Tehran’s regime is cunning, and this is what distinguishes it from other evil regimes like Saddam’s regime in Iraq.
The Houthis’ targeting of Bab al-Mandeb Strait in the Red Sea is an Iranian attack. Iran has been threatening to target passages used for oil transport, like the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf.
It gave orders to its Yemeni Houthi agent – which are supplied missiles by the regime – to shell oil tankers in Bab al-Mandeb Strait.
On one hand, Iran will have succeeded in implementing its promises against the US and the region’s countries without bearing direct responsibility as the executors are Yemenis and the Iranians cannot be held accountable for their actions.
If oil exporting countries, like Saudi Arabia, stop transferring their oil through the Red Sea, Iran will have succeeded in partially obstructing oil export and stirring chaos in the global oil market.
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Iran’s agents in the region, like Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq in Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen are practically Iran’s military whom Iran spends massive amounts of money on and whom it has been training and arming for decades.
The West made a mistake while dealing with the Iranian game at the beginning of the conflict with Iran. The US in particular made this mistake considering it’s the country that is most involved in the region as it had yielded and dealt with Iran’s agents as independent organizations although it knew they were linked to Iran.
If the West had in the 1980s and 1990s viewed the practices of these organizations as directly affiliated with Iran, there wouldn’t be Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and othersAbdulrahman al-Rashed
Nature of relations
It did not deal with them because they were unware of the nature of this relation but to avoid a confrontation with Iran. The US thus limited its confrontation with Tehran to small groups.
When the Lebanese Hezbollah Party abducted and killed some Americans and westerners in Beirut in the 1980s, western governments requested Iran’s and Syria’s intervention to be mediators and release the kidnapped. These practices thus established the rules of the game in a wrong manner that enhanced Iran’s influence and cost it a little.
Iran never paid a price for its crimes. The maximum punishment the West dealt Iran was assassinating Lebanese Hezbollah officials. It’s a cheap investment as Iran can replace them with other Lebanese figures. The real criminal mastermind in Tehran never paid a price for the past 30 years.
If the West had in the 1980s and 1990s viewed the practices of these organizations as directly affiliated with Iran, there wouldn’t be Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and others.
Iran was not held accountable for killing American people in Beirut or killing Americans in the Khobar towers in Saudi Arabia. It was not held accountable for its bloody attacks in Paris’ streets or the hijacking of planes like the hijacking of the TWA flight.
Repeat in Yemen
Tehran is now repeating in West Yemen what it used to do in South Lebanon. The Houthi Movement is an Iranian organization that takes orders from Tehran.
This attack on Bab al-Mandeb executes the threat, which Iranian commanders made in response to White House decisions. They said they will obstruct oil exports in the Gulf.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Brigade commander General Qassem Soleimani’s statements are a mere distraction from the real scheme, which is to appoint the Houthis to carry out this task on his behalf. As for Iran, it will not dirty its hands with such operations.
Tehran wants to impose its influence and conditions using its armed groups without any consequences reflecting on it. No opposing state tried to build agents to balance the conflict of proxies or militias, except in Syria during the past years of war.
In this proxy war and after the failure of its proxy Hezbollah, Iran had to send its troops to directly be involved in the fighting for the first time in its history as it feared the collapse of its ally, the Assad regime. Despite all this, Iran failed while confronting the armed Syrian opposition so it sought the help of Russian forces.
The Iranians will not stop propagating chaos, spreading terrorism and interfering in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq unless the Tehran regime feels it’s being held accountable for its organizations’ practices and directly paying the price of their crimes.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.