A view of a damaged building following missile attacks, in Erbil, Iraq, January 16, 2024.

Regional Conflict Spreads As Iran Strikes 3 Countries In 24 Hours

Wednesday, 01/17/2024

In less than one day, Iran’s IRGC has launched missile strikes on three neighboring countries, claiming ‘revenge’ for civilians and troops killed in the past few weeks.

Having hit several locations in Syria and Iraqi Kurdistan Monday, IRGC missiles and drones targeted Pakistan Tuesday, in an operation that Iran said was against the Sunni militant group Jaish al-Adl.

Pakistan called the attack “illegal” and “completely unacceptable”, claiming it had killed two children and warning of “serious consequences”.

“Such unilateral acts are not in conformity with good neighborly relations and can seriously undermine bilateral trust and confidence,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement shortly after the attacks. “The responsibility for the consequences of this action will lie squarely with Iran.”

Iran and Pakistan have difficult but functioning relations. Clashes in border areas occur from time to time, mainly involving groups such as Jaish al-Adl, which has claimed responsibility for attacks on, and killing of, several Iranian border patrol.

On Tuesday, hours before the airstrikes, Iran and Pakistan had a joint military exercise in the Persian Gulf, according to Iran’s official news agency IRNA, and Iran’s foreign minister met Pakistan’s caretaker prime minister on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Some experts say it’s likely that Iranian officials had informed their Pakistani counterparts about the attacks, even though the reaction from Islamabad may suggest otherwise. "An ‘unprovoked’, surprise attack on the territory of a nuclear power seems to be one step too far for a regime that has proven time and again to bark more than it bites," an observer noted.

Iran’s muscle-flexing –using ballistic missiles on targets, some of which were well over 1,200 km away– comes amid US and UK airstrikes on Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, who, nonetheless, continue to target vessels in the Red Sea as a show of support for Palestinians in Gaza.

On the face of it, the IRGC attacks have no connection to the Israeli onslaught in Gaza, and are merely retaliatory operations against those who the regime in Tehran says have attacked Iranians and Iranian interests. Set against the backdrop of ‘contained’ conflicts from Yemen to Lebanon, however, it is hard not to see these attacks as part of a regional power struggle between Iran and Israel –and therefore connected to what is happening in Gaza at the moment.

The Iranian regime funds, trains and equips various armed groups across the Middle East, whose shared objective is to push back "the Americans from the region" –and "liberate Palestine from the Zionists."

In the US, many blame the Biden administration for this reinvigoration of the embattled, Iran-led “Axis of Resistance”. The critics say Biden, in his eagerness to find a nuclear agreement with Iran, “appeased” the Ayatollah and lost all deterrence in relation to the regime and its regional allies.

“From day one, the Biden Administration met Iranian aggression with accommodation and squandered the credibility of American deterrence,” US Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell posted on X Tuesday. “It’s time for POTUS to explain how exactly he intends to compel Iran and its proxies to change their behavior.”

The US military targeted more Houthi sites in Yemen Tuesday, in the third such assault on the Iranian-backed group in recent days. And the Biden administration is expected to announce that it will redesignate the Houthis as "global terrorists" Wednesday, almost three years after it delisted the group to facilitate humanitarian aid to Yemen - or to appease Iran, depending on whose view one believes.

Too little too late, many Biden critics say.

“In February 2021… the President delisted Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a foreign terrorist organization,” Congressman Dan Meuser posted on X Tuesday. “Now, because of Biden’s appeasement, the Houthis are stronger than ever and attacking American commercial and military ships at Iran’s direction. As former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said of Joe Biden, “he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”

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