In testimony March 9 before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Army General Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, whose security responsibility stretches from Northeast Africa through the Gulf to Central and South Asia, described his concerns with Iran’s destabilizing activities in the Middle East:
“It is my view that Iran poses the greatest long-term threat to stability for this part of the world…Iran seeks to be the regional hegemon, to be the most influential country in the region.”
The Iranian government’s actions and support for groups seeking to destabilize the region remain disruptive and unhelpful:
“Iran has a role in the region; they have been around a long time. Nobody is trying to make Iran go away, but we are concerned about the destabilizing behavior that they pursue on a regular basis.”
Iran’s activities, General Votel noted, can put “global political stability and economic prosperity at risk.”
Among them, he pointed out, are Iran’s critical military and financial aid to the murderous regime of Syria’s Bashar al Assad “and [Iran’s] desire to exploit Shia population centers to increase [its] malign influence, not just in Syria, but also in Arab states across the region,” as well as Iranian support for Houthi rebels in Yemen. In addition to these activities, General Votel said, Iran is “working to subvert the Government of Iraq by establishing a long-term presence within Iraq’s security forces.”
In response to Iran’s destabilizing behavior, the United States is working with regional partners to counter Iran’s destabilizing activities through a variety of means.
“We have to expose [Iran’s leaders] for what they’re doing,” said General Votel. “No other nation operates the way they do…They need to be held accountable for…unprofessional, unsafe and abnormal activities”.