[House Hearing, 114 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]


     THE FUTURE OF IRANIAN TERROR AND ITS THREAT TO THE U.S. HOMELAND

=======================================================================

                                HEARING

                               BEFORE THE

                            SUBCOMMITTEE ON
                            COUNTERTERRORISM
                            AND INTELLIGENCE

                                 OF THE

                     COMMITTEE ON HOMELAND SECURITY
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

                    ONE HUNDRED FOURTEENTH CONGRESS

                             SECOND SESSION

                               __________

                           FEBRUARY 11, 2016

                               __________

                           Serial No. 114-53

                               __________

       Printed for the use of the Committee on Homeland Security
                                     

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                     COMMITTEE ON HOMELAND SECURITY

                   Michael T. McCaul, Texas, Chairman
Lamar Smith, Texas                   Bennie G. Thompson, Mississippi
Peter T. King, New York              Loretta Sanchez, California
Mike Rogers, Alabama                 Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas
Candice S. Miller, Michigan, Vice    James R. Langevin, Rhode Island
    Chair                            Brian Higgins, New York
Jeff Duncan, South Carolina          Cedric L. Richmond, Louisiana
Tom Marino, Pennsylvania             William R. Keating, Massachusetts
Lou Barletta, Pennsylvania           Donald M. Payne, Jr., New Jersey
Scott Perry, Pennsylvania            Filemon Vela, Texas
Curt Clawson, Florida                Bonnie Watson Coleman, New Jersey
John Katko, New York                 Kathleen M. Rice, New York
Will Hurd, Texas                     Norma J. Torres, California
Earl L. ``Buddy'' Carter, Georgia
Mark Walker, North Carolina
Barry Loudermilk, Georgia
Martha McSally, Arizona
John Ratcliffe, Texas
Daniel M. Donovan, Jr., New York
                   Brendan P. Shields, Staff Director
                    Joan V. O'Hara,  General Counsel
                    Michael S. Twinchek, Chief Clerk
                I. Lanier Avant, Minority Staff Director
                                
                                
                                ------                                

           SUBCOMMITTEE ON COUNTERTERRORISM AND INTELLIGENCE

                   Peter T. King, New York, Chairman
Candice S. Miller, Michigan          Brian Higgins, New York
Lou Barletta, Pennsylvania           William R. Keating, Massachusetts
John Katko, New York                 Filemon Vela, Texas
Will Hurd, Texas                     Bennie G. Thompson, Mississippi 
Michael T. McCaul, Texas (ex             (ex officio)
    officio)
               Mandy Bowers, Subcommittee Staff Director
            Hope Goins, Minority Subcommittee Staff Director
                            
                            
                            C O N T E N T S

                              ----------                              
                                                                   Page

                               Statements

The Honorable Peter T. King, a Representative in Congress From 
  the State of New York, and Chairman, Subcommittee on 
  Counterterrorism and Intelligence:
  Oral Statement.................................................     1
  Prepared Statement.............................................     3
The Honorable Brian Higgins, a Representative in Congress From 
  the State of New York, and Ranking Member, Subcommittee on 
  Counterterrorism and Intelligence:
  Oral Statement.................................................     4
  Prepared Statement.............................................     5
The Honorable Bennie G. Thompson, a Representative in Congress 
  From the State of Mississippi, and Ranking Member, Committee on 
  Homeland Security:
  Prepared Statement.............................................     6

                               Witnesses

Mr. Tzvi Kahn, Senior Policy Analyst, Foreign Policy Initiative:
  Oral Statement.................................................     7
  Prepared Statement.............................................     9
Mr. Ilan Berman, Vice President, American Foreign Policy Council:
  Oral Statement.................................................    17
  Prepared Statement.............................................    19
Mr. Bilal Y. Saab, Senior Fellow for Middle East Security, Brent 
  Scowcroft Center on International Security, Atlantic Council:
  Oral Statement.................................................    26
  Prepared Statement.............................................    28

 
    THE FUTURE OF IRANIAN TERROR AND ITS THREAT TO THE U.S. HOMELAND

                              ----------                              


                      Thursday, February 11, 2016

             U.S. House of Representatives,
                    Committee on Homeland Security,
         Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence,
                                                    Washington, DC.
    The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 10:00 a.m., in 
Room 311, Cannon House Office Building, Hon. Peter T. King 
[Chairman of the subcommittee] presiding.
    Present: Representatives King, Katko, and Higgins.
    Mr. King. Good morning. I thank each of you for being here. 
Sorry I didn't get a chance to talk to you beforehand, but Mr. 
Higgins and I were comparing notes up here and--2 great minds 
get together----
    [Laughter.]
    Mr. King. But there are 3 greater minds down there. But, 
anyway, I want to thank you for being here. The Committee on 
Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and 
Intelligence will come to order.
    The subcommittee is meeting today to hear testimony from 3 
distinguished experts regarding the future of Iran's use of 
terror proxies and what threat these networks pose to the 
United States.
    I would like to thank the Ranking Member for his support in 
putting this hearing together and, of course, thank the 
witnesses for being here today. Now I recognize myself for an 
opening statement.
    At the outset, I just want to put on the record that I 
strongly oppose the Iranian nuclear agreement. I believe it is 
a false deal, which gave Iran $100 billion, access to global 
markets, and greater freedom of movement.
    This morning, we have seen even more evidence of Iran's 
true nature, as they released sensitive, embarrassing 
photographs of U.S. sailors during their illegal detention in 
Iran. This is the type of action you expect from an outlaw 
nation, not a nation which has just entered into an agreement, 
which has elements of good faith in it. To me, it is an 
indicator of the real thinking behind the leaders in Iran.
    Since the deal was signed, the administration has basically 
apologized to the regime, improperly altered U.S. law to allow 
certain travelers that have been to Iran and other terror 
hotspots to come to the United States without getting a visa.
    While the White House and State Department have been moving 
forward with the Nuclear Deal, intelligence professionals in 
and out of Government have been consistent that Iran and its 
proxies still pose a significant threat.
    Just the other day, in his testimony before the Senate 
Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence James 
Clapper, acknowledged that Iran is, ``The foremost state 
sponsor of terrorism and employs the Islamic Revolutionary 
Guards, Quds Force, Hezbollah, and other proxy groups.'' 
Director Clapper added that, ``Iran and Hezbollah remain a 
continuing terrorist threat to U.S. interests and partners 
world-wide.''
    Similarly, the most recent State Department Country Report 
on Terrorism noted that, ``Iran's state sponsorship of 
terrorism world-wide remains undiminished.'' The National 
Counterterrorism Center public website notes that Hezbollah, 
``has established cells world-wide.''
    It lists a number of plots across the globe linked to the 
group, including the 2008 plotting by a cell in Baku, 
Azerbaijan, the late-2008 disruption of a cell in Egypt, a 
disrupted operation in Turkey in 2009, and, in early 2011, 
Israel warned its citizens of several Hezbollah plots against 
Israeli interests in Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Cyprus.
    In July 2012, Hezbollah exploded a bomb on a bus in 
Bulgaria. Not included on the list are the 1985 hijacking of 
TWA flight 847 and murder of the American, Robert Stethem, and 
the 2 bombings linked to Hezbollah in Argentina in the 1990s.
    Let us also remember that Iran has held a number of senior 
al-Qaeda leaders since they fled Afghanistan after the 9/11 
attacks. Whenever it suits Iran, they release some of these 
terrorists, including Muhsin al-Fadhli, a senior leader of al-
Qaeda-linked Khorasan group, who was killed in a drone strike 
in Syria, and Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, who was Osama bin Laden's 
son-in-law, who is now serving a life sentence in a U.S. 
prison.
    Given these threats, it is imperative we examine how the 
administration's Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action will 
influence Iran and its use of terrorist proxies. While the deal 
is intended to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, 
as DNI Clapper noted in his testimony, Iran's, ``military and 
security services are keen to demonstrate that their regional 
power ambitions have not been altered by the deal.''
    The deal is far more likely, I believe, to reward Iran, its 
bad behavior, with billions of dollars and improved 
international standing. While the administration is praising 
itself for completing this agreement, Iran is likely to exploit 
every opportunity to either weaken the few restraints the deal 
places on them or using their new-found wealth to further 
destabilize the Middle East.
    We must analyze the effect this agreement has on Iran and 
how its proxies will change their behavior. New income from 
renewed foreign investment and access to funds previously 
seized by the West will absolutely be used to support terrorist 
networks. How will these groups invest this money, and does the 
United States face an increased threat as a result?
    No. 2, Tehran will certainly provide additional resources 
to Shiite militias fighting on behalf of the Assad regime in 
Syria and to the Assad government directly. Despite the 
President's insistence that he wishes to see Assad go, he has 
negotiated an agreement nearly guaranteed to comfort Assad, by 
ensuring that his benefactors in Iran have the resources they 
need to support his government.
    Does this deal reduce the likelihood that we will be able 
to end the Syrian civil war and destroy both the Assad regime 
and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria? Will the Shia militias 
again pose a threat to U.S. personnel in the region?
    One of the most obvious concerns is the fact that our major 
regional partners, especially Saudi Arabia and Israel, are 
threatened by an Iran no longer burdened by sanctions. How will 
they respond to increased and better-funded Iranian aggression?
    All of these questions are urgent. I have called this 
hearing today to begin to find reliable answers to inform 
Congress and the next administration on how to best prevent 
Iran and its proxies from threatening U.S. interests and the 
homeland.
    Today, we have witnesses that will provide insight as to 
what to expect in the coming years from Tehran and their 
allies. I look forward to hearing from them and thank them for 
their time.
    [The statement of Chairman King follows:]
                  Statement of Chairman Peter T. King
    At the outset, I want to express my strong opposition to the 
Iranian nuclear agreement. It is a false deal that gave Iran $100 
billion, access to global markets, and greater freedom of movement.
    This morning, we have even more evidence of Iran's true nature as 
they released sensitive photographs of U.S. sailors during their 
illegal detention in Iran.
    Since the ``deal'' was signed, the administration has apologized to 
the regime and improperly altered U.S. law to allow certain travelers 
that have been to Iran and other terror hot spots to come to the United 
States without getting a visa.
    While the White House and State Department have been moving forward 
with the Nuclear Deal, intelligence professionals in and out of 
Government have been consistent that Iran and its proxies still pose a 
significant threat.
    In his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on 
Tuesday, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper acknowledged 
that Iran is ``the foremost state sponsor of terrorism'' and employs 
the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF), Hezbollah, 
and other proxy groups. Director Clapper added that, ``Iran and 
Hezbollah remain a continuing terrorist threat to U.S. interests and 
partners world-wide.''
    Similarly, the most recent State Department Country Report on 
Terrorism noted that, ``Iran's state sponsorship of terrorism world-
wide remained undiminished . . . ''.
    The NCTC's public website notes that Hezbollah ``has established 
cells worldwide,'' and lists a number of plots across the globe linked 
to the group, including the 2008 plotting by a cell in Baku, 
Azerbaijan, the late-2008 disruption of a cell in Egypt, a disrupted 
operation in Turkey in 2009, and in early 2011 Israel warned its 
citizens of several Hezbollah plots against Israeli interests in 
Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Cyprus. Also, in July 2012, Hezbollah 
exploded a bomb on a bus in Burgas, Bulgaria. Not included in the list 
are the 1985 hijacking of TWA flight 847 and murder of American Robert 
Stethem, and the 2 bombings linked to Hezbollah in Argentina in 1992 
and 1994.
    Let us also remember that Iran has held a number of senior al-Qaeda 
leaders since they fled Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks. 
Whenever it suites Iran they release some of these terrorists, 
including Muhsin al Fahdli, a senior leader of al-Qaeda-linked Khorasan 
group who was killed in a drone strike in Syria, and Sulaiman Abu 
Ghaith, Osama bin Laden's son-in-law who is now serving a life sentence 
in a U.S. prison.
    Given these threats, it is imperative we examine how the 
administration's Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) will 
influence Iran and its use of terrorist proxies. While the deal is 
intended to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, as DNI 
Clapper noted in his testimony, Iran's ``military and security services 
are keen to demonstrate that their regional power ambitions have not 
been altered by the JCPOA deal.'' The deal is far more likely to reward 
Iranian bad behavior with billions of dollars, improved international 
standing.
    While the administration is patting itself on the back for 
completing the JCPOA, Iran is likely to exploit every opportunity to 
either weaken the few restraints the deal places on them or using their 
new-found wealth to further destabilize the Middle East. We must 
analyze the effect this agreement has on Iran and how its proxies will 
change their behavior.
    New income from renewed foreign investment and access to funds 
previously seized by the West will absolutely be used to support 
terrorist networks. How will these groups invest this money--and does 
the United States face an increased threat as a result?
    Tehran will certainly provide additional resources to Shiite 
militias fighting on behalf of the Assad regime in Syria, and to the 
Assad government directly. Despite the President's insistence that he 
wishes to see Assad go, he has negotiated an agreement nearly 
guaranteed to comfort Assad by ensuring that his benefactors in Tehran 
have the resources they need to support his government. Does this deal 
reduce the likelihood that we will be able to end the Syrian civil war 
and destroy both the Assad regime and the Islamic State of Iraq and 
Syria? And will the Shia militias again pose a threat to U.S. personnel 
in the region?
    One of the most obvious concerns is the fact that our major 
regional partners, especially Saudi Arabia and Israel, are threatened 
by an Iran no longer burdened by sanctions. How will they respond to 
increased and better-funded Iranian aggression?
    All of these questions are urgent. I have called this hearing today 
to begin to find reliable answers to inform Congress and the next 
administration on how to best prevent Iran and its proxies from 
threatening U.S. interests and the homeland.
    Today, we have witnesses that will provide useful insight on what 
to expect in coming years from Tehran and their allies. I look forward 
to hearing from them and thank them for their time.

    Mr. King. Now I recognize the Ranking Member of the 
subcommittee, the gentleman from New York, Mr. Higgins, for his 
opening statements.
    Mr. Higgins. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    Over the past 2 years, negotiations, debates, and 
intelligence reports of Iran's nuclear program have largely 
overshadowed the regime's status as the most dangerous state 
sponsor of terror in the world.
    With nuclear negotiations dominating the discussion, fewer 
and fewer conversations are being had regarding Iran's 
creation, funding, and continuing support for Hezbollah. As 
Congress continues to move legislation, provide resources, and 
maintain our vigilance over the chaos that has erupted in the 
Syrian civil war, Iran continues to support the Assad regime.
    Iran is continuing to support a regime that has massacred 
hundreds of thousands of its own people. While I am aware of 
the current intelligence reporting assessment that Hezbollah's 
North American activity may be limited to fundraising, this is 
not reassuring.
    What is more, this reporting is a warning that we must 
remain vigilant and take the necessary precautions to keep our 
communities safe. We cannot forget that, with Iranian support, 
Hezbollah has conducted numerous attacks against U.S. 
facilities, persons, and interests abroad.
    In 1983, 241 American servicemen were killed when a truck 
bomb destroyed their barracks in Beirut. In 1988, Colonel 
William Higgins, a U.S. Marine involved in a U.N. observer 
mission in Lebanon, was kidnapped and murdered.
    In 1992 and 1994, bombings of Jewish cultural institutions 
in Argentina, which Iran was directly implicated. In 1996, a 
car bombing in Khobar Towers, the U.S. military residence in 
Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 U.S. servicemen.
    There is no doubt that Iran's terrorist ties extend beyond 
the Middle East to the Western Hemisphere, where, in 
conjunction with Hezbollah, it is engaged in fundraising, 
illicit financing schemes, and several devastating terrorist 
attacks. We cannot afford to be complacent. These activities 
constitute a real and continuing threat to our National 
security.
    In 2011, before this very same subcommittee, with many of 
the same members you see here today, we heard expert testimony 
that Hezbollah was active and present in 15 American cities in 
the United States and 4 cities in Canada, including Toronto, 
which is 90 miles from my district.
    Today, there will be a lot of discussion of the Joint 
Comprehensive Plan of Action, otherwise known as the Iran 
Nuclear Agreement. As we engage today, I hope that we can have 
a serious dialogue about the dangers of Iran using an improved 
economy to fund its terrorist proxies across the world, and the 
United States' role in preventing these dangerous actions.
    I think we can all agree that issue is both complicated and 
delicate, and there were trade-offs that we had to make. 
Ultimately, I believe the agreement provided the United States 
with an opportunity to halt Iran's nuclear weapons program, 
and, thereby, prevent a nuclear arms race, which would have 
overtaken the Middle East.
    The nuclear agreement provides the best viable option we 
have to block Iran's pathway to a nuclear bomb. It is 
imperative that we continue to check Iranian influence around 
the globe and thwart future attacks. I look forward to a robust 
discussion with our witnesses today.
    We especially want to thank our witness, Mr. Saab. He and 
his wife welcomed their first child this week.
    Thank you for appearing before us today and 
congratulations.
    With that, I will yield back.
    [The statement of Ranking Member Higgins follows:]
               Statement of Ranking Member Brian Higgins
    Over the past 2 years negotiations, debates, and intelligence 
reports over Iran's nuclear program have largely overshadowed the 
regime's status as the most dangerous state sponsor of terror in the 
world. With nuclear negotiations dominating the discussion, fewer and 
fewer conversations are being had regarding Iranian's creation, 
funding, and continuing support for Hezbollah.
    As Congress continues to move legislation, provide resources, and 
maintain our vigilance over the chaos that has erupted in Syria's civil 
war, Iran continues to support the Assad regime. Iran is continuing to 
support a regime that has massacred hundreds of thousands of its own 
people. While I am aware of the current intelligence reporting and 
assessments that Hezbollah may only be fundraising in North America, it 
is not reassuring.
    What's more, this reporting is a warning that we must remain 
vigilant and take the necessary precautions to keep our communities 
safe. We cannot forget that with Iranian support, Hezbollah has 
conducted numerous attacks against U.S. facilities, persons, and 
interests abroad:
   In 1983, 241 American servicemen were killed when a truck 
        bomb destroyed their barracks in Beirut.
   In 1988, Colonel William Higgins, a U.S. Marine involved in 
        a U.N. observer mission in Lebanon was kidnapped and murdered.
   The 1992 and 1994 bombings of Jewish cultural institutions 
        in Argentina, in which Iran was directly implicated.
   The 1996 truck bombing of Khobar Towers, a U.S. military 
        residence in Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 U.S. servicemen.
    There is no doubt that Iran's terrorist ties extend beyond the 
Middle East, to the Western Hemisphere, where in conjunction with 
Hezbollah, it has engaged in fundraising, illicit financing schemes, 
and several devastating terrorist attacks. We cannot afford to become 
complacent. These activities constitute a real and continuing threat to 
our National security.
    In 2011, before this very same subcommittee with many of the same 
Members you see here today, we heard expert testimony that Hezbollah 
was active and present in 15 cities in the United States and 4 cities 
in Canada, including Toronto, which is 90 miles from my district. 
Today, there will be a lot of discussion of the Joint Comprehensive 
Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Iran Nuclear Agreement.
    As we engage today, I hope that we can have a serious dialogue 
about the dangers of Iran using an improved economy to fund its 
terrorist proxies across the world and the United States' role at 
preventing these dangerous actions. I think we can all agree that this 
issue is both complicated and delicate and there were trade-offs that 
we had to make.
    Ultimately, I believe the agreement provided the United States with 
an opportunity to halt Iran's nuclear weapons program and thereby 
prevents a nuclear arms race, which would have overtaken the Middle 
East. The Nuclear Agreement provides the best, verifiable option we 
have to block Iran's pathway to a nuclear bomb.
    It is imperative that we continue to check Iranian influence around 
the globe, and thwart future attacks.

    Mr. King. Well, I can't top that. Congratulations, Mr. 
Saab. Thank you.
    Mr. Saab. Thank you, very much.
    Mr. King. You are still coming here. Wow, okay.
    Other Members of the subcommittee are reminded that opening 
statements may be submitted for the record.
    [The statement of Ranking Member Thompson follows:]
             Statement of Ranking Member Bennie G. Thompson
    Iran poses one of the most complex foreign policy and National 
security challenges of the modern era. In 1984, the U.S. State 
Department listed Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism. According to 
the State Department, Iran provides funding, weapons, training, and 
sanctuary to numerous terrorist groups, most notably in Iraq, 
Afghanistan, and Lebanon, constituting a security concern to both the 
domestic and the international community.
    According to experts, Hezbollah essentially still serves as a proxy 
military force for Iran. Hezbollah receives financial and material 
support from Iran and Syria, and its armed forces possess significant 
military and unconventional warfare capabilities that rival and in some 
cases exceed those of surrounding countries' armed forces and police. 
In addition to discussing Hezbollah today, I expect a comprehensive 
debate of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, informally known as 
the Iran Nuclear Deal.
    After thorough consideration, I supported the Iran Nuclear Deal. I 
recognize that like all multifaceted and varied agreements, there are 
drawbacks to the Iran Nuclear Deal. However, as I stated in September 
and continue to believe today, the deal will improve the security of 
our country and our allies and will curtail Iran's nuclear program. As 
a protective measure, some U.S. sanctions will remain in place under 
the deal.
    The Nuclear Deal does not require the United States to suspend 
sanctions on Iran's support for terrorism, its human rights abuses, nor 
world-wide arms and WMD-related technology to Iran. Most importantly, 
the deal does not require the United States to remove or to reconsider 
Iran's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, and all sanctions 
triggered by that designation will remain in place.
    These provisions and the United States' refusal to negotiate them 
are proof that this remains a National security issue of utmost 
importance. Mistrust and tension between the governments of the United 
States and Iran has existed for decades and there have been periods of 
alliance and periods of contention. With the signing of the Iran 
Nuclear Deal, an examination of a way forward with Iran makes sense and 
is timely.
    However, we should not submit to scare tactics or political 
grandstanding. Instead, we should ensure that this discussion is fact-
based and accurate given our threat intelligence, not speculation, and 
focused on sensible solutions.

    Mr. King. We are pleased to have a distinguished panel of 
witnesses before us today on this vital topic.
    The first witness will be Mr. Tzvi Kahn, who is a senior 
policy analyst for the Foreign Policy Initiative, where he has 
written extensively on Iran and their foreign and security 
policy. He previously served as the assistant director for 
policy and government affairs at AIPAC.
    He holds a master's degree in Middle East Studies from the 
George Washington University's Elliott School of International 
Affairs and earned his bachelor's degree in English and in 
Classical Languages from Yeshiva University.
    Mr. Kahn.

