The Iranian regime has indeed expanded its military investment. In his article for Arab News, Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist, leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, and president of the International American Council explains the factors behind this.
He calls the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal, a key issue — specifically the economic profits that came from the deal.
Over the last three years Iran’s oil revenues have more than doubled, and trade between the regime’s state-owned firms and European countries has brought in profits worth billions of dollars. Before the sanctions were lifted, Tehran was financially limited, but after 2015, Iran has had the funds to back groups that have become major players across the region.
According to Dr. Rafizadeh, “In Iraq, the Iranian regime currently supports at least 40 militia groups under the banner of the Popular Mobilization Forces. Some of these militias are known for committing war crimes, serious violations of international laws, and egregious crimes against humanity. After the nuclear deal, the Iranian leaders have even pushed and succeeded at making the Iraqi government officially recognize these militias and incorporate them into its political and security establishment.”
He also asks that we consider another proxy of Iran: the Houthis. Dr. Rafizadeh says, “It was after the JCPOA that Iran significantly increased its financial and military assistance to the militia. And it was after the nuclear agreement that the Houthis became empowered and emboldened to such a level that they became capable of destabilizing the country on such a large scale, as well as involving the nation in a bloody war.”
Tehran has also increased its military, intelligence, advisory, and economic assistance to the Assad regime, since the JCPOA went into effect.
Dr. Rafizadeh notes that the latest protests in Iran proved that the increased revenues, “have not been distributed among the Iranian people. Instead, the budgets for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Quds Force, which is in charge of extraterritorial operations, and their affiliated groups have increased significantly.” In fact, President Hassan Rouhani recently increased the budget for military spending by at least 145 percent.
As well, the JCPOA has brought Iran enhanced diplomatic ties with the EU, kept it out of isolation, and enhanced its international legitimacy. Because of this, Dr. Rafizadeh believes that global powers will be less likely to hold the Iranian regime accountable and responsible for its actions.
“This legitimacy has facilitated Tehran’s logistical, military and illegal connections with terrorist groups,” Dr. Rafizadeh writes, and adds, “Thanks to the nuclear deal, Iran is continuing to pursue its regional hegemonic ambitions and achieve its objectives, but at a much faster pace.”