US envoy: Iran has spent $16 billion on militias in Iraq, Syria
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US envoy: Iran has spent $16 billion on militias in Iraq, Syria

Remarks by Brian Hook come amid growing concern in Israel over potential attack by Tehran in retaliation for efforts to thwart arming of Iranian proxies

Brian Hook, the US State Department special representative for Iran, testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on US policy toward Iran, October 16, 2019, in Washington. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/AFP)
Brian Hook, the US State Department special representative for Iran, testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on US policy toward Iran, October 16, 2019, in Washington. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/AFP)

The US envoy for Iran said Thursday that Tehran has funded militia groups in Syria and Iraq to the tune of $16 billion.

US State Department Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook, who made the comments in an interview with Saudi broadcaster Al Arabiya, did not specify over what time period the money was sent.

Iran has longstanding ties to a number of armed Shiite groups in Iraq and was a key backer of the Popular Mobilization Forces, a paramilitary group that fought against the Islamic State jihadist organization.

In Syria, Iran supports militias fighting on behalf of its ally Syrian President Bashar Assad in that country’s civil war.

Tehran also backs other armed factions such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group and the Houthis in Yemen.

In this photo from June 23, 2017, supporters of Iraqi Hezbollah brigades march on a representation of an Israeli flag with a portrait of late Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in Baghdad, Iraq. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban, File)

Israel has accused Iran of seeking to place advanced weaponry in Iraq and Syria that could be used to target the Jewish state. On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran was trying to launch precision-guided missiles at Israel from Yemen and elsewhere in the region.

On Wednesday, Israeli Air Force chief Amikam Norkin said the military’s multi-tiered network of air defense systems was “on alert” amid a general threat of attack by Iran.

In recent weeks, the military has begun to believe that Tehran intends to eventually retaliate against Israel’s regular airstrikes against its forces and proxies in the region.

Iran appears to have been building up its drone activities and attacks in recent months. In August, Israeli fighter jets carried out airstrikes in Syria to thwart a planned attack on Israel by Iran-backed fighters using armed drones, the Israel Defense Forces said. The Israeli military said its strike targeted operatives from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force as well as Shiite militias who had been planning on sending “kamikaze” attack drones into Israel armed with explosives.

Israel has vowed to prevent Iran’s regional proxy militias from obtaining advanced weapons to use against the Jewish state and has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria that it says were to prevent delivery of weapons and to stop Iranian military entrenchment in that country.

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