 STATEMENT OF TZVI KAHN, SENIOR POLICY ANALYST, FOREIGN POLICY 
                           INITIATIVE

    Mr. Kahn. Chairman King, Ranking Member Higgins, and 
distinguished Members of the subcommittee, thank you for the 
opportunity to testify this morning. In the post-Nuclear Deal 
era, Iran's long-standing objectives in the Middle East remain 
unchanged, regional hegemony and the contraction of U.S. forces 
and influence.
    In fact, the Nuclear Deal makes these goals more 
achievable, since it provides Iran with billions of dollars in 
sanctions relief, which it will inevitably use to expand its 
global terror operations. President Obama has rightly stated 
that the United States can and must continue to fight Tehran's 
support for terrorism after the deal.
    Such an effort, he said, would, in fact, be easier, now 
that the nuclear file has been closed. At the same time, he has 
also argued that the deal could ultimately lead to a broader 
rapprochement with Iran and strengthen moderate forces within 
the country.
    Unfortunately, it has not turned out that way. In the 7 
months since the deal, Tehran has continued and, in many 
respects, increased its regional aggression, its domestic 
repression, its violations of international laws and norms, and 
its open defiance of the United States and its allies.
    In response, the administration has remained largely 
passive. The list of Iranian provocations is long and grim, but 
I will highlight just a few. In collaboration with Moscow, 
Tehran has increased its support for the bloody Assad regime. 
It backs the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah and Houthi.
    It aids Shiite militias in Iraq that have killed more than 
500 U.S. soldiers and that likely were responsible for 
kidnapping three Americans last month. It has tested ballistic 
missiles in violation of the U.N. Security Council resolutions.
    It has test-fired rockets in dangerous proximity to a U.S. 
aircraft carrier. It has waged cyber attacks against the United 
States. It has captured U.S. soldiers and broadcast their 
surrender in an effort to humiliate America.
    It has used U.S. prisoners as bargaining chips to secure 
the release of Iranian sanctions violators. It has carried out 
what the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran calls 
the largest crackdown on human rights since the 2009 Green 
Revolution.
    Why would Iran behave this way so soon after signing a 
landmark nuclear agreement with the international community? 
The reasons, I think, are both tactical and ideological. First, 
the deal has offered Iran a tactical opportunity to leverage it 
as a coercive mechanism in its dealings with Washington.
    Recognizing that the preservation of the deal is the Obama 
administration's top foreign policy priority, Tehran has 
repeatedly threatened to walk away from it, if Washington 
punishes the regime for any kind of misbehavior.
    In so doing, Tehran has deterred meaningful consequences 
for its actions. This ploy has proven quite successful. It has 
enabled Iran to set the terms of its relationship with America 
and to advance its extremist agenda with relative impunity.
    Second, as multiple statements from Iran's Supreme Leader, 
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, indicate, Tehran fears that the Nuclear 
Deal is in some way a ruse, aimed at advancing the Western 
effort to infiltrate its body politic, subvert its radical 
Islamist ideology, and ultimately overthrow the regime.
    To be sure, Tehran's fears of Western infiltration date 
back to the Islamic Republic's founding in 1979 and are a key 
part of its conspiratorial world view, regardless of the 
reality.
    But this time, its anxieties have an element of truth. 
After all, President Obama has repeatedly stated that a Nuclear 
Deal could help alter the fundamental nature of U.S.-Iranian 
relations.
    For this reason, Iran has increased its aggression, in 
order to convey a simple message. In the post-Nuclear Deal era, 
Tehran's hostility towards the West will endure. There will be 
no rapprochement.
    As the regime has repeatedly stated, the deal was purely 
transactional and had only one purpose: Sanctions relief. Thus, 
as a practical matter, the deal has not moderated Iran, but, in 
fact, has exacerbated its dangerous behavior.
    What should the United States do? I believe that we need to 
make a fundamental paradigm shift in our relationship with Iran 
and adopt a comprehensive strategy, rooted in the premise that 
our policy on the Nuclear Deal and our policy on Iran's support 
for terrorism are inextricably linked.
    How can the United States achieve this? By reestablishing 
deterrents and forcing Tehran to reassess the cost-benefit 
analysis of its behavior; by imposing meaningful new sanctions 
on Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which spearheads 
Iran's regional aggression and domestic repression; by openly 
siding with our Gulf allies against Iran, in order to reduce 
its regional presence and influence; by treating Iran as part 
of the region's problems, especially Syria's Civil War, not as 
part of the solution.
    In short, we need to reverse the current dynamic, so that 
it is Iran, not the United States, that fears the consequences 
of deliberate provocations. This process will not be easy, but 
if the United States continues its current path, I fear that 
Iranian aggression will likely continue to increase, further 
endangering our allies, our interests, and our National 
security.
    Thank you, again, for the opportunity to testify today, and 
I look forward to your questions.
    [The prepared statement of Mr. Kahn follows:]
                    Prepared Statement of Tzvi Kahn
                           February 11, 2016
    Chairman King, Ranking Member Higgins, and distinguished Members of 
the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify before you 
this morning about the Iranian threat.
    In this testimony, I analyze the impact of the July 2015 nuclear 
agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action 
(JCPOA), on Iran's strategic decision making, regional and domestic 
ambitions, and policy toward the United States. I specifically attempt 
to explain why this agreement has failed to spur a rapprochement in 
U.S.-Iranian relations and instead exacerbated Tehran's hostility.
    The JCPOA has not changed Iran's long-time objectives in the Middle 
East: Regional hegemony, the contraction of U.S. forces and influence, 
and the subjugation of Sunni Islamic states beneath a dominant Shiite 
crescent. The Nuclear Deal in fact makes these ends more achievable, 
since it provides Iran with billions of dollars in sanctions relief. 
Despite this opportunity, the leadership in Tehran fears that the JCPOA 
constitutes a ruse to infiltrate its body politic and moderate its 
radical Islamist ideology. As a result, Iran has increased its 
aggression against the United States and its allies in order to 
demonstrate that the Nuclear Deal will not alter its commitment to its 
vision of the Islamic Revolution.
    As Tehran takes more destructive measures to demonstrate its 
Islamist bona fides, the JCPOA has also provided the Iranian regime 
with an opportunity to leverage the agreement as a bargaining chip in 
its dealings with Washington. Recognizing that the JCPOA's preservation 
amounts to the Obama administration's foremost foreign policy priority, 
Tehran has repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the deal in order to 
deter the United States from imposing any meaningful consequences for 
its aggression. This ploy has enabled the Islamist regime to set the 
terms of its relationship with America and advance its extremist agenda 
with relative impunity.
    To reverse this dynamic, the United States must adopt a paradigm 
shift that treats Iran's nuclear program and non-nuclear aggression as 
interrelated problems that require a comprehensive strategy. It must 
seek to raise the costs of Tehran's belligerence by imposing meaningful 
penalties for any type of Iranian misbehavior--nuclear or non-nuclear. 
It should make clear not only that it does not consider Iran part of 
the solution to the region's problems, particularly Syria's civil war, 
but also that it actively opposes its rise as a regional power. The 
past 7 months of Iranian provocations already provide ample warning of 
Tehran's malign plans in the post-Nuclear Deal era. Now America must 
act to stop them.
                    america's hope, iran's suspicion
    Over the past 2 years, the Obama administration has repeatedly 
portrayed a nuclear agreement as a means to achieve a broader U.S.-
Iranian rapprochement that could spur Tehran's rise as a moderate 
regional power committed to peaceful coexistence with its Sunni 
neighbors.
    In January 2014, President Obama suggested that a Nuclear Deal, in 
conjunction with other steps to stem Iran's extremist policies, could 
facilitate a new ``equilibrium developing between Sunni, or 
predominantly Sunni, Gulf states and Iran in which there's competition, 
perhaps suspicion, but not an active or proxy warfare.''\1\ In March 
2014, he advised America's Sunni Gulf allies to prepare for a new era 
in which the United States no longer favors the ``existing order and 
the existing alignments'' in the region, and has ceased to be ``an 
implacable foe of Iran.''\2\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\ David Remnick, ``Going the Distance,'' The New Yorker, January 
27, 2014, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/01/27/going-the-
distance-david-remnick.
    \2\ Jeffrey Goldberg, ``Obama to Israel--Time Is Running Out,'' 
Bloomberg, March 2, 2014, http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-
03-02/obama-to-israel-time-is-running-out.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    ``They've got a chance to get right with the world,'' said 
President Obama in December 2014, adding that Iran could become ``a 
very successful regional power that was also abiding by international 
norms and international rules, and that would be good for 
everybody.''\3\ A nuclear agreement, he claimed in April 2015, may 
initiate a process that leads to a new ``equilibrium in the region, and 
Sunni and Shia, Saudi and Iran start saying, `Maybe we should lower 
tensions and focus on the extremists like [ISIS] that would burn down 
this entire region if they could.' ''\4\ Moreover, he said that month, 
it may even ``strengthen the hand of those more moderate forces inside 
of Iran.''\5\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \3\ Interview with Steve Inskeep, NPR, December 29, 2014, http://
www.npr.org/2014/12/29/372485968/transcript-president-obamas-full-npr-
interview.
    \4\ Thomas L. Friedman, ``Iran and the Obama Doctrine,'' The New 
York Times, April 5, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/06/opinion/
thomas-friedman-the-obama-doctrine-and-iran-interview.html.
    \5\ Interview with Steve Inskeep, NPR, April 7, 2015, http://
www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=397933577.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    After Iran and the P5+1 finalized the JCPOA on July 14, 2015, the 
White House continued to press this line of argument. ``They have the 
ability now to take some decisive steps to move toward a more 
constructive relationship with the world community,'' President Obama 
said that day. ``And the truth of the matter,'' he added, ``is that 
Iran will be and should be a regional power.''\6\ In August 2015, he 
cited Syria's civil war as a potential arena for cooperation, arguing 
that the deal held out the ``the possibility that, having begun 
conversations around this narrow issue, that you start getting some 
broader discussions about Syria, for example.''\7\ On January 17, 2016, 
the JCPOA's Implementation Day, President Obama said the deal presented 
``the opportunity at least for Iran to work more cooperatively with 
nations around the world to advance their interests and the interests 
of people who are looking for peace and security for their 
families.''\8\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \6\ Thomas L. Friedman, ``Obama Makes His Case on Iran Nuclear 
Deal,'' The New York Times, July 14, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/
07/15/opinion/thomas-friedman-obama-makes-his-case-on-iran-nuclear-
deal.html.
    \7\ Interview with Fareed Zakaria, CNN, August 9, 2015, http://
transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1508/09/fzgps.01.html.
    \8\ ``Statement by the President on Iran,'' The White House, 
January 17, 2016, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/01/
17/statement-president-iran.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    For the Islamist regime, however, the negotiations constituted both 
an opportunity and a threat. On the one hand, it offered the prospect 
of long-sought sanctions relief that would restore Iran's ailing 
economy. On the other hand, as President Obama's own rhetoric seemed to 
indicate, an agreement could serve as a ruse to reorient Tehran's 
regional agenda and even temper its radical Islamist character, which 
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, regards as the essence 
of the regime. Having achieved the former, Khamenei now aims to prevent 
the latter.
    Tehran's fears of such U.S. ambitions long predate the 
international community's concern over Iran's nuclear program. At its 
root, Tehran's ideology, a product of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, 
views Shiite Iran as the vanguard of authentic Islam in a region 
corrupted by Western influence and values. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, 
the Islamic Republic's founding father and first supreme leader, argued 
that America poses not only a physical threat but also a spiritual 
threat: It seeks to destroy Islam and transform the Middle East into a 
secular, godless region marked by violence, greed, and promiscuity. In 
this conspiratorial worldview, both Israel and the Sunni Arab states 
are agents of the United States, which secretly guides and manipulates 
their actions as part of a nefarious plot to overthrow the Iranian 
regime. In this context, stated Khomeini, America's defeat constitutes 
not only a political goal, but also a religious imperative.\9\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \9\ See Imam Khomeini, Islam and Revolution: Writings and 
Declarations of Imam Khomeini (1941-1980), Translated and Annotated by 
Hamid Algar (Mizan Press, 1981).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    These core principles of Iran's ideology remain unchanged, and lie 
at the heart of the Khamenei regime's identity. Waging war against the 
United States ``is one of the principles of the [Islamic] Revolution,'' 
Khamenei said on August 4. ``If fighting against arrogance does not 
take place, it means that we are not followers of the Holy Quran at 
all.''\10\ ``The Revolution,'' he said on September 16, ``is a 
permanent process, not a temporary one.''\11\ America, he said on 
October 7, ``is a transgressor by nature. It is in the nature of world-
devouring powers to transgress, to advance, to occupy and to dig-in 
their claws.''\12\ On August 17, he asserted that the United States 
``is the epitome of global arrogance'' and ``knows nothing about human 
morality and it is not ashamed of committing any crime--of any 
nature.''\13\ On November 3, he asserted--citing a statement by 
Ayatollah Khomeini--that America ``was behind all problems'' and lies 
at ``the root of all evil things.'' ``If they could destroy the Islamic 
Republic,'' Khamenei added, ``they will not hesitate even for a 
moment.''\14\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \10\ ``Leader's speech in meeting with students,'' Official website 
of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, July 11, 2015, http://english.khamenei.ir/
news/2104/Leader-s-speech-in-meeting-with-students.
    \11\ ``IRGC blocks the enemy's infiltration,'' Official website of 
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, September 16, 2015, http://english.khamenei.ir/
news/2155/IRGC-blocks-the-enemy-s-infiltration.
    \12\ ``Leader's speech in meeting with commanders and personnel of 
Islamic Revolution Guards Corps,'' Official website of Ayatollah Ali 
Khamenei, October 7, 2015, http://english.khamenei.ir/news/2194/Leader-
s-speech-in-meeting-with-commanders-and-personnel-of-Islamic.
    \13\ ``Leader's speech to members of Ahlul Bayt World Assembly and 
Islamic Radio and TV Union,'' Official website of Ayatollah Ali 
Khamenei, August 17, 2015, http://english.khamenei.ir/news/2109/Leader-
s-speech-to-members-of-Ahlul-Bayt-World-Assembly-and-Islamic.
    \14\ `` `Death to America' means death to American policies and 
arrogance,'' Official website of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, November 3, 
2015, http://english.khamenei.ir/news/2298/Death-to-America-means-
death-to-American-policies-and-arrogance.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Similarly, he claimed on July 18, ``the enemy planted the Zionist 
regime in the region so that they can create discord and busy regional 
countries with themselves.''\15\ On August 22, in an apparent reference 
to Sunni Arab nations opposed to Iran, he argued that the ``enemies 
sometimes use certain Islamic countries to say and do what they want.'' 
These states, he continued, ``have been deceived and used as a 
tool.''\16\ According to a November 4 statement on Khamenei's website, 
``Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusrah Front, FSA (Free Syrian Army), ISIS (Islamic 
State in Iraq and Syria) and many other names should not be confusing; 
they are all Western-backed mercenaries fighting proxy wars.''\17\ For 
Khamenei, the United States was even behind the November 2015 terror 
attacks in Paris that claimed 130 lives.\18\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \15\ ``Leader's speech in meeting with ambassadors of Islamic 
countries,'' Official website of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, July 18, 2015, 
http://english.khamenei.ir/news/2112/Leader-s-speech-in-meeting-with-
ambassadors-of-Islamic-countries.
    \16\ ``Leader's speech to Hajj officials,'' Official website of 
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, August 22, 2015, http://english.khamenei.ir/
news/2118/Leader-s-speech-to-Hajj-officials.
    \17\ ``ISIS qualifies for staging U.S.'s latest puppet show in the 
region,'' Official website of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, November 4, 2015, 
http://english.khamenei.ir/news/2164/ISIS-qualifies-for-staging-U-S-s-
latest-puppet-show-in-the-region.
    \18\ ``Who is behind the Paris attacks?,'' Official website of 
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei video, 4:06, November 17, 2015, http://
english.khamenei.ir/news/2454/Who-is-behind-the-Paris-attacks.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Iran's ideology remains crucial to understanding Tehran's behavior 
in the post-Nuclear Deal era: Khameni fears that the Nuclear Deal, 
despite the opportunity it presents for economic recovery, represents 
yet another underhanded U.S. attempt to undermine the Islamic 
Revolution.
    On October 7, he identified two types of negotiations: The modern 
type, which ``means giving something and receiving something else in 
return,'' and the American type, which ``means penetration.''\19\ 
``They pursue something called `negotiations,' '' he explained on 
September 9, ``but negotiations are just an excuse and a tool for 
penetration. Negotiations are an instrument for imposing their 
demands.''\20\ On October 21, he contended that America entered the 
nuclear negotiations ``not with the intention of resolving matters 
justly, but rather it was for the pursuit of their hostile goals 
against the Islamic Republic.''\21\ The United States, he noted on 
September 3, says the Nuclear Deal has provided it ``with certain 
opportunities both inside Iran and in the region.'' However, he 
continued, ``if they get close to these opportunities, this will be a 
starting point for nations and countries to become humiliated and 
backward and to experience various sufferings.''\22\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \19\ ``Leader's speech in meeting with commanders and personnel of 
Islamic Revolution Guards Corps,'' Official website of Ayatollah Ali 
Khamenei, October 7, 2015, http://english.khamenei.ir/news/2194/Leader-
s-speech-in-meeting-with-commanders-and-personnel-of-Islamic.
    \20\ ``Strong economy, developing science and revolutionary 
spirit,'' Official website of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, September 9, 
2015, http://english.khamenei.ir/news/2136/Strong-economy-developing-
science-and-revolutionary-spirit.
    \21\ ``Leader's letter to President Rouhani regarding the JCPOA,'' 
Official website of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, October 21, 2015, http://
english.khamenei.ir/news/2336/Leader-s-letter-to-President-Rouhani-
regarding-the-JCPOA.
    \22\ ``Leader's speech in meeting with Assembly of Experts,'' 
Official website of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, September 3, 2015, http://
english.khamenei.ir/news/2132/Leader-s-speech-in-meeting-with-Assembly-
of-Experts.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    To prevent such an outcome, Khamenei insisted during the talks that 
Iranian negotiators must focus exclusively on exchanging nuclear 
concessions for sanctions relief--that is, the ``modern'' type of 
negotiations--and would not prefigure any change in U.S.-Iranian 
relations, which could serve as an avenue for Western infiltration. 
Iran's sole ``purpose of entering into the nuclear negotiations is to 
lift sanctions,'' he said on June 23, just 3 weeks before the JCPOA's 
finalization.\23\ And by this standard, he declared after the deal, 
Tehran succeeded. ``They wanted to use [the nuclear deal] as a means to 
exert influence in our country,'' he said on August 17, ``but we 
blocked their path and we will definitely block their path in the 
future as well.''\24\ On September 9, he again asserted triumphantly 
that Tehran ``did not allow [negotiators] to negotiate with America on 
other matters.''\25\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \23\ ``Leader's speech in meeting with government officials,'' 
Official website of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, June 23, 2015, http://
english.khamenei.ir/news/2088/Leader-s-speech-in-meeting-with-
government-officials.
    \24\ ``Leader's speech to members of Ahlul Bayt World Assembly and 
Islamic Radio and TV Union,'' Official website of Ayatollah Ali 
Khamenei, August 17, 2015, http://english.khamenei.ir/news/2109/Leader-
s-speech-to-members-of-Ahlul-Bayt-World-Assembly-and-Islamic.
    \25\ ``Strong economy, developing science and revolutionary 
spirit,'' Official website of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, September 9, 
2015, http://english.khamenei.ir/news/2136/Strong-economy-developing-
science-and-revolutionary-spirit.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Thus, according to the supreme leader, the Nuclear Deal marked not 
a precursor to further cooperation, but an ``exceptional'' case--as 
Khamenei put it on July 18--of U.S.-Iranian diplomacy that served only 
to advance Tehran's narrowly-defined economic goals. ``Our policy 
towards the arrogant government of America will not change in any way 
despite these negotiations and the document that has been prepared,'' 
he stressed that day. ``As we have said many times, we have no 
negotiations with America on different global and regional issues . . . 
The American policies in the region are 180 degrees the opposite of the 
policies of the Islamic Republic.''\26\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \26\ ``Leader's sermons at Eid ul-Fitr prayers,'' Official website 
of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, July 18, 2015, http://english.khamenei.ir/
news/2102/Leader-s-sermons-at-Eid-ul-Fitr-prayers.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    At the same time, however, Khamenei recognized that the Obama 
administration's intense yearning for an agreement also presented Iran 
with an invaluable strategic opportunity: By repeatedly threatening to 
withdraw from the agreement if the United States attempted to punish 
the regime for its support of terrorism, Tehran could use the JCPOA as 
a coercive mechanism to deter meaningful consequences for its 
misbehavior, both with respect to the nuclear file and with respect to 
the broader region. Ironically, the JCPOA could actually facilitate 
Iran's regional aggression rather than spur the regime to discontinue 
it for the sake of a U.S. rapprochement.
                      seven months of provocations
    The diplomatic relationship between the United States and Iran in 
the post-Nuclear Deal era reflects the asymmetry of the Nuclear Deal 
itself. In its eagerness to reach an agreement, the United States 
abdicated virtually every red line it had publicly articulated during 
the negotiations--from dismantling Iran's nuclear infrastructure and 
ensuring anytime-anywhere inspections to linking sanctions relief with 
sustained compliance.\27\ Today, in its eagerness to preserve the 
agreement, the administration has failed to offer a meaningful 
challenge to Iran's regional aggression, domestic repression, 
violations of international laws and norms, and other acts of defiance 
against the United States and its interests.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \27\ See Tzvi Kahn, ``FPI Analysis: What U.S. Officials Required, 
What the Iran Deal Concedes,'' Foreign Policy Initiative, July 28, 
2015, http://www.foreignpolicyi.org/content/fpi-analysis-what-us-
officials-required-what-iran-deal-concedes.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    This imbalance has created a dynamic that allows Tehran to set the 
terms of U.S.-Iran diplomacy. Whereas the White House has exerted great 
pains to avoid almost any step that Tehran may perceive as hostile, the 
Islamist regime has felt free to refrain from exercising any reciprocal 
discretion. In so doing, it has ruthlessly exploited Washington's 
desperation to safeguard the JCPOA.
Regional Aggression
    Since July 2015, Iran, in conjunction with Russia, has strengthened 
its military support for Damascus, thereby prolonging and exacerbating 
Syria's bloody civil war. For Tehran, the preservation of the Assad 
regime, its foremost regional client, constitutes its single greatest 
regional priority. A pro-Iran regime in Syria gives Tehran a foothold 
in the Levant and provides a pathway for military and financial support 
