Hezbollah’s hostile actions against Arab states have crossed all borders through facilitating Iranian expansionist projects in the region. It serves sometimes as a military, security and political tool aimed at spreading chaos and strife, weakening Arab governments, and targeting those who oppose Iran within Lebanon and Syria, and sometimes as a military and intelligence espionage tool for the Iranian regime and the Revolutionary Guard, with the aim of tampering with the security of the Arab countries. Hence, its devious actions have reached Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain and several Arab and African countries.

Over the past few decades, Iran has been able to use Hezbollah in Lebanon as a political and military tool to pressure the Lebanese government and then turning it into a tool at the regional level after deploying its elements in a number of countries in the region with the aim of spying and making money by investing in some Gulf States whose financial benefits accrue to the Iranian regime and the Revolutionary Guard. This prompted several Arab countries, especially the Gulf ones, to regard Hezbollah as a terrorist group and to expel anyone associated with it from their territories.

Following the crackdown on Hezbollah’s terrorist activities in more than one country in the region and the cutting off its sources of finance, investment and trades, the Revolutionary Guard’s sources of funding have been severely affected and its activities in the region have been weakened. This prompted some of its leaders to consider turning Hezbollah into a gang for the smuggling drugs, weapons and human trafficking, and preparing and training it for money-laundering activities and running illicit businesses.

The Iranian aims from Hezbollah’s role in the region have recently shifted from being predominantly political, military and security goals into profit-and-trade ones. This is ultimately due to Hezbollah’s loss to its popular base, not only in Lebanon but in the Arab world because of its exposure and being rejected by the regimes and peoples of the Arab and Islamic countries as it was no longer possible for it to deceive the peoples of the region by the slogans of resistance and fighting the occupation. Hezbollah has also lost more than 50% of its military power following its involvement in the war against the Syrian and Yemeni people, hence, it is no longer an influential military or political power in the eyes of Iran, and thus, to become useful once again that would mean turning it into a gang for drug and human trafficking. Iran’ aims from such a move are to fill the deficit in its budget on the one hand and to destroy young people and Arab communities on the other by spreading the scourge of drugs and diseases.

After tightening the US sanctions against Iran and the rapid consequences on Iran’s economy, reports stress that there is a large deficit in the Revolutionary Guard’s budget that is being dedicated for regional interventions and activities, particularly the financing of pro-Iranian groups in Syria and Yemen. This has forced the Revolutionary Guard to diversify its sources of income by all means, even illegally, through internationally prohibited trade in drug trafficking and alcohol smuggling and promoting in the Arab countries using Arab clients led by Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthi group in Yemen and the sectarian militias in Iraq, which explains the frequent disclosure of the involvement of these groups in drug and human trafficking recently.

This reveals that Iran is in the process of halting its support for these terrorist groups because of the economic and financial crises it is facing. However, this will not happen until Iran becomes sure that these groups would be able to be self-funded, and even benefiting from them financially. Iran plans to maintain these armed groups in case it suffered further financial crises that will force it to stop funding to ensure the continuation of subversive activities in the region that serve the Iranian project.

Al Mezmaah Studies & Research Centre

October 9,  2018