Fox: Iran primary cause of instability in Mideast
LONDON - Former British defence secretary Liam Fox said Monday that Iran was now replacing the Arab-Israeli conflict as the primary cause of instability in the Middle East.
“We should be careful not to see it as simply a regional security problem as its effects are spread widely and Iran’s toxicity is felt well beyond its geographic neighbourhood,” warned Fox in a speech delivered at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
He accused Tehran of destabilising the restive region through its proxy militias and threatening the global oil supplies through illegal maritime actions even as European Union countries were trying to sort ways to finance trade with Iran.
“Lebanese Hezbollah remains Iran’s primary terrorist proxy and they destabilise Iraq through the manipulation Shiite militia groups,” he said.
Fox warned that Iran’s long-term aim was the destabilising of its neighbours with the aim of establishing a regional hegemony.
Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency revealed in a recent report that the Islamic republic, through its elite Quds Force, its involvement in conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, Syria and Yemen.
Fars credited the Quds Force for the defeat of Islamic State jihadists in Syria and Iraq under “the leadership and guidance” of commander Qasem Soleimani who was killed on January 3 by a US air strike in Baghdad.
Fox said the billions of dollars that were unfrozen by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) had enabled Iran to support the Syrian regime, fund Hezbollah’s terror activities and support Huthi rebels in the Yemeni conflict.
Huthi rebels are in possession of new weapons similar to those produced in Iran, according to a recent UN report, in potential violation of a UN arms embargo.
Some of the new weapons, which the rebels have possessed since 2019, "have technical characteristics similar to arms manufactured in the Islamic Republic of Iran," said the report, which was compiled by a panel of UN experts tasked with monitoring the arms embargo.
“A regional conflict could quickly become a global economic crisis and the recent attacks on Saudi oil installations show how emboldened the Iranian regime and the IRGC have become,” said Fox.
The experts said they investigated the September 14 high-profile attack on Saudi Aramco oil facilities in Khurays and Abqaiq, where the kingdom’s crucial oil processing plant is. The drone and missile attacks cut into global energy supplies and halved Saudi oil production.
The Huthis claimed responsibility for the attacks. But the panel said it found that “despite claims to the contrary, the Huthi forces are unlikely to be responsible for the attack, as the estimated range of the weapon systems used does not allow for a launch from Huthi-controlled territory.”
The United States and Saudi Arabia have alleged that Iran was responsible for the Aramco attacks.
The panel said it did not believe the comparatively sophisticated weapons used in those attacks “were developed and manufactured in Yemen, implying that they were imported in violation of the targeted arms embargo.”
The former British defence secretary warned that the current approach to Iran had not worked and had led to the current maximum pressure strategy by the current US administration.
“The 12 points set out by Secretary of State Pompeo could form the basis of a ‘grand bargain’ but only if a way could be found to enable ordinary Iranians to prosper from any liberalisation of trade, rather than pumping money into the Khamenei regime,” said Fox.
US President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran in 2018 and reimposed sanctions to strangle Tehran's oil-reliant economy as part of a “maximum pressure” policy to drive the Iranian government into negotiating a deal with greater restrictions on the Islamic republic’s nuclear work, ballistic missile programmes and ending regional proxy wars.
Fox said that the biggest problem for Iran’s regional neighbours and the international community was the near complete breakdown of trust.
“It is almost impossible to believe what the (Iranian) regime says, leaving their actions alone to be judged for their intent,” he concluded.