The real “goals” of Tehran 2024-04-16 19:24:34

Israel’s long-running “war between wars” has put Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officers at risk when they operate near Israel’s borders, so Tehran is no doubt loathe to see its remaining holy sites in the Israeli crosshairs.

Operationally, Iran has sent a message that it would like to avoid a further escalation that could spark a truly regional war with unpredictable ramifications. Opt for long-range attacks, e.g. in Southern Israel, which could easily be prevented by the known, predictable Israeli air and missile defenses, and apparently the Iranians were not targeting any US facilities (given that there are 42 overt US bases in the Middle East-North Africa region).

He did all this while issuing emergency statements (in English) that “the matter of the attack can be considered concluded” and that “the US must stay away!”.


While Hamas may be desperate and wanting a wider flare-up, its patron, Iran, is certainly quite content with the status quo after the October 7 terrorist attack in southern Israel, from which it benefits immensely. For many people across the region (replete with images of Palestinian suffering) their perceptions of Iran have never been more positive, as it alone “stands up” to Israel (previously through its proxies in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon) and now immediately (with the April 13 move).

In the meantime, Iran’s nuclear program has withdrawn from the international headlines, while it continues to proceed largely unhindered (recent reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency, in Vienna, as well as leading international security institutes), already crossing “red lines” ” that were once widely considered unacceptable. Moreover, Iran has thus far avoided any real threat to Hezbollah, “the crown jewel of its proxy network,” since Hezbollah’s second-strike capability helps prevent an Israeli attack on Iran’s extensive nuclear infrastructure (Fordo, Arak, Natanz, Isfahan et al.). Iran is seeking a US withdrawal from the region and the last thing it wants is to trigger a wider regional war, which would risk a direct US-Iranian military confrontation.

Strategically, Tehran has also sought to set a new precedent, which will shift the nature of the ongoing conflict with Israel to its further advantage. The precedent is that Iran can attack Israel directly, that it can do so from Iranian soil, and that it can target civilians inside Israel. Iran thus follows a playbook it has perfected over decades: it experiments with a new set of malign actions, assesses the response from its adversaries, and if that response is deemed minimal or temporary, establishes those actions as a new normal framework, which then it is implicitly accepted.


The pattern is that Iran has become the only country in the world that routinely gives precision weapons to non-state proxies in several Middle Eastern states and instructs them to target civilians across its borders.

In recent months, Iran has already successfully established several “new normals” that work to its long-term benefit: through the Houthi rebels, it has demonstrated an ability to close the Bab el Madeb strait whenever it wants and to whomever it wants. Through Hezbollah, it has demonstrated its ability to threaten Israelis at home and is now forcing mass internal displacement. And by his own actions, he has once again demonstrated his ability to commit piracy near the Strait of Hormuz and attract little international condemnation for it.


With the weekend attack, Iran likely intended to teach Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab governments a lesson that they should not depend on an unreliable and ineffective US security umbrella. Likewise, Iran hopes to encourage its ally Russia and its main economic partner China to blame Israel for escalating tensions and protect it by using a veto in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). UN). This is likely a successful strategy. After six months, the SA/UN has yet to clearly condemn Hamas for its terrorist attacks against Israel, so chances are the SA/UN will not pass a resolution clearly condemning Iran for his actions.

Iran’s objectives have been logical and well thought out and insidiously advance positions on its own strengths and the weaknesses of its adversaries. So must be the US response to Iran’s actions. Neither Israel nor the United States should allow Iran to achieve the goals I realistically outline above, but calls for immediate military action on Iranian soil (which are being heard) are as reckless as they are absurd. The focus must be on the following, otherwise Tehran will dominate:

1 In the coming months, even as it continues undaunted by the “war between wars,” Israel’s top priority must be to work with the United States to much better protect civilians in Gaza, consolidate internal security there, and deny the reconstitution of Hamas, as well as to greatly improve humanitarian conditions for innocent Palestinians. Nothing would do more immediate damage to the Iranian narrative than for Iran’s partner in Gaza to suffer an unequivocal defeat.

2 Moreover, Tehran will suffer an even more devastating strategic setback if Israel succeeds in its military objectives against Hamas and is able to muster the political courage and “strategic wisdom” to accept the US-proposed principle of a ” time-bound, irreversible path towards the establishment of a Palestinian state”. They are starting good faith negotiations on how to make these terms work and in the meantime smooth relations with Saudi Arabia. The Biden administration has been ambitiously pushing toward this scenario for more than a year.

3 The US should expand its operations against the Houthis from a mission narrowly defined to defend international shipping and degrade Houthi capabilities in the Red Sea to one that also seeks to target the “beheading” of the Houthi leadership from air. The US has deep experience in such operations in Yemen, having conducted them for years against the leaders of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The United States should carry out these strikes until the Houthis permanently cease their attacks on international shipping.

4 The United States should also declare a new response doctrine, that is, any attack on any American (person) by an Iranian partner or proxy will henceforth be considered an attack by Iran itself, so a response is needed. When three US soldiers were killed earlier in early 2024 at the Al Tanf base, the US response was clear and Iran gradually responded by ordering a halt to such attacks by proxies in Mesopotamia. This was a successful deterrence application.

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