CIA: Iran Unlikely to Significantly Boost Post-sanction Funds on Militant Groups

L.A. Times says CIA report supports Obama administration contention that Iran's regional allies in the Middle East won't be the big winners.

President Obama answers questions about the Iran nuclear deal during a White House press conference.
President Obama answers questions about the Iran nuclear deal during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Wed. July 15, 2015. AP

Iran will pump most of the revenue it receives from the lifting of international sanctions – expected to reach some $100 billion – into its limping economy and won't significantly boost funding for militant groups in the Middle East, according to an intelligence assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Key members of Congress have already been briefed on the controversial report, according to the Los Angeles Times. The paper says the report "provides ammunition to both sides in the battle brewing on Capitol Hill" over the nuclear agreement reached last week with Iran.

The agreement is intended to block Iran’s ability to build nuclear weapons for at least a decade, in exchange for the easing of sanctions that have hobbled its economy. However critics of the deal, among them Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have maintained that Iran will use the windfall from reduced sanctions to sponsor terror in the region.

The CIA analysts concluded that even if Tehran increases its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, Houthi rebels in Yemen and the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, the additional funding is unlikely to tip the balance of power in the world’s most volatile region.

Iran funnels tens of millions of dollars to Hezbollah each year, according to U.S. estimates, while it gives an estimated $6 billion a year, in cash, oil and other aid to Assad’s government in Syria.

The Obama administration is banking on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and other moderates in Iran’s leadership investing most of the anticipated money into domestic infrastructure and other social investments, to quell growing public frustration over unemployment, the high inflation rate and a shortage of imported goods.

“Do we think that with the sanctions coming down that Iran will have some additional resources for its military and for some of the activities in the region that are a threat to us and a threat to our allies?," Obama said during a White House news conference after the agreement was announced. "I think that is a likelihood. Do I think it’s a game-changer for them? No.”

“The notion that they're just immediately going to turn over $100 billion to the IRGC or the Quds Force, I think, runs contrary to all the intelligence that we’ve seen and the commitments that the Iranian government has made,” Obama said, referring to Iranian special forces.

Obama said it was a “mistake” to say his administration believes that Iran will spend the money only on “day-care centers and roads and paying down debt.” But he said preventing Iran from building a nuclear weapon is far more important than releasing “incremental additional money” that Iran could use “to try to destabilize the region or send to their proxies.”