The U.S. Navy announced this month that it had seized a ship laden with illegal weapons in the Persian Gulf that were likely bound for Houthi fighters in Yemen. It was the latest in a string of illicit weapons shipments seized in the region by naval forces and assessed by the U.S. to have originated in Iran.
Distributing illegal weapons is part of a pattern of destabilizing behavior by Iran that remains a challenge for the United States and its regional allies.
In testimony before Congress, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon said the United States has been encouraged by Iran’s adherence so far to the commitments it had made under the nuclear deal with the P5+1 -- the JCPOA. But he noted that “profound differences” with Iran remain and continue to be addressed:
“Iran’s support for terrorist groups like Hezbollah, its assistance to the Assad regime in Syria, and to Houthi rebels in Yemen are at odds with core U.S. interest and pose fundamental threats to the region and beyond. That’s why we have retained our sanctions related to Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region including its support for terrorism.”
In addition, Under Secretary Shannon expressed concern over Iran’s attempts to develop increasingly capable ballistic missile systems and said the U.S. would use all available multilateral and unilateral tools to impede the development of Iran’s missile program.
Iran’s violations of the fundamental rights of its citizens were also cited by the Under Secretary, who noted that rights-related sanctions are not subject to relief under the JCPOA, and the U.S. continues to vigorously enforce these sanctions.
We call on Iran to prove to the world it wants to be a constructive member of the international community and contribute to peace and stability."
At a recent press conference in Bahrain, Secretary of State John Kerry urged Iran to change its destabilizing behavior. “We call on Iran,” said Secretary Kerry, “to prove to the world it wants to be a constructive member of the international community and contribute to peace and stability, and to help us end the war in Yemen, not prolong it; help us end the war in Syria, not intensify it, and help us to be able to change the dynamics of this region, which needs space to begin to breathe…[to]engage in full economic activity, put people to work, send people to school, do things other than constantly be caught up in the instability that comes with either sectarian or ideological extremism.”