CENTCOM Commander General Joseph Votel says that Iran is the greatest threat to regional stability in the Middle East, and the U.S. should look to disrupt their activities through military or other means.

General Votel gave testimony before the House Armed Services Committee yesterday, where Iran and its disrupting and confrontational presence in the greater Middle East dominated much of the testimony and questions from members of Congress on the committee.

“It is my view that Iran poses the greatest long-term threat to stability in this part of the world,” General Votel said.

When asked if he believes Iran is escalating operations designed to destabilize the region, Votel said they have, and “I believe that Iran is operating in what I would call a gray zone. It’s a competition between states and it’s just short of open conflict. They do it through surrogate forces, through lethal aid, and through their own cyber activities and influence operations.”

To confront Iran, Votel suggests the United States through the cooperation and support of regional allies, should use the military or other means to disrupt their operations. He also cites the need to hold the Iranians accountable for their actions, and to directly challenge the revolutionary ideology of the government of Iran.

“Our concern is not with the people of Iran, but with their revolutionary government,” Votel noted.

In addition to assessing the Iranian threat, Votel spoke generally about the pervasive threat of terrorism across the region, as well as fielded several questions pertaining to the recent bombing in Mosul which reportedly resulted in a large number of civilian casualties.

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General Votel explained that the Islamic State is uniquely adept at exploiting public affairs incidents like collateral damage and civilian casualties, noting that there are “professionals” within the Islamic State who specialize in information operations designed to manipulate public opinion in the West.

A military investigation is ongoing into the circumstances surrounding the Mosul bombing.

General Votel also echoed recent comments by General Curtis Scaparrotti, stating that Russia is likely arming and advising the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Image courtesy of Reuters