PEJOURNAL – Operating in the Gray Zone, a report, written by military analyst Michael Eisenstadt shortly after the assassination of General Soleimani, seeks to provide a solution to Iran in West Asia, published by The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Strategic think tank of explanation – The Washington Institute for Near East Policy was founded in 1985 by Martin Sean Indyk, research assistant at the AIPAC, Zionist Lobby, to advise US decision-making institutions on West Asia and North Africa policy. Warren Christopher, Alexander Hague and George Schultz former secretaries of state, as well as Robert McFarlane, a former national security adviser to the United States, have been members of the advisory board of this institute.
This report refers to the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces, called it the most intense military confrontation between Iran and the United States, targeting the main architect of Iran’s “gray zone” strategy. The gray area means the area outside the territorial integrity of a state to which it extends its strategic military-security depth and engages in conflict with its enemies without declaring a formal war.
Iran pursued this policy after the end of the imposed war to prevent the recurrence of this bloody and damaging aggression. by using a threefold combination of resistance groups, missile power, and speedboats in the Persian Gulf, Iran’s deterrence strategy has hit Western security interests, controlled the intensity and speed of tensions, prevented a full-scale war, and evaded legal responsibility.
Tehran’s red line is to resort to a direct military strike, threatening Iran’s territorial integrity, the existence of the Islamic Republic, or halting oil exports from the Persian Gulf.
The “gray zone” means the area outside the territorial integrity of a state to which it extends its strategic military-security depth and engages in conflict with its enemies without declaring a formal war.
The article argues that the “gray zone” policy of Russia, China, and Iran has been so successful because the United States has a dual understanding of military war, whether in war or in peace, which allows opponents of Western hegemony to take an asymmetric approach have more freedom of action to strike at American interests, and by moving below the threshold of war, they shake the American will to strike back.
In addition to the military option, they also use diplomatic, intelligence, cyber and economic tools. Iran’s success rate in this strategy is calculated from the sum of methods and tools multiplied by ideology because the power of ideology gives a high coefficient to material capabilities. The origin of this approach goes back to Iran’s experiences of holy defense, which targeted the weaknesses of the Ba’athist enemy during irregular battles with high morale and low cost.
The author considers strategic cohesion as well as tactical flexibility as a component of Iran’s success in its regional policies. In such a way that it does not avoid retreat in times of necessity and takes geopolitical considerations into account.
For this reason, the IRGC and Hezbollah are patient in the face of the Zionist regime’s attacks on Syria in order to respond appropriately in due time. This ambiguity helps Iran to avoid predicting its behavior, and sometimes Iran’s response is neither direct nor merely in the form of the same enemy attack. For example, a proxy cyber-attack would be considered a response to a direct military attack.
It is even more dynamic in targeting, for example, Ansar allah’s (Houthi movement) attack on Saudi oil facilities in response to US sanctions. Cooperation with Sunni groups, as well as efforts to exploit the differences between rival governments such as Turkey and Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which prevent the completion of the siege and isolation of Iran, are other manifestations of the pragmatism of the Islamic Republic’s regional policies.
Iran’s success rate in this strategy is calculated from the sum of methods and tools multiplied by ideology because the power of ideology gives a high coefficient to material capabilities.
At the macro level, Iran’s environmental congruence with the West Asian region against the heterogeneity of the secular West and the belief in jihad and martyrdom based on the Qur’anic idea of Ehud al-Hussein against American materialism; At the micro level, this report has considered the successes in the battle of narratives in the media and the long-term continuity of Martyr Soleimani’s command over the Quds Force as components of the continuation of Iran’s regional policy.
At the same time, it listed some obstacles to the continuation of Iranian influence: the corruption of Shia politicians in Iraq and Lebanon, the economic costs of rebuilding Syria, and the credibility of the Zionist regime in some Arab countries affected by the intensification of the Shia-Sunni religion dual.
A battle between battles
The article recommends dealing with Iran in West Asia, the United States abandons the military strategy of having a large presence of heavily equipped troops and expands its “gray zone” by providing small numbers of troops during sustained, gradual, and increasing operations below on the threshold of pervasive war. In this regard, while reducing the presence of infantry, which is an easy target for resistance groups and increases the vulnerability of the United States, in connection with militia groups opposition to the resistance front, for example Kurds in Syria and Sunnis in Iraq, prevent by Iran from filling the US presence gap.
At the same time, instead of Army, it turned to the widespread use of UAVs and drones to threaten Iran’s valuable assets. It is also necessary that to compensate for the limitations of US domestic law in the military confrontation with Iran, some measures should be taken by US regional allies and an erosive battle should be imposed on Iran on several fronts. Increasing US unpredictability and a change in Iran’s calculations leading to a resumption of deterrence are other suggestions to the United States that the assassination of General Soleimani appears to have been the beginning of a method to dissuade Iran from approaching US red lines.
In addition to the military dimension, the author recommends reducing Iran’s social capital through psychological operations among Sunnis and even Shias in the region against the axis of resistance. File making against Iran in diplomatic assemblies and negotiations with regional governments to persuade the expulsion of Iranian security officials and cultural missionaries are other soft war measures.
An expert from the Washington Institute, who claims that Yemen’s Ansar allah (Houthi movement) and Hamas in Palestine are less dependent on Iran than Lebanon’s Hezbollah, sees divisions within the resistance front as another US political priority against the Islamic Republic. In the economic dimension, while continuing and intensifying sanctions focusing on foreign exchange earnings with the aim of reducing incentives in Iran, covert intelligence and cyber operations against sensitive infrastructure such as oil facilities are on the agenda.
The United States has abandoned its military strategy of expanding its heavy-duty military presence and expanding its “gray zone” by providing small numbers of troops during sustained, gradual, and increasing operations below on the threshold of pervasive war.
The institute’s report seeks to explain a strategy that restricts Iran’s freedom of action in the face of pressures that have imposed costs on the arrogant front, especially given the asymmetric approach of the resistance. Probably this think tank considering the slogan “End of Endless Wars” in the US public arena, which plays an important role in the social capital of foreign policy, it seeks to replace the large US military presence in West Asia and in the event of a gradual US withdrawal from future governments, to ensure US military intervention in threatening Iran and its support for the security of its allies, especially the Zionist regime.
Due to the close connection of this research institute with the Zionist lobbies that have a significant impact on the Trump administration, decision-makers and foreign policy experts in the Islamic Republic in diplomatic and military bodies should not ignore these recommendations and they should be more vigilant than the possibility of changes in the process of US confrontational policies in the region. However, such a large-scale change in US regional strategies will be gradual and unlikely to materialize in the medium term.