US expert warns of Iran’s ‘other terror front’

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Brian Hook, the special US representative for Iran

NEW YORK — Iran is playing a long game in Yemen, destabilizing the region while furthering its hegemonic aims, wrote US special representative for Iran and senior policy adviser to the secretary of state, Brian Hook, in an opinion piece carried by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

“Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, is playing a long game in Yemen and few in the world seem to have noticed. With Iran’s patronage, the Houthis carried out a coup in 2014, plunging the country into chaos. Iran’s support elevated the Houthis from a tribal militia to a lethal fighting force. Now, the Iranian regime wants a seat at the negotiating table to help resolve a war it helped instigate,” said Hook in his piece.

Hook calls for a concerted global action to check Iran, stating that “the world must come to terms with Iran’s ambitions and counter them, or the Iranian Crescent will soon enough become a full moon.”

He said that Iran’s expansionist aims have already put Lebanon, Syria, the Golan Heights, and Iraq, in its orbit and the world must do everything to prevent Iran from entrenching itself in Yemen.

“Whatever the ultimate outcome in Yemen, Iran has successfully expanded its threat network and positioned itself as a power broker in the Arabian Peninsula. Tehran has been using this playbook for decades. In the early 1980s, Iran began supporting various Shia extremist groups in Lebanon.

“The Iranian regime systematically scaled up its assistance and assembled the most violent factions into a cohesive military organization, which eventually called itself Hezbollah. During the 1990s, Iran cemented its influence in Lebanon through Hezbollah... Hezbollah’s military prowess enabled it to become a state within a state, which, in turn, enabled Iran to extend its own borders,” wrote Hook in the WSJ opinion piece.

“Today, the parallels in Iran’s approach to Yemen are unmistakable. As it did in Lebanon four decades ago, Iran is using Yemen to increase its status as a regional power. Iranian assistance has allowed the Houthis to challenge the authority of the Yemeni government in ways that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible....

“Iran’s strategic alliance with the Houthis allows them to target Gulf nations at will with missile and UAV attacks, and to inspire, organize, and direct militant separatist groups in Saudi Arabia’s provinces. The Houthis have launched Iranian-origin missiles at population centers such as Riyadh, hundreds of miles away....

“For decades, Iran has threatened freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz. Its alliance with the Houthis now allows Iran to threaten ship traffic in the Bab Al-Mandeb strait, which is the gateway to the Red Sea, Suez Canal and, ultimately, the Mediterranean....

“Give Iran a free hand in Yemen and it can threaten to close both of these essential waterways and commit acts of maritime aggression... In Yemen today Iran is effectively extending its borders, enlarging its sphere of influence, and launching lethal attacks against rivals....

“If the US fails to address Iran’s grand strategy in Yemen, we will face greater risk in the future, including the potential “Lebanonization” of the country. In fact, newly declassified information shows that Hezbollah is actively supporting the Houthi cause in Yemen, bringing Iran’s proxy network full circle.

“By controlling and deploying groups like the Houthis and Hezbollah, Tehran can conduct warfare through indigenous third parties in multiple theaters simultaneously,” wrote Hook. — Agencies


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