Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson told House Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, June 14, that the United States policy towards Iran is based on support of internal forces who can bring about peaceful change.
He was speaking at a hearing on the State Department policies and budget priorities, when Representative Ted Poe of Texas asked him about sanctioning Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and U.S. policy towards Iran.
Secretary Tillerson responded:
“Well, our Iranian policy is under development. It's not yet been delivered to the president. But I would tell you that we certainly recognize Iran's continued destabilizing [role] in the region. Their payment of foreign fighters, their export of militia forces in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen, their support of Hezbollah... And we are taking action to respond to Iran’s hegemony."
At this point, Tillerson explained Trump administration's possible responses towards Tehran's behavior and actions.
"Additional sanctions, actions have been put in place against individuals and others. We continually review the merits both from the standpoint of diplomatic but also international consequences of designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in its entirety as a terrorist organization. As you know, we have designated Quds. Our policy towards Iran is to push back on this hegemony, contain their ability to develop, obviously, nuclear weapons and work towards support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government. Those elements are there, certainly as we know.”
Secretary Tillerson had already mentioned Iran in his opening remarks at the committee hearing.
“The regime in Iran continues activities and interventions that destabilize the Middle East: support for the brutal Assad regime, funding militias and foreign fighters in Iraq and Yemen that 2 undermine legitimate governments, and arming terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, which threaten our ally Israel. We and our allies must counter Iran’s aspirations of hegemony in the region.”
On Thursday, Iran's first reaction to Tillerson's remarks was delivered the foreign ministry.
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi called US foreign policy towards Iran "confused" which could "easily be manipulated by wrong information." Specifically, he called Tillerson's remark about U.S. supporting internal elements for a peaceful transition,"unacceptable" and "interventionist".
"Since the 1950s, the United States tried to meddle in Iranian affairs by different strategies such as staging a coup or supporting military intervention. All of their attempts failed," said Qassemi in response to the Rex Tillerson's remark in House Foreign Relations Committee.
In the past four decades, the Islamic Republic has embarked on expanding its political, religious and military power throughout the Middle East. Particularly since the start of unrest in Syria, Iran has gradually intensified its interventions throughout the region, while holding nuclear negotiations with major powers and specifically with the U.S.
These Iranian policies have caused deep concern among the region’s Sunni countries and Israel. Israel hopes that the Trump administration will get tougher with Iran and has offered a plan to curtail Iran’s presence in Syria.