As part of the ongoing discussion about Iran, we often hear of the Islamic Republic referred to as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism”. Iran has held the dubious distinction of this designation of the U.S. State Department since 1984. What is missing from the discussion is the human cost of what Iran does in the name of “exporting the Islamic revolution”. A more appropriate title for Iran should be, “a State Sponsor of Human Suffering”.
The tragedy of Syria is just one example.
Correspondent Ben Wedeman told the story of one victim, “Three-year-old Sarah is one of the few who survived. She now lies in a bed in the Bekaa Hospital in nearby Zahleh, two intravenous tubes taped to her small right arm. Frostbite left a large dark scab on her forehead… No one has told Sarah that her mother Manal, her five-year-old sister Hiba, her grandmother, her aunt and two cousins died on the mountain”.
Sarah’s story is just one of millions of Syrians that include nearly half a million dead and more than five million refugees. Unfortunately, the international community has largely ignored Iran’s key role in the tragedy of Syria.
Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, Iran has gone out of its way to prop up the brutal Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad. Experts estimate that since 2011, Iran has been spending between $6 billion and $35 billion per year in Syria.
Beyond its financial support, Iran has provided the Assad regime with an endless supply of ammunition and weapons and tens of thousands of fighters from its Revolutionary Guard Corps and from its loyal proxy, Hezbollah. In addition, Iran has recruited, trained and deployed thousands of loyal Shia militants from Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere to Syria.
Then there is the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
Middle East experts David Makovsky and Lia Weiner wrote, “The crisis in Gaza pervades all areas of life: residents have only six to seven hours of electricity a day… 95 percent of Gaza’s water has been deemed undrinkable; unemployment hovers around 50 percent…”.
Typically, the international community blames Israel for the situation in Gaza. The fact is that since the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007, the situation has gone from bad to worse. It is Iranian support for two terror organizations based in Gaza, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, that has been the root cause of the suffering of the people of Gaza.
Major General Hertzi Halevi, the head of Israel military intelligence, reported that last year Iran provided Hamas and Islamic Jihad with a combined total of $125 million dollars in annual financial support. That comes in addition to the training and logistical support that Iran provides for these organizations.
None of this money from Iran was spent on fulfilling Gaza’s civilian needs above ground: not on schools, hospitals, not on electricity or sewage systems. Rather these millions of dollars were squandered on the terror infrastructure of Gaza below ground: on digging terror tunnels under the Israeli border and building rockets in underground factories.
Since 2007, intense rocket fire from Hamas and Islamic Jihad on Israeli civilians has ignited three major rounds of violence with Israel causing tremendous harm and suffering on both sides.
Finally, there is the situation in Lebanon and Syria: a powder keg created by Iran and Hezbollah that is waiting to explode at any time. The events of this weekend on Israel’s border with Syria are just one example of the potential for a much wider conflict.
Over the past year, we have seen disturbing reports that Iran has been working to build factories in Lebanon and Syria for the production of accurate, long-range missiles. Repeated warnings by Israeli leaders that these developments are unacceptable are falling on deaf ears in Beirut and Tehran.
If Hezbollah starts another war with Israel, the Lebanese civilians who have become human shields for Hezbollah’s rockets, will be caught in the middle. They will become victims of Iran’s support for terrorism along with thousands of Israeli civilians who are the target of these rockets and missiles.
So here is a fundamental question that is rarely asked by leading pundits of the Middle East: If war breaks out between Israel, Hezbollah and Iran, will anyone apportion blame to the major multinational companies now doing business in Iran?
The non-partisan advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) has been warning the international business community that even after the signing of the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA), Iran should not be open for business.
So long as the U.S. State Department designates Iran as a “State Sponsor of Terror”, it should be clear that business with Iran translates into more financial support for its terror proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah, and more support for the Syrian regime. The end result will be more misery and suffering for the people of the Middle East.