Gen. Joseph Votel told the Senate Armed Services Committee March 9 that Iran aimed to be the region's leader. Reuters

U.S. Central Command head and Gen. Joseph Votel specifically singled out Iran as the one country focused on ruling the Middle East while appearing before Congress last week, Military Times reported Monday.

Votel spoke before the Senate Armed Services committee on Thursday and explained why Iran was so dangerous in the conflict-rich region. His testimony came not long after the U.S. had recently dealt with Iran’s navy in the gulfs in and around the Arabian Sea.

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“We are dealing ... with the range of malign activities perpetrated by Iran and its proxies operating in the region,” Votel said. “It is my view that Iran poses the greatest long-term threat to stability for this part of the world.”

Votel also did not mince words when he explained what he believed to be Iran’s primary goal in the Middle East.

“I believe Iran seeks to be the regional hegemon, to be the most influential country in the region,” Votel said.

Votel, who previously served as the head of Special Operations before taking over CENTCOM a year ago, also referenced Iran’s recent incidents with the U.S. Navy.

“No other nation operates the way they do in the Arabian Gulf; nobody does that in the Arabian Gulf,” Votel said. “They need to be held accountable for that, and they need to be exposed for those types of unprofessional unsafe and abnormal activities.”

Most recently, a U.S. surveillance ship reportedly had a “close encounter” with an Iranian vessel in the Gulf of Oman on March 2. The two ships came within 150 yards of each other, CBS News reported.

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Before that, Pentagon officials said the USS Mahan -- with two other US vessels also on the scene -- fired warning shots towards five Iranian ships near the Strait of Hormuz on Jan. 8, CNN reported. A Pentagon spokesperson said Iran’s ships came within 900 yards of the Mahan and said that 35 such incidents had occurred last year, an unusual number that was also called “out of character” for Iran.

Votel’s comments and accusations came as Iran and the U.S. ally Saudi Arabia have continually waged proxy wars around the Middle East, like in Yemen, and the two sides may have only just started their indirect conflicts, The New York Times detailed in November.