“As of now,” says Mideast expert Charles Lister, “Iran-directed militias have launched 172 attacks on US forces in Iraq & Syria – 172 in 99 days”.

There was a moment in the Obama era when Iran looked like it might choose trade and prosperity, democracy and detente, over military power. But then the Russians stepped in quietly and persuaded the leadership otherwise, offering nuclear power stations, weapons, empire and the will to power. That dark entente has now solidified into full-scale regional and, indeed, global co-ordination plus total weapons integration – the two countries agreed to exchange manufacturing plants and technology, including ballistic missiles and Shahed drones. Result? Tehran is a strategic arm of Moscow in the mideast and beyond. The weapons expansion Iran thereby acquires will directly threaten Israel. It’s time the Israelis realized that Russia is their enemy.

This column has previously noted that the extensive information war immediately after January 6 was only possible with Russian preparation. It might be stating the obvious but Iran’s use of Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis are now part of Putin’s global chaos response to the West’s helping Ukraine. The multi-nation Islamic bloc’s outcry against Israel is a central part of the Moscow/Tehran scheme to regress the world into Cold War polarization. This time, of course, we are far more divided internally than before as a result of Putin’s information warfare among the West’s populations and influence peddling to its elites.

How then should the West respond? How to defang Iran’s power projection and disrupt Putin’s strategic calculations? There’s the immediate response and then the longer-term strategic response. Retired US Admiral Stavridis has recently observed multiple times that, as a possible option, the US could act directly on Iran by destroying a large chunk of its navy: “in the late 1980s, after Iran mined the Strait of Hormuz and a US frigate struck a mine and nearly sank, the Navy destroyed much of the Iranian naval combat power in Operation Praying Mantis. Iran got the message”. This, though, might prove too great an escalation in a US election year. At the very least, Stavridis believes, Washington needs to move gradually but solidly towards it.

In short, the US must make Iran’s leadership feel a palpable threat to their power at home and abroad. The at home part means actively helping intensify civil society resistance to the IRGC. By this stage, the regime’s hierarchy should be feeling less secure in their homes as they go about executing young protesters. The addresses and daily itineraries of regime enforcers can and should be doxed. The separatist regions such as the Azerbaijani, Kurdish and Baloch provinces should be volcanic with unrest. As this column has often noted, the country of Azerbaijan has considerable influence over Azeris in Iran – that should be encouraged. Iran should worry about the secession of Azeris, breaking off and joining Azerbaijan proper. Cyber war and information war must be intensified so Iran’s youthful street activists don’t feel alone against the full force of the Republican Guards. They must feel that the world and the momentum of history is on their side.

Iran’s diplomats and spies around the world need to come under pressure. Their dirty ops and imperial exertions should be met with severity. Pakistan’s violent response to Tehran’s aggression via irredentist Baluchis offers a clue. Rather than excoriating the West, it’s time the Sunni world is stoked to resist the Mullahs before Tehran secures a domination over Islam for generations to come. In Iraq, ISIS remnants need to forget forging a caliphate and get to work on countering Shiite militia leaders. Ditto in Lebanon against Hezbollah. Such a grand campaign might seem like a pipe-dream but each of the pieces offers an entry-point to Iran’s vulnerabilities. For the West or the Islamic world to remain passive is not an option.

Strategically, Iran’s geographical stranglehold over Central Asia’s access to the world must be broken. A richer, stronger, continuum of the ‘Stans will act as a threat to both Russian and Iran in their blindspot. The US must urge a diplomatic detente between former foes Armenia and Azerbaijan so trade can flow through them from Central Asia to Turkey thereby circumventing Iran. A richer, stronger Azerbaijan can force the Mullahs to look over their shoulder. That entire region of the Caucasus north of Iran is ripe for pro-Western realignment – with some encouragement and pressure. It’s time Georgia’s population was induced to shake off its unpopular pro-Moscow regime. In all these ways, Iran’s leaders must be made to feel the fragility of their rule, their borders, their provinces, their economy and their power projection abroad if they continue to meddle regionally.

Source » cnn