US general: Iran ‘destabilizing’ element, military force needed

A robust military deterrence is necessary in order to counter Iran, which is working diligently to destabilize the Middle East, the head of the US Central Command told Congress.

The commander of US Central Command told the House Armed Services Committee that Iran is the greatest danger to peace in the region and suggested that a sizable military force may be necessary to stem its expansion.

During a Congress briefing regarding regional threats on Wednesday, Centcom Commander Gen. Joseph L. Votel discussed the current campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria, Afghanistan and other trouble spots in the region.

“We are making progress in many areas, but much, much work remains,” he told legislators.

The malign influences of Iran and its proxies are at the heart of the instablility in the region, Votel said. He warned of Tehran’s ambitions in Yemen, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, and Syria, noting that the 2015 nuclear pact did not quell the Islamic Republic’s territorial aggression.

“It is my view that Iran poses the greatest long-term threat to stability in this part of the world,” he stated. Iran wants to be “the hegemon” in the region and is actively pursuing that goal, he added.

Votel observed that Iran and its proxies are diligently working to “hinder achievement of US objectives in Afghanistan and some Central Asian States.” Iran is also seeking to undermine Iraq’s sovereignty by exerting influence over the Shiite militias that comprise the Popular Mobilization Forces operating inside the country, the general explained.

Countering Iran is challenging, Votel conceded, as the country operates in a “gray zone,” which he defined as “the space short of conventional conflict where miscalculation can easily occur, leading to escalatory conflict and misunderstanding.”

Such examples could be found in the Strait of Hormuz and Bab al-Mandeb Strait, where Iran and its proxies have harassed US ships and planted naval mines.

The nuclear agreement “removed a key threat posed by Iran,” Votel said, but it “is not the case” that the deal has addressed all significant threats presented by Iran.

“They have a robust theater ballistic missile program, and we remain concerned about their cyber and maritime activities, as well as the activities of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – Quds Forces (IRGC-QF) and their network of affiliates,” he said.

‘A Strong Deterrence Posture’

Combating Iran effectively would require “a strong deterrence posture, targeted counter-messaging activities, and…building partner nations’ capacity,” Votel asserted. These steps must be backed with clarity in communication to “ensure the credibility of US intentions.”

“Iran must believe there will be prohibitive consequences if it chooses to continue its malign activities designed to foment instability in the region,” he stressed.

All of this is based on trust, and the command must work to build and maintain trust in the region, he continued. “The fact is we cannot surge trust in times of crisis, and we must do what is necessary now to assure our partners of our commitment and our staying power.”

“Finally, we must make sure that we are postured for purpose in this region,” Votel said, adding that it means maintaining a trained and ready force and effective programs that build and shape partner forces in the region.”

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News Staff