How Might Iran Respond to Israeli or American Sabotage?

Last month, a series of explosions occurred at Iranian nuclear facilities, leading to speculation that they were the result of deliberate acts of sabotage, perhaps by Israel. If Tehran concludes that Jerusalem—or Washington—is responsible, how might it respond? Michael Eisenstadt attempts to answer this question:

If Iran ultimately attributes any recent acts of sabotage to Israel, it will almost certainly respond as it has in the past: with cyberattacks against Israeli critical infrastructure and rocket, drone, or missile attacks from Syria. In addition, reports indicate that the Mossad recently thwarted several planned attacks on Israeli embassies in Europe and elsewhere. If true, this would be an unusually severe response to an act of nonlethal sabotage, so these reports should be treated with caution. Iran last attacked Israeli embassies in 2012 after the killing of several nuclear scientists.

Tehran may believe that the United States and Israel cooperated on the latest incidents at the Natanz [nuclear facility] and elsewhere, just as they cooperated in the Stuxnet cyberattacks on Natanz beginning in 2007. Generally, however, the regime has been reluctant to escalate simultaneously against both enemies. And whenever it deems U.S. interests too difficult or dangerous to target, it tends to lash out at Israel and/or Saudi Arabia instead. In 2010, for example, it warned Washington and Jerusalem that they would both be held responsible for killing Iranian nuclear scientists, though U.S. officials denied involvement at the time; in the end, it targeted only Israeli interests.

Although Iranian leaders often pepper their pronouncements with threats of revenge, their behavior generally reflects strategic considerations. But because they tend to see the world in zero-sum terms, they believe that if they do not respond to perceived transgressions, they risk emboldening their enemies.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Mossad


An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy