“More important than a military strike, it was a serious blow to dignity, a blow to the dignity of the U.S. as a superpower.”
That’s how Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, described recent missile strikes against bases in Iraq housing American troops during a rare Friday prayer sermon in Tehran last week. Earlier, Khamenei likened the strikes to a “slap” against America. While Iranian officials are no stranger to bombast and invective against the U.S., Iran’s broadcasting of the missile strike, and Khamenei’s repeated touting of it, does not neatly comport with Tehran’s long-established preference for proxy warfare and deniability.
Driven by more than a decade of investment in projectile accuracy, there is increasing comfort in Tehran with direct, public and attributable attacks against targets in the Middle East using ballistic missiles launched from Iranian territory. As Iran’s military aptitudes evolve, the prevalence of missiles in Iranian operations will only grow.
Behnam Ben Taleblu is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (@FDD), where he focuses on Iranian political and security issues. He frequently briefs Washington audiences on Iran-related issues and has testified before the U.S. Congress and Canadian parliament.