Many leaders within the international community point to Iran’s actions within the Middle East as an indicator of Iran’s exporting terrorism and the destabilizing impact of their actions on the region. The regime has for years denied this, arguing that they are supporting their neighbors within the region and trying to be a partner. Yet, recent comments from the leadership in Iran indicate that they have larger plans for the region.
“Whether you want or not, we shall defend the oppressed people of Yemen, Syria, and Palestine, and we will strengthen our military and defense capabilities to the extent necessary,” said Iranian President Rouhani.
According to Mullah Kazem Sediqi, “Today, is Iraq our neighbor? No, it’s ourselves. Today, Iraq’s Hashd al-Sha’bi and the Iraqi government are fighting alongside us. Lebanese Hezbollah is one of the miracles of our revolution…our Islam [read extremism and fundamentalism] goes to bring the world under the flag of the Velayat-e fagiqh (Supreme Leader)!”
The Iranian regime has extended its reach into Palestine, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon, but they have not limited their efforts to these countries. At the smallest sign of discord, Iranian leaders use the IRGC to extend their military and extremist efforts.
Prince Turki bin Faisal of Saudi Arabia indicated that the JCPOA was just one of the means of the Iran regime to advance its goals in the region. He added, “The Iran regime pretends that the deal stabilizes the situation of the region and Iran feels responsible for the conflicts taking place in the world.”
Faisal indicated that he regretted the Qatar’s cooperation with the Iran regime, adding that any cooperation with Iran would endanger the peace and stability of the region. Moreover, the Arab states and Muslims will be threatened since the Iran regime has goals in these countries, as it has explicitly announced.
The JCPOA conditions gave the Iranian regime access to funds that had previously been kept from them due to international sanctions. However, those funds are not being used to benefit the Iranian people, but instead are being used to fund continued military operations throughout the region.
The stability that was hoped for within the region has not materialized. Instead, the region has continued to suffer from turmoil. U.S. Secretary Rex Tillerson said, “Regrettably, since the agreement was confirmed, we have seen anything but a more peaceful, stable region.”
The Trump administration has continued to actively focus its attention on the actions of the Iranian regime. Members of the administration have pointed to Iran’s ballistic missile tests as proof of Iran’s intentions not to follow through on the agreement. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said, “The Americans are right: Iran is still not playing a constructive role in the Middle East, be it in Yemen or Lebanon.”
The areas where Iran seems to be focusing their attention appear to have some geo-political significance for the regime. The efforts in Iraq and Syria appear to be creating a pathway for Iran to the Mediterranean.
The regime has a history of exporting weapons to countries within the region. While Yemen is the most recent example, as the regime supplies weapons to the Houthis, but there are plenty of other examples. Samantha Power, a former U.S. envoy to the UN, felt obliged to highlight the cases of Iran exporting weapons to the Lebanese Hezbollah. Today, this group, with its ties to Iran, has significant political power in that country.
“Two years have passed since Iran’s nuclear agreement with no sign of change in its hostile behavior; it continues to develop its nuclear program and violates the letter and spirit of that agreement,” said UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahayan during his UN General Assembly speech.
One of the reasons that members of the international community argue that Iran is in violation of the agreement is because of the UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which does not allow Iran to test ballistic missiles. Yet, Iran has continued to test missiles.
Last May, after his election to a second term, Iranian President Rouhani said, “We are proud of our armed forces, the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), the Basij and the security forces.” The IRGC is at the head of Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile program, and is in charge of quelling all forms of domestic dissent and exporting the regime’s “Islamic Revolution” abroad.
The JCPOA did not address other issues that impact Iran’s military ambitions, but especially the impact of their exporting of fundamentalism and extremism. Nearly four decades of the Iranian regime have demonstrated that Tehran has used the engagement with the West to fuel its own ends, but is not willing to create real change. As a result, the international community is at a crossroads and the only way to bring real change to the region is to change the regime for a democratic alternative.