of its Lebanese proxy, the terrorist group Hezbollah, which has also 
benefited from increased Iranian largesse since the JCPOA.\28\ 
According to Staffan de Mistura, the U.N. special envoy for Syria, Iran 
spends $6 billion annually to prop up Assad's regime.\29\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \28\ See Max Peck, Doubling Down on Damascus: Iran's Military Surge 
to Save the Assad Regime, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, 
January 2016, http://www.defenddemocracy.org/content/uploads/documents/
Doubling_Down_on_Damascus.pdf.
    \29\ Eli Lake, ``Iran Spends Billions to Prop Up Assad,'' 
Bloomberg, June 9, 2015, http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-06-
09/iran-spends-billions-to-prop-up-assad.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    On July 18, Supreme Leader Khamenei explicitly affirmed that the 
deal would not affect Iran's support for Damascus. ``In Syria,'' he 
said, ``the policy of arrogance is to overthrow--at any price--the 
government that is known for its resistance against Zionism, but our 
policy is against theirs.''\30\ In the coming months, fearing that any 
dispute with Tehran would prompt it to abandon the JCPOA, the Obama 
administration reversed its earlier position that Assad must leave 
power as part of a negotiated resolution, effectively putting 
Washington on the same page as Tehran.\31\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \30\ ``Leader's speech in meeting with ambassadors of Islamic 
countries,'' Official website of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, July 18, 2015, 
http://english.khamenei.ir/news/2112/Leader-s-speech-in-meeting-with-
ambassadors-of-Islamic-countries.
    \31\ Matthew Lee and Bradley Klapper, ``Assad can stay, for now: 
Kerry accepts Russian stance,'' Associated Press, December 15, 2015, 
http://bigstory.ap.org/article/ed88e4c5d57341eba365a966300f67e3/kerry-
moscow-talks-syria-ukraine.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    At the same time, Iran has also continued to support its other 
proxies and foment violence throughout the Middle East. In Iraq, Shiite 
militias remain the beneficiaries of robust Iranian military and 
economic aid, and likely were responsible for kidnapping 3 Americans in 
Baghdad last month.\32\ In Afghanistan, Iran has recruited thousands of 
Afghans, some by force, to fight in Syria, Human Rights Watch stated in 
January,\33\ while General John Campbell, commander of U.S. forces in 
Afghanistan, said in October 2015 that he has received reports of 
Iranian money and arms flowing to the Taliban.\34\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \32\ ``2 groups eyed in kidnapping of Americans in Baghdad,'' CBS 
News, January 21, 2016, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/iraq-shiite-
militias-eyed-kidnapping-americans-dora-baghdad.
    \33\ ``Iran Sending Thousands of Afghans to Fight in Syria,'' Human 
Rights Watch, January 29, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/01/29/
iran-sending-thousands-afghans-fight-syria.
    \34\ General John Campbell, ``Gen. Campbell Confirms There are 
Reports that Iran is Arming the Taliban,'' YouTube video, 0:54, posted 
by Senator Ayotte, October 6, 2015; see also Margherita Stancati, 
``Iran Backs Taliban With Cash and Arms,'' The Wall Street Journal, 
June 11, 2015, http://www.wsj.com/articles/iran-backs-taliban-with-
cash-and-arms-1434065528.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In Bahrain, the government arrested 47 members of an Iran-backed 
terror cell that it accused of planning attacks in the country,\35\ 
while in late September 2015, the Gulf island state withdrew its 
ambassador from Iran after the discovery of a large bomb-making factory 
linked to Tehran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).\37\ In 
Yemen, Iran continues to train and equip the Houthis. In September 
2015, Saudi Arabia intercepted an Iranian ship in the Arabian Sea 
carrying missile launchers, anti-tank shells and missiles destined for 
the Tehran-backed rebels.\37\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \35\ ``Bahrain says foils plans for attack by Iran-linked terrorist 
group,'' Reuters, November 4, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-
bahrain-iran-idUSKCN0ST2GJ20151104.
    \36\ ``Bahrain withdraws ambassador from Iran after bomb-factory 
find,'' Reuters, October 1, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-
bahrain-security-iran-idUSKCN0RV5E620151001.
    \37\ Ahmed Al Omran and Asa Fitch, ``Saudi Coalition Seizes Iranian 
Boat Carrying Weapons to Yemen,'' The Wall Street Journal, September 
30, 2015, http://www.wsj.com/articles/saudi-coalition-seizes-iranian-
boat-carrying-weapons-to-rebels-in-yemen-1443606304.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Nuclear and Ballistic Missile Defiance
    Since the JCPOA's finalization, Tehran has openly defied the United 
States and international community on key disclosure provisions related 
to inspections of Iran's nuclear program. Under the agreement, Iran 
committed to resolving the international community's outstanding 
concerns about the possible military dimensions (PMD) of its nuclear 
program. Instead, it stonewalled the International Atomic Energy 
Agency's (IAEA) investigation, providing misleading or incomplete 
responses to the U.N. watchdog's questions. The agency ultimately 
concluded that Iran concealed, and continues to conceal, efforts to 
weaponize nuclear material, and engaged in weapons-related work as 
recently as 2009.\38\ Nevertheless, the United States voted in favor of 
an IAEA Board of Governors resolution that closed the PMD file,\39\ 
paving the way for the JCPOA's implementation and directly 
contradicting the Obama administration's earlier pledge to seek full 
PMD disclosure as part of a final deal.\40\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \38\ IAEA Board of Governors, Final Assessment on Past and Present 
Outstanding Issues regarding Iran's Nuclear Programme (GOV/2015/68), 
December 2, 2015, https://www.iaea.org/sites/default/files/gov-2015-
68.pdf.
    \39\ Francois Murphy and Shadia Nasralla, ``U.N. watchdog decides 
to close nuclear weapons probe of Iran,'' Reuters, December 15, 2015, 
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-nuclear-iran-resolution-
idUSKBN0TY1YF20151215.
    \40\ Interview with Judy Woodruff, PBS Newshour, April 8, 2015, 
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/iran-must-disclose-past-nuclear-
military-activities-final-deal-says-kerry.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Similarly, Iran has stated that it will refuse to allow inspectors 
to enter any military sites,\41\ effectively repudiating President 
Obama's claim that the JCPOA allows the IAEA ``to access any suspicious 
location.''\42\ With the consent of the United States, Tehran also 
reached a confidential side deal with the IAEA that permits it to self-
inspect the Parchin military complex, making a further mockery of the 
verification regime.\43\ Olli Heinonen, former deputy director general 
and head of safeguards at the IAEA, stated that the procedures at 
Parchin ``departed significantly from well-established and proven 
safeguards practices.'' Moreover, he said, the P5+1's failure to object 
to Iran's clean-up efforts at the site after the IAEA had requested 
access effectively ``acquiesces to Iran's violations of the spirit, if 
not the letter, of international inspections standards.''\44\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \41\ Mohammad Javad Zarif, Interview with Christiane Amanpour, CNN, 
July 14, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1507/14/ampr.01.html.
    \42\ ``Statement by the President on Iran,'' The White House, July 
14, 2015, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/07/14/
statement-president-iran.
    \43\ ``Text of draft agreement between IAEA, Iran,'' Associated 
Press, August 20, 2015, http://news.yahoo.com/text-draft-agreement-
between-iaea-iran-193603978.html.
    \44\ Olli Heinonen, ``Strengthening the Verification and 
Implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,'' Foundation 
for Defense of Democracies, November 2015, http://
www.defenddemocracy.org/content/uploads/documents/
Strengthening_Verification_JCPOA.- pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In October and November, Iran conducted two ballistic missile 
tests, directly violating a U.N. Security Council resolution that 
prohibits such actions.\45\ On January 17, the United States belatedly 
announced new designations of an illicit procurement network supporting 
Iran's ballistic missile programs,\46\ a move it had previously 
postponed reportedly in order to facilitate a prisoner swap between the 
two nations (see next section).\47\ Nevertheless, in light of the 
billions of dollars in sanctions relief Iran received as part of 
Implementation Day, the new sanctions amounted to pinpricks, prompting 
an unrepentant Tehran to respond that it will now continue its 
ballistic missile program ``more seriously.''\48\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \45\ Jay Solomon and Gordon Lubold, ``Iran Test-Fires Another 
Missile, U.S. Says,'' The Wall Street Journal, December 8, 2015, http:/
/www.wsj.com/articles/white-house-backs-closing-u-n-probe-into-irans-
nuclear-program-1449595905.
    \46\ ``Treasury Sanctions Those Involved in Ballistic Missile 
Procurement for Iran,'' U.S. Department of the Treasury, January 17, 
2016, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/
jl0322.aspx.
    \47\ Lesley Wroughton, Patricia Zengerle, and Matt Spetalnick, 
``Exclusive: In negotiating to free Americans in Iran, U.S. blinked on 
new sanctions,'' Reuters, January 16, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/
article/us-iran-nuclear-prisoners-exclusive-idUSKCN0UU0WS.
    \48\ ``Iran Vows to Continue Advancing Missile Program,'' Fars News 
Agency, January 18, 2016, http://en.farsnews.com/
newstext.aspx?nn=13941028000442.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
American Hostages as Bargaining Chips
    While the safe return of U.S. hostages from Iran's notorious 
prisons should elicit relief, the recent prisoner swap between 
Washington and Tehran comes at a price that ultimately serves to 
encourage future Iranian belligerence. In exchange for innocent 
Americans incarcerated on trumped-up charges, including Washington Post 
reporter Jason Rezaian, U.S. Marine veteran Amir Hekmati, Idaho pastor 
Saeed Abedini, and previously undisclosed prisoner Nosratollah 
Khosravi-Roodsari, the Obama administration released seven Iranians who 
violated sanctions on Tehran's nuclear or military program. (Iran 
released another previously undisclosed prisoner, Matthew Trevithick, 
separately.) The White House also dismissed charges against 14 other 
Iranians it had sought to arrest.
    Such a trade hardly constitutes a ``reciprocal humanitarian 
gesture,'' as President Obama claimed.\49\ In fact, the swap 
effectively incentivizes Iran to capture more U.S. hostages in order to 
engage in further extortion. Tehran already probably recognizes such 
potential: The exchange notably failed to secure the release of another 
prisoner, Siamak Namazi, whom Iran likely retained to serve as a future 
bargaining chip for concessions it failed to obtain as part of it. 
Moreover, the United States acquired no new information about the 
location of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who went missing in Iran 
in 2007 and may be languishing in an Iranian prison.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \49\ ``Statement by the President on Iran,'' The White House, 
January 17, 2016, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/01/
17/statement-president-iran.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Equally troubling, the 14 pardoned Iranians included two men who 
helped transfer soldiers and weapons to the Assad regime and Hezbollah, 
thereby serving to enflame and prolong Syria's bloody civil war. Hamid 
Arabnejad and Gholamreza Mahmoudi, senior officials at Iran's 
privately-owned Mahan Air, have long utilized the airline to transfer 
soldiers and arms to the Syrian battlefield--and may now continue their 
efforts with impunity.\50\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \50\ Josh Rogin, ``Prisoner Swap May Help Iran Arm Assad,'' 
Bloomberg, January 17, 2016, http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/
2016-01-17/prisoner-swap-may-help-iran-arm-assad.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Moreover, if the Obama administration delayed the announcement of 
ballistic missile sanctions over concerns it would it would torpedo the 
prisoner exchange, Iran may have learned an even more troubling lesson: 
Additional hostages can prevent new sanctions.
Naval Aggression
    Iran's capture of 10 U.S. Navy sailors in the Persian Gulf on 
January 13--just hours before President Obama's 2016 State of the Union 
address and days before Implementation Day--marked yet another attempt 
to demonstrate that Iran's hostility toward America would endure in the 
post-Nuclear Deal era. In fact, the regime's release of video footage 
of the sailors' surrender, as well as a video of one sailor issuing an 
apology, not only reflected a deliberate effort to humiliate the United 
States, but may have violated international law. Still, rather than 
penalize Iran for this aggression, Secretary of State John Kerry 
thanked Tehran for its ``cooperation in swiftly resolving'' the crisis 
it had created.\51\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \51\ ``On U.S. Navy Sailors' Departure From Iran,'' U.S. Department 
of State,'' January 13, 2016, http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/
2016/01/251139.htm.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The incident, said Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, chair of Iran's 
Armed Forces General Staff, ``demonstrated the awareness and precision 
of the Iranian armed forces regarding American movements in the region. 
It taught them how vulnerable they are against the Islamic Republic's 
mighty forces.''\52\ Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the 
IRGC, expressed similar sentiments. ``No country in the world has been 
able to detain an American soldier since World War II,'' he gloated. 
``Yet when these soldiers entered our waters, small Iranian vessels . . 
. surrounded and arrested them. These 10 sailors surrendered to 5 or 6 
young IRGC members.''\53\ At the end of January, Supreme Leader 
Khamenei awarded medals of honor to the IRGC commanders involved in the 
seizure.\54\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \52\ Sepah News, January 13, 2016. Translated by American 
Enterprise Institute Critical Threats Project, ``Iran News Round Up,'' 
January 13, 2016, http://www.irantracker.org/iran-news-round-january-
13-2016.
    \53\ Defa Press, January 15, 2016. Translated by American 
Enterprise Institute Critical Threats Project, ``Iran News Round Up,'' 
January 15, 2016, http://www.irantracker.org/iran-news-round-january-
15-2016.
    \54\ ``Iran leader awards medals to IRGC commanders,'' Press TV, 
January 31, 2016, http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2016/01/31/448139/Iran-
leader-awards-medals-to-IRGC-commanders.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The episode followed a similar act of Iranian naval aggression less 
than 3 weeks earlier. On December 26, Iran test-fired rockets near the 
USS Harry S. Truman, an American aircraft carrier, almost triggering an 
international crisis.\55\ ``These actions were highly provocative, 
unsafe, and unprofessional and call into question Iran's commitment to 
the security of a waterway vital to international commerce,'' said Navy 
Commander Kyle Raines, spokesman for the U.S. Central Command.\56\ 
Nevertheless, the United States apparently did nothing in response.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \55\ Jim Miklaszewski, Courtney Kube, Ali Arouzi and Alastair 
Jamieson, ``U.S. Carrier Harry S. Truman Has Close Call With Iranian 
Rockets,'' NBC News, December 30, 2015, http://www.nbcnews.com/news/
world/u-s-carrier-harry-s-truman-has-close-call-iranian-n487536.
    \56\ ``Iranian Revolutionary Guards fired rockets near U.S. 
warships in Gulf-U.S.,'' Reuters, December 29, 2015, http://
www.reuters.com/article/usa-iran-warship-idUSKBN0UD00R20151230.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Domestic Oppression
    Iranian human rights abuses have increased dramatically since the 
JCPOA. In fact, according to the International Campaign for Human 
Rights in Iran, Tehran in late 2015 carried out the ``largest [human 
rights] crackdown since the violent state suppression of the protests 
that followed the disputed 2009 presidential election in Iran.''\57\ In 
recent weeks, the regime has also moved to disqualify thousands of 
reformist candidates from running in Iran's upcoming parliamentary 
elections.\58\ The new repression comes as a direct response to the 
JCPOA: Tehran seeks to reinforce its message that a post-Nuclear Deal 
Iran will continue to oppose democratic forces that appear to embrace 
Western values of liberty and equality.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \57\ ``Largest Wave of Arrests by Iran's Revolutionary Guards Since 
2009,'' International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, November 19, 
2015, https://www.iranhumanrights.org/2015/11/irgc-intelligence-
arrests.
    \58\ Aresu Eqbali and Asa Fitch, ``Iran Hard-Liners Reassert 
Influence on Election Slate,'' The Wall Street Journal, January 19, 
2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/iran-hard-liners-reassert-influence-
on-election-slate-1453227140.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In October 2015, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations' special 
rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, released a report 
detailing a grim litany of human rights abuses over the past year.\59\ 
Perhaps most notably, the document states that Iran continues ``to 
execute more individuals per capita than any other country in the 
world.'' Moreover, it noted, Iran has tortured prisoners and denied 
them access to lawyers; restricted the political rights of religious 
minorities and regime opponents; curbed women's rights in civil, 
political, social, and economic arenas; and persecuted Baha'is, 
Christians, and Sufi Dervish minorities. At the same time, Tehran has 
continued to reject continuous requests--issued in vain by the office 
of the special rapporteur since 2005--for country visits.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \59\ U.N. General Assembly, 70th Session, Situation of human rights 
in the Islamic Republic of Iran (A/70/411), October 6, 2015, http://
shaheedoniran.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/SR-Report-Iran-
Oct2015.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The report nonetheless expressed hope that the nuclear agreement 
will spur the regime ``to redouble its efforts'' to improve human 
rights. The data it catalogues, however, suggest that such a prospect 
remains unduly optimistic. In fact, in an irony fraught with bleak 
symbolism, the Islamist regime--as the International Campaign for Human 
Rights in Iran recently observed--has even attempted to silence Iranian 
media outlets critical of the JCPOA.\60\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \60\ ``Rouhani Government Suppresses Nuclear Deal's Critics,'' 
International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, August 5, 2015, 
https://www.iranhumanrights.org/2015/08/publication-shutdown.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
                        needed: a paradigm shift
    On a practical level, Iran has continued provoking the United 
States in the post-Nuclear Deal era for a simple reason: Because it 
can. By making clear that it values the preservation of the JCPOA above 
all else, the Obama administration has effectively enabled Tehran to 
use the agreement as a bargaining chip to secure its broader agenda. 
Put differently, the JCPOA offers Tehran the tactical means to advance 
its ideological commitment to the defeat of America's efforts to 
moderate the regime. In this sense, the JCPOA has effectively backfired 
on the White House, serving to undermine rather than facilitate 
President Obama's stated goals for a post-Nuclear Deal rapprochement.
    To be sure, Iran has complied with the core initial requirements of 
the Nuclear Deal: It has reduced its stockpile of low-enriched uranium 
by 98 percent, removed the core of the Arak heavy water reactor, and 
disabled 12,000 centrifuges. These developments, however, should offer 
little comfort. Tehran possessed strong incentives to comply with the 
JCPOA's preliminary obligations: Reentry into the global economy and 
restored access to as much as $100 billion in frozen assets. But now 
that the regime has achieved these goals, it retains fewer incentives 
to keep its commitments in the long term. In fact, Iran can now simply 
engage in smaller-scale violations of the JCPOA but simultaneously 
deter any meaningful penalty by threatening to abandon the agreement in 
its entirety. In effect, it can challenge the White House to choose 
between punishing minor violations, thereby giving Iran cover to 
abandon the JCPOA, or allowing the deal to dissolve over time through 
the sheer accumulation of Iranian infringements.
    The regime's preference for modest, incremental cheating would be 
consistent with its decades-long history of flouting nuclear 
agreements: As Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of 
Democracies has observed, ``The Iranian regime cheats incrementally, 
not egregiously, even though the sum total of its incremental cheating 
is egregious.''\61\ Perhaps more notably, it may explain why the JCPOA, 
likely at Iran's insistence, contains no provision for addressing 
incremental cheating, and allows snapback sanctions only in the event 
of vaguely defined ``significant non-performance.''\62\ Ambiguous 
statements from the Obama administration that the United States 
possesses a ``host of calibrated penalty tools'' to address minor 
violations are unlikely to impress Ayatollah Khamenei.\63\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \61\ ``The Iran Nuclear Deal and its Impact on Terrorism 
Financing,'' Testimony before the House Financial Services Committee, 
July 22, 2015, http://financialservices.house.gov/uploadedfiles/hhrg-
114-ba00-wstate-mdubowitz-20150722.pdf.
    \62\ Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, July 14, 2015, Paragraph 
36, https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/2165399/full-text-of-
the-iran-nuclear-deal.pdf.
    \63\ Adam Szubin, ``Beyond the Vote: Implications for the Sanctions 
Regime on Iran,'' Keynote Address before The Washington Institute for 
Near East Policy, September 16, 2015,  http://
www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/other/
SzubinTranscript20150916-v2.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Moreover, American inaction can cause other States in the region to 
freelance their own efforts to combat Tehran, often at the expense of 
U.S. interests and values. The recent contretemps between Saudi Arabia 
and Iran, triggered by Riyadh's unjust execution of a pro-Iran Shiite 
cleric, reflects the inevitable result of a U.S. policy that remains 
willing to sacrifice regional stability on the altar of the Nuclear 
Deal. By treating Iran as a regional partner, America may risk 
unintended consequences that serve to enflame tensions between Iran and 
countries that still treat the Islamic Republic as their enemy. If 
America's Sunni allies lack faith in America's willingness to defend 
them against an increasingly aggressive Tehran, they may accelerate 
their own pursuit of nuclear weapons, thereby heightening proliferation 
concerns.
    So long as the Obama administration fails to appreciate the nature 
and implications of Tehran's strategy and objectives, the Islamist 
regime's aggression will continue to intensify in the months and years 
to come. To reverse this dynamic, the United States must adopt a 
fundamental paradigm shift in its approach to its relationship with 
Tehran. Rather than treat Iran's nuclear program and Iran's non-nuclear 
belligerence as separate problems, Washington should aim to address 
them both as part of a comprehensive strategy rooted in the premise 
that Iran's fear of Western infiltration continues to guide its view of 
the Nuclear Deal.
    In practice, this means that the United States must seek to raise 
the costs to Iran for its on-going regional aggression by increasing 
terrorism-related sanctions and taking steps to deter international 
investment in entities affiliated with the IRGC, which spearheads 
Iran's global terror operations and bears responsibility for many of 
its human rights abuses.\64\ It means that the United States must 
impose meaningful punishments for any violation--major or minor--of the 
JCPOA or U.N. Security Council resolutions. It means that the United 
States must partner with Sunni Arab states opposed to Iran, including 
Saudi Arabia, notwithstanding other policy disagreements. And finally, 
it means that the White House cannot continue to treat Iran as a 
potential partner in solving the region's problems, particularly 
Syria's civil war.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \64\ See Emanuele Ottolenghi, ``The Iran Nuclear Deal and its 
Impact on Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps,'' Testimony before 
the House Committee on Foreign Affairs's Subcommittee on the Middle 
East and North Africa, September 17, 2015, http://
www.defenddemocracy.org/content/uploads/documents/
Ottolenghi_HFAC_IranDeal_IRGC.- pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Such an approach would represent a dramatic reversal of President 
Obama's original hopes for U.S.-Iranian relations after the Nuclear 
Deal. Nevertheless, a robust defense of U.S. allies and National 
interests offers the best prospect for actually effecting meaningful 
Iranian change in the long term. Iran will not modify its policies in 
response to American goodwill, but in response to deterrent steps that 
seek to alter Tehran's cost-benefit analysis. If the White House 
continues to hope, against overwhelming evidence, that Iran will 
reciprocate America's goodwill gestures on its own accord, it should 
not be surprised if Iran concludes that it has little to lose by 
continuing to provoke the United States.
    Thank you again for the opportunity to testify today. I look 
forward to your questions.

