Obama-Era Windfall Enabling Iranian Military Buildup

Iran is engaging in an unprecedented buildup of military assets thanks to the billions obtained through the Obama-brokered and highly flawed nuclear deal. Iran’s military leaders are boasting of carrying out a transformation of their fighting capabilities, giving the regime the option of becoming an offensive juggernaut throughout the Gulf region. Such claims are already the source of major concern amongst senior figures in Washington.

Late April reports from inside Iran cited officials describing a 145% increase in the defense budget under the tenure of the so-called “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani and the regime’s military forces aiming to launch a massive restructuring with the objective of becoming a force always on the initiative.

Since the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal, senior regime officials have used the resulting windfall to purchase new military hardware and additional armaments. Note that there is no mention of using such funds for the greater good of the Iranian people, despite a high percentage living in poverty. Iran has also signed huge multimillion-dollar contracts with Russia.

Senior U.S. officials and members of Congress have major suspicions that Iran is using a significant portion of the highly controversial $1.7 billion in cash provided by the Obama administration to back its network of terrorist groups spread across the Middle East.

Such disturbing disclosures have raised new concerns over the use of U.S. cash provided to Iran -- the “leading state sponsor of terrorism”, in the words of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson -- to adopt a more aggressive approach in the face of U.S. forces stationed across the already flashpoint region.

Iran’s military additions were announced by Brigadier General Kiumars Heidari during ceremonies marking the regime’s Army Day. Despite the lack of attention such an announcement gained in Western mainstream media, insiders of the national security community are known to have been discussing the issue for the past few weeks.

Iran’s objective is to transform its army into a force with “offensive” capabilities, signaling a significant overhaul from its support role for the leading Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), considered Tehran’s primary force.

Boosting its logistical, weaponry, and support capabilities are the goals the Iranian regime hopes to revamp in its classic army. Experts are analyzing this announcement as a major policy shift in the Iranian military, with a far-reaching potential of making Tehran capable of intervening across the Persian Gulf region. This is a sensitive area where the U.S. military already enjoys noteworthy influence and presence.

Iran channeling the cash it received under the nuclear deal for its military apparatus should come as no surprise, and the Obama administration had even predicted such a scenario. Former Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged some of the money Iran received in sanctions relief would go to groups considered terrorists, according to a CNN report.

Iran also has a long history of funneling billions to its military and paramilitary programs. Iran used the currency windfall gained from the European Union through the period of 1998 to 2005 to invest heavily in its clandestine nuclear and missile programs. Ironically, the person at the helm of these efforts was none other than the regime’s then secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Hassan Rouhani, who is now wrongly and naively dubbed a “reformist” by various parties in the West.

Concerns are being raised about the safety of American forces in the Middle East, among reports of Iranian forces continuing to harass U.S. Navy ships. (Although rest assured, the regime in Iran may talk the talk, but will not walk the walk to provoking a serious military confrontation with the U.S. and its allies in the region.)

Capitol Hill is already witnessing a renewed push to reinstall economic sanctions against the regime in Tehran. Knowing their window of opportunity will end this fall at the latest, the Iranian regime is using this period to the utmost extent. Tehran is continuously expanding its arsenal while saber-rattling against U.S. allies in the region by taking advantage of the Obama administration’s refusal to beef up sanctions.

As the Trump administration weighs its options on Iran, designating the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization would send the right signal to the mullahs. Already in control over vast portions of the country’s economy, the IRGC also plays a major role in domestic crackdowns and human rights violations, Iran’s meddling in the region and involvement in Syria, and spearheads the regime’s nuclear program and ballistic missile ambitions.

This force must be reined in through sanctions.