The Iran Deal's Bigger Loser

Hezbollah's Uncertain Future

Lebanese Hezbollah supporters gesture as they march during a religious procession to mark Ashura in Beirut's suburbs, November 14, 2013. Sharif Karim / Reuters

The decision to fork over $100 billion in sanctions relief to Iran as part of last summer’s nuclear deal could be the worst thing that’s happened to the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah in years.

Of course, Hezbollah publicly embraced the news. Iran provides an estimated $100–$200 million to the group each year. And now, with sanctions relief rolling in, even more Iranian cash might find its way to Hezbollah’s stronghold in the Beqaa Valley, where it can turn into new weapons, training programs, and other materiel.

Hezbollah’s payday, though, comes at a time when Iran’s Gulf Arab foes are out to punish the group for stoking the region’s sectarian wars. Hezbollah’s position on the front lines in Syria, where it wants to shore up embattled dictator—and Iranian proxy—Bashar al-Assad hasn’t gone unnoticed. Nor have reports of it warring alongside Yemen’s Houthi rebels, another Iranian proxy that seeks to bring down the Sunni-backed government.

Children look on from inside a military vehicle during the funeral of Lebanon's Hezbollah commander Mohamad Issa
Children look on from inside a military vehicle during the funeral of Lebanon's Hezbollah commander Mohamad Issa, known as Abu Issa, in Arab-Salim, south Lebanon January 20, 2015. Ali Hashisho / Reuters
After decrying Hezbollah’s destabilizing activities around the region for years, earlier this month, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) finally slapped sanctions on the group, branding it as a terrorist organization and taking measures to freeze its assets. This came on the heels of similar measures by Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Riyadh also made headlines by halting $3 billion in assistance to the Lebanese government, claiming that it is now irredeemably corrupted by Hezbollah. Last Friday, the Arab League also declared Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization. It’s an astounding development considering that the organization was hailed across the Arab world for forcing Israel to withdraw from South Lebanon in 2000 and for fighting the Israelis to a draw in a month-long war in 2006.

Admittedly, not every Sunni state is ready throw Hezbollah under the proverbial bus. Iraq and Lebanon were less than enthusiastic about blacklisting the group. But the Arab League meeting made it clear that the bulk of the Arab states will go the way of the GCC

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