    Mr. King. Thank you, Mr. Kahn.
    Our next witness is Mr. Ilan Berman. He is vice president 
of the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, DC, and 
is an acknowledged expert on regional security in the Middle 
East, Central Asia, and the Russian Federation, and has 
consulted for both the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the 
Department of Defense.
    Mr. Berman is a member of the associated faculty at 
Missouri State University's Department of Defense and Strategic 
Studies, and serves as a columnist for Forbes.com and The 
Washington Times, and is the editor of the Journal of 
International Security Affairs. He has written several books, 
including the most recent, ``Iran's Strategic Penetration of 
Latin America,'' published in 2014.
    Recognized for 5 minutes. Thank you, Mr. Berman.
    Mr. Berman. Thank you.
    Mr. King. When I say 5 minutes, just keep it roughly within 
that time. Don't worry about it.

  STATEMENT OF ILAN BERMAN, VICE PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FOREIGN 
                         POLICY COUNCIL

    Mr. Berman. Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, and 
thank you Ranking Member Higgins, and distinguished Members of 
the subcommittee. It is an honor to appear here today to 
discuss a topic that I think is of the utmost strategic 
importance to the United States, that is, Iran's sponsorship of 
terrorism and how it is going to be affected by the new Nuclear 
Deal, formerly known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
    I think it is fair to say, just as an opening statement, 
that, although the White House has argued that the Nuclear Deal 
closes the book on the Iranian nuclear file, it actually opens 
the book on a new and more challenging phase of U.S. Middle 
East policy.
    It does so for at least 3 reasons. First, the JCPOA does 
not dismantle Iran's nuclear capability. In fact, it does the 
opposite. There are key provisions in the agreement, in 
particular in the annexes of the agreement, that commit the 
P5+1 countries to strengthening and reinforcing Iran's nuclear 
infrastructure and processes over the next decade.
    The end result is an Iranian nuclear program that is 
slower, but one that is ultimately stronger. The second flaw 
with the JCPOA is that the agreement actually encourages 
further proliferation. It does not close off all of the 
pathways by which Iran can acquire nuclear capability. It 
focuses solely, or overwhelmingly, on domestic indigenous 
development of such a capability.
    Almost entirely unaddressed by the terms of the JCPOA is 
the parallel pathway of clandestine acquisition of nuclear 
capabilities from abroad, a relationship that Iran can activate 
with such actors as North Korea or private entities in China.
    But most significant of all is the fact that the JCPOA 
provides Iran with what amounts to an enormous economic 
windfall. As part of the terms of the JCPOA, the P5+1 countries 
agreed to release to Iran upwards of $100 billion in previously 
escrowed oil revenue.
    Today, in the aftermath of implementation day, in mid-
January, Iran has full, unencumbered access to these funds. The 
scope of this stimulus is truly enormous. It amounts to roughly 
a quarter of Iran's annual GDP, which totaled $415 billion in 
2014.
    The proportional impact would be as if the United States 
received an economic infusion of roughly $4.2 trillion over the 
near term. The magnitude of this is likely to empower a range 
of destructive Iranian behaviors in the years ahead, ranging 
from military modernization plans, which have been already 
articulated by the regime, to greater Iranian support for rogue 
regime partners, such as Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador.
    Most important of all is that it actually permits Iran to 
expand significantly its investments in the support of 
international terrorism. According to the Congressional 
Research Service, Iran currently spends between $3.5 billion 
and $16 billion a year on the support of terrorism, ranging 
from Hezbollah and Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, to 
the Syrian regime, to Yemen's Houthi rebels, to Iraq's Shiite 
militias.
    If just one-tenth of the new-found economic stimulus 
inherent in the JCPOA is used in this arena, it would 
effectively double or even triple Iran's investment in global 
terrorism. In the context of the U.S. homeland, I think this 
plays out in two principal arenas.
    The first is Latin America, where, over the last decade, 
Iran has systematically expanded both its formal contacts with 
the region's regimes and its informal strategic presence. The 
late Argentine prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, detailed in 2013 
that over the last 3 decades, Iran has built an extensive 
network of intelligence bases and covert centers in no fewer 
than 8 countries.
    This is the network that empowered the 1994 bombing of the 
AMIA Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, and it is also the 
one that allowed Iran to either instigate or support 3 separate 
plots targeting the U.S. homeland in the last decade.
    The 2007 plot to blow up the fuel tanks underneath the JFK 
International Airport, the October 2011 attempt to assassinate 
Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States here in 
Washington, and a plot by Venezuelan and Iranian diplomats to 
conduct cyber-attacks on U.S. defense and civilian 
infrastructure.
    The presence of Hezbollah has grown similarly. Over the 
last several years, a string of incidents, ranging from the 
apprehension of Hezbollah operatives in Peru, to revelations 
about Venezuelan official assistance, to Hezbollah operatives 
in the provision of state-supported passports, demonstrate that 
Hezbollah has both the mobility and the capability to post a 
significant threat.
    The risks for American security in this context are both 
clear and present. As Iran begins to enrich itself, as a result 
of the JCPOA, we can expect more activity in this arena. For 
the purposes of time, the second arena where Iran is 
significantly likely to expand its activities in the U.S. 
homeland, and that is cyber space, I will leave to the 
questions, if you have any.
    But let me conclude by saying that now that the 
implementation of the JCPOA has begun, Iran's ability to carry 
out a range of rogue behaviors has expanded exponentially. It 
is incumbent upon all of us, and upon the U.S. Congress, to 
watch what Iran is going, not only in the theaters where it is 
active currently, primarily in the Middle East, in Syria, but 
also in theaters further afield, because Iran's global ambition 
is truly global. Iran's global ambition is now much more fully 
funded, as a result of the Nuclear Deal.
    Thank you.
    [The prepared statement of Mr. Berman follows:]
                   Prepared Statement of Ilan Berman
                           February 11, 2016
    Chairman King, Ranking Member Higgins, distinguished Members of the 
subcommittee: It is an honor to appear before you today to discuss 
Iran's on-going sponsorship of international terrorism and the impact 
that the new Nuclear Deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive 
Plan of Action (JCPOA), will have upon it. It is a topic that is of 
critical importance to the security of the United States and our allies 
abroad. While the Obama administration has argued that the signing of 
the JCPOA has enhanced both U.S. and global security, there is 
compelling evidence to the contrary: Namely, that the passage of the 
agreement has ushered in a new and more challenging phase in U.S. 
Mideast policy.
                        shortfalls of the jcpoa
    While the JCPOA can be said to include some beneficial elements--
including short-term constraints on Iranian uranium enrichment, a 
reduction in the number of centrifuges operated by the Islamic 
Republic, and a delay of the ``plutonium track'' of the regime's 
nuclear program--there is broad consensus among National security 
practitioners, military experts, scientists, and analysts that the 
agreement is woefully deficient in several respects.
    First, the new Nuclear Deal does not dismantle Iran's nuclear 
capability, as originally envisioned by the United States and its 
negotiating partners. Contrary to the White House's pledges at the 
outset of talks between Iran and the P5+1 nations in November 2013, the 
JCPOA does not irrevocably reduce Iran's nuclear potential. In fact, it 
does the opposite; under key provisions of the JCPOA (specifically, 
those contained in Annex I, III, and IV of the agreement),\1\ the P5+1 
nations have committed themselves to strengthening and reinforcing 
Iran's nuclear infrastructure and processes over the next 10 years. As 
a result, the JCPOA enables a slower--but ultimately a stronger--
Iranian nuclear program. When the agreement expires a decade from now, 
the Islamic Republic will be much closer to a breakout capability than 
it is today.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\ Annex I, Section H codifies Russia's commitment to cooperate 
with Iran on nuclear research at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant. 
Annex III, Section D enshrines a European commitment to aid Iran in 
strengthening its nuclear security. Under Annex IV, Section 2, the P5+1 
powers pledge to provide international assistance to Iran in mastering 
the nuclear fuel cycle through fuel fabrication.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The new Nuclear Deal likewise incentivizes further proliferation, 
both on the part of Iran and by its neighbors. Although President Obama 
has claimed that the JCPOA closes off ``all'' of the pathways by which 
Iran can acquire a nuclear capability,\2\ it focuses overwhelmingly on 
Iran's indigenous development--its domestic facilities, stockpiles, and 
nuclear know-how. The agreement does not seriously address the parallel 
path by which Iran can acquire such a capability: The clandestine 
procurement of components from abroad.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \2\ White House, Office of the Press Secretary, ``Statement by the 
President on the Adoption of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,'' 
October 18, 2015, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office2015/10/
18/statement-president-adoption-joint-comprehensive-plan-action.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    This represents a serious oversight, because Iran maintains active 
proliferation relationships with a range of suppliers, including the 
regime of Kim Jong-un in North Korea and private commercial entities in 
the People's Republic of China. These sources have been essential to 
Iran's ballistic missile and nuclear advances to date, and can be 
expected to continue to provide technology and components that enable 
the Iranian regime to make progress on its nuclear effort in spite of 
heightened scrutiny over its domestic activities. Moreover, Iran's 
advances have nudged other countries in the Middle East--most 
conspicuously Saudi Arabia--to accelerate their own nuclear plans in 
response. As a result, there is significant potential for a 
destabilizing ``proliferation cascade'' in the region in coming years, 
and of the emergence of multiple nuclear aspirants along Iran's 
periphery.
    Most significantly, however, the Nuclear Deal provides Iran with an 
economic windfall of unprecedented magnitude. As part of the terms of 
the JCPOA, the United States and its partners in the P5+1 agreed to 
release to Iran some $100 billion in previously escrowed oil revenue. 
As of this writing, Iran has full, unfettered access to these funds, 
without limitations on their use.
    The scope of this economic stimulus is enormous. It amounts to 
roughly a quarter of Iran's annual GDP, which totaled $415 billion in 
2014.\3\ That sum rivals the entirety of the European Recovery Program 
(colloquially known as the Marshall Plan) launched by the Truman 
administration in 1948 in the aftermath of World War II--an initiative 
that disbursed $13 billion ($120 billion in today's dollars) to 17 
countries in Europe over the span of 4 years. The proportional impact 
of such relief for Iran is analogous to America's $16.7 trillion 
economy receiving an infusion of roughly $4.2 trillion--approximately 5 
times the stimulus that stabilized the U.S. financial sector following 
the 2008 global economic crisis.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \3\ ``Iran GDP,'' Trading Economics, n.d., http://
www.tradingeconomics.com/iran/gdp.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Moreover, these funds represent only one part of a considerably 
larger economic picture. While Iran's initial economic windfall will be 
at least somewhat dampened by the declining global price of oil, the 
Iranian regime is adapting in response, including by revising its 
budget downward, focusing on non-oil exports, and significantly 
expanding domestic taxation.\4\ Additionally, the economic stimulus 
enshrined in the JCPOA will invariably be augmented by the benefits of 
expanded post-sanctions trade between Iran and countries in Europe and 
Asia, many of which are now eagerly seeking economic reengagement with 
the Islamic Republic. This normalization, in turn, is being facilitated 
by Iran's reintegration into the global financial system via 
institutions from which it was previously proscribed, such as the 
Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications 
(SWIFT).\5\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \4\ ``Iran's 2016 Budget Based on $35-40 Oil a Barrel,'' AzerNews, 
December 28, 2015, http://www.azernews.az/region/91180.html; ``Next FY 
Budget Focuses on Foreign Capital, Non-Oil Exports,'' Mehr (Tehran), 
January 17, 2016, http://en.mehrnews.com/news/113637/Next-FY-budget-
focuses-on-foreign-capital-non-oil-exports.
    \5\ ``SWIFT to Restart Services to Iran by Jan. 31,'' Tehran Times, 
January 26, 2016, http://www.tehrantimes.com/
index_View.asp?code=252493.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    As a result of these changes, the World Bank now estimates that 
Iranian GDP will grow by nearly 6 percent this year.\6\ Simply put, the 
JCPOA has laid the groundwork for a sustained economic revival on the 
part of the Islamic Republic.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \6\ ``World Bank Forecasts 5.8% GDP Growth for Iran in 2016,'' 
Tehran Times, February 6, 2016, http://www.tehrantimes.com/
index_View.asp?code=252783.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
                     anticipating iranian behavior
    How is Iran likely to use this economic windfall? The White House 
has argued that there is little reason for concern, because Iran can be 
expected to use the funds in question overwhelmingly for domestic 
reconstruction and economic stabilization,\7\ and because the total sum 
available to Iran is considerably less than $100 billion as a result of 
the Islamic Republic's outstanding debts.\8\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \7\ Nadia Bilbassy-Charters, ``Ben Rhodes: Iran's New Money Post 
Deal will Go to Uplift `Terrible Economy,' '' AlArabiya (Riyadh), July 
16, 2015, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2015/07/16/
Ben-Rhodes-Iran-s-extra-revenue-after-nuke-deal-will-help-uplift-
terrible-economy-.html.
    \8\ See, for example, ``Lew: Iran Not Getting the Full $100 Billion 
of Frozen Assets,'' The Fiscal Times, July 26, 2015, http://
www.thefiscaltimes.com/2015/07/26/Lew-Iran-Not-Getting-Full-100-
Billion-Frozen-Assets.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    This reasoning is deeply flawed. The U.S. Government's estimate 
presupposes that the Iranian government will pay back all of its debts 
before accessing any of the previously-escrowed funds--an unrealistic 
prospect, particularly in light of the desire of creditor nations (such 
as China) to engage more deeply in trade with Iran now that sanctions 
have been lifted. Likewise, the Islamic Republic has a long and well-
established history of preferring guns to butter. While some of the 
funds in question will undoubtedly be allocated for domestic projects, 
it is reasonable to expect that a portion--and perhaps a significant 
one--will be used by the regime on key strategic initiatives. These 
include:
Military modernization
    The Islamic Republic is now poised for a period of sustained 
military expansion. On June 30, 2015, 2 weeks before the formal 
conclusion of the JCPOA, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei formally 
unveiled his Government's Sixth Development Plan, which outlines an 
intention to expand the National defense budget by nearly $5 billion, 
to 5 percent of total GDP.\9\ These plans are predicated upon Iran's 
ability to access additional resources as a result of the JCPOA and 
post-sanctions trade.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \9\ Abbas Qaidaari, ``More Planes, Missiles and Warships for 
Iran,'' Al-Monitor, July 14, 2015, http://www.usnews.com/newsarticles/
2015/07/14/more-planes-missiles-and-warships-iran-increases-its-
military-budget-by-a-third.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Islamic Republic, moreover, is already beginning to move in 
this direction. In recent months, the Iranian regime has initiated new 
procurement talks for significant quantities of arms and materiel 
(including new aircraft, air defenses and battlefield components) with 
both Russia and China. Over time, such acquisitions will lead to a 
significant strengthening of Iran's ability to project power into its 
immediate periphery, as well as its capacity to threaten and/or 
challenge its strategic rivals in the region, as well as American 
interests there.
Rogue state sponsorship
    Although it has received comparatively little attention to date, 
one of the most significant consequences of the economic windfall 
inherent in the JCPOA will be its ``trickle down'' effect on the 
Islamic Republic's strategic partners. To date, Iran's relations with a 
host of revanchist and radical regimes--including Venezuela, Bolivia, 
Ecuador, North Korea, and Sudan, among others--have been constrained, 
at least in part, by a lack of resources. While Tehran maintains 
significant political, economic, and military ties with all of those 
nations, bilateral contacts have been limited by Iran's own economic 
isolation, as well as by the financial weakness of these rogue state 
partners themselves.
    This, however, may soon change. Given the scope of the sanctions 
relief contained in the JCPOA, Iran will shortly have the ability to 
strengthen those alliances significantly. Put simply, Iran has long 
served as a partner for an array of rogue states and repressive regimes 
globally. Today, however, Iran for the first time has the potential to 
serve as their patron--a position that will have pronounced negative 
effects on global security.
Terrorism financing
    Back in 1984, the Reagan administration formally designated Iran as 
a state sponsor of terrorism for its involvement in, and orchestration 
of, the October 1983 attack on the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut, 
Lebanon. Today, the Islamic Republic still ranks as the world's 
foremost sponsor of international terrorism. As recently as this past 
summer, the Congressional Research Service estimated that the Islamic 
Republic spent between $3.5 billion to $16 billion annually on support 
for terrorism and insurgency world-wide.\10\ That range encompasses:
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \10\ Carla Humud, Christopher Blanchard, Jeremy Sharp, and Jim 
Zanotti, ``Iranian Assistance to Groups in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and the 
Palestinian Territories,'' Congressional Research Service Memorandum, 
July 31, 2015, http://www.kirk.senate.gov/images/PDF/
Iran%20Financial%20Support%20to%20Terrorists%20and%20Militants.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
   Extensive aid to the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-
        Assad (estimated at some $6 billion annually);
   Material and economic assistance to the Shi'a Houthi rebels 
        in Yemen;
   Support for various Shi'a militias in Iraq;
   The entire operating budget of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad 
        terrorist organization;
   Renewed aid (previously estimated at between $20-25 million 
        monthly) to the Hamas terrorist group; and
   Between $100 and $200 million annually in financial support 
        for Lebanon's Hezbollah militia.
    These figures now have the potential to become much, much larger. 
White House officials have admitted that at least some of Iran's JCPOA-
related economic windfall is likely to go to terrorist groups and 
extremist causes.\11\ That, however, represents something of an 
understatement; given the size of the immediate sanctions relief at its 
disposal, should Iran allocate a mere 10 percent of its recently-
unfrozen funds to such activities, it could double or even triple its 
current spending on terror sponsorship.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \11\ See, for example, Matthew Lee, ``Kerry: Some Iran Sanctions 
Relief Likely to Go to Terrorists,'' Associated Press, January 21, 
2016, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/9ab669cada3b47cfaa3e6793a3ca6faa/
kerry-rejects-iranian-criticism-us-sanctions.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Regional expansionism
    The past several years have seen the Islamic Republic embark upon 
an ambitious, multi-pronged effort to reshape the region in its own 
image. This effort has included, inter alia, attempts to undermine the 
monarchy in Bahrain; extensive backing for Yemen's Houthi insurgency; 
both financial and direct military assistance to the Assad regime in 
Syria, and; broad geopolitical support for Iraq's Shi'a militias. It 
has been animated by the Iranian leadership's conviction that, in the 
words of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself, the international 
system is ``in the process of change'' and a ``new order is being 
formed.''\12\ The message is unmistakable; Iran's leaders believe that 
declining Western influence provides their country with the opportunity 
to expand its reach and power in the Middle East.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \12\ Arash Karami, ``Ayatollah Khamenei Urges Iran to Prepare for 
`New World Order,' '' Al-Monitor, September 5, 2014, http://www.al-
monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/09/khamenei-new-world-order.html#.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Iranian regime now has far greater ability to do so. Empowered 
by the resources inherent in the JCPOA, as well as the permissive 
political environment that has been created as a result, recent months 
have seen the Iranian regime adopt an increasingly expansionist foreign 
policy line. The consequences can be felt in deepening Iranian-Saudi 
tensions, multiple ballistic missile tests in violation of U.N. 
Security Council resolutions, and a more aggressive military posture in 
the Persian Gulf. These actions reflect the belief among Iranian 
policymakers, like Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of the Iranian 
parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, that the 
security of the Persian Gulf is now ``in Iran's hands.''\13\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \13\ ``Persian Gulf Security in Iran's Hands: Senior MP,'' Tasnim 
(Tehran), January 14, 2016, http://www.tasnimnews.com/en/news/2016/01/
14/971145/persian-gulf-securitv-in-iran-s-hands-senior-mp.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    As the narrative above lays out, the expanded resources conferred 
by the JCPOA have the potential to dramatically increase the strategic 
capabilities of the Iranian regime--and, consequently, the threat it 
poses to international security. In the context of the United States 
homeland, these dangers are likely to be most pronounced in 2 distinct 
arenas.
                an expanding footprint in latin america
    The past decade has seen a systematic expansion of the Islamic 
Republic's strategic presence in the Americas. Using the sympathetic 
regime of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela as a gateway, Iran has dramatically 
broadened its diplomatic ties to the region, focusing in particular on 
the countries of the leftist political bloc known as the Bolivarian 
Alliance of the Americas (ALBA). Since 2005, Iran has nearly doubled 
the number of its embassies in the region, from 6 to 11.\14\ Its 
economic ties to the region have similarly ballooned, in particular its 
trade with the nations of Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \14\ Iran today boasts an official diplomatic presence in 
Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, 
Nicaragua, Uruguay and Venezuela.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    This formal outreach has been mirrored by the establishment of a 
formidable asymmetric presence. Iran's informal activities in the 
region date back to the early 1980s, when it facilitated a foothold for 
its chief terrorist proxy, Hezbollah, in the so-called Tri-Border 
Region where Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay intersect. That presence, 
in turn, made possible the massive July 1994 bombing of the Argentine--
Israel Mutual Association (AMIA) in Buenos Aires--an attack that 
Argentine state prosecutors subsequently concluded had been ``ordered 
by the highest authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 
conjunction with Hezbollah.''\15\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \15\ Marcelo Martinez Burgos and Alberto Nisman, ``AMIA Case,'' 
Investigations Unit of the Office of the Attorney General, 2006, http:/
/www.peaceandtolerance.org/docs/nismanindict.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Three decades on, Iran's asymmetric presence in the region is more 
extensive--and arguably far more lethal. As the late Argentine 
prosecutor Alberto Nisman detailed in his May 2013 indictment, over the 
past 3 decades Iran has successfully created a network of intelligence 
bases and covert centers in no fewer than 8 Latin American countries: 
Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, Guyana, Trinidad and 
Tobago, and Suriname.\16\ This infrastructure has enabled Iran to 
initiate or support at least 3 separate plots against the U.S. homeland 
over the past decade.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \16\ Guido Nejamkis, ``Iran Set Up Terrorist Networks in Latin 
America: Argentine Prosecutor,'' Reuters, May 29, 2013, http://
www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/29/us-argentina-iran-
idUSBRE94S1F420130529.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
   A 2007 plot involving Guyanese national Abdul Kadir to blow 
        up fuel tanks underneath New York's John F. Kennedy Airport. 
        According to Nisman, Kadir was a disciple and agent of Iranian 
        cleric Mohsen Rabbani, the alleged mastermind of the 1994 AMIA 
        bombing, and had previously ``carried out the Iranian 
        infiltration in Guyana'' at Rabbani's direction.\17\ Had it 
        succeeded, the attempt would have caused ``extensive damage to 
        the airport and to the New York economy, as well as the loss of 
        numerous lives,'' the FBI assessed.\18\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \17\ Ibid.
    \18\ Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office, 
``Abdul Kadir Sentenced to Life in Prison for Conspiring to Commit 
Terrorist Attack at JFK Airport,'' December 15, 2010, http://
www.fbi.gov/newyork/press-releases/2010/nyfo121510a.htm.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
   An October 2011 attempt by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps 
        (IRGC) to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United 
        States at a D.C. restaurant, using members of Mexico's Los 
        Zetas drug cartel to carry out the killing. In a press 
        conference divulging details of the failed scheme, Attorney 
        General Eric Holder noted that it was ``directed and approved 
        by elements of the Iranian government and, specifically, senior 
        members of the Quds Force,'' the IRGC's elite paramilitary 
        unit.\19\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \19\ Charles Savage and Scott Shane, ``Iranians Accused of a Plot 
to Kill Saudis' U.S. Envoy,'' New York Times, October 11, 2011, http://
www.nytimes.com/2011/10/12/us/us-accuses-iranians-of-plotting-to-kill-
saudi-envoy.html?pagewanted=all.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
   A plan by Venezuelan and Iranian diplomats to use Mexican 
        hackers to penetrate U.S. defense, intelligence and nuclear 
        facilities and launch wide-spread cyber attacks throughout the 
        United States. The effort was detailed in a December 2011 
        investigative documentary by the Spanish-language TV network 
        Univision, which featured audio recordings of the plotters, 
        including a high-ranking Iranian diplomat.\20\ In the wake of 
        the documentary's airing, Venezuela's consul general to Miami 
        was declared persona non grata and expelled from the 
        country.\21\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \20\ ``La Amenaza Irani,'' Univision, December 9, 2011, http://
noticias.univision.com/article/786870/2011-12-09/documentales/la-
amenaza-irani/la-amenaza-irani.
    \21\ ``U.S. Expels Venezuelan Diplomat in Miami,'' CNN, January 9, 
2014, http://www.cnn.com/2012/01/08/us/venezuela-consul/.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Hezbollah's presence in the Americas has likewise continued to grow 
apace. Over the past several years, a string of incidents--among them 
the November 2014 apprehension of a Hezbollah operative in Lima, Peru; 
regional intelligence reports about Hezbollah activity in Mexico, 
Nicaragua, Chile, Colombia, Bolivia, and Ecuador; and revelations about 
official Venezuelan facilitation of the movement of Hezbollah 
operatives throughout the region via the provision of state-issued 
passports\22\--all point to a significant operational presence on the 
part of the terrorist group south of the U.S. border.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \22\ Barak Ravid, ``Hezbollah Member Held in Peru for Planning 
Terror Attack,'' Ha'aretz (Tel Aviv), October 30, 2014, http://
www.haaretz.com/world-news/.premium-1.623743: ``Latin America Takes 
Action to Control Hezbollah's Activities,'' Asharq Al-Awsat (London), 
January 25, 2016, http://english.aawsat.com/2016/01/article55346877/
latin-america-takes-action-to-control-hezbollahs-activities: 
``Venezuela Exposes the Involvement of Hezbollah and Iran in the 
Americas,'' Janoubia, January 27, 2016, http://janoubia.com/2016/01/27/
[sic].
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The risks to American security posed by this expanding footprint 
are both clear and present. Iran has already demonstrated both the 
capability and the intent to target the U.S. homeland, directly and via 
its proxies, through the Latin American theater. The capability for 
Iran to do so can be expected to grow in the near future. Given the 
priority attention that has been paid to Latin America by Iran in 
recent years, it is reasonable to expect that the Iranian regime will 
use its expanded resources to broaden and further solidify its 
footprint in the Western Hemisphere. If history is any judge, it will 
do so in a way that will be deeply inimical to American interests.
                         a maturing cyber actor
    Cyber space is fast emerging as a new domain of conflict between 
Iran and the West. Beginning in the fall of 2010, Iran's nuclear 
program was targeted by the Stuxnet computer worm, waking Iranian 
officials up to the fact that the West was attempting to compromise 
their nuclear effort. Subsequent attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities 
and infrastructure convinced Iran's leadership that cyber war had the 
potential to be--in the words of one top regime official--``more 
dangerous than a physical war.''\23\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \23\ ``Iran Sees Cyber Attacks as Greater Threat than Actual War,'' 
Reuters, September 25, 2012, http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/25/
net-us-iran-military-idUSBRE88Q0MY- 20120925.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Iran mobilized in response. In July 2011, the regime formally 
launched an ambitious $1 billion governmental program to boost national 
cyber capabilities via the acquisition of new technologies, new 
investments in cyber defense, and the creation of a new cadre of cyber 
experts.\24\ In tandem, it formed new, dedicated domestic agencies 
tasked with administering cyber space, as well as creating a dedicated 
Cyber Defense Command within the Iranian military and an analogous 
Cyberspace Council in the basij, the country's repressive domestic 
militia.\25\ Simultaneously, the Iranian government mobilized a ``cyber 
army'' of activists--nominally independent patriotic hackers (also 
known as ``hacktivists'') who have carried out attacks on sites and 
entities out of favor with the Iranian regime, including social 
networking platform Twitter, the Chinese search engine Baidu, and the 
websites of Iranian reformist elements.\26\ The Intelligence Unit of 
Iran's clerical army, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) 
allegedly oversees the activities of this ``cyber army.''\27\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \24\ Yaakov Katz, ``Iran Embarks On $1b. Cyber-Warfare Program,'' 
Jerusalem Post, December 18, 2011, http://www.jpost.com/Defense/
Article.aspx?id=249864.
    \25\ See, for example, Kevin Lim, ``Iran's Cyber Posture,'' 
OpenBriefing, November 18, 2013, http://www.openbriefing.org/
regionaldesks/middleeast/irans-cyber-posture/.
    \26\ Farvartish Rezvaniyeh, ``Pulling the Strings of the Net: 
Iran's Cyber Army,'' PBS Frontline, February 26, 2010, http://
www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2010/02/pulling-the-
strings-of-the-net-irans-cyber-army.html: Alex Lukich, ``The Iranian 
Cyber Army,'' Center for Strategic & International Studies, July 12, 
2011, http://csis.org/blog/iranian-cyber-army.
    \27\ University of Pennsylvania, Annenberg School of 
Communications, Iran Media Program, ``Internet Censorship in Iran,'' 
n.d., http://iranmediaresearch.org/sites/default/files/research/pdf/
1363180689/1385/intern_et_censorship_in_iran.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Iran likewise has harnessed this growing capability against the 
West. The past several years have seen a range of aggressive--and 
increasingly capable--Iranian attacks on Western and allied interests 
via cyber space.
   In the summer of 2012, Saudi Arabia's state oil giant, 
        ARAMCO, was hit by an Iranian-developed virus called 
        ``Shamoon'' that compromised three-quarters of the company's 
        computers.\28\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \28\ Nicole Perlroth, ``In Cyberattack on Saudi Firm, U.S. Sees 
Iran Firing Back,'' New York Times, October 23, 2012, http://
www.nytimes.com/2012/10/24/business/global/cyberattack-on-saudi-oil-
firm-disquiets-us.html?pagewanted=all.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
   Between September 2012 and January 2013, multiple U.S. 
        financial institutions (including Bank of America, JPMorgan 
        Chase, and Citigroup) experienced a series of distributed 
        denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks that disrupted their on-line 
        presence and functionality. Due to the sophistication of the 
        attacks, U.S. officials linked them definitively to the Iranian 
        government.\29\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \29\ Nicole Perlroth and Quentin Hardy, ``Bank Hacking Was the Work 
of Iranians, Officials Say,'' New York Times, January 8, 2013, http://
www.nytimes.com/2013/01/09/technology/online-banking-attacks-were-work-
of-iran-us-officials-say.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
   In October 2013, the U.S. Navy's unclassified computer 
        network was penetrated by hackers affiliated with the Iranian 
        government, potentially compromising email and secure 
        communications hosted on it.\30\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \30\ Julian E. Barnes and Siobhan Gorman, ``U.S. Says Iran Hacked 
Navy Computers,'' Wall Street Journal, September 27, 2013, http://
www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304526204579101602356751772.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
   In February 2014, the Nevada-based Sands Corporation 
        experienced a computer attack that temporarily crippled its 
        systems, an intrusion that has since been conclusively linked 
        to Iran by the U.S. intelligence community.\31\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \31\ Tony Capaccio, David Lerman, and Chris Strohm, ``Iran Behind 
Cyber-Attack on Adelson's Sands Corp., Clapper Says,'' Bloomberg, 
February 26, 2015, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-02-26/
iran-behind-cyber-attack-on-adelson-s-sands-corp-clapper-says.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
   In May 2014, cyber intelligence firm iSight Partners 
        uncovered a complex Iranian ``phishing'' scheme dubbed 
        ``Newscaster,'' which was designed to compromise prominent 
        political individuals of interest to the Islamic Republic 
        through the use of social media.\32\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \32\ Mike Lennon, ``Iranian Hackers Targeted US Officials in 
Elaborate Social Media Attack Operation,'' Security Week, May 29, 2014, 
http://www.securityweek.com/iranian-hackers-targeted-us-officials-
elaborate-social-media-attack-operation.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
   In the spring of 2014, Iranian hacking group Ajax Security 
        Team was found to have targeted U.S. defense firms with 
        malicious software in order to gain access to their 
        computers.\33\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \33\ Dune Lawrence, ``Iranian Hackers, Getting More Sophisticated, 
Target U.S. Defense Companies,'' Bloomberg, May 14, 2014, http://
www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2014-05-14/iranian-hackers-getting-more-
sophisticated-target-u-dot-s-dot-defense-companies.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
   Iranian hackers are known to have extensively mapped U.S. 
        infrastructure points, such as the power grid, trains, airlines 
        and refineries, in what cyber experts fear could be a hostile 
        contingency scenario in the event of a conflict with 
        America.\34\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \34\ Brian Ross, ``What Will Happen to the US if Israel Attacks 
Iran?'' ABC News, March 5, 2012, http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/israel-
attacks-iran-gas-prices-cyberwar-terror-threat/
story?id=15848522#.T4g5tqvY9Ll.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
   Most recently, Iranian hackers carried out an extensive 
        campaign of intelligence gathering aimed at the U.S. State 
        Department in November 2015.\35\ The effort included targeting 
        diplomats with responsibility for Iran and the Middle East via 
        both email and social media as part of what U.S. officials say 
        is an increasingly aggressive attempt to glean information 
        about American policies toward the Islamic Republic.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \35\ David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, ``Iranian Hackers Attack 
State Dept. via Social Media Accounts,'' New York Times, November 24, 
2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/25/world/middleeast/iran-hackers-
cyberespionage-state-department-social-media.html.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The scope of Iran's offensive cyber activities was outlined in 
detail in a December 2014 report by San Diego-based cybersecurity firm 
Cylance, which stated that: ``Since at least 2012, Iranian actors have 
directly attacked, established persistence in, and extracted highly 
sensitive materials from the networks of government agencies and major 
critical infrastructure companies in the following countries: Canada, 
China, England, France, Germany, India, Israel, Kuwait, Mexico, 
Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey, United Arab 
Emirates, and the United States.''\36\ Targets of Iranian cyber attack 
identified by Cylance include oil and gas firms in Kuwait, Turkey, 
Qatar and France, aviation hubs in South Korea and Pakistan, energy and 
utilities companies in Canada and the United States, and government 
agencies in the United States, UAE, and Qatar.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \36\ Cylance, Operation Cleaver, December 2, 2014, http://
www.cylance.com/assets/Cleaver/Cylance_Operation_Cleaver_Report.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Moreover, the study suggests, this may represent merely the tip of 
the iceberg. ``As Iran's cyber warfare capabilities continue to morph . 
. . the probability of an attack that could impact the physical world 
at a national or global level is rapidly increasing,'' it 
concludes.\37\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \37\ Ibid.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Today, that warning is more salient than ever. Between 2014 and 
2015, Iran--eager to reap the benefits of nuclear detente with the 
West--noticeably scaled back its on-line targeting of the West. But in 
the wake of this summer's Nuclear Deal, the Islamic Republic is ramping 
up its offensive cyber activities anew, for both political and 
strategic reasons. Domestically, Iran's hard-liners are at pains to 
assert their primacy in national affairs following the nuclear 
agreement--including over the regime's strategic programs, of which 
cyber space is one. Abroad, Iranian leaders have increasingly come to 
see cyber space as an indispensable domain for strategic influence, one 
that has risen in importance now that their country's nuclear program 
is at least temporarily constrained.
    Given this emphasis, as well as the economic benefits of the 
JCPOA--which will increase the resources available to the regime to 
invest in its strategic capabilities--the Islamic Republic is poised to 
become an increasingly mature and formidable cyber power. In the 
process, it will invariably emerge as a serious cyber challenge for the 
United States.
                             looking ahead
    Since the start of nuclear diplomacy in November of 2013, the Obama 
administration has effectively downplayed the risks emanating from 
Iran. In its eagerness to conclude some sort of agreement with Iran 
over its nuclear program, the White House has systematically turned a 
blind eye to the Islamic Republic's fomentation of international 
terrorism, its support for rogue foreign regimes, and its strategic 
activities.
    Now that implementation of the JCPOA has begun, Iran's capabilities 
in all of these areas have the potential to expand dramatically--and to 
do so to the detriment of American security. Tracking this growing 
destructive potential must become a top priority of the U.S. 
Government. So, too, must the formulation of a strategy to identify, 
manage, and limit Iranian rogue behavior in the years ahead.

