Tehran is the “largest state sponsor” of terror in the world and has gained “enormous influence” in the Middle East, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said in an interview on Saturday, June 24.
“Today, we find it [Iran] with enormous influence, influence that far outstrips where it was six or seven years ago,” Pompeo told MSNBC.
“Whether it’s the influence they have over the government in Baghdad, whether it’s the increasing strength of Hezbollah and Lebanon, their work alongside the Houthis in Yemen, the Iraqi Shias that are fighting along [them] now [at] the border [with] Syria — certainly the Shia forces that are engaged in Syria, Iran is everywhere throughout the Middle East,” he added.
Mike Pompeo, a former Republican congressman from Kansas, was referring to Iran-backed forces who under the label of ‘Hashd al-Sha’bi (Popular Mobilization Forces or PMF) are fighting to oust Islamic State group (IS) militants from Iraq-Syrian border areas.
As Yahya Rahim Safavi, the Iranian Supreme Leader’s senior military advisor has also reiterated, these Iran-backed forces’ dominance over the Iraq-Syria border blocks the way for IS militants who are escaping from Mosul and other parts of northern Iraq to join their comrades fighting in Syria.
A more important strategic reason for the Iran-supported militia's efforts to control the border is to open up a land corridor connecting Iran directly to areas held by Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah in Lebanon. If successful, Iran would have uninterrupted overland access to the Shiite-dominated part of the Middle East.
These efforts have not gone without notice in the United States and Israel. Last month, according to The Jerusalem Post, militias close to the Islamic Republic of Iran captured the strategic village of Um Jaris on the Iraq-Syria border and thus intensified “the danger of PMF joining Iran-backed forces in Syria.”
Concerns over such a developments run so deep that Israel Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz, while visiting the United States last May, presented a plan for ousting Iran from Syria.
Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, has also emphasized the necessity to annihilate IS and end Iran’s influence in Syria.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has always posed a threat to Israel's security. Recently, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said “[Israelis] are not going to see the next 25 years and, God willing, within 25 years, the Zionist regime [Israel] would not exist anymore.”