By Rep. Paul Cook
Sunday, 29 October 2017
October 23 marked the 34th anniversary of the Marine Corps Barracks bombing in Beirut Lebanon. Two-hundred forty-one American service members were killed that day at the hands of Hezbollah. Over three decades later, Hezbollah is the most powerful political force in Lebanon and has even expanded its influence into southern Syria.
Similarly, in the Palestinian territories, Hamas continues to rule the Gaza Strip and has a strong presence in the West Bank, allowing it to continue a campaign of terror that has prevented any chance of lasting peace with Israel. In Iraq, Shi’a terrorist groups have murdered American and allied troops for years, preventing Iraq from ever knowing peace. Most recently, these same groups have swept into territory previously held by ISIS or our Kurdish allies and have begun terrorizing civilians.
In Syria, the regime of Bashar al-Assad remains in power despite its responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of its own people, and the displacement of millions. In Yemen, the Houthi rebels murder civilians and have caused famine and disease on an unbelievable scale.
These terrorist groups are ultimately responsible for their own actions, and the U.S. and our allies hold them accountable in a variety of ways, including with military action. However, all of these groups have one common link that supersedes other commonalities. It’s not in their warped versions of Islam, their apocalyptic worldviews, or even their hatred for the U.S. It’s their support from and close relationship with Iran.
There is no single greater destabilizing force in the Middle East than Iran. Since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Iran has assisted any regional terror group willing to accept its help. It began in much smaller form in the 1980s with their support for Hezbollah. Following the Marine Barracks bombing, the U.S. designated Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism. Rather than change their behavior to lose that designation, Iran has increased their support for terrorists around the world exponentially.
Now that ISIS is crumbling, the most critical national security concern for the U.S. in the Middle East is countering Iran’s influence and support for terrorism. My colleagues and I on the House Foreign Affairs Committee understand this challenge, and we’ve pursued an aggressive agenda against Iran. This year alone, we’ve held fourteen hearings where Iran and its terrorist proxies have been a central focus. The House has passed nearly 20 pieces of relevant legislation, giving the President additional tools to counter the Iranian threat.
We can and must do more. Each front in this multi-faceted conflict against Iranian terror is unique and will require unique strategies and solutions. Diplomatically, we must be aggressive in strengthening our regional allies in this effort, fostering positive relationships, and identifying mutual interests where we can. Economically, we must isolate Iran, while also demonstrating how positive engagement and cooperation can bring prosperity and peace. Militarily, we must employ Reagan’s “peace through strength” mantra, so Iran knows that we can act with overwhelming and decisive force if necessary.
More commonly, we must train, equip, and advise our allies on how to lead their own fight, recognizing that peace must be earned by those who will be responsible for keeping it. This struggle against Iranian influence has been decades in the making and will not be quickly won. However this fight must be won, and by using all the tools available to us, it will be.
Rep. Paul Cook, R-Apple Valley, represents the High Desert and the 8th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.