Zarif also suggested that human rights advocacy in the region has contributed to instability associated with the rise of IS and other such groups. Such comments reflect recurring Iranian efforts to defray criticism of the Islamic Republic’s terrible human rights record, by levying related accusations against the US and its allies.
In keeping with this trend, Zarif’s comments conspicuously neglected the expanding Iranian role in countries where IS and other militant groups are operating. In fact, those comments came just one day after Iran began sending shipments via direct flights to the Shiite Houthi rebels who have overrun Yemen and prompted a rising tide of retaliatory attacks by the Sunni Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
According to another report by the Associated Press, Tehran and the Houthi recently signed an agreement involving 14 weekly flights. Iranian officials claimed that the first of these contained only medical supplies, but because the Houthi control the airport it is virtually impossible to confirm this.
Furthermore, in February Western intelligence sources revealed new details about Unit 190 of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is responsible for smuggling weapons to foreign terrorist organizations and Iranian-allied regimes. The reports indicated that a small group of individuals utilized front companies to conceal weapons inside shipments of materials that are permitted to be exported under the international sanctions regime.
Western governments are predictably concerned that future flights from Iran to the Yemen may include weapons and equipment that could be used to exacerbate the emerging sectarian conflict there. This concern may support the sentiment expressed by Abdulrahman al-Rashed in an editorial in Al Arabiya. He anticipates that the West will become increasingly aware of the destructive nature of Iran’s influence and will challenge it accordingly. As such, Al-Rashed declares that Iran cannot succeed in its costly support for the Houthi.
But the speed of the West’s response to this situation may affect the level of difficulty of interrupting Iran’s expansionist ambitions. Current US policies toward Iran have provided it with considerable relief from existing sanctions in exchange for merely negotiating over Tehran’s nuclear program. This will have provided Iran with anywhere between 11 and 20 billion additional dollars in revenue by the time the talks conclude at the end of June.
Furthermore, the Economic Times reports that the prospect of sanctions being lifted altogether caused Brent crude oil prices to fall by two percent on Monday but may allow Iran to claim additional market share, and thus may be able to increase its oil sales by up to one million barrels per day within a short period of time after the conclusion of nuclear talks.
Unless it is barred from doing so, Iran may very well use some of its newfound wealth to reinvest in regional conflicts where its involvement has already been established.