US foreign policy

Iran identified as ‘primary challenger’ to US interests in Mid East: Intel report

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A report by all intelligence agencies in the United States has identified Iran as the “primary state challenger” to Washington’s interests in the Middle East, the London-based Iran International reported on Sunday.

Iran has been identified as the “primary state challenger to US interests in the Middle East because of its sophisticated military capabilities, broad proxy and partner networks, and periodic willingness to use force against US and partner forces,” according to the report.

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The report – which included contributions from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) – revealed that the death of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani pushed Tehran to increase “partner and proxy engagement… to maintain strategic depth.”

In recent months, the Iran-backed Houthis have launched dozens of attacks on US ally Saudi Arabia and in Yemen.

Soleimani was killed in a US airstrike on Baghdad Airport on January 3, 2020 alongside Iraq’s Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces. Their death fueled already rising tensions between the US and Iran.

According to the intelligence report, Soleimani’s death led to a “significant increase in the threat to US interests in Iraq from Iran-backed Iraqi Shia militias seeking to secure a US drawdown.”

However, according to the agencies, Iran “will seek to avoid escalation with the United States while it evaluates the direction of US policy toward Iran and the status of the US presence in the region.”

Indirect nuclear talks between the US and Iran began in Vienna last month – with Iran, Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany meeting in one hotel while the US is based in another.

Iran has refused to hold direct meetings with officials from Washington.

US President Joe Biden is planning to return to the nuclear deal after former president Donald Trump pulled out of the deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions against Tehran.

In response, Iran has breached many of the deal’s limits on its nuclear activities.

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