Iran’s role in destabilizing the middle east and implications for new non-nuclear U.S. sanctions

Iran’s role in destabilizing the middle east and implications for new non-nuclear U.S. sanctions
http://irantag.net/?p=1841

In 2017, we are at inflection point in Iran’s strategy in the Middle East. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has given the Islamic Republic new resources and freed Tehran to focus on building its conventional military capacity to compete with its regional rivals more directly.  Iran is also sensing, finally, some form of victory in the wars in Syria and Iraq.  In the aftermath of these conflicts, the Iranian leadership will be left with an enormous degree of influence stretching from Beirut to Basra and beyond.  Led by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, Tehran will also now have at its disposal a trans-national proxy army of Shia militia units with at least a couple hundred thousand personnel with hybrid warfare capabilities.  This will pose significant challenges to our friends in the region and to our interest in stability in Middle East.

Why does Iran pursue these destabilizing activities? Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Tehran’s foreign policy has been driven by a desire to reshape the Middle East under its political and ideological image. At the same time, Iran seeks to ensure more traditional regional power interests of economic growth and expanded spheres of influence. Iran seeks to spread its concepts of Islamic governance, to oppose the state of Israel, protect Shia populations, and to assert its regional hegemony by displacing the United States as the dominant regional power. Due to a relative disadvantage in conventional military capabilities, Tehran has pursued these objectives primarily through clandestine operations and unconventional warfare for the past thirty-eight years. In particular, Iran has utilized its “Resistance Network” of partners, proxies, and terrorist groups, including the Lebanese Hezbollah while employing a suite of deterrent capabilities including ballistic missiles and asymmetric naval platforms.

The executor of Iranian proxy policies, the IRGC, and in particular its paramilitary wing Quds Force (QF), was created by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979 first to secure the revolution at home and then export the revolution abroad. Tehran significantly expanded the size and complexity of its proxy force in the past five years, due primarily to the wars in Syria and Iraq. Iran views these conflicts as existential threats and also gained an opportunity to experiment and create new warfighting capabilities. This new force not only includes the growth of the primary groups that form the “resistance network” such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and Iraqi groups like the Badr Corps, Khataib Hezbollah, and Asaib Ahl al-Haq. In addition to these established groups, Iran created new Shi’a militias throughout the region, like the Shia militias from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan and the mobilization of Iraqi and Syrian civilians into the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and Nation Defense Forces (NDF) to fight in their own civil conflicts.
 
J. Matthew McInnis
@matthew_mcinnis