Thwarted attacks involving Iranians and Iranian proxies like Hizballah in Cyprus, Thailand, and Kenya – to name a few examples – show a clear willingness on the part of our international partners to target and prosecute Iranian terrorist activity. As evidenced by these disruption and prosecution efforts across Africa, East Asia, and Europe, we and our international partners have become increasingly effective at targeting Iranian support for terrorism.
Regional Meddling and Support for Asad
In Syria, 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 Asad regime. Today, Iran is training, arming, funding, aiding and abetting the Asad regime and its atrocious crackdown on its own people. 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 Asad regime against the Syrian people. Iran and Hizballah fighters are also directing the activities of Iraqi militia groups which have been enlisted to join in the Asad 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. Countering such efforts remains a key priority for the Administration and we are focused on preventing Iran from continuing to support the Syrian regime financially, materially, and logistically. The Administration has used its authorities in several executive orders to highlight the role of Iran in the Syrian regime’s violation of human rights and hold accountable those responsible.
These facts further highlight Iran’s continued efforts to expand its nefarious interference in the region. In January, Yemeni authorities seized, in Yemeni territorial waters, a 40-ton Iranian shipment of weapons and explosives destined for Iranian-supported Huthi extremists. These activities interfere with Yemen’s ongoing political transition, and are destabilizing to the wider region. It is no surprise then that, according to a 2013 Zogby survey of 20 Arab and Muslim-majority countries, Iran is now viewed unfavorably in a majority of Arab countries and its appeal to mainstream Arab public opinion has virtually collapsed from its 2006 peak.
As Iran’s isolation grows, we are working through existing regional counter-terrorism partnerships to address the Iranian threat, and the interdiction in Yemen is a successful example of that cooperation. We are also deepening our military partnerships across the region. We consult 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. We are also in close and constant contact with Israel to coordinate our policies and have taken unprecedented steps to protect Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge – including support for the Iron Dome defense system to stop Iranian-supported militant groups from firing Iranian-supplied rockets into Israeli communities.
Levinson, Abedini, and Hekmati Cases
Just as we are concerned about Iran’s destabilizing regional activities abroad, we remain concerned about Iran’s treatment of U.S. citizens detained and missing in Iran. The U.S. government is dedicated to the return of American citizen Robert Levinson and U.S.-Iranian dual nationals Saeed Abedini and Amir Hekmati. Mr. Levinson went missing from Kish Island, Iran, on March 9, 2007, and his whereabouts remain unknown. We continue to call on the Iranian government to make good on its promises to assist the U.S. government in finding Mr. Levinson so that he can be reunited with his family. Mr. Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine who served in Afghanistan, was detained in Iran since August 2011, and endured a closed-door trial with little regard for fairness or transparency. Mr. Abedini has been detained in Iran since September 2012 on charges related to his religious beliefs, and reportedly has suffered physical abuse by Iranian officials in prison. Despite our repeated requests, Iranian authorities have failed to provide them with adequate medical treatment or permit visits from our protecting power. We will continue to raise these cases directly and publicly as we also pursue all available options until all three of these Americans return home safely.