February 10, 2015 | House Foreign Affairs Committee - Subcomittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade

State Sponsor of Terror: The Global Threat of Iran

Chairman Poe, Ranking Member Keating. Thank you for inviting me to this very timely hearing to testify on the organic relationship between Iran and Hezbollah and the threat they pose to US interests

Sensing that its moment has arrived, Iran is in the middle of an aggressive region-wide expansionist drive. Today, Iranian officials openly brag about controlling four Arab capitals — Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus and Sanaa. In each of these capitals, the Iranians have developed proxies, either by creating new militias on the Hezbollah model or by coopting pre-existing local actors. They are using these proxies to extend Iran’s reach, integrating them into its regional strategy targeting US allies and interests. In each of these capitals, Hezbollah is at the center of Iranian designs.

Since the beginning of the Islamic revolutionary regime in Iran, Hezbollah has enjoyed a privileged place in Iran’s regional strategy. Hezbollah was created as an extension of the ruling militant clerical clique and as the long arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the Arab world. Hezbollah is the first and to date most successful export of the Islamic revolution. From the early 1980’s to the present, Hezbollah has been a constant feature of Iranian overseas operations against the US and its allies

From the outset, the group’s progenitors in the IRGC sought to spawn and support militant movements in line with Iran’s interests and under its control. But Iran is separated from its Arab surroundings by ethnicity, language and sectarian affiliation. Which is why it invested heavily in Hezbollah. A 1984 statement by Iran’s ambassador to Beirut is instructive as to the importance Tehran attached to Hezbollah and Lebanon in its regional strategy: “an Islamic movement [in Lebanon] will result in Islamic movements throughout the Arab world.” Indeed, Hezbollah has been instrumental in helping Tehran develop Arab assets and spread its influence across the region. The ability to export its revolutionary model to willing Arab groups allowed Iran to embed itself in Arab societies and project influence, which otherwise would have been far more constrained.

This strategy has arguably reached its peak moment today. Iran’s investment in Lebanon is paying dividends like never before since the success of the Islamic revolution. What the Iranians hadn’t counted on, however, is that the US would acquiesce to their bid for regional hegemony.