An opinion piece by Congressman Ted Budd (R-NC) drew headlines in key newspapers and news outlets in the Arab World this week after he went on the offensive against Qatar, Iran and Hezbollah. Media organizations in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and elsewhere picked up and ran with his words.
First off, Budd uses the column inches to praise President Donald Trump for backing out of the Iran deal.
“It is clear that Iran is promoting the expansion of military and terrorist activities across the Middle East,” writes Budd who sits on the Financial Services Committee and its Terrorism and Illicit Finance Subcommittee.
“Iran’s continued support of the Hezbollah terrorist organization with both financial and political assistance, as well as weapons and tactical training, deserves close examination. Western diplomats and Lebanese analysts estimate that Iranian financial support for Hezbollah averages around $100 million each year, sometimes reaching amounts closer to a quarter of a billion dollars.”
In addition to cash, he points to Iran’s arming of the Lebanese-based Hezbollah – some 11,500 missiles already in Lebanon, coupled with a military training program.
“Hezbollah has been fighting in defense of Syrian President Bashar Assad. It has provided material support for designated terrorist organizations like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It has engaged in training and command operations for militia groups in Iraq. It has provided ballistic missiles and leadership to the Houthi insurgency in Yemen. In addition, there are reports of an increasing Hezbollah presence in North Africa.”
All of these, he says, pose a direct threat to U.S. security.
He then turns his attention to Qatar, describing it as a state sponsor of terrorism and draws particular attention to its connections with Iran.
“It’s of increasing concern that Iranian banks are moving their foreign exchange operations to the Qatar National Bank. We know Iran’s access to foreign currencies is an essential part of the government’s funding and support for terrorism.”
Budd’s conclusion is that the U.S. must impose “harsh sanctions” that directly affect Tehran’s access to finance.