Strategically, Iran is much smarter than most Americans would like to believe.
And right now, Iranian strategy is to play games with the United States and with Israel, hoping to drive either one — or even better, both of their nemeses to make far-reaching, diplomatically fatal, mistakes.
Iran does not like to get its own hands dirty. Iran likes to pull the strings of its puppets, or in diplomatic speak, its proxies.
Most often, Iran does not itself actually make the advances or rattle the sabers or attack United States or Israeli resources in the region. Iran uses their proxies to carry out their missions, their dirty work.
Several recent cases in point demonstrate just how devious and sly Iran is at this game.
And just how gullible and even self-deluded both the United States and Israel are when it comes to Iran.
In the first example, after Israel responded to an Iranian cyberattack.
They struck at Iran’s infrastructure by way of a counter cyberattack.
In the second example the United States struck an Iranian-backed militia base in Syria.
Both attacks were successful and both the United States and Israel pridefully boasted that they had taught Iran a lesson for stepping out of line.
As the United States and Israel soon learned, hubris is a dangerous emotion.
In response, Iran sprang into action and activated their proxies.
The result, for Israel, was a massive oil spill off their Mediterranean coastline.
Environmentalists predict that it will take decades to repair the damage to the water, to the coast and to the beaches of Israel. The rich marine life along the coastline was decimated.
Washed ashore were all forms of fish and fowl, all coated with oil and tar.
Huge globs of tar covered the area.
It took a while, but Israel finally pinpointed the tanker that caused the spill.
It was a Libyan tanker surreptitiously taking oil from Iran to Syria. According to Israel, the vessel sailed through the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea without activating its GPS transponder.
The transponder was turned on only when the vessel crossed through the Suez Canal. And it was turned off again upon entering Israeli waters heading north toward Syria.
The vessel, named Emerald and flying a Panamanian flag, slowly sailed north on Feb 1.
On Feb 2, the Emerald dumped its oil. And then made its way to Syria.
There has still been no comment from Iran.
But the ante has been upped.
The dumping of oil along the Mediterranean coastline, along Israel’s coastline, took terror to a level not seen in many years. This was an act of environmental terror unlike any other in recent history. It was an enemy attack, a deliberate act of destruction and Israel was the target.
The second example is as recent as the new Biden administration. In response to rocketattacks against U.S. forces in the Mideast region, the Biden administration launched a retaliation strike in Syria against Iranian militia forces.
The message to Iran was, we may be new at this, but we are serious. We are not afraid to hit you.
Learn your lesson.
The lesson Iran learned was to hit even harder. A proxy militia fired ten rockets at a U.S. base.
A third example of Iran’s game playing comes to us via an Iranian attack on an Israeli merchant marine ship named Helios Ray and flying a Bermudan flag.
This ship was targeted and hit by two missiles above the water line. Once again, Israel traced the strike back to Iran.
It is obvious, by now, that rather than reconciliation, Iran is interested in escalation. Iran is not open to re-education.
It is the United States and Israel that must recalibrate and learn the lesson these attacks are teaching them.
And the lesson they must learn is how to prepare to prevent further attacks – all different kinds of further attacks.
To expect the unexpected.
On land, in the air, on the sea and in cyber space.
Nothing is off limits, nothing is out of bounds when it comes to Iran.
Easier said than done.
The open seas, especially merchant trade, commercial ships and the environment had not really been the arena of Iranian targets until now. U.S. encampments have been targets.
They need to be shored up even more.
Iran knows what they are doing.
They know how to attack and they know to expect a response.
They also know that, when dealing with Israel and the United States, their responses will be measured.
And then Iran will make the next move.
That is, after all, how games are played.
Never, ever, underestimate Iran.
Remember Persia was the culture that invented the game of chess.
That is a lesson for us all.
Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern" a weekly TV program and "My Chopp" a daily radio spot. A dynamic speaker, he specializes in analyzing world events and evaluating their relevance and impact. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. Read Micah Halpern's Reports — More Here.
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