that Iran is promoting the expansion of military and terrorist activities across the Middle East. As the Trump administration rightfully begins to implement sanctions against Iran to combat this expansion, we have to examine the actions of the Iranian government on several fronts.

Iran’s continued support of the Hezbollah terrorist organization with both financial and political assistance, as well as weapons and tactical training, deserves close examination. Western diplomats and Lebanese analysts estimate that Iranian financial support for Hezbollah averages around $100 million each year, sometimes reaching amounts closer to a quarter of a billion dollars.

Hezbollah has also received Iranian-supplied weaponry, including 11,500 missiles that have already been placed in Lebanon. Along with the supplied weapons, over 3,000 Hezbollah militants have undergone Iranian training. They have learned about guerilla warfare tactics, operation of unmanned drones and marine warfare.

Additionally, through Iran’s support and through their own illicit financing and criminal networks, Hezbollah has become a dominant force and a direct source instability in the Middle East.

Hezbollah has been fighting in defense of Syrian President Bashar Assad. It has provided material support for designated terrorist organizations like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It has engaged in training and command operations for militia groups in Iraq. It has provided ballistic missiles and leadership to the Houthi insurgency in Yemen. In addition, there are reports of an increasing Hezbollah presence in North Africa.

All of these activities pose a direct threat to U.S. security interests, contribute to the prolonging of conflicts across the Middle East, and pose threats to our key allies in the region.

Finally, we should pay attention to Qatar’s continued support of state-sponsored terrorism efforts. Our efforts to limit Iran’s support for terrorism require cooperation. Qatar’s ongoing support and funding for terrorist groups has been well- documented.

It’s of increasing concern that Iranian banks are moving their foreign exchange operations to the Qatar National Bank. We know Iran’s access to foreign currencies is an essential part of the government’s funding and support for terrorism.

Further, Iran has recently voiced its support for the Qatari government, strengthening our concerns with the activities of both governments.

As our Treasury Department continues to bring back sanctions against Iran, the department should pay attention to these issues and keep a close watch over the actions of both the Qatari and Iranian governments, as well as Hezbollah’s illicit activities around the world.

Iran, Qatar and Hezbollah are responsible for the increase in terrorist-based activities across the Middle East, and we must impose harsh sanctions that directly limit the Iranian regime's access to finance. The sanctions against Iran will affect all major industries, thereby preventing the leadership from funding destabilizing activities in the Middle East and wider world.

Rep. Ted Budd is a member of the U.S. House representing North Carolina. He serves on the Financial Services Committee and its Terrorism and Illicit Finance Subcommittee.