WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – “Iran has worked aggressively to train, arm, supply, guide, and direct thousands of Shias and Sunnis throughout the Middle East, from Lebanon to Afghanistan and to Yemen,” according to Norman Roule, a senior adviser to United Against Nuclear Iran, a non-profit, bi-partisan advocacy group.
“Iran basically puts very few of its own people at risk,” Roule told Kurdistan 24 earlier this week, after speaking at an Atlantic Council seminar on the “Middle East after the Iran Deal.”
Although Iran has had a significant number of personnel killed in action, “It’s a much smaller number, say, than the United States during the Iraq conflict,” he said.
The Iranians “prefer to let other nationalities die for them,” Roule continued.
Thus, in Syria, “They have brought in hundreds, if not a few thousand Afghans.”
They have also “brought in multiple Iraqi militias, who have risked their lives to keep Bashar al-Assad, a war criminal, in power,” he said, “and they have, of course, worked with Lebanese Hezbollah.”
Significantly, another step often follows in Tehran’s strategy: it seeks to transform the military force that it created into an enduring political force.
“Wherever Iran goes, they tend to build institutions and personnel, loyal to the Iranian government,” Roule explained.
Often, these groups support the Iranian model of government—rule by the clerics, but if not “they are at the very least, beholden to and willing to take significant direction” from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, particularly Gen. Qasim Soleimani head of the IRGC’s Quds Force, he said.
Lebanese Hezbollah is the model. It was created by Iran following Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon—which aimed to drive the PLO out of Beirut. The Israelis succeeded in that objective, but over time, another, perhaps even more lethal threat, emerged in its place, giving Iran a foothold much further to the west.
“In Lebanon, Hezbollah and its allies have gained a majority in parliament," following the countries May 6 elections, “increasing Iranian influence and control over Lebanon’s government,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen warned in a Congressional hearing on Tuesday.
Iran looks to be pursuing a similar strategy in Iraq. The electoral list of the Iranian-backed Shia militias—which were formed in the wake of the 2014 assault from the Islamic State that, at its peak, encompassed nearly a third of the country—finished second in Iraq’s May 12 elections and ahead of the US-favored candidate, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
Western experts refer to Iran’s approach to conflict as “hybrid war”—as if real war is what the Western countries fight, with recognized, institutionalized military forces, like an army, navy, air force, using a tank to fight a tank, etc.
But a brilliant strategist and thinker about war, John Boyd, whose career began as an Air Force pilot, anticipated just this: as the US established its military supremacy, other powers would develop different ways to deal with it.
As a former US intelligence official, deeply influenced by Boyd, remarked to Kurdistan 24, Iran is fighting “like Mao Ze Dong and Ho Chi Minh.”
They “used terror and irregular war to keep the enemy off balance,” and then “used mechanized war, whenever the enemy was so unbalanced it could not win the engagement.”
“But we still think war-fighting is like an assembly line,” this former official complained, “industrial age warfare.”
Editing by Nadia Riva