    Mr. King. Our next witness is Mr. Bilal Saab. He is the 
resident senior fellow for Middle East Security with the Brent 
Scowcroft Center on International Security. He also serves on 
the board of several research organizations, excuse me, in the 
United States and the Middle East.
    He has received awards from the Atlantic Council and from 
the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He has 
previously worked at the Institute for Near East and Gulf 
Military Analysis, the Sabin Center for Middle East Policy at 
Brookings, and the Center for the Study of Terrorism and 
Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews in the 
United Kingdom.
    He has a B.A. from the American University of Beirut, a 
master's in International Security Studies from the University 
of St. Andrews, and a M.A. in International Security Policy 
from the University of Maryland.
    With that, I am pleased to welcome you and look forward to 
your testimony. Congratulations, again, on the newborn. 
Everybody healthy and everything fine? Great. Good. Okay.

   STATEMENT OF BILAL Y. SAAB, SENIOR FELLOW FOR MIDDLE EAST 
  SECURITY, BRENT SCOWCROFT CENTER ON INTERNATIONAL SECURITY, 
                        ATLANTIC COUNCIL

    Mr. Saab. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Mr. Higgins. I am 
grateful for the opportunity to testify today on this very 
important subject. Once again, thank you for the 
congratulations.
    If you asked me what is the biggest accomplishment of 
Iranian foreign policy since the 1979 revolution, I would say, 
in my judgment, it would be the contribution to the creation 
and subsequent development of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite 
party.
    Hezbollah, today, is one of the most powerful subnational 
actors operating in the world today. It has got global reach. 
It has got intelligence, counter-intelligence, military 
capabilities that are probably more significant than many mid-
sized European countries. It has got regional political clout 
that, I would say, tops that of many Middle Eastern 
governments.
    The main question today that many Hezbollah watchers are 
grappling with is whether the group's local and regional 
position has been strengthened or weakened, as a result of its 
over-involvement in the Syrian conflict.
    So let me give you my bottom line right up front. The 
Syrian conflict presents Hezbollah with the biggest challenge 
it has faced since it was born, but it also creates 
opportunities. Let's be very honest about that.
    Let me address just a couple of scenarios, as far as 
Hezbollah and how that affects the organization. The worst-case 
scenario for Hezbollah, as far as Syria is concerned, is, of 
course, the rebels winning and the fall of the regime. But I 
would say that even that, although it would make its life 
extremely difficult, it would not end it.
    The best-case scenario, of course, would be a total defeat 
of the rebels. Also, to be honest, it is not really 
unthinkable, in today's circumstances. As a result of that, it 
would help the organization cement its control of Lebanon and 
further assert itself regionally.
    The middle-ground scenario, which is the continuation of 
the status quo, and neither the regime nor the rebels win, yes, 
it would make its life, also, difficult. It will be costly for 
the organization. It prolongs the Syrian spillover into 
Lebanon. But it has made a lot of adjustments, and it has been 
quite successful at that, as well.
    So why is it, actually, that, regardless of what happens in 
Syria, the organization will survive? I would say that the two 
main sources of support of the organization, that matter more 
than anything else, quite frankly, will remain intact. That is 
the Shiite support base of the organization, which, you know, 
they have cultivated for a very long time, since 1982, ever 
since their founding.
    Of course, it is their main patron, Iran. Those two sources 
of support will endure, no matter what happens in Syria. You 
can make an argument that the bond between Hezbollah and its 
constituency has been under pressure, because of its costly 
adventure in Syria. But I haven't really seen any significant 
cracks in the bond.
    As far as the special relationship it has with Iran, it 
will also endure. Why? Because the partnership has been 
extremely beneficial for both sides.
    As you know, Mr. Chairman, Iran provides Hezbollah with 
money, weapons, strategic direction, organizational coherence, 
you name it. In return, Hezbollah allows Iran to reject Shiite 
power in the Arab world, and, with its military arsenal, it 
helps deter Israel from attacking Iran.
    I have every reason to believe that these relations between 
the two allies, Hezbollah and Iran, will continue to develop, 
following the lifting of sanctions against Tehran, which brings 
me to Hezbollah's international activities, because, at the end 
of the day, they are an extension, in my opinion, of the 
paramilitary and intelligence agencies of Iran. They are not 
really independent.
    So will the threat the group poses to the homeland 
increase, decrease, remain the same after the lifting of 
sanctions and, specifically, when Tehran has a few more 
billions of dollars to spend? I would say that any serious 
assessment has to look at both the intentions of the 
organization, but also the capabilities.
    You know, having interacted, throughout my career, with 
many officials and analysts within the intelligence community 
regarding Hezbollah, I would say that nobody doubts the 
capabilities of the organization. It is just on the issue of 
intentions where there might be some debate.
    Two reasons why Hezbollah has never really acted or 
attacked on U.S. territory: First, Hezbollah does not really 
strategize or act alone, when it comes to global operations. 
Tehran is in charge, here, for sure.
    The second reason, Hezbollah has no interest, itself, 
because it is well--much aware of its own limitations and the 
consequences, the steep consequences, for taking on the most 
powerful nation on earth.
    Now, could this change in the foreseeable future? I think a 
lot of it would depend on the evolution of relations between 
Iran and the United States. Should those--you know, should the 
relations take a dramatic turn for the worse, over a number of 
scenarios, it is likely that Iran might fight back, using 
asymmetric tools and particularly terrorism.
    One of those tools may well be Hezbollah, of course. But, I 
would say, even under that scenario, Hezbollah would think 
twice, really, before it would decide to pick this fight, from 
which, really, it probably would not survive.
    The U.S. Government has designated Hezbollah as a terrorist 
organization, but, in my mind, I think that terrorism is only 
one of the challenges that the organization poses. As a matter 
of fact, it is not the most imminent, it is not the most 
significant, in my opinion. The counterterrorism lens is a 
little bit too narrow.
    The party, at the end of the day, is a product of Lebanon's 
internal weakness, Iran's intervention in Lebanese politics, 
previously Syria, and, of course, the on-going conflict with 
Israel. So the United States really has no desire or capacity 
to solve all these complex problems.
    They have been--you know, they have been present for a very 
long time. I wrote, almost 6 years ago, and I think it is still 
pertinent today, that the most affordable option the United 
States can pursue, as far as Hezbollah, is containment, really.
    You know, Washington should continue to provide assistance 
to the Lebanese armed forces, which it is doing, and try to 
bolster the country's internal strength, which would, 
ultimately, diminish the group's rationale for keeping its 
arms.
    In closing, Mr. Chairman, let me emphasize that Hezbollah 
is dealing with really significant pressures, as a result of 
its costly intervention in Syria. The adjustments it has been 
forced to make have not been easy at all.
    But the succession that these pressures represent, that the 
pressures will really lead to its death, in my opinion, 
represents nothing but wishful thinking. Equally important, it 
doesn't seem like its adversaries, foreign and domestic, are 
really in a position to take advantage of its present travails.
    So this transformation that it is going through, from a 
domestic hegemon of Lebanon into a regional powerhouse, quite 
frankly, is now more achievable, because of what is happening 
in Syria.
    Thank you, very much.
    [The prepared statement of Mr. Saab follows:]
                  Prepared Statement of Bilal Y. Saab
                           February 11, 2016
    Chairman King, Subcommittee Ranking Member Higgins, full Committee 
Ranking Member Thompson, distinguished Members of the subcommittee, I 
am grateful for the opportunity to testify today on this very important 
subject.\1\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\ This testimony draws on my research work in Lebanon, my 
scholarship on Hezbollah, and on a recently co-authored paper with Dr. 
Daniel Byman, ``Hezbollah in a Time of Transition'' (Washington, DC: 
Atlantic Council and Brookings, November 2014) http://
www.atlanticcouncil.org/images/publications/
Hezbollah_in_a_Time_of_Transition.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    If one were to identify the biggest accomplishment of Iranian 
foreign policy since the 1979 Islamic revolution, it would be, in my 
judgment, the direct contribution to the creation and subsequent 
development of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shi'ite party. I believe that 
Hezbollah is one of the most powerful sub-national militant actors 
operating in the world today. It has global reach; intelligence, 
counterintelligence, and military capabilities that are more 
significant than many mid-sized European countries; and regional 
political clout that tops that of many Middle Eastern governments.
    The main question that is on the minds of Hezbollah observers is 
whether the group's domestic and regional position has been 
strengthened or weakened as a result of its overt involvement in the 
Syrian conflict. That is what I will focus on in my testimony today. My 
bottom line is that while the war in Syria presents Hezbollah with the 
biggest challenge it has faced since it was born, it also creates 
opportunities. The worst-case scenario of Damascus falling into the 
hands of the rebels--a scenario that currently looks improbable--will 
make Hezbollah's life extremely difficult, but it will not end it. At 
the other extreme, should the rebels suffer a total defeat, Hezbollah 
would further assert itself regionally and cement its control of 
Lebanon. The continuation of the status quo, where neither the Syrian 
opposition nor the regime wins and the civil war goes on, will not lead 
to Hezbollah's demise either. An indefinite stalemate is costly for 
Hezbollah because it does not solve the problem of Syrian spillover, it 
prolongs political tensions in Beirut, and it keeps Lebanon and 
Hezbollah's Shi'ite supporters at risk of attack by Sunni extremists--
but it also does not force Hezbollah and Iran to make drastic decisions 
and tough compromises.
    So regardless of what happens in Syria, Hezbollah will most 
probably survive if it continues to effectively nurture and manage two 
critical relationships: Its Shi'ite support base and its main patron, 
Iran. These 2 sources of support matter more to the well-being of the 
organization than anything else. Currently, neither relationship looks 
volatile. While the bond between Hezbollah and its constituency is 
under pressure due to the group's costly intervention in Syria, cracks 
have yet to emerge. Growing instability and Sunni extremist violence in 
the region may have even strengthened ties between Hezbollah and its 
Shi'ite supporters. As for the group's deep and organic link to Iran, 
it will most likely endure and become stronger following the lifting of 
international sanctions against Tehran and the inflow of cash to the 
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Hezbollah's primary ally 
within the Iranian government.
    Hezbollah's future has important implications for Lebanon, the 
region's stability, and U.S. interests and those of its partners in the 
Middle East. The Syrian conflict has forced Hezbollah to transition 
into something it does not necessarily desire or is able to sustain. A 
movement that long claimed to transcend sectarianism has become a 
bogeyman to many of the region's Sunni Muslims. At the same time, 
Hezbollah's deep involvement in the fighting in Syria has damaged its 
reputation in Lebanon and made it a target of Sunni extremist violence. 
The conflict with Israel, while still a focus of rhetoric, has somewhat 
faded to the background. However, the suggestion that the significant 
pressures Hezbollah is dealing with will ultimately lead to its death 
represents nothing but wishful thinking. The party is more resilient 
than its adversaries would like to admit. That the tide of the war in 
Syria seems to be turning in its favor also provides comfort for the 
organization.
    My testimony contains 4 parts. I begin by describing various storms 
that Hezbollah effectively weathered in the past and explain how it did 
so. I then devote two sections to analyze how events in the region over 
the past 5 years and particularly the conflict in Syria present 
challenges as well as opportunities to the group. I conclude by 
discussing the policy implications and recommendations for the United 
States.
                              past storms
    Hezbollah's death has been proclaimed numerous times since its 
inception in the early 1980s, but the Shi'ite party has survived 
numerous challenges: 3 high-intensity military conflicts with Israel in 
1993, 1996, and 2006; Israel's assassination of several of its core 
leaders, including Sheikh Ragheb Harb in 1984, Abbas Al-Musawi in 1992, 
and Imad Mughniyeh in 2008; the Syrian departure from Lebanon in 2005; 
a non-stop war of intelligence and counterintelligence against Israel; 
various political crises in Beirut; an international tribunal 
investigating the February 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime 
Minister Rafik Hariri that formally accused four Hezbollah members; and 
Arab uprisings that profoundly challenged its philosophy of ``champion 
of the downtrodden, underprivileged, and disenfranchised.''
    How Hezbollah has survived all these crises can be attributed to a 
number of internal and external factors, including leadership, 
organizational coherence and discipline, political violence and 
tactics, superior training, and, of course, Syrian assistance. But all 
this would count for little without the constant support Hezbollah 
receives from its Shi'ite constituency and from Iran. Unlike many other 
non-state actors in the region, Hezbollah has a domestic base of 
support about which it cares deeply, and this concern is reciprocated. 
The organization has made it a top priority to cultivate good relations 
with the Lebanese Shi'a, knowing full well that such ties would serve 
as its first and last lines of defense. Iran not only provides 
religious guidance and strategic direction to Hezbollah, but also helps 
the party solidify its bond with its constituency through money and 
weapons.
                               challenges
    By intervening in Syria to come to Syrian President Bashar Assad's 
aid, Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's Secretary General, has put his party 
on a collision course with Sunnis--moderates and extremists alike--in 
Syria and Lebanon, and elsewhere in the region. This course of action 
is very risky for Hezbollah and its constituency because regional 
demographics have always worked against the Shi'ites. Even the 
staunchest Lebanese Shi'ite supporters of Hezbollah would prefer peace 
with their fellow Sunni Lebanese--and the region--to conflict. It is 
not just that Sunni radicals, despite Hezbollah's military advances in 
Syria, have been able to penetrate deep into the Shi'ite party's sphere 
of influence and wreak havoc. More importantly, the same extremists who 
Nasrallah was hoping to fight outside Lebanon could turn Lebanon into 
another Iraq, a country defined by Sunni-Shi'ite sectarian violence. In 
this scenario, whose chances are unclear, Hezbollah stands to lose the 
most, because another Lebanese civil war would be a major distraction 
from the military struggle against Israel.\2\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \2\ Daniel Byman and Bilal Y. Saab, ``Hezbollah Hesitates? The 
Group's Uncertain Transformation,'' Foreign Affairs, January 21, 2015 
https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/israel/2015-01-21/hezbollah-
hesitates.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    At home, Hezbollah may have contained the effects of the Special 
Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), but the international institution has 
already caused considerable damage to the party's reputation by 
instilling serious doubts, even among Hezbollah's friends, about the 
party's role in killing Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime 
minister and leader of the Sunni community in the country, in addition 
to several other anti-Syrian Lebanese politicians, journalists, and 
security personnel.\3\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \3\ Bilal Y. Saab, ``Why Lebanon's Najib Mikati Resigned: Hezbollah 
Makes Its Move,'' Foreign Affairs, March 25, 2013 https://
www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/lebanon/2013-03-25/why-lebanons-najib-
mikati-resigned.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    More broadly, the Arab uprisings have arguably made Hezbollah less 
relevant in Arab political discourse. While the concept of resistance 
against Israel will always generate strong emotions and resonate deeply 
in the Arab world, such a struggle, an increasing number of Arabs now 
believe, cannot be at the expense of freedom and political-economic 
rights. Hezbollah and Iran clearly think otherwise; for them, nothing 
takes precedence over the military struggle because no other form of 
resistance works. The group's intervention in Syria has shattered its 
image in the Arab street. Although such a street has always been 
polarized, the average Arab person, not too long ago, used to adore the 
party for standing up to Israel and the United States. Not anymore. 
Hezbollah's flags are being burned in Syria and elsewhere.\4\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \4\ Bilal Y. Saab, ``Ominous New Struggle for Hezbollah,'' The 
National Interest, October 24, 2011 http://nationalinterest.org/
commentary/ominous-new-struggle-hezbollah-6060.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Hezbollah's fight in Syria also has made it more vulnerable toward 
Israel. Another war with Israel may pump life into Hezbollah's hard-
core cadres and add fire to its resistance approach, but in reality 
such an extremely risky adventure could entail massive costs from which 
the group may not recover easily this time around. Iran could 
immediately send money for reconstruction purposes like it did after 
the end of the 2006 war, but that is not inevitable. And the Syrian 
regime, busy fighting for its life, may not be operationally capable of 
providing necessary military and logistical support during any such 
war.
    For Hezbollah, the military challenge in Syria is more daunting 
than in the Lebanese theater. In contrast to southern Lebanon, 
Hezbollah forces do not have an intimate knowledge of the Syrian 
terrain. In addition, they must cooperate with irregular and regular 
Syrian forces and Iraqi militias, rather than just rely on their own 
fighters. Hezbollah frequently operates at the company and even 
battalion level in Syria, using far larger formations than it usually 
has had in Lebanon when it waged guerilla war against Israel. As 
Islamic State fighters advanced in Iraq, many of the Iraqi Shi'ite 
militias aiding the Assad regime went home to fight, increasing the 
burden on Hezbollah. Because of its heavy role in Syria, Hezbollah is 
more militarily invested in Iran than ever before. In Syria, the IRGC's 
Quds Force assisted Hezbollah with command and control and training. 
Entering the war was in part ``payback'' for past favors--but by doing 
so, Hezbollah tied itself even more tightly to its Iranian master. 
Finally, Hezbollah also has a military role in Lebanon. Along the 
Syria-Lebanon border, its forces are patrolling and even laying mines 
in order to prevent infiltration by fighters belonging to the Islamic 
State and Jabhat al-Nusra. Hezbollah coordinates quietly with the 
Lebanese Armed Forces, which dare not confront the Shi'ite group.
    If Assad's regime collapses, Hezbollah would lose a key supporter 
from a country that historically has played a dominant role in Lebanese 
politics. Even more important, Syria is Iran's closest ally, and Tehran 
was calling in its chits by asking Hezbollah and other supporters to 
close ranks around the Assad regime. Should Syria fall, Hezbollah is 
likely to lose a transit route and storage facility for weapons from 
Iran and Syria. In anticipation of any rapid deterioration of security 
conditions in Syria, Hezbollah has reportedly moved hundreds of 
missiles from storage sites in Syria to bases in eastern Lebanon. The 
potential loss of its logistics hub and supply line in Syria would 
place Hezbollah at a significant disadvantage in the event of another 
conflict with Israel. In the 2006 conflict with Israel, the group 
benefited from the strategic transit route through Syria, which allowed 
Hezbollah to quickly replenish its weapons supplies; therefore, the 
loss of Syrian support could cause Hezbollah to hold onto its larger, 
strategic weapons if they cannot be easily acquired and replaced. 
Unless Hezbollah and Iran can build a similar capability in another 
location, Hezbollah will likely face challenges resupplying its rockets 
and missiles in the near term.
    But should Assad leave--or even should his jihadist opponents grow 
stronger--the gravest threat Hezbollah (and Lebanon as a whole) would 
have to imminently deal with is Sunni extremism. Sunni radicals would 
not settle for controlling Syria, but would also seek to expand into 
Lebanon (and possibly Jordan) to fulfill their ideological goals and go 
after Hezbollah and its Shi'ite supporters. Over the past year, Sunni 
