WASHINGTON, D.C.—Iran increased its nefarious activities in the Middle East in the months after it reached a nuclear deal with U.S.-led world powers, suggested a top State Department official.
During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Wednesday, Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the panel, asked witness Anne Patterson, the assistant secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department, to highlight steps the Obama administration is taking to counter Iran’s nefarious activities in the Middle East, which he noted will be enhanced by sanctions relief.
The first step that the Obama administration has taken is to “work very closely” with Israel and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to assist them in combating the Iranian threat, responded Patterson.
Members of the GCC include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
The economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic will be lifted as part of the nuclear agreement that Iran struck with the U.S. and five other world powers in July,
Some experts estimate that as much as $150 billion in Iranian assets could be unfrozen once the sanctions are suspended.
Obama administration analysts claim that Iran will have about $56 billion left after paying its outstanding financial obligations—rebuilding their energy infrastructure and other public services.
U.S. military officials and President Obama himself have conceded that Iran will use the sanctions relief funds to propagate its terrorist activities.
“We’re under no illusions about what Iran is doing in the region and in fact some of their activities have stepped up in recent months, but we are working with our GCC colleagues on issues like protection from cyber incursions,” Patterson told lawmakers.
She claimed that the U.S. will be monitoring Iran, considering that sanctions relief will provide them with an opportunity to increase their terrorist activities, adding that the Obama administration is “very much” prepared to take action to counter the Islamic Republic, without elaborating further.
“We’re very mindful that some of this money could be directed at their [terrorist] activities, for instance in Yemen or in Bahrain, and we’ll be watching that closely,” added Patterson.
The State Department official declared that the U.S. is taking steps to ensure that the GCC can better counter recent aggressive steps taken by Iran, such as its recent long-range ballistic missiles test.
“We’re working with [the GCC] on an anti-ballistic missile defense system. We’re working with them on things like special forces training. We have a very robust intelligence-sharing effort with our GCC allies and in fact [it] has helped them counter some Iranian terrorism — extremist terrorism — on their soil,” explained Patterson.
“We of course have a large military presence in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Aden,” she added. “So, we are very mindful of Iranian adventurism in this region.”
During the hearing, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) questioned whether the Obama administration will be prepared to counter Iran’s terrorist activities once the sanctions are suspended.
Johnson, who serves as the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee, told Patterson that it appeared the Obama administration was “under an illusion” when it agreed to sign the nuclear agreement with Iran.
“I think you were under an illusion — really deluded yourself in terms of what Iran is really going to be planning on doing here,” said Sen. Johnson.
“They’ve been emboldened by this agreement I’m not seeing any kind of modification to the positive of their behavior, I see to the negative,” he noted, later adding, “We’re about to see tens of billions of dollars injected into the economy, possibly, but [definitely] in the military of our self-proclaimed enemy. How is that going to turn out well?”