Congress

State Department official says Iran has been transferring missiles to terrorists

Administration says transfers justify abandoning the Iran nuclear deal

Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., charged it is Trump who is endangering Israel’s security with his decision to order the withdrawal of U.S. special forces from northern Syria.. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The State Department on Wednesday revealed that Iran has been transferring ballistic missiles to regional partners that the United States views as terrorists.

The revelation by the special envoy for Iran policy, Brian Hook, came at the start of a contentious Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. Hook argued that evidence of Iran’s transfer of ballistic missile technology to regional extremist groups justified the Trump administration’s 2018 decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal.

“While the United States was still in the JCPOA, Iran expanded its ballistic missile activities to partners across the region, including Hezbollah, Palestinian terrorist groups and Shia militias in Iraq,” Hook said, referring to the acronym for the multinational nuclear accord. “Beginning last year, Iran transferred whole missiles to a separate designated terrorist group in the region.”

Hook did not name the specific terrorist group that received complete ballistic missiles.

Hook, who recently was in the running to be President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, said Iran is developing missile technology “solely” for the purpose of exporting it to regional proxies. “This arsenal is then used to target our ally, Israel.”

But ranking member Robert Menendez, D-N.J., one of the few Senate Democrats to vote against the Iran nuclear deal when it came up for a vote in 2015, charged it is Trump who is now endangering Israel’s security with his apparently impetuous decision to withdraw U.S. special forces from northern Syria.

Menendez asked Hook if the administration has secured any agreements from the Turkish or Iraqi governments to prevent Iran from moving troops and supplies through northern Syria to the border with Israel.

Hook said multiple meetings on the subject have taken place but he did not disclose whether any agreements have been secured.

“We have the possibility of a land bridge that Iran has sought over Syria to attack our ally, the state of Israel,” Menendez said. “Iran isn’t an agent of Russia, they have their own interests. They have spent their own blood. Russia is not going to tell them ‘Okay now, thank you for your help. It’s time to get out.’”

“They’re going to have their own interests and all we have done here is perpetuate their interest and created a greater risk for our ally, the state of Israel,” Menendez said of Iran.

Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are traveling to Turkey this week to try to flesh out agreements with Ankara around the withdrawal of U.S. troops, whose presence had effectively deterred Russia and Iran from trying to push into northern Syria.

Trump announced last week he was ordering the withdrawal of hundreds of U.S. soldiers. In response, the Syrian Kurds, who had formerly been aligned with the United States, announced on Sunday they had reached a deal with Russia and Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad that would allow Russian and Syrian forces into northern Syria to better defend against the Turkish incursion.

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