When Iran Attacks in the “Gray Zone,” the U.S. Should Respond in Kind

Sept. 20 2019

Since its war with Iraq ended, writes Michael Eisenstadt, the Islamic Republic has taken to operating in a “gray zone” between war and peace, using proxy militias, terrorist groups, and plausibly deniable attacks to achieve its goals without open warfare. Taking the recent attack on Saudi Arabia as an example of this strategy, Eisenstadt urges the U.S. to retaliate by giving Tehran a taste of its own medicine:

Pursuing a gray-zone strategy of its own represents Washington’s best chance of avoiding significant escalation while buying time for its pressure campaign to work. U.S. policymakers need to abandon the notion that Tehran has a high tolerance for risks and costs, and that the path from local clash to regional war is a short one.

Forty years of experience have taught Tehran that it can conduct gray-zone activities (including lethal operations) against American interests without risking a U.S. military response. [Thus] Washington has frequently failed to deter the regime. Bolstering U.S. deterrence is therefore central to [dealing with the Islamic Republic’s current behavior]. This means responding to Iran’s probes and provocations in the region in order to show that Washington is now more willing to accept risk than in the past.

Just as the [most recent] strike demonstrated the vulnerability of Saudi oil facilities, Iran’s own oil industry is vulnerable to sabotage, cyberattacks, and precision strikes that could threaten its current export flow of several hundred thousand barrels per day. . . . Undue restraint can increase the risk of escalation by inviting new challenges. Conversely, abandoning restraint and opting for escalation can unnecessarily increase U.S. risks while engendering domestic and foreign opposition to further action.

In gray-zone competitions, the advantage is often achieved by incremental, cumulative gains rather than rapid, decisive action. Washington should therefore resist the desire to escalate in order to achieve quick results.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy

The Evidence of BDS Anti-Semitism Speaks for Itself

Oct. 18 2019

Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs recently released a lengthy report titled Behind the Mask, documenting the varieties of naked anti-Semitic rhetoric and imagery employed by the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction the Jewish state (BDS). Drawn largely but not exclusively from Internet sources, its examples range from a tweet by a member of Students for Justice in Palestine (the “world would be soooo much better without jews man”), to an enormous inflated pig bearing a star of David and floating behind the stage as the rock musician Roger Waters performs, to accusations by an influential anti-Israel blogger that Israel is poisoning Palestinian wells. Cary Nelson sums up the report’s conclusions and their implications, all of which give the lie to the disingenuous claim that critics of BDS are trying to brand “legitimate criticism of Israel” as anti-Semitic.

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month


Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Fathom

More about: Anti-Semitism, BDS, Roger Waters, Social media