Nov 30, 2018

Intercepted weapons attest to Iran's continued support of terrorism

Brian Hook, the U.S. Special Representative for Iran, briefs reporters at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, in Washington, D.C., on November 29, 2018. Photo: Thomas Watkins/AFP via Getty Images

U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook shed light on Tehran’s latest provision of arms to militants across the Middle East on Thursday, speaking at an Iranian weapons exhibit at Joint Base Anacostia–Bolling. The most recent additions include the Sayyad-2C surface-to-air missile, which was interdicted en route to Yemen’s Houthi rebels, 107 -millimeter rockets that Iran allegedly provided to the Taliban, and drones that were used in Afghanistan.

Why it matters: Iran is involved in multiple Middle Eastern conflict zones, many of which have been raging for years and have no end in sight. Tehran’s sustained practice of exporting diverse weapons prevents peace and encourages its partners to continue fighting.

The background: Iran’s support of terrorism is both strategic and ideological. Most Middle Eastern battlefields today feature Iranian weapons and proxy forces. Tehran is able to affect the outcome of various conflicts by controlling the spigot of men, money, and, most importantly, munitions.

Much of the weapons Iran distributes across the region are not technologically novel. However, they are sufficient to empower local actors so that the Islamic Republic can threaten and coerce its adversaries without risking direct retaliation.

What’s next: While Iran is not expected to abandon its sponsorship of terrorism and regional destabilization in the near future, compounding U.S. financial pressure and restored penalties previously waived by the Iran nuclear deal are designed to get Tehran to, as Hook said, “change its destructive policies.”

The bottom line: For Washington, publicizing Iranian involvement in the Middle East through displays of captured weaponry is part of a larger strategy. The more Iran’s hand is exposed in the region, the theory goes, the harder it will be for foreign governments to remain indifferent to Iran’s ongoing malign activity.

Behnam Ben Taleblu is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Go deeper

Coronavirus updates: New global case numbers surpass China's

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus is now affecting every continent but Antarctica and the WHO said Wednesday the number of new cases reported outside China has exceeded those inside the country for the first time.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,800 people and infected over 82,000 others in some 50 countries and territories. As Denmark and Estonia reported their first cases Thursday, Scott Morrison, prime minister of Australia — which has 23 confirmed infections — told a news conference, "The risk of a global pandemic is very much upon us."

Go deeperArrowUpdated 51 mins ago - Health

Mass shooting in Milwaukee: What we know so far

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in 2012. Photo: John Gress/Corbis via Getty Images

Six people died in a shooting at the Molson Coors Brewing Company in Milwaukee Molson Coors on Wednesday, including the 51-year-old gunman, Mayor Tom Barrett told reporters at an evening press conference with local police.

Details: All of the victims worked at the brewery complex, as did the shooter who died of "an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, police confirmed in a statement late Wednesday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

WHO official leads criticism of Trump's coronavirus response

President Trump with members of the new coronavirus task force, including Vice President Mike Pence at the White House on Wednesday. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, special advisor to the director general of the World Health Organization, told MSNBC Wednesday he found "most" of what President Trump said at his briefing on the novel coronavirus "incoherent."

The big picture: As the number of confirmed cases reaches 60 in the U.S., the top health professional — who was a health policy adviser in the Obama administration — is among several leading figures, in particular, Democrats, to criticize the president for his response to the outbreak.

Go deeperArrow4 hours ago - Health