The Iranian leadership has never made any secret of its antipathy to the United States. Weekly “Death to America” chants are not rhetorical excess — they are policy direction. Certainly, the regime compels many Iranians to attend its rallies and bribes others, but Iranians can enter the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps bubble at age 8 in the equivalent of evil Boy Scout programs. Indoctrination is real.
American navel-gazing often leads to blindness. While the American press and many in Congress lauded President Barack Obama’s figurative “outstretched hand,” they ignored Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s response that there could be no “iron fist” under the “velvet glove,” an allusion to his demand U.S. forces evacuate the Middle East. Until an American retreat or defeat, Khamenei signaled, resistance would continue.
The Islamic Republic has always embraced a two-pillar doctrine of plausible deniability to avoid accountability.
First, Khamenei is a dictator of omission rather than commission. Iranian leaders do not command underlings what to do but rather instruct them on what they cannot do. In practice, this means both that Iranians take the initiative in pursuit of terror and that there will never be any smoking gun within signals intercepts for U.S. intelligence analysts to find after the fact. This unique command system has fooled secretaries of state from George Shultz to Antony Blinken. It leads the State Department to exculpate the regime and instead attribute Iranian aggression to rogue actors.
The second strategy to avoid accountability is to work through others. In the early days of the Islamic Republic, the Revolutionary Guards established local proxies in Lebanon, Afghanistan, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. Saddam Hussein’s fall transformed Iraq into fertile ground for Iranian-backed groups such as the Badr Corps, Kataib Hezbollah, and Asaib Ahl-e al Haq. The Iranian regime did not spark the Houthi rebellion, but it co-opted it.
Those within the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence community who denied any links between Tehran and the Houthi militias look foolish. Not only did they ignore Khamenei’s statements and those of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps’ liaison to his office dating back to 2015, but they also ignored physical evidence of cash and weapons transfers. Houthi attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea and Bab el Mandab are not indigenous or spontaneous. Simply put, Iran’s proxies are the tentacles, the Revolutionary Guards are the body of the octopus, and Khamenei is its head.
Even if analysts ignore Iran’s unique command-and-control structure, its use of proxies is no secret. The question then becomes why Tehran’s “Axis of Resistance” is on the offensive now, at least in comparison to years past.
Certainly, Hamas timed its Oct. 7 attack to both the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War and the Jewish festival of Simchat Torah. The first was symbolic and the second was tactical, meant to catch Israel with its guard down. This doesn’t explain the sharp increase in Hezbollah’s violence along the northern border, Iraqi militia attacks on U.S. forces after a long lull, Revolutionary Guard cells seeking to attack Jews from their new northern Cypriot safe haven, or Houthi attacks on shipping.
Here, psychology may be at play. Khamenei has dedicated his life to the eradication of the Jewish state. He is now 84 years old and in declining health. A 1981 assassination attempt left him partially paralyzed, and he has since survived one and perhaps two serious cancer bouts. Many of Khamenei’s closest associates have now died from old age. Former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is gone. So is Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi, an influential member of the Assembly of Experts. A brain tumor claimed the life of former Justice Minister Mahmud Hashemi Shahroudi.
Khamenei may act now because he knows he does not have much time left. Some Iran analysts say Khamenei would never rush efforts to destroy Israel if it meant sacrificing the Islamic republic itself, but decades of sycophancy might mean Khamenei is blind to the regime’s own weakness.
The clock is ticking on Khamenei’s life. Unfortunately, his propensity for violence and rejection of diplomacy will only increase as death approaches.
Source » washingtonexaminer