jihadists have attacked Shi'ite interests in Lebanon on multiple 
occasions (the bombing of the Iranian embassy on November 19, 2013, was 
the most spectacular, killing 23 people and injuring dozens more). 
Hezbollah, with the help of the Lebanese army, has shown resiliency and 
has currently managed to contain the threat by battling with Sunni 
militants across the Syrian-Lebanese borders and in various areas in 
Lebanon's northern region, and forcing many of them to retreat into 
Syria. But the fight is anything but over. Hezbollah is not oblivious 
to the risks and costs of its military intervention in Syria. Its 
leadership has calculated that, so long as the balance of power tilts 
in favor of Assad's forces and the Syria-Lebanon border is largely 
secure, the costs of siding with Syria are tolerable. However, if the 
situation drastically worsens in Syria, the costs of supporting what 
could be a falling regime will be much higher for Hezbollah. Therefore, 
it is possible the group will revisit its policy to defend its core 
interests--protecting its arms supplies, maintaining its military 
deterrent posture vis-a-vis Israel, and aiding Iran should it come 
under attack.
    Without the continuous support of Iran and Syria, Hezbollah would 
not have been able to dominate Lebanese politics, build a state within 
a state, and become a formidable regional force. But the same ties that 
have transformed Hezbollah and increased its powers over the years have 
also brought significant costs to the organization in terms of lives, 
resources, reputation, and political standing both in Lebanon and the 
region. Hezbollah's military intervention in Syria is a clear example 
of how the group's strategic links to Damascus and Tehran, which have 
served it so well over the years, can also be a great burden.
                             opportunities
    The existing tensions within Hezbollah's camp are real, though they 
should not be exaggerated. Shi'a sentiment in Lebanon is still very 
much pro-Hezbollah and it would take a long time for Shi'ite dissent 
and dissatisfaction with the group's entry into Syria to shake its grip 
on the community. After all, Hezbollah has been nurturing these ties 
since 1982, providing the Lebanese Shi'a with social goods, a political 
voice, security, and a sense of empowerment. Nor is there a strong 
rival movement. Perhaps most important, the slaughter of minorities by 
the Islamic State and its bloodthirsty anti-Shi'ite rhetoric create a 
sense that Hezbollah had no choice but to aid Assad--that it was a case 
of kill or be killed.
    With every bomb that goes off in its stronghold--and with every 
loss of Shi'a life that is not caused by Israel-Hezbollah's control of 
its support base could wane, but it will not drastically diminish.\5\ 
Hezbollah's relations with the Shi'ite Amal and the Christian Free 
Patriotic Movement (FPM) are still robust. It is also possible that 
other Lebanese Christian political factions could strengthen relations 
with Hezbollah because they see it as a credible protector against 
Sunni extremists--if not the only one, given the relative weakness of 
the Lebanese army. The chances of a broader Hezbollah-Christian 
rapprochement in Lebanon are not great given the lingering mistrust, at 
least among the right-wing Christian factions, but they could increase 
should the Shi'ite party endorse the recent political initiative of 
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, which calls for the election of 
his old rival and FPM chief Michel Aoun as Lebanese president. Lebanon 
has been without a head of state--a position traditionally reserved for 
Maronite Christians--for nearly 2 years because its politicians have 
failed to resolve a broader political crisis that has paralyzed the 
country. If it sanctions Geagea's move, Hezbollah will be praised by an 
increasing number of Lebanese Christians for helping bring political 
relevance back to--and, in turn, ensure self-preservation of--a long-
marginalized and beleaguered Christian community in Lebanon.\6\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \5\ Bilal Y. Saab, ``Hezbollah Under Fire: Could the Bombing in 
Beirut Spell the End of the Shia Group?,'' Foreign Affairs, November 
19, 2013 https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/lebanon/2013-11-19/
hezbollah-under-fire.
    \6\ Bilal Y. Saab, ``Back to Lebanon's Future: The Political 
Revival of the Country's Christians,'' Foreign Affairs, January 26, 
2016 https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/lebanon/2016-01-26/back-
lebanons-future.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Assad's fate notwithstanding, Hezbollah's ties to Iran will likely 
remain intact, though the relationship will have to adapt to its 
changing environment. Unlike its pragmatic relationship with Syria, 
Hezbollah's organic partnership with Iran is based on deep trust and 
shared values and interests. Hezbollah looks for ideological and 
strategic guidance from Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 
who instructs his regime's intelligence institutions and elite military 
units to work closely with Hezbollah. Hezbollah has acquired more 
autonomy from Iran since the 1980s, and may currently be considered 
more of a partner than a surrogate, but the group still relies on 
Iranian training, weapons, and funding. While the overall numbers are 
unknown, the group likely receives anywhere between $100 million and 
$200 million annually from Iran--and this number often goes up in times 
of need.
    The shared interest of these two actors ensures that this 
relationship will survive in some form, regardless of the outcome of 
events in Syria. However, how the Iranian regime responds to changing 
dynamics in Syria will directly affect Hezbollah's future. Iran could 
instruct Hezbollah to continue the fight in Syria to try to maintain 
supply routes and create new allies. Hezbollah could also see itself 
assume a greater regional role in the service of Iranian interests, to 
compensate for the loss of Syria (Iraq is one obvious place where it 
might act given Hezbollah's long-standing links to Shi'a groups there 
and Iran's strong interests in Iraq). But all of this would come at the 
risk of overstretch, which could weaken Hezbollah at home. Not only 
would Hezbollah have to protect itself against a much more hostile 
environment in Syria, but it would also need to potentially guard 
against opportunistic local political actors who could exploit its 
relative weakness. While Hezbollah offers many benefits to Iran, 
including loyalty to its revolutionary ideology and projection of 
Shi'ite power in Arab lands, its biggest value is its military arsenal, 
which could be used in the event that Israel launches a war against 
Iran.
    Hezbollah made war and war made Hezbollah. In conflict after 
conflict, the organization has proven its prowess and shown itself a 
notch above other Middle Eastern militant groups--and even Arab state 
militaries. From 1985 to 2000, Hezbollah forces battled Israel in the 
security zone along the Israeli border, inflicting a steady stream of 
casualties that eventually led Israel to withdraw, marking the first 
time Arab arms defeated Israeli arms. Hezbollah has also launched 
rockets at Israel, and as the range of its weapons systems expanded, so 
did the concern of Israeli leaders. In 2006, Israel and Hezbollah 
fought for more than a month, with Hezbollah killing more than 160 
Israelis--heavy losses for the small and casualty-sensitive Jewish 
state. During the fight, Hezbollah demonstrated its military strength, 
ambushing Israeli armored forces and maintaining a rocket barrage in 
the face of Israeli air strikes and ground incursion. Hezbollah's 
population surged in the aftermath of that war, with its leader, Hassan 
Nasrallah, briefly becoming the most admired man in the Arab world.
    After the 2006 war and until the outbreak of the Syrian conflict, 
Hezbollah focused militarily on Israel, as both sides feared another 
war would break out. Iran helped rearm Hezbollah, making it even more 
formidable than before and replenishing (and improving) its rocket 
arsenals. Hezbollah training camps have models of Israeli streets and 
the organization otherwise prepares its forces for taking on Israel. 
Hezbollah maintains a vast network of tunnels to hide its forces and 
rocket launchers as well as secure communications, all in preparation 
for an Israeli strike. Hezbollah has roughly 20,000 men under arms, of 
which 5,000 are elite fighters. Hezbollah can call on thousands more in 
a pinch; it has deliberately kept the size of its forces limited to 
ensure a high level of training and commitment.
    Hezbollah began to intervene militarily in Syria in 2012. This was 
limited at first, but the growing desperation of the Assad regime 
forced Hezbollah to step up its involvement and justify its role. The 
Shi'ite group has sustained heavy losses, with perhaps a thousand dead 
and many more wounded, and veteran commanders counted among the 
casualties. Roughly 5,000 Hezbollah soldiers fight at a time, but the 
organization regularly rotates its forces to spread the burden evenly. 
Nevertheless, to keep its numbers up, Hezbollah deploys younger 
recruits who are obviously less experienced in warfare. Hezbollah has 
also changed its tactics. In battles in and around the Syrian town of 
Qusair in 2013, Hezbollah took heavy casualties as its forces directly 
assaulted dug-in Syrian rebel positions. In subsequent operations in 
the Qalamoun mountain area, however, Hezbollah forces slowly advanced 
and even let some rebels escape, in order to minimize further 
casualties.
    Hezbollah's fighting experience in Syria, while costly in terms of 
lives and resources, has provided numerous military benefits. Hezbollah 
is now a larger fighting force by at least 20 percent (although 15 
percent of the initial size is now operating in Syria), skilled in both 
conventional and urban warfare. The demands of war in Syria has made it 
more effective in recruiting soldiers from its own constituency and 
others, and subsequently in training them. Thousands of younger 
volunteers have undergone training in recent years in camps in southern 
Lebanon.\7\ The training lasts anywhere between 2 to 3 months and 
focuses on street battle and counterinsurgency tactics.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \7\ Bassem Mroue, ``Hezbollah recruiting push comes amid deeper 
role in Syria,'' Associated Press, December 18, 2015 http://
bigstory.ap.org/article/de8588cd81244ed58a7dd12e32ee18e2/hezbollah-
recruiting-push-covers-its-deeper-role-syria.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
                policy implications and recommendations
    Hezbollah is exhausted and perhaps overwhelmed, but it also sees 
light at the end of the Syrian tunnel. Equally important, it does not 
seem like its adversaries, domestic and foreign alike, are in a 
position to take advantage of its present struggles or make its life 
more difficult. This makes Hezbollah's uncertain transition from 
domestic hegemon to regional powerhouse less perilous and more 
achievable.
    In Lebanon, pro-Western and anti-Syrian politicians are unlikely to 
gain from Hezbollah's travails. They are divided within, and have shown 
themselves unable to sustain mass support. Rather, it is militia 
leaders and extremists who are likely to grow more powerful. The more 
than 1.2 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon--a little more than a 
quarter of the total population--are a wild card. They might become 
radicalized, and their camps could become a sanctuary for fighters in 
Syria. It is even possible that, over time, they might become a violent 
player in Lebanon's politics itself, as the Palestinians did before 
them. This is a particular concern for Hezbollah, as the majority of 
the refugees in Lebanon are Sunni Muslims who see Hezbollah as the 
friend of their enemy.
    In Israel, some in the government might see opportunity in 
launching a devastating attack against Hezbollah at a time when it 
appears vulnerable and overstretched. The country's military leadership 
also is keeping a close eye on the threat posed by the group's new 
albeit modest presence in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. But most 
of Israel's generals have no appetite for another round of fighting 
with Hezbollah. That is because they realize that the potential costs 
of such a military adventure and the risk of catastrophic escalation 
have dramatically increased.
    Hezbollah is battle-weary and it cannot easily take on a new foe, 
especially one such as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). But it is also 
battle-hardened. As previously mentioned, the group has learned new 
tricks, and it has been warning since the end of the last conflict in 
August 2006 that should there be another war, it will conduct cross-
border operations--a new element to its military strategy.\8\ Hassan 
Nasrallah's threat to dispatch units into Galilee bolsters his previous 
carefully-phrased warnings of what Israel can expect from Hezbollah in 
the next war. Those include a vow in February 2010 to rocket Tel Aviv's 
Ben Gurion airport if Israel bombs Beirut's international airport, in 
addition to a declaration by Nasrallah 3 months later that his group 
can and will attack shipping along Israel's entire coastline if the 
Israeli navy shells Lebanese infrastructure. That the range of 
Hezbollah's rockets and missiles puts all of Israel in danger makes 
Nasrallah's threats more credible.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \8\ Nicholas Blanford and Bilal Y. Saab, ``Hezbollah on Offense,'' 
The National Interest, March 8, 2011 http://nationalinterest.org/
commentary/hezbollah-offense-4982.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The border with Israel has been quiet since 2006, and the drain of 
the Syrian conflict makes Hezbollah even more cautious. Israel, for its 
part, is trying to walk a fine line. On the one hand, it wants to 
prevent transfers of Syrian and Iranian arms to Hezbollah, particularly 
for systems like surface-to-air missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles, or 
even chemical weapons that might significantly increase the threat to 
Israel. To that end, it has at times attacked Hezbollah forces 
transferring weapons, leading Hezbollah to conduct limited attacks on 
the Golan Heights in response, using Syrian territory as a base. On the 
other hand, Israel is in no mood for a broader clash that could involve 
Iran. Too many strikes on Hezbollah, or forcing Hezbollah into a 
position where its political standing depends on a fight with Israel, 
would be a self-defeating action for Israel, bringing on the war it 
hopes to deter.
    Nevertheless, conflict might still break out: Few predicted the 
2006 war, for example. Given that Israel regularly hits Hezbollah 
weapons shipments, the chances of escalation remain considerable. 
Israel might miscalculate about whether a particular strike would 
result in escalation, while Hezbollah might think a limited response 
would not lead Israel to up the ante. Much would depend on the domestic 
political position of both the Israeli government and of Hezbollah, and 
neither one has shown much aptitude for understanding the other's 
politics. In addition, Hezbollah has positioned its forces to help Iran 
deter Israel. Should Iran become embroiled in a conflict involving 
Israel, Hezbollah is prepared to act. Of all the unknowns regarding the 
next war, the one certainty is that it will be of such magnitude and 
lethality that it will make the month-long confrontation of 2006 look 
like a Sunday afternoon stroll in the park.
    There is no end in sight to the conflict in Syria, and the growing 
sectarianism and risk of violence in Lebanon will put Syrian 
jihadists--not America or Israel--at the center of Hezbollah's radar, 
regardless of its rhetoric. The military drain of keeping thousands of 
fighters in supply and well-trained will crowd out other organizational 
priorities, and Hezbollah will be perceived as even more of a sectarian 
actor in Lebanon. Hezbollah will have to rely more on rockets and para-
military activities as an asymmetric response.
    Hezbollah does maintain its capacity for acting internationally. In 
recent years, Hezbollah used terrorist tactics to respond to what it 
sees as Israeli aggression against itself or against Iran. For example, 
Hezbollah is suspected to have struck Israel and Jewish facilities in 
Argentina in the 1990s, in response to what it considered Israeli 
escalation in the border war in Lebanon. Hezbollah also is believed to 
have attempted several international terrorist attacks against Israeli 
targets in Europe and Asia after Israel allegedly killed Imad Mughniyeh 
in 2008, the Shi'ite party's most senior military commander and head of 
external operations.
    Despite Hezbollah's role in terrorism and anti-American rhetoric, 
the organization, by default, shares several interests with the United 
States--though both sides would be loath to admit it. Both actors are 
at war with the Islamic State and other Sunni extremists, and both want 
to prop up Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Abadi's government in Baghdad. 
Even within Lebanon, while Washington supports Hezbollah's political 
rivals in the anti-Syrian March 14 coalition, it recognizes that 
Hezbollah is helping hold the country together, and that either an 
Islamic State expansion or a descent into chaos would be worse than the 
status quo. Open cooperation, however, is politically out of the 
question and not desirable for both parties. Indeed, a slight shift 
could turn suspicion into conflict.
    The U.S.-led coalition in Syria is focused on Sunni extremists, and 
thus is indirectly helping the Assad regime, Hezbollah's ally. Yet, if 
Washington decides to live up to its anti-Assad rhetoric and take on 
the Syrian regime as well as Sunni jihadists, it will also be taking on 
Hezbollah. Hezbollah's hostility to Israel remains strong, another 
point of friction. In addition, Hezbollah is more in bed with Iran now 
than ever before, and any military action against Tehran must seriously 
factor in Hezbollah's response.
    Any serious assessment of Hezbollah's terrorist threat to the U.S. 
homeland, and whether it might increase or decrease following the 
lifting of international sanctions against Iran, must look at both the 
intentions and capabilities of the group. Nobody in the U.S. Government 
doubts the group's terrorist capabilities. Indeed, there is a healthy 
appreciation within the U.S. intelligence community for what Hezbollah 
is capable of. But it is on the issue of intentions where there might 
be some debate, although the overwhelming majority of analysts and 
officials I have known and briefed on Hezbollah throughout my career 
concur that the group has no interest in striking on U.S. soil.
    While Hezbollah did hit U.S. interests in the region, it has never 
launched an attack on U.S. territory. Two main factors explain this 
record: First, Hezbollah's international activities are strictly 
controlled by Iranian paramilitary and intelligence agencies. Indeed, 
Hezbollah's so-called external operations wing is an extension of the 
Iranian Quds Force. So, Hezbollah neither strategizes nor acts alone 
when it comes to global operations. It does so under the strategic 
guidance and close supervision of Iran. In short, the ``Hezbollah 
international terrorism problem'' is, essentially, an ``Iran 
international terrorism problem.'' In other words, with Hezbollah, 
unlike terror caused by the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, there is a 
clear return address, and it is Tehran. Second, Hezbollah has no 
interest in perpetuating terrorism directly against the United States, 
and is fully aware of both its limitations and the steep price it would 
pay for attacking the United States. This is a fight it has no desire 
in picking.
    Could the group's calculus with regard to the United States change 
in the foreseeable future? A lot would depend on the evolution of 
relations between the United States and Iran. While there is some 
alignment of interests in the Middle East between the 2 countries, and 
inter-governmental communication seems to be improving following the 
conclusion of the Nuclear Deal, ties are still tense and unpredictable 
due to high mistrust and many other conflicting interests in the 
region. Should relations take a dramatic turn for the worse over 
escalation following, for example, a grave incident at sea in the Arab 
Gulf; an inadvertent clash on the ground in Iraq or elsewhere; or a 
violation by Tehran of the Nuclear Deal--Iran, due to its massive 
conventional inferiority relative to the United States, might employ 
asymmetric tools and particularly terrorism to defend itself in the 
event of confrontation. Hezbollah could very well be one of those 
tools. But even under this scenario, Hezbollah would still weigh its 
options and think twice before deciding to take on the most powerful 
nation on earth.
    Hezbollah is officially designated by the U.S. Government as a 
terrorist organization. Therefore, there are clear constraints 
regarding what Washington can do with the party. In essence, the United 
States does not have a policy toward the group beyond refusing to 
directly talk to or deal with it. As I wrote almost 6 years ago,\9\ the 
most effective strategic option the United States can and should pursue 
with regard to Hezbollah is containment. At the end of the day, the 
party is a product of Lebanon's internal weakness; Iran's intervention 
in Lebanese domestic politics; and the on-going conflict with Israel. 
The United States has neither the desire nor the capacity to solve all 
these complex problems on its own. The best thing it can do is continue 
to help build state capacity in Lebanon and bolster the country's 
internal strength by providing military assistance to the Lebanese 
Armed Forces. This process of state-building, should it produce 
tangible and lasting results, would ultimately weaken Hezbollah's 
rationale for keeping its arms.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \9\ Bilal Y. Saab, Levantine Reset: Toward A More Viable U.S. 
Strategy For Lebanon, Analysis Paper, Number 21 (Washington, DC: 
Brookings Institution, July 2010) http://www.brookings.edu//media/
research/files/papers/2010/7/lebanon-saab/07_lebanon_saab.- pdf.

