Iran known to be a strong supporter of President Assad
Aside from its notorious nuclear ambitions making headlines around the world, Iran is also prominent for its destabilizing activities in the Middle East, the United States Department of State says.
In her written testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Under Secretary Wendy Sherman says Iran is the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism, which it uses as a strategic tool of its foreign policy.
Beyond its illicit nuclear activity, Iran’s destabilizing activities in the Middle East include its support for Bashar Assad in Syria; its support for terrorist organizations like Hizballah; and its unacceptable attacks on innocent civilians worldwide.
And these activities are not going unchecked, according to Ms. Sherman.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Ms. Sherman says as led by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-Qods Force and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), the “Iran Threat Network,” comprises an alliance of surrogates, proxies, and partners such as Hizballah, HAMAS, and Iraqi Shi’a militants, among others.
She highlighted that Iran funds, trains, and equips these terrorist organizations, in whole or in part, to use in attacks around the world.
This clandestine threat network destabilizes countries throughout the Middle East and threatens regional security, she noted.
US slam Iran’s desire to destroy Israel
Ms. Sherman notes that Iran’s leaders have aimed most of their threats at one of US closest allies and blatantly declaring their desire to see the destruction of the state of Israel.
“We have a moral obligation to ensure that Iran never has the tools to make good on that threat.” – Ms. Sherman
In addition, Iran has also sponsored and directed terrorist attacks against Israeli civilian and diplomatic targets worldwide.
According to Ms. Sherman, on February 13, 2012, a magnetic bomb was placed under the vehicle of an Israeli diplomat’s wife in New Delhi, India, seriously injuring her and three Indian nationals.
She reports that on the following day, a similar device was discovered under a vehicle belonging to the Israeli embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia, and safely defused.
Iran’s Lebanese Hizballah continues to be a key partner and substantial part of Iran’s threat network.
Ms. Sherman reports that Iran provides hundreds of millions of dollars to Hizballah annually and has long been Hizballah’s primary trainer and arms supplier.
She highlighted Hizballah and the Iranian leadership share a worldview and strategic vision and are seeking to exploit the current unrest in the Middle East and North Africa to their advantage.
The US remains focused on Hizballah activity worldwide, and have devoted a great deal of diplomatic effort over the past several years to raising awareness of Hizballah activity with European partners.
Ms. Sherman indicates that its international partners also committed to target and prosecute Iranian terrorist activity.
As evidenced by these disruption and prosecution efforts across Africa, East Asia, and Europe, US and its partners have become increasingly effective at targeting Iranian support for terrorism.
Iran Also Supports Assad In Syria
According to Ms. Sherman, Iran has made it clear that it fears losing its closest ally and will stop at no cost, borne by both the Syrian and Iranian people, to prop up the Assad regime. Even though the west says the Syrian people do not support Assad, reports coming out of Syria say otherwise.
Today, Ms. Sherman reports that Iran is training, arming, funding, aiding and abetting the Assad regime and its atrocious crackdown on its own people.
She says it is coordinating its intervention in Syria with Hizballah, which is itself engaged in training pro-regime militants who attack Syrian civilians, and in direct fighting on behalf of the Assad regime against the Syrian people.
In addition, Iran and Hizballah fighters are also directing the activities of Iraqi militia groups which have been enlisted to join in the Assad regime’s war against the Syrian people.
“Iran has shown that it is willing to potentially destabilize an entire region if it means keeping the Syrian regime as an ally.” – Ms. Sherman
How US Countering such efforts
According to Ms. Sherman, the US is focused on preventing Iran from continuing to support the Syrian regime financially, materially, and logistically.
She notes the Administration has used its authority in several executive orders to highlight the role of Iran in the Syrian regime’s violation of human rights and hold accountable those responsible.
As Iran’s isolation grows, the US is working through existing regional counter-terrorism partnerships to address the Iranian threat, and the interdiction in Yemen is a successful example of that cooperation.
In addition, the US is also deepening its military partnerships across the region.
The US consults regularly on security matters with our partners in the Persian Gulf and maintain a substantial presence in the region, to keep a watchful eye on Iran, counter potential Iranian aggression, reassure our allies, and protect the free flow of commerce through the Strait of Hormuz.
Increasing pressure on Iran
Ms. Sherman reports that Iranian oil exports will continue to decline as the US implements the law through its engagement with the last remaining six importers of Iranian oil.
She says Iran’s currency will remain volatile as we block Iran’s revenue streams and block its access to funds held abroad.
In addition, the US will continue to track, identify, and designate individuals and entities assisting Iran’s proliferation efforts and attempting to evade sanctions on Iran.
Earlier this month, the State Department sanctioned four Iranian companies and one individual for providing the Iranian government with goods, technology, and services that increase Iran’s ability to enrich uranium, which is prohibited by UN Security Council resolutions.
