Iran remains the “long-term destabilizing factor” in the region, a top US commander said Thursday.
“Their efforts are not limited to the support they provide to the Houthis in Yemen. They strive to be a regional hegemon and use malign influence qualitatively and quantitatively, expanding capabilities, facilitation, and support to multiple proxies to exert pressure, and threaten other countries in the region,” US Central Command head General Joseph Votel told Congress.
“Against the backdrop of these (regional) conflicts is the Iranian regime,” Votel added.
The US is working towards deterring such actions by the Iranian regime, according to Votel. “Our longstanding military relationships with partners across the region are critical to this effort,” he said.
ISIS battle “far from over”
The battle against ISIS is “far from over” and the extremists remain unbroken and prepared for a resurgence despite the elimination of their physical base in Syria, said Votel. “Reduction of the physical caliphate is a monumental military accomplishment -- but the fight against ISIS and violent extremism is far from over and our mission remains the same,” he added.
Votel reassured that the so-called “caliphate” largely remains unrepentant, unbroken and radicalized.
He also told the House Armed Services Committee that hundreds of foreign ISIS fighters and their families captured in Syria are a latent threat, and he called on their home countries to deal with them.
“In my view, this is a serious generational problem that if not handled properly will sow the seeds of future violent extremism,” he said.
Extremists in Yemen
In his testimony, Votel also spoke about the threat from “violent extremist groups” in Yemen.
“We work closely with our indigenous partners to disrupt these organizations, to ensure they do not have the capability or opportunity to attack our country or citizens or those of our partners,” he said.