    Mr. King. Thank you, Mr. Saab.
    I thank all of you for your testimony.
    My first question will be to you, Mr. Saab: Do you think it 
is just that Iran is just a patron of Hezbollah? I mean, how 
much control does Iran have over Hezbollah? Assume there is a 
crisis between the United States and Iran. Could Iran direct 
Hezbollah to carry out an attack?
    You said Hezbollah, it would have to decide whether or not 
they want to take action against the United States. How much 
leeway would they have if Iran came down and said, ``We want 
you to do this?''
    Mr. Saab. That is an interesting question. I believe that, 
over time, Hezbollah has gained some kind of autonomy from its 
main patron, but only on specific issues. Those do not include 
global operations. So, on those issues, I would say there is a 
lot of room for maneuvering for the organization, politically, 
inside Lebanon. They run their own show in Lebanon, to be 
honest.
    As far as regional interventions and the intervention in 
Syria, I would say there is significant pressure coming from 
Tehran, asking it to intervene on its behalf to save the regime 
of the Syrian president.
    As far as global operations, I would say they work in 
consultation, very, very closely. If they were to be asked to 
intervene globally on their behalf, I would say that, yes, they 
would think about it twice.
    But, at the end of the day, the partnership is too strong. 
This source of support is so crucial for its own survival and 
its own well-being, that I would suspect, at the end of the 
day, that they would basically accept whatever the Iranians 
would ask them to do, on a global level.
    Mr. King. Could that include an attack on the homeland?
    Mr. Saab. It is gonna be a tough decision, but if it really 
comes down to this, and we witness a serious escalation of 
relations between Iran and the United States, there is growing 
regional instability, everything is at stake, I suspect so, 
sir.
    Mr. King. I would like to, I guess, ask all of the 
witnesses this. As I said, I opposed the Iran agreement. But, 
quite frankly, I thought we would at least see 6 months to a 
year of good behavior on Iran's part, at least to go through 
the motions to show that there was some salutary effect from 
this agreement, that Iran was going to try to become a 
respected member of the community of nations.
    Yet, as you mentioned, they seem to be going out of their 
way, you know, since the agreement was reached, to almost 
provoke the United States, probably most notably with the 
seizure of the sailors and then today, I said, you know, the 
release of the photos.
    First of all, I will ask you, were you surprised by that? 
Second, what is their intention in doing this?
    Mr. Kahn. Well, thank you for that question. Unfortunately, 
I am not surprised by that. I think there is, actually, a very 
simple reason that Iran has continued its aggression, because I 
think it knows that it can do so. They know that they are 
unlikely to suffer meaningful consequences for doing so.
    After all, Iran now has extraordinary leverage over us. 
They understand how important the Nuclear Deal is to us, and 
they know full well that we will take dramatic steps to ensure 
its survival. We will be willing to tolerate an extraordinary 
amount of aggression on its part, if we had to choose between 
the deal and stopping its regional aggression.
    So I think Iran has recognized that, and I think its 
ruthlessly exploiting it. So I don't think this should really 
come as too much of a surprise.
    Mr. Berman. I agree completely with Mr. Kahn. I think there 
is an argument to be made, even if one is a proponent of the 
Nuclear Deal, that it could have been negotiated more 
judiciously, to spread out the economic benefit that Iran 
receives over the lifetime, over the next decade, the lifetime 
of the agreement.
    As it stands, Iran has received, already, and is receiving 
the lion's share of economic benefit from the JCPOA, both in 
terms of the near-term cash infusion of the $100 billion that 
have been released, but also of the rush by countries in Europe 
and countries in Asia to re-engage with Iran on non-oil trade, 
which is going to stabilize the Iranian economy further, as we 
move into the future.
    This provides, I think, economic backing for precisely the 
political calculus that Mr. Kahn talked about, which is that 
the Iranians understand that, while empirically they are the 
weaker party in this negotiation, for political reasons the 
administration is far more invested in the preservation of this 
agreement then the Iranian regime, itself, actually is. As a 
result, they feel like they can act with relative impunity.
    Mr. King. Mr. Saab.
    Mr. Saab. Mr. Chairman, I have little to add to those 
excellent responses. I would just emphasize the fact that, you 
know, the Iranian regime has had some interesting divisions 
within it.
    I wasn't really surprised by what happened with the 
sailors, because those types of activities--and its--typically, 
its regional involvements and its foreign policy are--is 
controlled by, I hate the terms, hardline and moderate. It is 
all relative. It is more like those who really oppose the deal 
and those who endorse it.
    Those still control Iranian foreign policy. How that 
tension plays out in the foreseeable future is something really 
worth watching, for sure.
    Mr. King. Okay. Mr. Higgins.
    Mr. Higgins. Thank you, very much.
    First on the issue of the Nuclear Deal, and I think, 
however imperfect it is, the objective is something that 
everybody agreed with, and that is bolstering deterrents, 
keeping Iran from having that breakout capability.
    Prior to the deal, it was estimated that the breakout time 
was a couple of months. Under the deal, it appears to be about 
a year, perhaps more, over a 15-year period. A lot of 
speculation, justifiably so, and skepticism about what happens 
after that 15-year period.
    A couple of notes on that. Dennis Ross and David Petraeus 
advanced an argument that the administration should provide 
Israel with additional weapons, toward the goal of bolstering 
deterrents in the region, keeping Iran in check, relative to 
what their regional ambitions may be.
    In doing so, they specifically referenced a 30,000-pound 
massive ordinance penetrator, otherwise known as MOP, and the 
means to carry it, be it a B-2 or a B-52. First of all, your 
thoughts on that? Anybody or everybody.
    Mr. Kahn. I think that would be a wise course of action. As 
I said, Iran is doing what it is doing, because it knows and it 
feels that it is in charge. It feels that it can get away with 
it.
    I think, if we are going to effect a change in Iranian 
behavior, we need to change their cost-benefit analysis. We 
need to send them the message that there will be meaningful 
consequences for their actions.
    I think, to raise those stakes for them, to send them that 
message, I think it would be very wise for us to empower and 
strengthen our allies in the region, such as Israel, in order 
to tell them that, if they do try something aggressive, there 
may very well be significant consequences.
    Mr. Berman. Congressman Higgins, I take your point on the 
Nuclear Deal and, sort of, the comparative merits and the flaws 
therein. I would only point out that, as I try to lay out in my 
written statement, what we are looking at is a deal that has a 
scope that is intended by the administration to be tactical 
and, yet, benefits for the Iranian regime that are truly 
strategic in nature.
    That imbalance, I think, empowers a great deal of the 
skepticism about the long-term benefit of the deal, vis-a-vis 
the balance between the United States and Iran. The second 
point, on the additional weapons for Israel, I concur, as far 
as it goes. However, that doesn't amount to a strategy for 
dealing with Iran.
    Certainly, it is necessary to provide reassurances to not 
only Israel, but also our allies in the Gulf, that they are 
more capable than they were before of preventing rising Iranian 
aggression or rising Iranian adventurism.
    But that shouldn't be seen as a substitute for having a 
strategy, an American strategy, for managing the consequences 
of the deal, because, while the debate over the agreement, as 
you know, in this chamber and in others, over the summer, was 
very rancorous, the deal has passed.
    We are now looking at a situation where, over the next 
several years, the impact of the agreement is going to put 
certain Iranian behaviors into play. Our job, I believe, is to 
track those behaviors and to craft a strategy to respond to 
them. Such weapon supplies may be part of that strategy, but 
they are not the sum total.
    Mr. Saab. Fully agree with Mr. Berman's assertion. I would 
like to remind you, Mr. Higgins, that, you know, Iran is 
conventionally inferior, in many ways, relative to our partners 
in the Gulf and also to Israel. They feel, one of the missile 
defenses in the world, even though Iran's ballistic missile 
capabilities are growing.
    I think that there is a good understanding among officials 
in the Department of Defense that deterrence on that level is 
working just fine. Now, where we have done not a very good job 
is at deterring Iran from actually using its asymmetric tools 
in the region. Now, they have been pretty good at that.
    That requires, exactly like Mr. Berman said, a 
comprehensive strategy. They have been quite effective at it 
for a very long time, and there is a reason why they use it. It 
is because, once again, they are inferior when it comes to 
conventional capabilities.
    A lot of ways that our partners in the Gulf could respond 
to that. I think it starts, really, with internal strength, 
building their special operations forces. I think they finally 
get it. Mr. Carter has been emphasizing this for quite some 
time. His message has been well-received. But it will take 
time. It will take time, because they are not really used to 
that.
    Mr. Higgins. Yes. Let me ask you this. You guys are 
relatively young, you know, well-schooled in this region, its 
politics, its history. You don't buy the argument that Iran has 
the potential to change over the next 10 years?
    I mean, you really look at the hardliners, which is not a 
majority of the population, but they probably, at the moment, 
disproportionately influence the politics of Iran and how that 
is communicated to the Western world.
    But there is also an argument that Iran, a population of 80 
million people, feels humiliated the rest of the world has 
moved on, beyond them, fairly well-educated, young.
    You know, Rouhani, he really is a reformer. Now, I am not 
saying that, you know, a reformer within, you know, the Western 
tradition, but clearly a reformer. He ran against the policies 
that created sanctions in the first place. The Supreme Leader, 
Khamenei, certainly could have forced a runoff, given the 
corrupt nature of the politics in Iran. He didn't. Rouhani was 
elected and said that the economic situation was even worse 
than he thought it was, as a candidate, upon taking election, 
taking office.
    So I just think, you know, it is not, you know, it is not 
black and white. There are no absolutes there. You know, there 
is--you know, I think you have gotta take a nuanced approach to 
it.
    You listen to the young scholars coming out of Iran, they 
speak of an Iran that wants to be part of the rest of the 
world, economically, culturally, and otherwise, because, you 
know, social media, Twitter, the internet is not only used for, 
you know, organizational purposes, in helping to create 
revolutions, but, also, for aspirational purposes.
    So, even more, young people are seeing how everybody else 
is living, and they want to be part of that. So I think we are 
at a real critical time in Iranian history and politics, as to 
what Iran is going to be in the next 10 years.
    Just a final thought on this. I saw where, you know, the 
father of the revolution, his grandson was trying to get into 
the general assembly, which selects the supreme leader. He was 
rejected, Khomenei. They said that he was too young and too 
inexperienced. The average age of the assembly that selects the 
supreme leader is 80.
    Well, at the conclusion of this Nuclear Deal, Iran could be 
a very different place, with different leaders who have a 
different view of what, ultimately, Iran wants to be in the 
future.
    I know I went over.
    Mr. Kahn. I think you raise a very important question, but 
I think if you look at how events have actually unfolded, since 
President Rouhani has came to power, there is really very 
little evidence to suggest that he is a reformer in any 
meaningful sense.
    Human rights abuses in the country has, arguably, gotten 
worse over the least 2 years. Iran still executes more people 
per capita than almost any other country in the world. There 
has been no improvement, in terms of freedom of speech, in 
terms of freedom of religion.
    Iranians are still routinely imprisoned, in Iran's 
notorious prisons, for simply speaking their mind, for 
practicing their religion, for criticizing the regime. These 
are things that are still the norm in Iran today.
    So I don't see it. So, despite the image that I think 
President Rouhani has taken great pains to cultivate during 
this time, as a reformer, the policies in the regime have 
really not reflected that aspiration.
    I would also point out that, even if President Rouhani were 
inclined to make the kinds of reforms we would like to see, his 
ability to do so is actually fairly limited. The chief entities 
responsible for Iran's regional aggression and domestic 
oppression is the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, also known 
as, basically, the regime's Praetorian Guard.
    They don't report to President Rouhani. They report to 
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. In the end, President Rouhani's 
power is, really, as a result, very fairly limited. Therefore, 
I think it is a mistake to suggest that the current regime has 
really changed in any way.
    I see very little evidence to suggest that that change is 
really on the horizon. I think, in fact, when you look at how 
the regime--the regime's aggression has increased both 
domestically and abroad, just in the 7 months since the Nuclear 
Deal, I think that creates a very grim picture.
    I think it is, unfortunately, a warning of things to come, 
to which I would also add one final point, which is that, you 
know, over the last 7 months, Iran really had every incentive 
to stay on the good side of the international community, 
because they hadn't yet received sanctions relief.
    So you would have thought that, given how much of an 
incentive they had to stay on the good side of the West, they 
would have, perhaps, restrained themselves. But, in fact, they 
have not done so.
    I think that begs the question, if they are willing to 
provoke us in this way, when they have every incentive to not 
do so, how much more so are they going to be willing to provoke 
us when they have already received their sanctions relief and 
our economic leverage has dramatically diminished?
    Mr. Berman. Mr. Higgins, if I may, I agree completely that 
Iran finds itself either in the midst of or at the cusp of a 
critical time, but I would focus on slightly different data 
points in explaining my views on this.
    Iran is a country of 81 million people. Two-thirds of the 
Iranian population is under the age of 35, which means that 
they weren't alive at the time of the Islamic Revolution. It 
means that the ideological consistency of the regime wanes over 
time, the more people are born that do not recall Ayatollah 
Khomeini and the founding of the revolution.
    This is significant, because what you saw in the summer of 
2009, after the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the 
Iranian presidency, was really a groundswell of potential 
transformation, right? We are on the--we are hoping that this 
Nuclear Deal will precipitate lightening to strike twice, 
essentially, to sort-of to catalyze this sort-of grassroots 
movement.
    But, if we look at what the Iranian regime, itself, is 
saying and is doing, it is very clear that they view the 
agreement not as a vehicle for reconciliation or moderation, 
but as a vehicle for strengthening precisely that ideological 
regime that is increasingly aged and increasingly rickety.
    As a result, you are seeing the emergence of an increasing 
strain of ultra-nationalism within Iran. The debate is not 
between reformists and conservatives within Iran. It is between 
strains of conservatives within Iran about the true position of 
the Islamic Republic.
    The consensus in their debate rests squarely on the fact 
that Iran should be, by its rights, by its historical destiny, 
a regional pole of power. The Iranian regime, irrespective of 
the tactical rhetoric that it assumes, is acting on that 
conviction, in the macro sense.
    Mr. Saab. Very briefly, Mr. Higgins, the story of Iran 
really is nothing but tragic. The fact that, as you very well-
described, the population is--I don't have the most recent 
polls, but predominantly pro-Western, excited about the world, 
and everything that it offers, and then a leadership that has 
hijacked the country since 1979.
    It is hard to really see a scenario, any time in the 
foreseeable future, where leadership becomes, you know, more 
cooperative, less hard-line in its policies, both at home and 
abroad. You know, if there were to be some types of changes of 
the leadership becoming less ideological, but still, obviously, 
problematic in many ways, I think a realistic scenario, and 
even that is still far-fetched, would be something resembling 
the Chinese system, less ideological, more open economically, 
but, of course, still, at home, politically closed.
    You know, an X factor, which Mr. Berman has mentioned, is 
the--Mr. Khamenei, himself, the leader, the Supreme Leader, 
should he pass sometime soon, that is gonna create a major 
shock to the system. How that will unfold, I think, is 
definitely worth watching.
    Mr. King. Several more questions.
    Brian, I know you have to leave. Did you have any more 
questions you want to ask?
    Mr. Higgins. No, I am good. Thank you. Thank you.
    Mr. King. Okay. Thank you.
    On the question of Syria, assuming that what the 
administration is looking for is that negotiations do go 
forward, that Russia has an influence in removing Assad or 
somehow getting Assad out of the picture, or at least wants to 
do that, how much control do you think Russia would have over 
Iran and Hezbollah, and bring that about, if Hezbollah did 
realize, or did see that it may lose a center of its operations 
by having Assad moved out? So, I guess, we will go across.
    Mr. Kahn. Thank you for that question. I think it is 
important to recognize what Iran's goals really, in Syria and 
Iraq, are. For Iran, it is not simply a question of Sunni 
versus Shiites, with respect to that conflict. For Iran, it is 
also--a key part of that conflict is not about defeating ISIS, 
per se, but really, it is a matter of rivalry. They are seeking 
control of the same territory.
    That is the key reason why Iran is involved in this 
conflict right now. That is the key reason that it is 
supporting the Assad regime. For Iran, the Assad regime 
provides the key foothold for its presence in--for its 
influence and presence in the Levant. It provides the avenue 
for which it can support Hezbollah.
    Without that regime and without that ability, Iran's 
ability to exert leverage in the region, to which conflict 
against Israel would be dramatically reduced. So, I think that 
what we can expect to see over the coming weeks and over the 
coming months is Iran's continuing effort to ensure that the 
Assad regime remains in power for as long as it can.
    I mean, I think it is not a coincidence that it was only 10 
days after the nuclear agreement was signed, on July 14, 2015, 
that Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the IRGC Quds Force, 
traveled to Moscow to, perhaps, arrange and to have discussions 
about Russia's involvement in the region and its participation 
in the civil war.
    It is not a coincidence that it happened so shortly after 
the Nuclear Deal, because Iran understood that the Nuclear Deal 
was going to give it room to expand its circle of operations 
and to deter meaningful consequences for its actions, given the 
leverage that the Nuclear Deal provided it. That is, of course, 
in addition to the sanction relief that the Nuclear Deal gave 
it.
    So, I think, in the coming months, we will expect to see 
Iran's and Russia's partnership continue. That, of course, I 
think, will be very harmful, of course, and, really, serve to 
really prolong the civil war in Syria in a way that I think is 
very much--is very contrary to our interests and to the 
stability of the region.
    Mr. King. I can see what Iran wants, and my own belief, it 
is probably likely to go in the direction you are talking 
about. I guess, I am saying if, for whatever reason, Russia, 
for its own interests, decides that Assad should go, would Iran 
and Hezbollah--what would they do in that case?
    I--basically, Iran has brought Russia in, or has encouraged 
Russia to be involved. What would they do if Russia, in effect, 
you know, goes to a policy which is against Iran's and 
Hezbollah's interests? We can go down the line. Mr. Kahn, you 
want to----
    Mr. Kahn. Sure. I think we can expect to see that Iran is 
going to try to back the Assad regime, really, for as long as 
it can, regardless of Russia and Hezbollah's actions, because, 
as I said, for Iran, Syria is its foremost client. It is its 
most important regional partner, and it is the key mechanism 
for which influence--to exert its influence in the region.
    I think, if the Assad regime were to fall, from Iran's 
perspective, that would be a catastrophe. I don't anticipate 
that simply if--obviously, if Russia were to withdraw its 
