Latest incidents suggest Putin might have orchestrated the Iran missile attack on a newly constructed US embassy in Erbil.
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The use of a dozen big ballistic missiles by Iran to attack Erbil is a significant escalation. The rockets are aimed against strategic locations, such as a new US Consulate under construction. They send a warning that Iran is capable of far more destruction.
If Iran had decided to, it could have attacked airport runways or civilian areas more aggressively. Iran was clearly conveying a statement of might rather than wreaking absolute mayhem.
The failure of Iran talks could be linked to Iran’s message. Russia has tried to exploit the Iran talks to get further concessions from the US on sanctions against it. This has enraged Iran, which wants sanctions lifted but is now being sidetracked by Russia at the last minute.
Iran, on the other hand, is looking to Russia for guidance on how to engage with the West. Iran is learning that Russia has used an invasion to demonstrate that warmongering and attacks are tolerated internationally.
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This attack against Erbil isn’t the first time Iran has launched a large-scale ballistic missile. It also targeted Kurdish dissidents in Koya, Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, in 2018. It also fired ballistic missiles at a US facility at Ain al-Asad air base in 2020 in retaliation for the assassination of Iran’s IRGC leader Qasem Soleimani by the US.
This suggests that the usage of these missiles is neither new nor unusual. Iran has targeted Saudi Arabia with missiles and drones, and it has also given missile technology to the Houthis in Yemen for use against the Saudis.
So, what’s new with the attack on March 13, 2022? The sheer number of missiles and their substantial payload were most likely a practise run for greater attacks. With these missiles, Iran aims to show off its precision and capabilities. Tehran is also interested in seeing how the US will respond.
Many voices in the United States are joining the chorus of those who oppose American aggression in Ukraine and do not seek “war” with Iran or Russia. Russia has also used these voices in order to destroy Ukraine with impunity.
Even though there is little indication that Russia can afford conflict with the West, Russia relies on the West’s fear of war – particularly the notion that any confrontation with Russia will result in “World War III.” So, much as Iran sold the “Iran deal or war” storey in 2015, Russia sells the “war, war” narrative.
Even though Iran and Russia are the aggressors, Iran wants to jump on the “Russian narrative” bandwagon and pretend that if the US “escalates” by retaliating, there will be war.
When pro-Iranian militias killed US or coalition personnel in Iraq in the past, the US has responded. In Syria, the US frequently fought against Iranian-backed forces. This is the calculation Iran seems to have. It is aware that the US could retaliate in Syria, a country where “everything goes” and the US can operate with greater impunity.
Because it does not want to violate “Iraqi sovereignty,” the US would be hesitant to retaliate in Iraq. Despite the fact that the missiles came from Iran, the US will be wary of attacking it. Tehran wants to see if the US would back down, because if it does, it will have a free hand to fire more missiles at the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf, and other countries.
Iran has already utilised the Houthis to attack the UAE, as well as having Iraqi militias attack the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Last March, Iran utilised drones to attack Israel from Iran.
As a result, Iran is upping the ante, emerging from the shadows and launching drones and missiles directly at other countries in the area. In September of this year, Iran also targeted Saudi Arabia. There were no repercussions. As a result, Iran now believes it may be able to drive the US out of Erbil, Iraq’s northern city.
In this sense, Iran is keeping a close eye on what is happening in Russia and Ukraine. While the US has warned Russia of harsh retaliation for the invasion, the White House has also stated that it does not want to engage in any fight with Russia.
Russia has now stated that it will target arms shipments to Ukraine. Russia is putting the West to the test. The United States may be reversing course.
Meanwhile, Iran sees the US wanting the Iran deal back, and it wants to put pressure on Washington to reach an agreement. This means Iran is exploiting the Ukraine issue, as well as browbeating Russia over the Iran deal and threatening more lethal assaults, to try to coax something from the US and see if washington would back down or respond.
Iran has also read headlines in the US media about sceptics who oppose escalation in Ukraine, claiming that “the West is to blame” and “NATO provoked Russia.” Iran is well aware that some of these voices are likewise opposed to war with Iran.
Iran, for example, can read The New Yorker, which includes a remark from US professor John Mearsheimer. The article’s headline blames the problem in Ukraine on the United States and the West. “John Mearsheimer on why the West is principally responsible for the Ukrainian crisis,” according to The Economist.
Foreign Affairs and PBS featured another theory by the same academic in 2008: “John Mearsheimer, political science professor at the University of Chicago, says a nuclear-armed Iran would bring stability to the region, but Dov Zakheim, former Pentagon official now with the Center for Naval Analyses, says it would trigger an arms race.”
Mearsheimer, a political science professor at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt published a harsh critique of “the Israel lobby and US foreign policy” in 2007.
It’s all connected. The argument that NATO is to blame for pushing expansion in the early 2000s, which prompted Russia to attack Ukraine; and that Israel is somehow harmful to US foreign policy as a result of the conflict with Iran; and even the argument that Iran can bring stability to the Middle East, which is linked to the idea that Russia is provoked, all demonstrate how Iran hopes to achieve in Iraq what Russia is doing in Ukraine.
In summary, Iran relies on the United States’ fear of “war” and voices in the United States criticising America first. Iran intends to turn Iraq into a “near abroad,” engulfing Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen in the process.
Russia wants Ukraine to be returned to its “near abroad,” and it expects isolationists in the United States, as well as the far Left, far Right, and “realists” in the West, to support Russia’s “security needs.” Iran, too, wants to go as far as possible on the Russian train.