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What will it take to deter Iran?


WORLD Radio - What will it take to deter Iran?

The United States needs to send a stronger message to end attacks on the U.S. military in the Middle East

Pentagon spokesman Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, Feb. 5 Associated Press/Photo by Susan Walsh

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Thursday the 8th of February, 2024. Thanks for listening to WORLD Radio. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.

First up on The World and Everything in It: Iran’s proxy war against America.

As you just heard, yesterday the U.S. targeted the leader of an Iran-backed militia in Iraq. This is the latest in a series of strikes following a militia drone attack that killed three American service members stationed in Jordan.

REICHARD: U.S. forces struck over 80 targets in Syria and Iraq last weekend. Here’s Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder on Monday. You’ll hear him refer to IRGC, the initialism for the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps.

PAT RYDER: This is the start of our response, and there will be additional actions taken to hold the IRGC and affiliated militias accountable for their attacks on U.S. and coalition forces.

BROWN: How many strikes will it take to deter Iran and its proxies to stop attacking U.S. forces?

Joining us now is Joe Truzman. He’s a senior research analyst for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and writes for the Long War Journal, focused on Palestinian militant groups and Hezbollah.

JOE TRUZMAN: Hi, thank you for having me.

REICHARD: So glad you're here. Well, what do we know about the group behind the attack in Jordan?

TRUZMAN: So the group, it's actually groups really, if you look at it, but it's the Islamic Resistance in Iraq. So it's an umbrella organization. This umbrella organization is made up of front groups and established groups that are backed by Iran, specifically established groups that operate in Iraq and in Syria. And these groups are made up of organizations like Hezbollah Brigades, or another group called al-Nujaba. They have been established in Iraq for some time now and receive support from Iran, ok. Now, you could ask yourself, Well, why would they create a front organization, right? Why don't they just come out and say, “Okay, this is us, we did it, we're attacking American troops?” The reason for that is that they want to create plausible deniability. Iran through these proxies wants to distance itself from saying that they are attacking American troops in the region. Okay? So this is why these groups have created this front organization called the Islamic resistance in Iraq, that we've heard so much about in the last few months.

REICHARD: All right. Well, you know, we often hear the phrase “Iran backed militias.” Could you explain what kind of backing Iran gives to these militants?

TRUZMAN: Right, so this is important. There are different types of support. Okay, it depends what group because the thing is, and what a lot of people don't know is that Iran supports a lot of these organizations, or these armed terrorist organizations, whether they're in Iraq or Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Gaza, or the West Bank, okay. And that type of funding or support varies. Some of it is through money, right through funds. Some of it's through transfer of weapons, or a combination of both. For instance, the groups in Iraq and Syria that have been attacking U.S. troops, a lot of the assistance that they get from Iran is in the form of arms, all right, whether it's ballistic missiles, or drones that we saw that killed US troops in Jordan recently. So but it just varies on the group, but most of it is either funds, or something very important as well, that I mentioned is military know-how or military training. We see a lot of that, with these Iran-backed groups, and these proxy organizations that become very strong in the region, it's causing them a lot of problems for the United States and Israel.

REICHARD: All right, do you think we're going to come to a point where striking back at proxy forces isn't enough, and the United States will have to initiate direct strikes on Iran?

TRUZMAN: That's the big question, right? That's what we've been hearing a lot. Does hitting the proxy organizations do enough? Well, the problem right now is that these strikes need to be stronger to send a message, and we hear this word a lot is deterrence, right? There's no deterrence right now in the Middle East when it comes to these groups and the United States. So they continue attacking. Even after the U.S. struck areas in Syria and Iraq in the last few days, these groups continue to attack. It didn't faze them, essentially. So it seems that the U.S. didn't do enough, all right? And that's been the case in the last few months. American strikes against these groups have been tepid, they haven't done much, all right? They haven't been strong to send a message. That's the problem here. But also, we have to remember, these groups at the end of the day are controlled by Iran, all right? So I think a stronger message needs to be sent to Iran, which has been lacking this whole time, whether it's through sanctions, or military strikes, one can debate that.

REICHARD: Joe, is there any aspect of this story that you think is being overlooked, that warrants more attention?

TRUZMAN: This isn't about Israel and the United States. It's about Iran and the United States. It's about Iran trying to push the United States out of the region. What Iran, the regime in Iran, the Iranian government, what they're very good at, is seeing an opportunity, right, and leveraging that opportunity to further its agenda. They saw what happened in Israel with the Hamas terrorist attack, so they took the opportunity to try to push the United States out even further from the region by attacking troops in the name of the U.S. supporting Israel, which, again, like I said before, I think that's just a guise, so I think that's important to highlight.

REICHARD: Joe Truzman with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, thanks for joining us.

TRUZMAN: I appreciate you having me. Thank you.

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