September 12, 2022 | Flash Brief

New Iran Deal Would Fuel Hezbollah’s Precision-Guided Munitions

September 12, 2022 | Flash Brief

New Iran Deal Would Fuel Hezbollah’s Precision-Guided Munitions

Iran would receive up to $275 billion in sanctions relief during the first year of a new nuclear deal and more than $1 trillion by 2030, according to an FDD assessment. Some of this money would likely fund Tehran’s proliferation of precision-guided munitions (PGM) for the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah. These weapons are precise and lethal, and they would provoke a war between Israel and Lebanon if their proliferation continues.

Expert Analysis

“The Islamic Republic in Iran already provides Hezbollah with around $700 million per year. That sum could very well increase if a new deal is reached between Washington and Tehran. Unquestionably, among the projects to get a boost would be the PGM program. Israel has already warned that Hezbollah has amassed ‘hundreds’ of these weapons. Should Israel see the need to strike preemptively, stemming from fear of a Hezbollah attack on critical infrastructure, the ensuing war could be catastrophic. Israel would be extremely vulnerable. And Lebanon is already unraveling, both politically and economically.” — Jonathan Schanzer, FDD Senior Vice President

“With the expected windfall from the new Iran deal, Hezbollah would be able to leverage Iranian assistance to expand its latest efforts to develop lethal PGMs. The Israel Defense Forces views these ‘game-changing weapons’ as a top strategic threat, second only to that from Iran’s nuclear weapons program.” — Mark Dubowitz, FDD Chief Executive

The Significance of Hezbollah’s PGM Arsenal

Hezbollah’s rocket arsenal already includes an estimated 150,000 surface-to-surface rockets and missiles, providing it with the capacity to disrupt Israel’s economy and inflict significant civilian casualties. However, most of the projectiles are short range and lack accuracy. PGMs, by contrast, can strike any location in Israel and course-correct during flight to maximize accuracy and lethality.

This capability would support Hezbollah’s efforts to attack Israeli infrastructure, such as military sites, chemical sites, nuclear facilities, water facilities, and densely populated civilian areas. As Jacob Nagel, a senior fellow at FDD and a former national security adviser to former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, says, “with enough PGMs, the impact on certain targets could be close to the impact of a nuclear weapon.”

A Revived Iran Nuclear Deal Would Facilitate PGM Development and Proliferation

The 2015 nuclear deal with Iran imposed minimal restrictions on Tehran’s missile development. United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the agreement, enacted a nonbinding missile embargo that expires in 2023. While Iran has already repeatedly flouted this provision, a new deal that lacks tougher provisions means that the Islamic Republic will be able to proliferate PGMs with greater ease and legitimacy.

A Looming Crisis

Israel continues to warn that it may need to deal with the PGM threat. However, such action would come at a great cost. The regime in Iran has worked with Hezbollah to obscure the assembly and transportation of PGMs and conceal their storage under Lebanese homes, schools, hospitals, apartment buildings, refugee camps, and other heavily populated civilian infrastructure. Such use of human shields is illegal. The U.S. government, with overwhelming bipartisan congressional support, and the UN General Assembly explicitly deem this a war crime.

If the time comes, the decision to eliminate these weapons would be excruciating for Israel. Just as Hezbollah and its Iranian backers have planned it, every strike would force a difficult choice between protecting the people of Israel and causing damage to a state that is already on the verge of collapse.

Related Analysis


Hezbollah Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran Missiles Iran Nuclear Iran Sanctions Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Nonproliferation Sanctions and Illicit Finance