Trump’s Sanctions On Iran Are Hitting Hezbollah Hard

BEIRUT (The Washington Post) -
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (3rd L) meets Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (not pictured) at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, May 17, 2019. (Reuters/Thomas Peter/Pool)

The powerful Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist group has thrived for decades on generous cash handouts from Iran, spending lavishly on benefits for its fighters, funding social services for its constituents and accumulating a formidable arsenal that has helped make the group a significant regional force, with troops in Syria and Iraq.

But since President Donald Trump introduced sweeping new restrictions on trade with Iran last year, raising tensions with Tehran that reached a crescendo in recent days, Iran’s ability to finance allies like Hezbollah has been curtailed. Hezbollah, the best funded and most senior of Tehran’s proxies, has seen a sharp fall in its revenue and is being forced to make draconian cuts to its spending, according to Hezbollah officials, members and supporters.

Fighters are being furloughed or assigned to the reserves, where they receive lower salaries or no pay at all, said a Hezbollah employee with one of the group’s administrative units. Many of them are being withdrawn from Syria, where the militia has played an instrumental role in fighting on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad and ensuring his survival.

Programs on Hezbollah’s media station Al-Manar have been canceled and their staff laid off, according to another Hezbollah insider. The once ample spending programs that underpinned the group’s support among Lebanon’s historically impoverished Shiite community have been slashed, including the supply of free medicines and even groceries to fighters, employees and their families.

Trump administration officials claim they have wiped $10 billion from Iranian revenue since November.

The tensions between Washington and Tehran spiked after further restrictions went into effect on May 2, eliminating waivers from eight countries that had previously been allowed to continue importing Iranian oil with the goal, U.S. officials say, of reducing Iranian oil exports to “zero.”