Iran’s retaliation is much more conventional than Anticipated
Following a U.S. drone attack murdered Iranian General Qassem Soleimani last week, America braced itself for the unexpected: The Department of Homeland Security issued an advisory warning that Iran may launch cyberattacks against critical infrastructure. New York’s governor deployed the National Guard into New York City’s major airports.
These precautions are clear and wise. But Iran’s missile attacks on foundations hosting U.S. troops in Iraq on Wednesday indicates that the regime’s retaliation may be more conventional than anticipated.
Now the Iranian regime is signaling a new approach.
That said, there is good reason to doubt that Iran’s response will be limited for this assault. Iran has fought its wars through proxies since the 1990s. This was the legacy of Soleimani.
Some analysts admit that Iran’s military has the capability to do a great deal of damage, especially to U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. But it ‘isn’t going to have the ability to out-escalate america,’ says Alireza Nader, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Khamenei knows this, he says, and he may be attempting to convey strength at a moment when the regime was weakened.
Another possibility is that the U.S. drone strike demolished the strategy of plausible deniability that Iran has relied on for so long. It’s not just that Iran’s generals could no longer rely on being spared the fate of the terrorists that they cultivated and sponsored. The attack signaled a new U.S. strategy that imposes grave costs for Iran’s wider proxy war.
The regime will almost certainly still depend on its terrorist proxies. However, Iran’s missile strike proves that it is prepared to engage in direct military attacks to take revenge for Soleimani. The world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism will also rely on conventional warfare.