The United States is helping its Middle East allies build up their security forces besides encouraging them to purchase US arms.
“Iran poses the ‘greatest threat’ to regional security and stability. Iran actively stokes instability and is intent on degrading security all over the region. They use proxies and violence to push other nations in the region to their agenda,” said the commander of U.S. Central Command Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr, while speaking at a Middle East Institute webinar on Wednesday.
McKenzie accused Iran of funding and arming terrorist organizations, propping up ‘murderous regime’ of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, providing advanced weapons to Houthi rebels in Yemen, attacking oil tankers in Strait of Hormuz and oil refineries in Saudi Arabia, besides attacking US troops in Iraq.
The State Department is leading the effort to pressure Iranian leaders diplomatically and, through sanctions, to make them renounce their nuclear ambitions, cease work on ballistic missiles and cease exporting terrorism against their neighbors, he said, noting that this effort is a whole-of-government approach that includes allies and partners.
The Defense Department's role regarding Iran is to deter it from taking direct or indirect military actions against the United States and its allies and partners in the region, he said.
China and Russia also have become involved in the region, trying to use economic leverage to make their influence felt, the general said. Russia, he added, is propping up Assad, who they see as a valued ally with a warm-water port.
The U.S. response has been to have close relationships with nations in the region, McKenzie said, helping them build up their security forces and encouraging them to purchase U.S. foreign military materiel.
“An over-the-horizon threat to coalition and partner forces in the region will most likely come from swarms of small unmanned aerial systems that can carry weapons,” McKenzie said, noting that the Army is taking the lead on developing counter-UAS measures.
Earlier in January, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani demanded the U.S. troops leave and accused it of making the region ‘insecure,’ saying it should ‘apologize to Tehran’ for its ‘previous crimes.’
"In the midst of a global coronavirus pandemic when all attention worldwide is to combat this menace, the question is what the US military is doing in Gulf waters, 7,000 miles from home," Iran's UN mission spokesman Alireza Miryousefi said in late April.