LONDON: The killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and the lack of dollars have derailed Tehran’s regional proxy machine, which will need time to recover, the editor in chief of Al Arabiya English said at a webinar on Monday.
“The Iranian regime needs US dollars to fund dozens and dozens of militias in Iraq. Many of them it exercises full control over, others a considerable amount — same in Syria and Lebanon,” said Mohammed Khalid Alyahya.
The lack of a charismatic leader to replace Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force who was killed in a US drone strike in Iraq in January, is derailing the proxy machine even further, Alyahya added.
“In the region, limiting Iran’s ability to fund its proxy network is the strategy. The US strategy is working. It’s not perfect, but it’s working,” he said.
“What we’re seeing right now is the maximum-pressure campaign putting Iran in a corner scrambling for resources.”
Alyahya noted that none of the regional actors had a say in the talks that led to the Iran nuclear deal.
“Every country within range of Iran’s ballistic missiles, long range or short, or that contains militias, which are many in the region, wasn’t included in the nuclear negotiations,” he said.
“Those most at risk from Iranian aggression and expansionism were an afterthought of the discussions,” he added.
“Since the deal, Iran stepped up its activities across the region, doubled down on ethnic cleansing and genocide in Syria … and empowered Hezbollah.”
On Saudi-Iranian relations, Alyahya said: “If you go to Riyadh and ask what their biggest national security threat is, invariably you’d hear Iran. However, if you were to go to Iran to ask them what their biggest national security threat is, they’d say the US or Israel, or both …
So primarily it’s a conflict between the US and Iran.”
The webinar was hosted by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and was co-sponsored by Managing the Atom, the Iran Working Group and the Middle East Initiative.