Iran poses the most significant threat to U.S. Central Command's complex area of responsibility, Centcom commander Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel told the Senate Armed Services Committee today.
Centcom has dealt with a number of significant challenges over the past 12 months, including in Iraq and Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Egypt and the Sinai, the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, he said.
"We are also dealing with a range of malign activities perpetrated by Iran and its proxies operating in the region," the general said at the hearing on the posture of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Africa Command.
"It is my view that Iran poses the greatest long-term threat to stability for this part of the world," Votel said.Iranian activities of concern, according to Votel, include "malign influence across Iraq and Syria," and efforts to prop up the Syrian regime and exploit Shia population centers.
'Highly Complex Area'
The Centcom area of responsibility, which covers four million square miles from the Arabian Gulf region into Central Asia, remains a "highly complex area, widely characterized by pervasive instability and conflict," he said.
The region is "increasingly crowded" with external nation-states, including Russia and China, that are pursuing their own interests in attempting to shift alliances, Votel said.
...Violent extremist groups such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria are taking advantage of the fragile security environment of heightened ethno-sectarian tensions, economic uncertainty, and weak or corrupt governance, Votel explained.
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..."While we must take the necessary actions to counter immediate threats, such as ISIS in Iraq and Syria," Votel’s written statement to the committee said, "we also need to find ways to address these and other root causes of instability if we hope to achieve lasting positive effects in that part of the world."...