A senior aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has said that Iran will continue to aid the “resistance” forces in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to confront U.S. influence in the Middle East. “Victory in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen will continue as long as the resistance coalition defends its achievements. And as long as necessary, we will have a presence in these countries. The Islamic Republic of Iran has an active presence [in these countries]. We must assist these countries and establish a barrier against the American influence,” said Ali Akbar Velayati, a former foreign minister who currently holds more than a dozen official positions. He also threatened the French government that any cooperation with Washington against Tehran, particularly regarding Iran’s ballistic missile program and regional role, would harm France’s interests in the Middle East. “Our advice to France is that it should not do something that would trouble its interests in the region. With uncalculated and illogical positions, France will be weakened in the region and it had better not repeat the statements of American political leaders such as Trump.”

Comment: Velyati’s remarks discredit the Rouhani government’s claim that Tehran does not have a military presence in Yemen and has not provided assistance to the Houthi rebels. His comments also indicate that the Islamic Republic is unwilling to withdraw its forces from neighboring conflicts despite the military defeat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. With the fall of ISIS, as Velyati notes, Iran and its regional proxies have now shifted focus on pressuring the United States to withdraw its forces from Iran’s neighboring countries. Iranian proxies in Iraq and Syria have also recently emphasized that they will confront U.S. allies in the region, particularly Israel.

The Middle East Institute (MEI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-for-profit, educational organization. It does not engage in advocacy and its scholars’ opinions are their own. MEI welcomes financial donations, but retains sole editorial control over its work and its publications reflect only the authors’ views. For a listing of MEI donors, please click here.