Iran’s proxy activities are dangerous

Iran fancies itself a regional hegemon and wants free rein on its proxies’ activities in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and elsewhere.
Sunday 27/05/2018
Iran’s army chief of staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri (L) looks at a map with senior officers from the Iranian military in the province of Aleppo, last October. (AP)
Iran’s army chief of staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri (L) looks at a map with senior officers from the Iranian military in the province of Aleppo, last October. (AP)

Despite everything, Iran and its proxies continue their aggressive move to expand Tehran’s reach across the region.

On May 23, Iran’s Houthi allies tried, but failed, to attack oil tankers in the Red Sea using explosives-laden speedboats.

Clearly, Iran fancies itself a regional hegemon and wants free rein on its proxies’ activities in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and elsewhere but it must reckon with an ever-louder international rejection of its activities.

On May 21, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States would take “all necessary steps to confront and address Iran’s malign influence in the region.”

“Iran will never again have carte blanche to dominate the Middle East,” he added.

Pompeo’s statement came just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had just met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Sochi, declared that the way forward for Syria lay in the withdrawal of “foreign armed forces… from the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic.”

The Russian president’s chief Syria negotiator, Alexander Lavrentiev, was more explicit. “We are talking about all the foreign troop divisions that still have troops in Syrian territory,” Lavrentiev said. “That includes the Americans and the Turks and Hezbollah, of course, and the Iranians.”

Unsurprisingly, this caused considerable consternation in Tehran but, for all the subsequent Russian spin, the game is clearly up.

On May 22, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called out the pro-Iranian Hezbollah as a “destabilising” factor in Lebanon and Syria. In his report to the UN Security Council on the implementation of the 2004 UN resolution ordering all Lebanese militias to disarm, Guterres said Hezbollah should end military activities in Lebanon and elsewhere. He called on “countries in the region that maintain close ties with Hezbollah to encourage the transformation of the armed group into a solely civilian political party and its disarmament.”

Iranian proxies’ actions destabilise and endanger the region. They must cease if we are to avoid an escalation with unpredictable consequences.

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