support for the Assad regime, I think--I don't think Iran would 
be particularly pleased about that. But I don't think it would 
necessarily, simply to please Russia, I don't think it would 
necessarily change its goals.
    Mr. King. Mr. Berman.
    Mr. Berman. Mr. Chair, so, let me try to tackle this----
    Mr. King. Sure, yes.
    Mr. Berman [continuing]. Slightly differently, from the 
Russian perspective. I think it is necessary to understand that 
Russia, in Syria, is operating from a rather complex set of 
variables that it is trying to solve. One of them, an 
overriding one, which doesn't get a lot of press, is the fact 
that Russia has its own Islamist problem.
    Fully a quarter, the Russian Intelligence Service 
estimates, fully a quarter of the foreign fighters that have 
joined the Islamic State to date are either from the Russian 
Federation, itself, or from the countries of the former Soviet 
Union.
    Russian is now the third-most popular language within the 
Caliphate, after Arabic and English. So, for the Russians, I 
think the strategy is, at least in part, to go abroad and fight 
those jihadists there, rather than wait for them to come home.
    At the same time, the Russians are affected by what Iran is 
doing. It is not a coincidence that in the months running up to 
Qassem Soleimani's trip to Moscow, to visit with Vladimir 
Putin, the Syrian regime had lost something like one-sixth of 
its territory, of the territory that it held.
    Simply put, Iranian support was insufficient for Assad to 
hold the line, and Russian assistance was necessary. So, this, 
I think, sets up a paradigm, by which the Russian government is 
involved in Syria in a way that, at least in the near term, is 
intended to prop up the Assad regime.
    Over the longer term, the Russians want a settlement, 
whether Assad is part of it or not, that is favorable to their 
interests, including to their Islamist problem. Whether or not 
that mitigates in favor of continued Russian-Iranian 
cooperation over the long term, over Syria, I think remains to 
be seen. It certainly is generating cooperation now, and there 
may be competition later.
    Mr. King. Thank you.
    Mr. Saab.
    Mr. Saab. Very briefly, Mr. Chairman. What are the Russian 
red lines and what are the Iranian red lines in Syria? I am not 
an expert, really, on Russia, but I will just provide some 
thoughts.
    For the Iranians, I really think it is a friendly regime in 
Damascus that preserves the supply lines to Hezbollah and the 
weapons depots that it has stored inside Syria. It is really 
crucial for the Iranians for Hezbollah to play a potent 
military deterrent role vis-a-vis Israel, and the Syrian 
connection is quite important.
    I think the Syrian president is quite salvageable. I don't 
think, really, it is critical for the Iranians, or the 
Russians, as a matter of fact, for him to stay in power. It is 
just that, for now, it is much easier to keep him, because he 
has preserved their interests quite nicely.
    If there were to be an alternative that would provide the 
same set of services, I think that they would be amenable to 
that, of course, on the condition that the price that they are 
asking for would be met.
    What are the Russian red lines? I agree with Mr. Berman. I 
think it is a government in Damascus that fights terrorist 
groups, to have links to rebels in Chechnya. Any other 
consideration, really, is a preference of Russia, not really a 
core priority.
    There has been this argument that we might have, you know, 
the capacity to try to create a wedge between the Iranians and 
the Russians in Syria and try to exploit any gap between the 
two. Quite frankly, we haven't done a very good job at it thus 
far, for, I think, two reasons.
    One, it is not that easy, really, to define and identify 
what is the gap between the two. I think there is a nice 
division of labor here, between the Iranians and the Russians, 
in terms of their activities in Syria. One is committing ground 
troops, the other is, obviously, by air power.
    There seems to be quite an intense consultation between the 
2 countries about the future of the country, as Mr. Berman has 
described.
    Mr. King. Thank you.
    If I could bring you back to the United States. I guess it 
was 2011 when there was the attempted--or the planned attack in 
Washington on the Saudi ambassador and blowing up the 
restaurant, et cetera.
    Has there been any conventional wisdom among the 
intelligence community, excuse me, that Iran would not attempt 
an attack here in the homeland? Obviously, there was one at 
that time planned.
    Do you see circumstances in the immediate future, or even 
in the near future, where Iran would be willing to carry out an 
attack on the U.S. homeland?
    Mr. Kahn. I think what we could expect to see more is an 
effort on Iran's part to engage in more incremental 
provocations. I don't think Iran is necessarily interested in 
triggering the kind of conflict--or to say engaging in a 
provocation that would force the United States to--that force 
it politically to have a strong response.
    I think what we will see, instead, is a sense of a 
symmetry, of a symmetric conflict. In other words, if you look 
at the kind of things Iran has been doing, over the last 7 
months, from the ballistic missile tests to the captures of the 
U.S. sailors, these are actions that are an effort to humiliate 
the United States, to exert its authority, to say that the 
United States is not going to be able to influence them.
    But they are not the kind of things which are, necessarily, 
going to trigger a full-scale conflict. I don't think Iran is, 
necessarily, interested right now in having that kind of full-
scale conflict.
    So I think what we--is more likely is that we are going to 
continue to see more like a war of attrition, smaller-scale 
steps that would wear down the United States over time without 
triggering a kind of full-scale conflict.
    Having said all that, you know, you never know. It is 
certainly possible that Iran could miscalculate. It is 
certainly possible that, if there is a new--the next president 
will have a different sense of strategic calculations, in terms 
of the way it wants to respond to Iran. That, in turn, could 
affect Iran's calculus.
    So I wouldn't rule anything out. I think we can expect to 
see Iran not take the kind of steps that would be too 
spectacular or too catastrophic, but one which would still keep 
the United States on its toes and threaten its interests in the 
region in a very provocative way.
    Mr. Berman. Mr. Chairman, I actually think that that is one 
of the most germane questions to ask in the context of the 
authorities of this committee, of this subcommittee. As we are 
looking at Iran's capabilities to hold American interests and 
hold the U.S. homeland at risk, I think it is necessary to go 
back to that incident that you mentioned, the October 2011 
attempted assassination of Saudi envoy Adel al-Jubeir, here in 
Washington.
    The debate that was generated, as a result, centered, I 
think, a great deal on Iranian decision making. How--what was 
Iran doing? Was this simply brinksmanship? Did Iran 
miscalculate? I think that is a fundamental misreading of how 
the Iranian Supreme Leader wields power.
    The Iranian supreme leader is not a micromanager. He is a 
balancer. You see this, as he plays off different factions 
within his own body politics, but you also see this by--because 
the Iranian military, both the conventional military, the 
Artesh, and the clerical army, the Revolutionary Guard, tend to 
act in ways broadly consonant with what they think the supreme 
leader wants.
    The attack against--or the attempted plot to assassinate 
Adel al-Jubeir was carried out by elements of the Revolutionary 
Guard, resident in Latin America, working through the Los Zetas 
cartel in Mexico.
    That was not an order that was dictated down from Tehran, 
but it was certainly an order that was inspired by what the 
regional IRGC commanders thought the supreme leader wanted.
    I think, this gets us to where we are today. What I am 
concerned about, looking at the track record of Iranian 
behavior since the passage of the JCPOA, is that it hasn't 
instilled a climate of cooperation, of reconciliation with the 
West. It has instilled a climate of defiance. Iran is trying to 
demonstrate that it is a regional hegemon and is willing to act 
globally against American interests.
    In that climate, it is very possible that elements, 
operational elements of Iranian proxies, including Hezbollah, 
may take it upon themselves to try to operationalize what they 
think the Supreme Leader wants.
    The potential for miscalculation and the potential for 
danger there, I think, is probably more significant than we 
acknowledge.
    Mr. Saab. Well, as you know, Mr. Chairman, the intelligence 
community will tell you that we can't predict the future, but 
we can try to reduce the uncertainty. So it is, certainly, not 
unthinkable that this would happen, but I would still say that 
is unlikely, for a number of reasons.
    As I mentioned in my earlier testimony, it is primarily 
something like this would happen as a result of really massive 
escalation in political relations between Iran and the United 
States. Let me just mention a couple of scenarios.
    Maybe an incident at sea, in the Iranian Gulf, that would 
escalate. All of a sudden, it is existential stakes for Iran. 
It would lash out. Given its massive conventional inferiority, 
it would use terrorism, whether it is in the homeland or core 
U.S. strategic interests abroad.
    Maybe an inadvertent clash on the ground in Iraq or 
elsewhere, or maybe even a clear violation by Iran of the 
Nuclear Deal. Of course, we would have to respond to that. Then 
one thing leads to another.
    What happened in Washington with the attempt at the life of 
the Saudi ambassador, quite frankly, to me, it was very 
surprising. It was a very bold operation. Thank God, it was 
foiled. Could this happen again? Possibly.
    It is not really an insignificant detail to say that the 
target was not a U.S. strategic target. It was a Saudi 
official. Of course, again, in Washington, in a very crowded 
area, which, once again, was very surprising to me, the fact 
that they had decided to pull that off in the heart of the 
capital.
    But this is, once again, this is a very pragmatic regime 
that is very much aware of its own vulnerabilities and its own 
limitations. Now, could the voices that are the most extreme in 
Iran call the shots for something like this? It is certainly 
possible, but, once again, I would say it would result 
following clear and very dangerous escalation between the two 
sides, over a number of scenarios that I just mentioned to you.
    Mr. King. At least publicly, there has been the consensus 
in the intelligence community and the law enforcement 
community, I believe, that Hezbollah, in this country, is 
mainly fundraising, at this stage, that they are not overtly 
planning attacks within the United States.
    Assuming, for whatever reason, let's say there was a number 
of top Iranian officials were killed and the Iranians believed 
the U.S. was behind it, or the world thought the United States 
was behind it, is there a button they can press to unleash 
Hezbollah on this country?
    In other words, is Hezbollah--do you believe there are 
Hezbollah elements in this country, who could respond to an 
order from Iran? Attack within this country, not our interests 
overseas, our interests here?
    Mr. Saab. Sure. Their presence has been well-documented. I 
am very well aware of what law enforcement agencies in the 
United States have been laser-focused on Hezbollah's presence, 
whether it is sympathizers or members. Really hard to tell a 
difference sometimes.
    Once again, I really cannot speak with any degree of 
confidence to what extent, you know, Hezbollah would be willing 
to perpetrate such an escalatory act of political violence in 
the United States.
    I would suspect that the preferred course of action that 
Iran would pursue would be an attack outside the United States, 
just because it is less escalatory. At the end of the day, 
there is a very clear return address, as far as Iranian 
terrorism, unlike, you know, the Islamic State, al-Qaeda. It is 
like chasing shadows. With Iran, it is very clear. We know 
where it is coming from, and they know that we know.
    So, this type of understanding, in some ways, limits what 
they can do. But, once again, who knows what minds will prevail 
in Tehran. It is really hard to tell. This is a very opaque 
regime. Frankly, it is beyond my area of expertise what 
Hezbollah's international activities are.
    I tend to agree with you, that, primarily, their presence 
in the United States and the activities that they are engaged 
in is fundraising. But I have heard, and I have read about, a 
lot of the criminal and illegal activities, not just in the 
United States, but, as Mr. Berman said, in Latin America and in 
Africa and in other places, as well.
    This is quite a sophisticated network, and they have been 
trying to build it for some time, and, I would say, with some 
success.
    Mr. King. Mr. Berman.
    Mr. Berman. I think I tend to concur. It is certainly 
unlikely, but I don't think you can rule out the possibility. 
Also----
    Mr. King. Would they have the capacity, I guess, if they 
did want--if they were ordered to do it, and they wanted to do 
it, do they have a capacity to carry out attacks here in the 
United States? Hezbollah?
    Mr. Berman. I think so, to a limited extent. What concerns 
me is, and as I have written in my written statement, a 
sanctions-constrained Iran succeeded in either supporting or 
instigating at least 3 separate plots against the U.S. 
homeland, including involving Hezbollah operatives, over the 
last decade.
    So, as we move forward in time, we do have to be wary of 
the potential for this level of activity to increase, as a 
result of incidents: Incidents that happen abroad, diplomatic 
incidents, a breakdown of nuclear negotiations, but also of 
incidents that may become more likely, as a result of increased 
Iranian capabilities.
    As Iran receives the economic benefits of reintegration 
into the global community, it is, I think, a very strong 
possibility that there will be a trickle-down effect for its 
terror proxies, including Hezbollah.
    If Hezbollah is postured globally, including in the Western 
Hemisphere, as I think you have heard testimony to that effect, 
I think we need to be worried about what that does for 
Hezbollah's latent potential against the U.S. homeland, as 
well.
    Mr. King. Mr. Kahn.
    Mr. Kahn. I concur with my colleagues, and I don't, 
necessarily, have that much to add, except to say that I think, 
again, how the United States postures itself towards Iran over 
the course of the implementation of the agreement will have a 
very big impact on how Iran calculates to what degree it will 
be able to survive and withstand a potential aggressive act 
against the United States.
    The more Iran feels confident that it can get away with 
such behavior, or that the United States lacks the resolve to 
engage in a meaningful response, I think the more likely it 
becomes that Iran is going to be willing to risk that kind of 
provocation.
    Now, again, I can't, you know, predict the future. 
Certainly, anything is possible. But I think that just, again, 
reinforces the need, on our part, for the United States to send 
that message to Iran that, should it engage in any provocation, 
we will respond.
    To the extent that we fail to send that message, I think it 
increases the likelihood of further aggression.
    Mr. King. Mr. Saab, you wanted to add? Yes?
    Mr. Saab. Two things, very, very briefly. It is a very 
clear yes on the issue of capabilities, in case I wasn't clear 
on that. As I mentioned in my testimony, Hezbollah's 
international activities are an extension, at the end of the 
day, of Iranian paramilitary and intelligence agencies. Those 
are quite capable, themselves.
    I think there is a very healthy appreciation in the U.S. 
Government for what Hezbollah is capable of, only because of 
its connection to Iranian paramilitary organizations.
    Mr. King. Okay. This will be my last question. It is for 
Mr. Saab, and either of you can comment on it, also.
    I think, in answer to a question before, you said Hezbollah 
realizes that if they did confront the United States, that we 
could wipe them out or eliminate them. How could we do that? I 
am glad to hear that, but how would you see that being done?
    Mr. Saab. Well, at the end of the day, Hezbollah relies, as 
I mentioned before, on two critical sources of support. Those 
would be the relationship with Iran and a relationship with the 
support base.
    We, obviously, have to balance between our own interests in 
Lebanon as a whole, as a country, and also our own policy or 
approach with regards to Hezbollah. Now, you know, we should 
ask the Israelis. There has been on-going conflict between 
Hezbollah and Israelis for--since 1982. There has been a lot of 
tactical successes by the Israelis against Hezbollah.
    They have been trying to disarm the organization for a long 
time, but they have not been successful, for a number of 
reasons. I mean, this is a very deeply-rooted organization 
within the country.
    I think what the United States could tackle very 
effectively is the issue of global operations, because the 
dialogue, and I mentioned before, the return address is Tehran. 
But, in terms of its own presence inside the country, it is 
gonna be very difficult for the United States to really mount 
policies that would reduce its popularity, that would disarm 
it.
    I mean, at the end of the day, this is quite a massive 
military arsenal. As I mentioned, the several confrontations 
with Israel over the past few years, with 3 high-intensity 
military conflicts in 2006, 1996, 1993, none of them have 
actually led to the disarming of the organization. As a matter 
of fact, have made the organization even stronger.
    So the United States can effectively tackle the issue of 
terrorism through Iran, but, in terms of its own local 
position, its own--in terms of its regional influence and all 
that, I mean, that is going to require quite a comprehensive 
strategy that the United States has not formulated, thus far.
    Mr. King. Mr. Berman.
    Mr. Berman. I tend to disagree, Mr. Chairman. I think it 
is, while an optimistic idea, it is rather an impractical one 
to assume that we can root out Hezbollah, root and branch, and, 
sort-of, dismantle the organization.
    I would say that there is considerable merit to focusing 
on, as Mr. Saab said, to focus on the global activities portion 
of what Hezbollah is doing. In particular, in the context of 
the Western Hemisphere, Hezbollah has vacillated between being 
an appendage of Iran, a narcoterrorist organization, and 
somewhere in the middle, over the last decade, depending on 
Iran's financial health and its subjection to intentional 
sanctions, as a result of its nuclear program.
    I think, here, the zone of danger comes from us having less 
ability to discern exactly how strong Hezbollah is and what it 
is doing. As successive commanders of U.S. Southern Command 
have said, before the House Armed Services Committee, for 
example, the posture of SOUTHCOM, the ability of Southern 
Command to really see into South America and Central America to 
understand what these external actors, like Hezbollah, are 
doing, has actually diminished over time, as budgets have 
constricted.
    That creates a possibility that Hezbollah and, by 
extension, Iran, has the potential to grow exponentially, 
without being watched, without being seen by the U.S. 
intelligence community, by the U.S. military. That creates a 
potential for, I think, a very dangerous synergy with local 
radicals, with local criminal organizations, that isn't really 
being adequately addressed. That would be the place that I 
would start, if I was to begin focusing on Hezbollah's global 
activities.
    Hezbollah has entrenched itself south of our border, over 
the last 3 decades. It has carried out terrorist attacks south 
of our border, over the last 3 decades. It has begun, 
increasingly, to reach northward including into the U.S. 
homeland from there.
    That may be, for our intents and purposes, that may be the 
most functional place to start, if we think about addressing 
Hezbollah globally.
    Mr. King. Mr. Kahn.
    Mr. Kahn. I concur with Mr. Berman, and, to which I would 
also add, I think there is, of course, I don't think, any 
realistic way to simply wipe out Hezbollah. But I think it goes 
back to the point that I discussed earlier, which is that, you 
know, I think if we have to--if we want to weaken Hezbollah, we 
have to weaken its patron.
    In the end, if Iran possesses the ability to continue 
sponsoring Hezbollah, then I think we can only continue to 
expect that it will grow, and its power will remain as is. So, 
in the end, if--if our goal is to reduce the influence of 
Hezbollah, we really have to focus on reducing the ability of 
Iran to keep it in power. I think that really has to be our 
focus, if our goal is to reduce Hezbollah's influence.
    Mr. King. Let me thank all the witnesses. If anyone has 
anything to add, they certainly can. But I want to thank you 
for your testimony here today. You have certainly taken a very 
complex situation and applied a level of coherence to it that 
we haven't had before.
    So I want to thank you for that, and just want to state for 
the record that the Members of this subcommittee may have 
additional questions for the witnesses. We would ask you to 
respond to those in writing. Any of the Members, especially 
those who were not here, and pursuant to committee rule 7(e), 
the hearing record will be held open for 10 days.
    Without objection, the subcommittee stands adjourned.
    [Whereupon, at 11:17 a.m., the subcommittee was adjourned.]

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