By Amir Taghati
The United States has been tightening its grip on the Iranian regime’s income sources since May 2018, when Donald Trump pulled the US out of the nuclear deal, in order to prevent the mullahs from continuing to finance terrorism and commit other hostile activities across the Middle East, with the increasing influence of Iran-backed Hezbollah a major concern.
Currently, the White House is considering placing Iran regime’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and its Quds Force on the list of known terrorist organizations, which would increase the level of economic sanctions against Iran, but there are fears this would affect US forces in Iraq.
According to US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook, this has been a big debate for Congress and administration officials over the past year, with many saying that if Iran regime-backed Hezbollah is on the list, so to should be the IRGC and the Quds. However, he stressed that such a decision is unlikely to be made soon.
Hook said that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had recently visited Beirut to speak about the ongoing threat of Hezbollah, where Pompeo made clear that the US sees the group as an Iran-backed terrorist organization, given that Iran funds them to the tune of $700 million a year. Hook said that the US is urging Iran to stop wasting its people’s resources on terrorism.
The US is hopping that, less than a year after withdrawing from the nuclear deal, they’ve been able to impose significant economic on Tehran’s oil exports and financial institutions, which have prevented Iran from spending a lot of money on terrorist organizations and entities. Hook said this is a positive thing for everyone living in the Middle East, as Hezbollah, in particular, could cause a real escalation across the Middle East.
Pompeo said: “The Lebanese people face a choice: Bravely move forward or allow the dark ambitions of Iran and Hezbollah to dictate your future.”
He explained that the US would use “all peaceful means” to curb the influence of Hezbollah and Iran.
With regards to US and EU cooperation on Iran regime’s nuclear programme and malign regional activity, Hook said that France is expected to ban Mahan Airlines from using its airspace (Germany and the UK already have) because the mullahs use this ‘commercial’ airline to smuggle fighters, weapons and cash to terror cells.
He also said that there is increased interest by the EU about exerting pressure on Tehran over its aggressive activities in the Middle East.