Iran spends hundreds of millions of dollars annually to help allies fighting elsewhere in the Middle East and this outlay appears to be rising, Israel’s armed forces chief said on Tuesday.
Lieutenant-General Gadi Eizenkot’s remarks coincided with almost a week of Iranian street protests that initially focused on economic hardships but have turned overtly political – though he did not comment directly on that unrest.
Eizenkot accused Iran, Israel’s arch-foe, of working to forge a “Shi‘ite crescent” of influence running through Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain and Palestinian-ruled Gaza.
“Just glance at the scale of Iranian investment in order to achieve regional hegemony – it adds up to giving (Lebanese militia) Hezbollah between $1 billion and $700 million each year,” he said in a speech to the IDC Herzliya university.
“In recent months, investment in the Palestinian arena has also been growing out of a desire to influence it – with an increase in the (annual) funding in the Gaza Strip for (militant groups) Hamas and Islamic Jihad to $100 million.”
Iran is a Middle East big power deeply involved in conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and supportive of Houthi forces in Yemen’s war, as part of a battle for influence with rival Saudi Arabia. Many Iranians, however, resent the foreign interventions and want their leaders to create more jobs at home, where youth unemployment reached 29 percent last year.
Eizenkot did not give sources for his data on Iranian spending. Generally such statements are based on the estimates of Israel’s intelligence services.