A new report examining the Iran nuclear deal has found that assuming current budget trends hold, the Islamic Republic would increase the budget of its paramilitary force by 50%.
According to Rachel Hoff at the American Action Forum, a center-right policy institute, the deal would generate approximately $140 billion in funds, owing to international economic sanctions relief and unfrozen assets. Given that Iran spends about 3.4% of its budget on defense, this would mean an additional $3.1 billion dollars for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the elite force that actively supports terrorist organizations across the Middle East.
U.S. officials, including the under secretary of Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, have determined that unfreezing assets would leave Iran with $100 billion. Some experts and other officials have raised disagreement with the cited figure, saying that the real number is instead much smaller. Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month that removing sanctions would only result in around $50 billion. President Barack Obama, however, recently argued that Iran would have access to roughly $150 billion in assets outside of Iran.
While no consensus has formed around a single number, the generally accepted range falls somewhere between $100 and $150 billion. The Iranian defense budget, according to studies from the United States Institute of Peace and the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, is likely between $12 and $14 billion. The caveat is that Iran probably does not accurately report its spending, but in this case, that means the figures are minimums, rather than spending ceilings.
About 65% of the defense budget is allocated to the IRGC, which amounts to slightly more than $6 billion. Since Iran places such a high priority on funding the IRGC, which in turn has a history of supporting organizations like Houthis, Hezbollah and Hamas, it is very likely that the nuclear deal would significantly bolster support to terrorist groups.
The deal is not out of the water yet. Members of Congress are stewing over the proposal ahead of the expected vote in September. Last Thursday, more Democratic senators endorsed the deal, but the GOP still seems to remain in stalwart opposition and has presented a united front. On Tuesday, Republicans introduced legislation in the House to oppose the deal. But even if the bill passes Congress, Obama is likely to wield his veto power, which would force the GOP to scramble for a two-thirds majority.
The American public itself is split on the deal. A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that 35% support the deal, 33% oppose and 32% simply don’t know either way.
This report, by Jonah Bennett, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.