General Mohammad Hejazi, the Deputy Commander of the IRGC's Qods Force, said in a February 20, 2020 interview on Channel 1 (Iran) that Iran is militarily active in Syria and Iraq in order to engage Iran's enemies far away from its border, where they cannot target its cities. He also said that though most countries spend roughly 2% of their GDP on defense, Iran spends no more than 1.2% of its GDP on defense both domestically and abroad, and he further argued that this justifies the expenses that people complain about because it is less costly than fighting the enemies nearer to the border.
Interviewer: "There is a general question that I ask almost every night, and, perhaps, you have been asked this by the public as well: What are you doing in Syria and Iraq? You give our money to the Syrians and the Iraqis, when there are so many poor people here..."
Mohammad Hejazi: "Sometimes, you let your enemy come near. You either let it into your country or engage it at the border. In such a situation, the enemy's weapons can reach your center, your cities, everywhere. In other cases, you target and destroy the enemy before it reaches your border.
"People talk about expenses, expenses, expenses, and I will give a general answer. Usually, throughout the world – and you can check this in military websites – countries allocate a certain percentage of their GDP to defense. Usually, it is two percent. In some countries, like Saudi Arabia, it is four percent.
"The money that the Islamic Republic of Iran allocates for defense has never exceeded 1.2% [of the GDP]."
Interviewer: "To our entire defense..."
Mohammad Hejazi: "Yes, our entire defense. This includes units inside Iran, as well as expenses we have abroad. What kind of expense is this? Is it better to have such expenses in order to stop the enemy from coming near us, or should we wait until the enemy comes to us before we engage it, which would be much more costly?"