Last Tuesday, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen launched a ballistic missile against Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. Fortunately, the missile was intercepted and destroyed by an American-made Patriot Surface to Air Missile. Had the ballistic missile hit any number of critical targets in Riyadh, such as the U.S. Embassy, the Gulf Cooperation Council Headquarters, or, as has been targeted before, the Riyadh International Airport, an immediate escalation of the ongoing war between Saudi Arabia and the Houthi rebels would have been inevitable.
And it’s important to realize that this dangerous provocation is not an isolated incident. The Houthis have fired hundreds of short-range projectiles from Yemen into Saudi Arabia, including mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, and short-range rockets.
Having proved their willingness to directly attack Saudi Arabia, the expansion of the Houthi arsenal to include ballistic missiles is a chilling development that cannot be ignored.
Occupying one of the most impoverished nations in the world, one has to ask where the Houthis are getting such advanced weaponry. The culprit is, of course, Iran.
Iran has been listed as a state sponsor of terror by the U.S. State Department since 1984. During this time, it has built a global terrorist network led by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. The IRGC was originally established by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to protect the ruling class of religious zealots from the then pro-Western Iranian military, but has expanded to become the largest, wealthiest, most technologically-advanced, and best-equipped terrorist organization in the world.
Inside Iran, the IRGC brutally represses any hint of resistance against the ruling religious class. Although the most notable example of this was the savage annihilation of the Iranian Green Movement, a grassroots uprising of Iranian citizens which grew out of the obviously illegitimate results of the 2009 Iranian presidential election, the suppression of any democratic process is an ongoing mission of the IRGC.
Frighteningly, the IRGC is also the world’s largest criminal enterprise, with control over every key sector of the Iranian economy as well as expanding narco-terrorist operations in Africa, South America, and the U.S. What does the IRGC do with its financial resources? Through its foreign operations wing, the IRGC Quds Force, led by Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the IRGC supports a network of foreign terrorist organizations including Hezbollah, Hamas, and Kata'ib Hezbollah and the brutal Syrian regime.
It’s an ironic challenge to U.S. policymakers that while most Americans recognize the threat of Al Qaeda, most don’t understand that the worldwide terror network built by Iran is far more dangerous and deadly.
A rash argument? Hardly. The 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Lebanon that killed more than 300 U.S. and allied personnel was masterminded and ordered by Iran. The 1994 bombing of the Jewish Community Center that killed 85 and wounded more 300 was once again Iran's responsibility. In fact, former Argentinian President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was recently charged with “treason against the homeland” for covering up Iran’s central role in executing that attack. The 1996 attack on Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia that killed 20 and injured 500 was masterminded and directed by Iran. Most damning of all is the fact that for years, Iran-backed groups have attacked U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq, killing more than 500 and wounding thousands of others.
These examples barely scratch the surface of the misery that Iran is heaping upon the world. Iranian-backed Shia militia operate freely in Iraq. Syria is now no more than a vassal state of Tehran. Iranian backed Hezbollah is more powerful than ever and operates freely throughout Lebanon. And Iran’s willingness to align with Russia against U.S. interests is becoming obvious.
For example, I recently addressed the House of Representatives to warn about a man named Ali Fayyad, a Hezbollah gunrunner who was indicted by the U.S. but released by the Czech Republic under pressure from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Fayyad's story is a case study in the long tentacles of Iran as well as the corrupting connections they have built with Russia.
The American public is understandably weary of never-ending wars in the Middle East. As a former Air Force pilot, and coming from a military family, I clearly understand the toll that the past 15 years have had on our military. So, I want to be clear: I’m not calling for armed conflict with Iran. What I am calling for is a sober and realistic assessment of the threatening nature of the Iranian regime.
The next ballistic missile fired by Iranian-backed Houthis may not be intercepted before it hits its target. If it isn’t, we can’t predict the outcome. Iran’s malevolent influence leaves the region standing on the very edge.
This article was originally published by The Washington Examiner. Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, represents Utah's second congressional district. He is a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.