Iranian Regime uses proxies to punch above its weight in the Middle East
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As the United States and Iran trade threats and risk a potential collision, the Trump administration is struggling to counter Tehran’s network of proxies across the Middle East. The sprawling network is armed not only with missiles and mines, but also with political influence.
Earlier this month, U.S. officials said intelligence indicated Tehran had given a green light to its proxies in the region to go after U.S. targets. That prompted the White House to issue stern warnings to Iran, beef up U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf, and order a partial evacuation of American diplomatic missions in Iraq.
A still unexplained attack on four ships in the Persian Gulf, along with a drone attack on a pipeline in Saudi Arabia claimed by Houthi rebels, has fueled tensions and underscored the dilemma Washington faces in confronting a regime that can strike back through its partners without leaving clear fingerprints. Iran has denied any role in the attacks.
If the war of words erupts into a full-blown conflict, the U.S. military would have to contend with Iran’s network of armed militias in the region. Despite its relatively modest military might, Iran has long employed proxies to fend off adversaries and extend its power and political influence.
“The U.S. can destroy the Iranian navy in a day, but it will find it is attacked in six countries by proxy networks,” said Michael Knights, a senior fellow at The Washington Institute think tank.
At relatively low cost and low risk, local Shiite allies armed and trained by Iran have over decades inflicted serious casualties and strategic headaches on its enemies, including Israel and the United States.
The administration of President Donald Trump has warned that it will retaliate directly against Iran if its surrogates target U.S. troops or civilians.
But Iran denies it is seeking a war with the U.S. and has accused the Trump administration of intentionally stoking tensions.
Source: NBC News