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September 3, 2018 12:53 pm

Why We Need the World’s Help on Iran

avatar by Yoav Limor / JNS.org

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A display featuring missiles and a portrait of Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is seen at Baharestan Square in Tehran, Sept. 27, 2017. Photo: Nazanin Tabatabaee Yazdi / TIMA via Reuters.

JNS.org – Recent reports that Iran has deployed missiles ‎in western Iraq speak to the Islamic republic’s ‎attempts to entrench itself militarily in the ‎region. ‎

While Tehran has denied the reports, and says that they are intended ‎to undermine Iran’s ties with its neighbors, it is ‎hardly a secret that Iran is trying to increase its ‎influence across the so-called “Shiite crescent,” ‎which stretches through Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq, Syria, ‎and Lebanon, and has an offshoot in the Gaza Strip.‎

Iran’s Quds Force, the Revolutionary Guards’ elite ‎extraterritorial black-ops arm, has been tasked with ‎overseeing this mission, which enjoys an annual ‎budget of billions of dollars despite the economic ‎hardships plaguing the Islamic republic.

The regime in Tehran had hoped to be in a different ‎position by now, especially in the Syrian arena. But ‎Israel’s substantial counter-operations over the past ‎year have thrown a wrench into their plans, so it ‎stands to reason that the Iranians have temporarily ‎shifted their focus to Iraq, where it is less ‎dangerous for them to operate.‎

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This is most likely why Iran deployed missiles ‎in western Iraq. The 1991 Gulf War may have taught ‎us that any missiles in that area pose ‎a clear and present danger to Israel, but the reality is ‎far more complex. ‎

Iran wants to control Iraq, which is the scene of a ‎fierce battle between pro-American and pro-Iranian ‎forces. Controlling Iraq means more than money and ‎power, it means continuous land access between Iran ‎and the Mediterranean nations. From Iraq, Iran would be able to have direct, ‎more effective influence in Syria.

Israel is not the ‎only country threatened by these entrenchment efforts. ‎Saudi Arabia and the UAE are high on Iran’s ‎list of objectives, as they support the moderates in Iraq. Above all, Iran wants to undermine the United ‎States, which challenges all of Iran’s regional interests. ‎

For this reason, it is likely that the reports of ‎the Iranian deployment in western Iraq sought to ‎send a message to the US at a time when Washington is considering pulling its troops ‎from Syria. ‎

It was also a message to France, Britain, and ‎Germany, illustrating how — while they are scrambling ‎to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal in the wake of the ‎US withdrawal — Iran is sparing no ‎effort to undermine their regional interests.‎

International coordination is vital to stop the ‎Iranian plan in its tracks. Israel cannot accomplish ‎this unilaterally, not only because chances of an ‎Israeli strike in Iraq are slim (partly so as not to hinder ‎US interests), but mainly because this is a long-term game that requires a balance of carrots and ‎sticks that only the world powers can provide.‎

If the international community stays on the sidelines, Iran will ‎forge on with its plan, including the development of ‎local missile production capabilities. ‎However, one must remember that it is highly ‎doubtful the Iranian missiles deployed in ‎western Iraq will be launched at Israel anytime ‎soon. This option does exist, but its likelihood is ‎slim as Iran still prefers to wage a covert campaign ‎against Israel rather than an overt one. ‎

Much like in the theater, where a gun seen ‎in the first act will be fired in the third, Iran is ‎planning ahead. Once it reintroduces the threat of ‎missiles in western Iraq trained at Israel, ‎it will undoubtedly deploy long-range missiles in ‎Yemen that will also allow it to threaten Israel. ‎We must work with our international partners to stop this from happening.

Yoav Limor is a veteran Israeli journalist and columnist for Israel Hayom.

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