On March 14, the State and Treasury Departments imposed sanctions on Dr. Dimitris Cambis and his company Impire Shipping for operating vessels on behalf of the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) that disguised the Iranian origin of the crude oil.
US and EU ratcheting up the pressure on Iran
Ms. Sherman highlighted that one of the keys to our successful ratcheting up of the pressure on Iran is that US is not doing so alone.
The European Union also has enacted its own stringent sanctions regime, including an oil import ban that resulted in all 27 EU member states ceasing oil purchases from Iran.
To name some countries, Australia, Canada, South Korea, Japan, and others have also enacted their own sets of domestic measures, strengthening the international sanctions regime and sending a clear message to Iran.
“Adhere to your international obligations, or face increasing pressure from the international community.” – Ms. Sherman
Iran under international scrutiny
Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom have qualified for an exception to sanctions outlined in Section 1245 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, as amended (NDAA), based on reductions in the volume of their crude oil purchases from Iran.
As of July 1, the European Union implemented a full ban on Iranian crude oil and petroleum products, strengthening the comprehensive measures it has taken to hold Iran accountable for its failure to comply with its international nuclear obligations.
Japan has also taken significant steps to reduce its crude oil purchases, which is especially notable considering the extraordinary energy challenges it has faced in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, she noted.
In addition, the head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog has said Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation to enable the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities, and not driven by military ambitions.
IAEA General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Yukiya Amano also renewed his call on Iran to grant inspectors access to the Parchin nuclear facility site.
At a meeting of the IAEA’s Board of Governors in Vienna, Mr. Amano highlighted that despite intensified dialogue between the IAEA and Iran since the beginning of the year, no concrete results have been achieved so far.
Iran’s nuclear programme has been making headline which its officials have stated is for peaceful purposes, but some other countries contend is driven by military ambitions.
Reports say Iran’s nuclear programme has become a matter of international concern since the discovery in 2003 that the country had concealed its nuclear activities for 18 years in breach of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Iran has repeatedly stated that its nuclear programme is for the peaceful purpose of providing energy, but many countries believe it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
In March 2012, the head of the Security Council committee monitoring the arms embargo imposed on Iran over its nuclear programme reported new cases of reported violations by Iran.
Ambassador Nestor Osorio of Colombia noted in his quarterly report that four Member States submitted a report regarding a violation of the resolution prohibiting Iran from carrying out activities related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
A Member State had also provided information on the results of inspections carried out on material confiscated in February last year from a truck on Iran’s border with Syria.
Another Member State had brought to the committee’s attention a public statement by the Secretary-General of Hizbollah, dated 7 February, in which he acknowledged that his group had received “material support in all possible and available forms from Iran.”
Iran’s nuclear programme has been under the scrutiny of the international community. The country’s officials have stated it is for peaceful purposes, but some other countries contend it is driven by military ambitions.
In December 2002, satellite photographs shown on U.S. television confirm the existence of sites at Natanz and Arak. The United States accuses Tehran of “across-the-board pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.” Iran agrees to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
In February 2003, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami revealed that Iran has unearthed uranium deposits and announces plans to develop a nuclear fuel cycle.
Reports say Iran had concealed its nuclear activities for 18 years in breach of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
On 23rd December 2006, the 15-member UN Security Council unanimously adopts a binding resolution that calls on Iran to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities and to comply with its IAEA obligations. Resolution 1737 directs all states to prevent the supply or sale to Iran of any materials that could assist its nuclear or ballistic missile programmes. It also imposes an asset freeze on key companies and individuals named by the UN as contributors to Iran’s nuclear and missile programmes.
Resolution 1737 was strengthened by resolution 1747 the following year which imposed a ban on arms sales to or from Iran, and expanded an existing freeze on assets.
Resolution 1747 of the following year tightened the sanctions by imposing a ban on arms sales and expanding the freeze on assets.
The IAEA is increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed nuclear-related activities involving military-related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile, about which the Agency continues to receive new information.
Iran has produced over 4,500 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, which, according to the Institute for Science and International Security, is almost enough for four nuclear weapons after further enrichment to weapon grade.
US Determined to stop Iran’s proliferation activities
With speculations continue to make headlines that Iran is not disclosing enough information on its nuclear program, the United States of America has underlined that it is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and has pursued a dual-track policy to do so.
In her statement on Iran at Washington DC, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reported that just recently the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Board of Governors overwhelmingly adopted a resolution that clearly reflects the international community’s concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program.
The US reiterated that Iran must cooperate fully and immediately with the IAEA on all outstanding issues.
The US government welcomes the resolve of the international community to make clear the onus is on Iran to abide by its international obligations, honor its commitments to the IAEA, and prove that its intentions are peaceful.