For 40 years, Iran’s military has used unconventional warfare to destabilize the Middle East and make up for what it lacks in traditional military capabilities.war
Its unconventional operations, which include the use of terrorist and guerrilla groups, are run via the Quds Force, a branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. The guard was led by Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a Jan. 2 U.S. airstrike.
At 15,000 strong, the Quds Force’s influence far outweighs its numbers. What it lacks in forces, it makes up through proxy groups. These include Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, the Houthi rebellion in Yemen, and various Palestinian groups such as Hamas. Most recently, an Iranian-backed group in Iraq killed a U.S. contractor, sparking military action.
Both Hezbollah and Hamas have been designated as terrorist groups by the U.S. State Department.
“Clearly, the use of proxies to execute Iranian political objectives is part of their modus operandi,” retired Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula told the Washington Examiner. “It is a method by which they can instill terror and conduct aggressive actions without being associated with the actual conduct of the act.”
In 1983, the group that evolved into Hezbollah was believed to have killed 241 U.S. personnel when it bombed a barracks in Beirut. Today, Hezbollah is one of the largest Iranian proxy groups and fields a massive missile arsenal thanks to Iranian support.
After the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, Iran supported Iraqi Shiite Muslim groups via the IRGC and the Quds Force. The IRGC was accused of supplying these groups with explosively formed penetrators, a type of improvised device designed to tear through American armor.
“These guys are very good at their methods, which is unconventional, asymmetric warfare, but they don’t have the power to put in place an alternative to the American traditional order,” said the Hudson Institute’s Peter Rough. “Instead, they have the power to sow this discord and to destroy.”
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