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Iran doubles down on terror but it holds a losing hand

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You know the mullahs in Iran are gloating over anti-Israel protests, and harassment attacks by the Axis of Resistance. Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds force commander Esmail Ghaani has been shuttling to Lebanon and other locations, holding meetings, hoping to whip up more mayhem. 

And Iran would love to elbow the U.S. military out of the Middle East and fulfill its dreams of regional hegemony.

Don’t count on it. Iran holds a losing hand. 

Iran supreme leader

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei speaks during his meeting with students in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 18, 2017. (Iranian Leader’s Press Office – Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Iran’s military options are limited, the economy is a shambles, and behind the scenes, a lot of governments in the region want to contain Iran. The aftermath of the Gaza crisis will leave Iran worse off than before. Here’s why. 

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Iran has stuffed the region with enough missiles to overtax Israel’s Iron Dome missile defenses. 

As national security adviser Jake Sullivan said, Iran plays the “sustained, deep and dark role in providing all of this support and capabilities to Hamas.” The IRGC arms, funds and trains militias in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, the West Bank and of course Gaza. 

Yet for all the time and money spent, Iran’s proxies can’t overmatch U.S. deterrent forces. 

Quite frankly, Iran’s tactical effectiveness has been minimal. 

On Oct. 20, Houthi rebels in Yemen fired missiles supplied by Iran on a 1,000-mile track toward Israel. The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Carney intercepted them in a very neat bit of target acquisition. 

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The destroyer launched SM-2 missiles and took out three land-attack cruise missiles and eight drones. These were small, low-flying targets not easy to track on radar. Knocking them down was a big signal that the U.S. Navy can checkmate Iran-proxy missile attacks. 

Iran’s militias have also attacked U.S. forces at bases in Iraq and Syria, with over 40 attacks to date. But as the Pentagon says, U.S. forces lived through daily attacks like these during the Iraq and anti-ISIS wars. More Patriot and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) batteries have been deployed to beef up force protection. 

And as they’ve done before, the U.S. Air Force F-16s and F-15Es struck back at Iranian-backed militia targets in Syria on Oct. 27. The USS Gerald R. Ford and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier strike groups are adding more surveillance and firepower. 

As Israeli forces proceed with their operations in Gaza, Iran’s proxy escalation options diminish. Take the case of Lebanese Hezbollah and its 150,000 missiles. 

IRGC commander Ghaani has personally been stocking up Hezbollah over the years. Yet on Nov. 3, Lebanese Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah opted to hold back. Sure, he bragged about the so-called “Lebanese front” diverting Israeli ground and air forces from Gaza and said he wasn’t scared of U.S. warships. 

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Hezbollah is dangerous but for now, Iran’s best-armed proxy is far from ready to increase the tempo and open up a significant northern front. 

Nor can Iran risk using its own military forces to escalate. Israel and the U.S. military have been practicing deep strike scenarios all year.  Live fire drills in the Juniper Oak exercises in January combined 100 U.S. and 42 Israeli combat planes practicing long-range strike, electronic attacks, air interdiction and more. 

Then in July, U.S. and Israeli forces ran another Juniper Oak exercise with F-16s and KC-10 refueling tankers practicing offensive air operations. They were bolstering the “firm partnerships we will lean on in times of crisis,” according Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, commander, U.S. Central Command. 

In other words, the strike options are ready to go in case Iran makes a bad decision. That aids deterrence. 

Don’t forget Iran needs their military intact to put down domestic protests, such as the outcry over the death of Mahsa Amini in September 2022. 

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Of course, Iran’s economy is still choking. Inflation is at 40%. China buys 58% of Iran’s oil, skirting sanctions and keeping Iran in business. Iran’s President Ibrahim Raisi complained China does not do enough for Iran during a Beijing visit earlier this year. 

China is not picky about spending money to hook countries via their Belt and Road Initiative. However, even China is wary of investing in Iran. That leaves Russia as Iran’s biggest foreign investor. Pitiful. 

They won’t say it publicly, but many Mideast states are fed up with Iran’s destabilizing terror policies. Yes, President Raisi is invited to Riyadh for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation meeting on Gaza. 

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But the last thing Saudi Arabia wants is a bigger war. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states seek to diversify their economies. Long term, Israel is still a potential technology and investment partner. Iran is not. 

Iran’s sclerotic revolutionary regime has been doubling down on terrorism to stay in power and gain influence. But they can’t play this losing hand much longer.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE FROM REBECCA GRANT


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