Giovanni Giacalone
Eyes everywhere

The major problem is Iran, and that should be the target

Iranian visual propaganda

The first step, the October 7th massacre, the worst pogrom against the Jewish people since the Holocaust, with atrocious crimes perpetrated by Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad against men, women, the elderly, and even babies.

The second step, the Houthi attacks against the maritime commercial traffic in the Red Sea and an Iranian military commander threatening to shut the Mediterranean Sea while, in the meantime, Iranian proxies attacked US forces in Iraq and Syria; more than 100 bases were attacked since October 13th, as reported by Fox News.

The third step, is Hezbollah’s increasingly hostile activity on Israel’s northern front, taking advantage of the Lebanese government’s passivity.

Hezbollah also threatened the countries taking part in the US-led maritime coalition to protect maritime traffic in the Red Sea, defined as a “coalition of evil”. On Thursday, Shaykh Naim Qassem, Hezbollah’s second in command, stated:

“It is necessary to put up a united front against the coalition of evil represented by America, Israel, France, Britain, Italy and Germany with the coalition of good of the anti-Israeli resistance forces in Palestine, Lebanon, Iran, Yemen and Iraq”.

It is very clear by now that the engine behind this proxy war is the Iranian regime, taking advantage of the Biden administration’s hesitation to properly respond to these attacks.

As explained by Mike Pompeo, while Iranians go after Americans, Biden goes after proxy forces in a defensive manner and this allows the Iranians to fight without putting themselves at any risk, so it is not surprising that there have been so many attacks against the US in the Middle East. Pompeo also stressed that this type of defensive backfooted posture increases the risks not only for Israel and the Gulf States but also for the US and Europe.

Removing the Houthis from the US terror blacklist was not a good move, as the designation would have helped to disrupt illicit financial and weapons networks feeding the Houthi terror machine.

The $6 billion attempted deal with Iran in a prisoner swap, fortunately, blocked by the bipartisan measure named “No Funds for Iranian Terrorism Act” and passed by the House of Representatives at the end of November, was also another bad idea because any funding to the Iranian regime adds more fuel to its terror machine abroad and against the Iranian people.

The Iranian regime perceived these moves as US weakness and acted accordingly and aggressively, with the intent of destabilizing the Middle East, gaining hegemony over the area, establishing a situation of permanent war in Israel, and pushing US forces out of Iraq and Syria.

These are all clear acts of war and the only solution is to respond against Iranian targets, financially, politically and militarily. A response that does not only need to come from the United States but also from its European partners because, while Israel is indeed able to defend its territory against those terrorist organizations that threaten the Jewish State’s existence, it is clear that Iran has declared war against the West. As previously seen, Shaykh Naim Qassem’s latest statement against the maritime coalition is just the most recent example. Pretending otherwise will only make things worse, as the passive stance of the Biden administration and the “don’t do it” policy have shown.

Responding strongly and directly against Iran means cutting its support for its various proxies such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Houthis, Hezbollah and the Iraqi Shia militias; they simply would not survive without their sponsor’s support. Additionally, an active military response against Iran would also empower the internal opposition against the regime, which is vastly widespread.

The Iranian regime is using proxies because it wants to avoid an open confrontation with Western powers. Additionally, the European partners need to take strong steps against the Iranian regime and Hezbollah, going after their networks in the Old Continent, something that so far has not happened. All of the EU State members need to blacklist Hezbollah (not just its military wing) and the IRGC as terrorist organizations, plain and simple.

These steps must be taken quickly because letting Iran lead the game will only exacerbate a situation that is already very serious. Those who fear an escalation need to understand that it is already taking place.

About the Author
Giovanni Giacalone is a senior analyst in Islamist extremism and terrorism at the Italian Team for Security, Terroristic Issues and Managing Emergencies-Catholic University of Milan, at the Europe desk for the UK-based think tank Islamic Theology of Counter-Terrorism, and a researcher for Centro Studi Machiavelli. Since 2021 he is the coordinator for the "Latin America group" at the International Institute for the Study of Security-ITSS. In 2023 Giacalone published the book “The Tablighi Jamaat in Europe”.
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