A couple of notable excerpts from General Petraeus's testimony yesterday.
The Iranian regime is the primary state-level threat to stability in the region. Throughout much of the region, the regime pursues a dual-track foreign policy. Overtly, the Iranian government cooperates with regional states through bilateral arrangements to promote Iran as an economic, political, and military power. In parallel, the regime entrusts the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)-Qods Force to execute covert aspects of its foreign policy using political influence, covert businesses, lethal and non-lethal aid, and training to militants supportive of the regime’s agenda. The Qods Force is active throughout the region, and, in fact, controls Iranian foreign policy in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza and influences heavily in Afghanistan and the Gulf Region. Through Qods Force soft power initiatives and destabilizing activities, such as coercion and direct attacks, Iran is subverting democratic processes and intimidating the nascent governments of our partners. The regime continues to intervene in the Israeli-Palestinian situation through its support to Hamas and Lebanese Hizballah, and it remains in violation of six United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding its nuclear program and arms transfers.
Iran’s nuclear program is a serious, destabilizing factor in the region and is widely believed to be a part of the regime’s broader effort to expand its influence. Although the regime has stated the purpose of its nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful, civilian use, Iranian officials have consistently failed to provide the assurances and transparency necessary for full international confidence. This includes failure to provide verification as required by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a signatory, and failure to implement the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Additional Protocol, which would allow for more comprehensive inspections. The regime’s obstinacy and obfuscation have forced Iran’s neighbors and the international community to conclude the worst about the regime’s intentions, as confirmed by the recent IAEA Board of Governors’ near unanimous censure of Iran’s recent disclosure of a secret nuclear facility near Qom. It appears that, at a minimum, Tehran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons. Iran continues to develop and improve its uranium enrichment infrastructure and is likely to use its gas centrifuges to produce fissile material for a weapon, should it make the political decision to do so. This pattern of conduct coupled with its rejection of international responsibilities is troubling, especially when viewed in the context that other regional states have recently announced their intentions to develop nuclear power programs. This behavior poses a clear challenge to international non-proliferation goals due to the possibility of such technologies being transferred to terrorist groups and the potential for a regional arms race, as other regional states may seek nuclear parity.
Domestically, the regime is taking dramatic steps to maintain power in reaction to the persistent civil unrest sparked by the apparent election manipulation leading to President Ahmadinejad’s re-election in June 2009. The aftermath of the presidential election created a political rift among regime elites and further hardened certain leaders’ views toward the U.S. and the West over alleged involvement in supporting a “soft revolution” in Iran. Tehran has deployed significant numbers of security forces, mainly comprised of Basij militia, to crack down on street protests and conduct mass arrests of protestors. The regime has also taken sweeping steps to control the information environment by slowing or shutting down the internet, telephone networks, and other forms of social media used by protestors to organize, execute, and publicize their efforts. The opposition movement, led by former regime insiders, poses the most serious political challenge to the regime since the advent of the Islamic Republic.