By any conceivable standard, Iran’s multi-dimensional threat to regional and international order is growing, and not only in the nuclear domain.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has just reported that Iran has effectively stonewalled it on conforming to previous agreements on nuclear safeguards. Other reports also show it is moving swiftly to acquire a usable nuclear weapon without foreign constraints. Earlier this year the IAEA also found uranium particles enriched to near bomb-grade levels at an Iranian nuclear facility. Likewise, as the U.S. warned, Tehran’s ability to build a nuclear bomb was accelerating.

Serious as this threat is, it is by no means the only arrow in Tehran’s quiver. We need to recognize that obtaining a nuclear weapon is merely one strand of Iran’s strategy to conduct a global strategy of destabilization, not just a campaign in the Middle East.

To be sure there is abundant evidence of Iran’s sponsorship of what it calls the Axis of Resistance comprising the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Shia forces in Iraq, Hezbollah, and most recently, Hamas. Iran’s aim in coordinating these groups and providing them with weapons, intelligence, support and more is threefold: to destroy the state of Israel, unseat Sunni Muslim rulers in Arab lands and eject the U.S. and its partners from the Middle East.

The current Gaza War may or may not have been coordinated with Iran, which denies that charge and claims it is “not going to expand this war front.” But keeping out of direct conflict with Israel or the U.S. conforms perfectly to Iran’s long-term strategy that relies upon its proxies to maintain steady pressure on Washington, Jerusalem and their partners. It has just employed those proxies to conduct numerous low-level attacks upon U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria and on commercial and U.S. shipping in the Red Sea.

Like its partners Russia and China, Iran seeks to wage a multi-front and multi-dimensional war, including a global cyber presence, against Israel and the U.S. It will use all the instruments of power at its disposal and threaten to extend deterrence to terrorists like Hamas against Israel or other Iranian enemies.

Iran reportedly has the support of terrorist organizations and pro-Iranian groups to expand its ideological influence in Latin America. Thus, Hezbollah has taken the lead in fundraising, propaganda and smuggling operations. Other pro-Iranian organizations such as Al-Tajammu reportedly also play notable roles in expanding Iranian influence there through the internet, websites and other social media platforms.

One report notes that its outreach “stands out as large-scale psychological warfare” deploying “social network satellites and Spanish-language media” to promote Iran’s goals to “attack the West and Latin America.” Naturally, its key partners here are the pro-Russian states of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

That connection reinforces the growing partnership with Russia that embraces both economic and particularly dangerous military cooperation. This goes beyond the now well-known Iranian provision of a drone factory in Russia. Russia has built and launched satellites for Iran and has agreed to sell it SU-35 Fighters and Mi-28 helicopters. Captured Ukrainian weapons transferred from Russia to Iran offer a potential technological-military “windfall” for Iran’s defense industry. Both states have also now joined hands to seek ways around sanctions together which doubtless involves bilateral military cooperation.

In a Moscow meeting on Dec. 7, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the Gaza War, joint economic and trade cooperation and, presumably, further military cooperation as well. This collaboration could well deepen. In October, Russia informed the United Nations that it need not obey any further restrictions on sending missile technology to Iran. In return, Iran might transfer ballistic missiles to Russia for use against Ukraine.

Thus, Iranian threats to international security are global, diverse and growing. They include the sponsorship of smuggling, information warfare, insurgency and terrorism and increasingly comprise outer space technologies, potential nuclear weaponry and extensive cooperation with Russia. There are also mounting fears about growing cooperation with North Korea that would revive previous proliferation, such as North Korea’s nuclear transfers to Syria in 2006-07. This possibility is by no means absent, as recent evidence indicates.

All of this obliges us to formulate and execute a more robust policy to deter Iran from assisting its proxies while it makes an unimpeded dash for nuclear weapons. The current war in Gaza is a harbinger of the risks we are taking by failing to sufficiently heed the possibilities open to Iran, especially if it can align itself more closely with Moscow and/or Beijing.

Obviously, concerning Iran as well as its partner and its proxies, diplomacy alone does not suffice as policy or strategy.

Source » thehill