How the Iranian Regime Is Using Its Proxy Groups and How the US Can Tackle Them
The Iranian Regime has a network of foreign proxy groups all across the Middle East, from large formal organizations like Hezbollah to small splinter groups like Asaib Ahl al-Haq. This means that Iranian influence is spreading further than ever before and is doing so in increasingly diverse ways. How can we stop them?
At a Policy Forum at The Washington Institute on February 2, Hanin Ghaddar, the Institute’s Friedman Visiting Fellow and a veteran Lebanese journalist and researcher, spoke about the Iranian Regime’s control of Lebanon via Hezbollah and explained the political balance is a mere illusion in Lebanon because of Iran.
He explained that because of Iran’s power over Hezbollah, the Regime has been able to build a land bridge across the Middle East through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, which the mullahs will use to transport weapons, troops, and money to its terrorist proxies (including splinter groups) across the region, and expand its power even more.
At that same forum, Phillip Smyth, a Soref Fellow at the Institute and a researcher at the University of Maryland, explained that if the US wished to tackle these Iranian-backed groups, they must recognise that they are all connected.
Even though it may seem as if the groups are divided along religious or ethnic or political grounds, they are all reading from the Regime’s script. They are paid from the same coffers, following the same idealogy, and fightinging the same battles.
Smyth said: “Understanding Iranian ideology will allow Washington to counter it more effectively. Iranian operatives know how to work with individuals and splinter groups, while U.S. policy tends to be more binary in determining allies and adversaries. Going forward, U.S. officials should learn how to better utilize religious networks in the region. They should also take advantage of the fact that Iran overestimates its influence in certain quarters, particularly within the Iraqi army.”
Both speakers agreed that because of the speed that the Iranian Regime was recruiting fighters via their proxy groups, the fighters were no longer as loyal to the cause or as well trained, which was also a way to attack the Iranian Regime.
Ghaddar said: “The United States can take several steps in response… In the short term, supporting anti-Iran and anti-Hezbollah candidates in the May elections could harden the line between the state and Hezbollah. In the longer term, Washington would be wise to draw red lines in Syria and stick to them.”
Originally published at freedomstarblog.wordpress.com on February 8, 2018.