U.S. for first time cites Iran role as leading factor in Mideast unrest

Friday, March 4, 2011   E-Mail this story   Free Headline Alerts

WASHINGTON The administration of President Barack Obama has determined that Iran was fomenting unrest in such countries as Bahrain, Egypt, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Officials said the Teheran regime was using Hizbullah and Hamas to destablize Sunni regimes in Egypt as well as the Gulf.

"We know that they are reaching out to the opposition in Bahrain," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said. "We know that the Iranians are very much involved in the opposition movements in Yemen."

This marked the first time that the Obama administration cited Iran as a factor in the wave of unrest that has swept the Middle East in 2011.

On March 1, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. military did not detect an Iranian role in the massive anti-regime protests in Bahrain.

"We are seeing no indications of any credible influence from Teheran in that regard," Mullen told a Pentagon briefing.

But in testimony to the Senate Appropriations Committee on March 2, Ms. Clinton outlined Iranian intervention in Arab states. She said Hizbullah was assigned by Iran to relay orders to regime opponents in such countries as Bahrain, Oman and Yemen.

"They are doing everything they can to influence the outcomes in these places," Ms. Clinton said. "They are using Hizbullah to communicate with counterparts."

The secretary's testimony came after a longtime U.S. assessment that Shi'ite unrest in Bahrain and Yemen were not connected to Iran. Officials said the U.S. intelligence community had long argued that Shi'ites in these two Gulf Arab states were motivated by official discrimination.

In Egypt, Iran was said to have been using Hamas to relay orders to the opposition. She pointed to Hamas's strong ties to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.

"They in turn communicate with counterparts in Egypt," Ms. Clinton said.

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