Pete Hoekstra, Shillman Senior Fellow at the Investigative Project on Terrorism, testified Tuesday at a Joint Subcommittee hearing titled, "Iran's Support for Terrorism Worldwide." The hearing, sponsored by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, highlighted Iran's role as the world's foremost sponsor of terror and emphasized that negotiations to roll back the Islamic Republic's nuclear program should not ignore its support for global terror through its elite Quds Force and proxy Hizballah.
Hoekstra, a former nine-term congressman who served as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, focused on the threat from the "increasing sophistication of Iran's cyber program and capability to conduct cyber warfare." He cited recent examples where Iran hacked into networks of U.S. financial institutions and the Navy and mentioned reports of possible Russian collaboration with Iran to bolster its cyber capability.
"Only a few years ago most experts rated Iran at tier two or tier three cyber capabilities. Today many are surprised and believe that Iran has dramatically closed the gap and ranks closely behind tier one cyber powers such as the U.S., Russia, China, and Israel," Hoekstra said. He suggested a "unified U.S. strategy to protect cyberspace" to guard against similar attacks from rogue states such as Iran in the future.
Hoekstra's testimony cautioned against the growing partnership between Iran and Russia that could create "a dangerous new dynamic" for U.S. policymakers. In addition to enhanced collaboration in the cyber field, both Iran and Russia are providing arms to the brutal Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.
Hoekstra also raised the possibility that Iran and its proxies might join hands with Sunni extremist groups such as Hamas and al-Qaida to attack American and Western interests. He predicted that the efforts to reach a nuclear deal with Iran were doomed in light of Russia's recent intervention in Ukraine. While an interim agreement relaxed economic sanctions against Iran, his own "preference would have been to maintain the sanctions in place."
"Iran is just buying time here," Hoekstra said, adding, "We gave away our most effective tool with sanctions and our ability to impose them."
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, pointed out that the full terms of the interim agreement have not been released by President Obama. There's no reason for the secrecy, she said, "other than the administration doesn't want the American people to see how badly we got suckered."
To read Hoekstra's prepared testimony, click here.