A breaking story from the Middle East describes a potential Iranian offensive on US and Saudi Arabian armed forces, prompting a high-alert status. Iranian mischief in the area is not new. However, the actions of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have intensified, as they have stirred up trouble in the region for the last several months. In addition, recent drone attacks on US bases in Iraq and Syria have increased. Now, reports from Saudi Arabian intelligence indicate Tehran is planning more incursions on Riyadh’s military and US bases. At a Nov. 1 Pentagon briefing Defense Department spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder addressed the growing tension:
“We do remain concerned about the threat situation in the region. We’re in regular contact with our Saudi partners in terms of what information they may have to provide on that front. We’ve said before and I’ll repeat it is that we will reserve the right to protect and defend ourselves, no matter where our forces are serving, whether in Iraq or elsewhere that there is a specific threat.”
As the story has unfolded, “Saudi Arabia has shared intelligence with the US warning of an imminent attack from Iran on targets in the kingdom, putting the American military and others in the Middle East on an elevated alert level, said Saudi and US officials,” Dion Nissenbaum wrote in The Wall Street Journal. Several other countries in the area also raised the readiness level for their militaries. Iran has shown no reluctance to attack US bases at al-Tanf, Syria, and in Iraq. In August, Iran bombarded US troops at a base located where the Syria, Jordan, and Iraq borders meet. Though no state claimed responsibility at the time, similar strikes had already originated in Iran, and there is reason to believe this one came from Iranian-backed terrorists.
Iran Has Its Hands Full With Internal Unrest
What motivates Tehran to threaten the United States and Saudi Arabia now may have more to do with civil unrest in Iran. Riots prompted by the Iranian morality police’s brutal killing of 22-year-old Jina Mahsa Amini while in custody have highlighted the oppression of Iranian citizens under the current leadership. And what was the young woman’s offense? Not meeting the strict Islamic dress code. The violent protests have turned deadly. More than 240 demonstrators have been killed and 12,500 arrested for expressing their outrage over Amini’s death. Deflecting the world’s attention away from the demonstrations throughout Iran would be an obvious motivation for raising threats against the United States and Saudi Arabia. Additionally, Iranian leaders like to accuse the United States of aiding the protesters and inciting the demonstrations.
Other Reasons for Iran’s Behavior
Another reason for Iran’s menacing behavior could be the shifting geopolitical relationships in the Gulf region. Particularly troubling for Tehran leadership are the ties being developed between Arab nations and Israel. An historically significant summit meeting last March brought together diplomats from the United States, Israel, Bahrain, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates. “Israeli and Arab diplomats said they were discussing unprecedented, formal defense partnerships, as well as new military and economic ties and a joint strategy for Iran,” David S. Cloud, Dov Lieber, and Stephen Kalin reported from the Middle East for The Wall Street Journal. Iran must fear its neighbors’ alignment growing into an oppositional bulwark. Attacking the United States and Saudi Arabia would be serious nose-thumbing at the two military powerhouses.
Hostilities between Iran and neighboring countries are standard fare in the Middle East. Nonetheless, being prepared is a necessary precaution.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
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