Erfan Fard

Symbolic U.S. Strikes Shift Middle East Balance?

President Joe Biden with Lloyd Austin, US secretary of defense and Avril Hainse, US Director of National Intelligence, Feb 2024. Picture: Adam Schultz / The White House, Free Picture for media .

The recent symbolic American military strike represents a troubling indicator of policy weakness rather than a demonstration of strategic strength. This action, seemingly more aligned with addressing internal political pressures than effecting any substantive change in the Iranian regime’s behavior, underscores a critical misstep in the current administration’s approach towards Iran.

Criticizing President Biden’s policy, it becomes evident that such symbolic gestures do little to deter the Iranian regime’s aggressive posture, both regionally and globally. Instead, they may inadvertently embolden Tehran, reinforcing a perception of U.S. indecisiveness and vulnerability. This approach, primarily aimed at satisfying domestic audiences or short-term political gains, overlooks the broader implications of failing to confront Iran’s malign activities with the seriousness they warrant.

The policy of attempting to placate the mullahs’ regime, hoping for a change in their behavior, is increasingly untenable in the face of Iran’s continued support for terrorism, its ballistic missile program, and its nuclear ambitions. History has shown that Iran’s leadership interprets conciliation as weakness, encouraging them to persist in their destabilizing actions without fear of meaningful repercussions.

The assumption that engaging the Iranian regime with a softer hand will lead to mutual understanding and cooperation is flawed. Such an approach neglects the regime’s ideological commitment to expanding its influence and challenging U.S. interests wherever possible. The recent attack, therefore, not only fails to address the underlying threats posed by Iran but also risks emboldening terrorist proxies under Tehran’s sway, who may perceive the lack of a robust U.S. response as a green light to continue, if not escalate, their hostile actions against U.S. assets and allies.

Looking ahead, it is crucial for the U.S. policy toward Iran to reflect a deeper understanding of the regime’s motivations and strategies. A more assertive stance, combining diplomatic efforts with credible military deterrence, is essential to counter Iran’s aggressive behavior effectively. The U.S. must demonstrate that it is prepared to defend its interests and uphold international norms against Tehran’s attempts to undermine them. Without a recalibration of U.S. policy, Iran will likely remain a significant challenge, with the potential to further destabilize the Middle East and directly threaten U.S. national security interests.

In conclusion, while the need to address domestic political considerations is understood, U.S. foreign policy, particularly toward a complex and adversarial entity like the Iranian regime, must be grounded in strategic foresight and a firm commitment to countering threats to international peace and stability. The recent symbolic attack, far from showcasing strength, may have inadvertently signaled weakness, a misstep that the administration must swiftly and decisively correct to prevent the recurrence of hostile actions by Iran and its proxies.

Undoubtedly, #Iran‘s regime, along with its transnational terrorist network, is poised to continue its assaults on U.S. forces & #Israel until the regime’s final days. This theocratic regime, together with its #terrorist proxies, stands to lose nothing, embedding terrorism, aggression, and warfare into its very essence. #Iran represents a persistent challenge for the U.S. and will continue to be a source of conflict until the regime’s demise. Since 2003, the U.S. intelligence community has been acutely aware of the expanding influence of the #IRGC & #QudsForce across the region. Despite this knowledge, U.S. policy predominantly consisted of observation and neglect, leading to the current critical juncture.

Amidst the shifting sands of Middle Eastern geopolitics, the recent U.S. military strikes against pro-Iranian terrorist proxies represent a nuanced interplay of force and diplomacy, a balancing act aimed more at appeasing domestic and international audiences than fundamentally altering the strategic calculus in the region. While on the surface, these strikes suggest a robust U.S. response to Iranian provocations, a deeper analysis reveals a complex tableau of restraint, signaling, and the limitations of military power in achieving geopolitical objectives.

The use of B-1B Lancers to target over 85 positions in Iraq and Syria might be construed as a significant escalation, yet the reality is more tempered. The operation, lasting just half an hour, was less about inflicting strategic damage and more about sending a message. This act of military theater, designed to satisfy public opinion and demonstrate resolve, was carefully choreographed to avoid provoking a cycle of retaliation that could spiral out of control.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin‘s hints at further actions notwithstanding, the immediate U.S. response was notably measured. This reflects a calculated choice by the Biden administration, striving to strike hard enough to assert its stance while ensuring the strikes would not compel Iran to escalate in kind. The administration’s overt warnings prior to the strikes served to minimize misunderstandings and potentially reduce casualties, underscoring a preference for managing tensions rather than exacerbating them.

This episode underscores the broader strategic context in which these strikes occur. The U.S. and Iran, despite their longstanding animosity, share a common interest in avoiding direct conflict. For the U.S., the looming electoral cycle and the imperative to focus on domestic priorities militate against foreign entanglements. For Iran’s regime, economic vulnerabilities and internal challenges make a direct confrontation with the U.S. unpalatable.

Moreover, the strikes occur against the backdrop of a Middle East teetering on the edge of wider conflict, exemplified by the ongoing hostilities between Israel and terrorist Palestinian groups. In this volatile environment, the U.S. strikes serve as a reminder of the limits of military action in achieving lasting peace and security. They reflect an understanding that in the complex web of Middle Eastern politics, military might alone address the root causes of conflict or deter determined adversaries.

The Biden administration‘s approach, emphasizing calibrated military responses alongside diplomatic engagement, acknowledges the multifaceted nature of U.S.-Iran relations. It suggests a recognition that the path to stability in the region lies not through unilateral actions but through a careful blend of pressure and diplomacy, aimed at de-escalating tensions and fostering conditions conducive to dialogue.

As we consider the implications of the U.S. strikes, it’s clear that the challenges facing the Middle East are deep-rooted and multifaceted, involving a tangled array of local, regional, and international actors. In this context, the U.S. actions represent not a solution but a tactic within a broader strategy aimed at managing an inherently unstable regional order. This strategy, while imperfect, reflects a pragmatic acknowledgment of the complexities of power, the dangers of escalation, and the enduring need for a nuanced approach to regional security.

In sum, the recent U.S. strikes against Iranian-backed terrorist proxies are a microcosm of the broader challenges facing American foreign policy in the Middle East. They encapsulate the delicate balance between demonstrating resolve and avoiding escalation, between satisfying the demands for action and recognizing the limitations of military power. As the U.S. navigates these treacherous waters, its actions will continue to be scrutinized for what they reveal about America’s long-term strategy in a region that remains a focal point of global tension and uncertainty.

It’s noteworthy that the Islamic Republic‘s propaganda extends beyond Tehran, reaching as far as Los Angeles. Of course, for the criminal mullahs, only one thing is important, and that is the preservation of the regime at any cost. Nothing else has been, nor is, important to them.

About the Author
Erfan Fard is a counter-terrorism analyst and Middle East Studies researcher based in Washington, DC. He is in Middle Eastern regional security affairs with a particular focus on Iran, Counter terrorism, IRGC, MOIS and Ethnic conflicts in MENA. \He graduated in International Security Studies (London M. University, UK), and in International Relations (CSU-LA), and is fluent in Persian, Kurdish, Arabic and English. Follow him in this twitter account @EQFARD