White House on Hezbollah Terror Funding Admission: 'We Call on Iran to Stop Doing This'
The White House responded to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah scoffing at U.S. sanctions by stressing "we have called on all those that fund Hezbollah to stop doing so."
Nasrallah said Friday on the terror group's TV network, Al-Manar, that Hezbollah "will not be affected" by sanctions on financial institutions that work with the group as "we do not have any business projects or investments via banks."
“We are open about the fact that Hezbollah’s budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, are from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Nasrallah said.
Talking to reporters aboard Air Force One today, White House spokesman Eric Schultz was asked if he found that shocking or alarming.
"We know that Iran supports terrorism. And we know that Iran supports Hezbollah. And that is why we've issued the most serious and most severe sanctions ever on Iran for doing so. So it's important for them to recognize their own behavior in enabling this," Schultz said.
"We've had a conversation recently about Iran's concerns about access to international markets. Well, those financial actors are looking at Iran's behavior and if Iran's going to continue to fund terrorism and continue to supply resources to Hezbollah that is going to have impact. Those financial actors don't want to do business with a country that's doing that," he continued.
"So we call on Iran to not only stop doing this because it's not good for national security and they're supporting terrorism. But we call on Iran to stop doing it because it's not in their interest either."
Asked what leverage the U.S. has at this point to keep Iranian money from going to Hezbollah, Schultz replied, "We are going to continue to use all the tools at our disposal including sanctions to target this group that we have of course designated as a foreign terrorist organization."
"We believe our designations over the past year designating Hezbollah procurement networks, financial and commercial front companies, and other entities have been highly effective. The sanctions regime passed earlier this year further builds on that and has created a climate throughout the world where financial institutions are rejected Hezbollah from their institutions," he added.
"...If Iran is going to continue to support Hezbollah, Hezbollah is going to continue to have a funding stream and resources. That's why it's all the more important that if Iran wants access to international markets they're going to need to curb their own behavior."
Last week, the international Financial Action Task Force, which sets standards for countering terrorist financing, decided to keep Iran on its blacklist.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said the move underscored that "the idea – driven by Secretary Kerry and President Obama – that Iran is ‘open for business’ is straight out of fantasyland."
“In reality, support for terrorism remains central to the Iranian regime’s foreign policy. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has been labeled Iran’s ‘most powerful economic actor’ by the U.S. Treasury Department. Iran continues to bankroll the terrorist organization Hezbollah, which is playing a key role in propping up the murderous Assad regime in Syria while also keeping over one hundred thousand rockets pointed at Israel," Royce said. "And the U.S. State Department’s most recent terrorism report makes clear that Iran’s financing of ‘Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza…and various groups in Iraq and throughout the Middle East’ has continued."