Fact Check: Trump’s Baseless Claim That Iran Stopped Funding Terror Groups During His Presidency

Donald Trump

Former President Donald Trump repeatedly and falsely claimed this year that his policies left Iran so financially crippled that it stopped funding terror groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories.

In a May interview with right-wing host Dan Bongino, Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, said, “Iran was broke. They weren’t funding Hamas, and they weren’t funding anything. They weren’t funding Hezbollah.”

Trump repeated this claim in a June interview with Dr. Phil McGraw, stating that Hamas would not have carried out its October attack on Israel if he had still been president because “Iran wasn’t funding Hamas and they weren’t funding any of the terrorists – Hezbollah, all of them, there’s like 28 of them.”

Facts First: Trump’s assertion that Iran ceased funding Hezbollah, Hamas, or any other terror group during his presidency is false. While Iran’s funding for these groups did decline in the latter half of his term due to his sanctions negatively impacting Iran’s economy, the funding never stopped entirely. In fact, Trump’s own administration acknowledged in 2020 that Iran continued to support terror groups including Hezbollah.

Trump could have accurately stated that his sanctions on Iran made operations more challenging for these groups. Instead, he exaggerated his achievements. Four experts told CNN this week that Iran’s funding for Hezbollah and Hamas never stopped under Trump.

Mike Pompeo, Trump’s Secretary of State, also confirmed in 2020 that Iran was still funding terror groups. “They are using the resources they have to continue funding Hezbollah in Lebanon and threatening Israel, funding Iraqi Shia terrorist groups, all the things they have done historically,” Pompeo said in a May 2020 interview.

Even though Iran’s financial relationship with Hamas strengthened in 2017, the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign began in late 2018. However, Pompeo noted in 2020 that despite the sanctions, Iran’s terror funding persisted.

Four experts echoed this sentiment to CNN:

  • Ali Vaez, Iran project director at the International Crisis Group, said funding “absolutely did not and has not” stopped.
  • Hanin Ghaddar, senior fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, confirmed, “It decreased, yes, but it didn’t stop.”
  • Colin Clarke, director of research at The Soufan Group, stated it “slowed down, but it never stopped entirely.”
  • Phillip Smyth, who studies Iran’s proxies, noted, “Iran has never ceased funding many of its core proxy groups.”

Conclusion: Iran’s funding for terror groups like Hezbollah and Hamas did decrease due to Trump’s sanctions, but it never ceased. Claims that it stopped entirely are inaccurate.

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