For Israel’s Sake and Its Own, the U.S. Must Deter Iran

Since October 17, Tehran’s proxies have carried out 66 attacks on U.S. positions in Iraq and Syria, leaving 62 American servicemen injured. U.S. forces have struck back on four occasions, but only the last strike targeted actual enemy fighters, rather than munitions depots and empty buildings. What appears to have caused a lull in the attacks is the ceasefire in Gaza (achieved through Israeli military success), rather than the deterrent effect of these limited counterstrikes. Seth Cropsey and Shay Khatiri explain how America lost its deterrence, and what it would take to restore it:

Deterrence requires resolve and capabilities. Iran has feared Israel’s resolve and capabilities (though the October 7 attack might suggest a shift), but America does not instill fear, despite its capabilities. So, when Israel conducts military operations against Iran in Syria and Iraq and covert ones against its nuclear facilities, Iran in turn targets American forces in the Middle East in its double proxy war with Israel. To deter Israel, Iran has used its proxies to pressure the United States, expecting that the U.S. government would in turn exert pressure on Israel to de-escalate. Put simply, America has become the proxy for Iran to retaliate against Israel.

Could Iran succeed in pushing the Biden administration to ask Israel to cease operations in Gaza to end increasing attacks against U.S. military personnel?

The United States has never been successful in deterring or coercing Iran by punishing its proxies. But the only times that it [imposed a] direct, strategic cost on the Islamic Republic, it succeeded in enforcing deterrence. . . . Iran has no stomach for a direct confrontation with the United States.

Read more at The Hill

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy

To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy