October 25, 2023 | Flash Brief

U.S. Warns Iran Not to Engulf Mideast in War

October 25, 2023 | Flash Brief

U.S. Warns Iran Not to Engulf Mideast in War

Latest Developments

Speaking before the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told members that if they “want to prevent this conflict from spreading, tell Iran, tell its proxies … do not open another front against Israel in this conflict; do not attack Israel’s partners.” The same day, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan warned in an article for Foreign Affairs magazine that the Hamas-Israel war “could spiral into a regional conflict.” As a result, Sullivan wrote that the Biden administration has “conducted extensive diplomatic outreach and enhanced our military force posture in the region.”

Expert Analysis

“To deter Iran and prevent a regional war, President Biden needs to show he will not tolerate Tehran’s aggression. He deserves credit for reinforcing the U.S. military presence in the region and requesting additional aid for Israel, but he continually downplays Iran’s direct responsibility for Hamas terrorism, including the October 7 massacre. The administration also refuses to enforce sanctions, sending Tehran the message that Washington will never hold it accountable.” David Adesnik, FDD Senior Fellow and Director of Research 

“The formidable firepower that America has delivered to the Middle East is a clear message. However, it is not clear that Iran is hearing that message. The regime and its proxies continue to provoke both the United States and Israel with deadly fire across the region. Perhaps Tehran doesn’t believe that the United States or Israel has the will to change the equation. The regime is playing a dangerous game, and it’s betting the lives of millions in the process.” Jonathan Schanzer, FDD Senior Vice President for Research 

Tensions at Israel’s Northern Border

Hezbollah and Israel have been exchanging fire since Hamas waged its terrorist attack on October 7. With tensions heating up, Israel ordered 14 communities near the northern border to evacuate over the weekend. So far, the Israel Defense Forces, National Emergency Management Authority, and the Ministry of Defense have evacuated over 120,000 residents near Gaza and Lebanon — including more than 20,000 from the northern city of Kiryat Shmona.

According to Israeli estimates, Hezbollah has a stockpile of 150,000 rockets and mortars. The group possesses hundreds of precision-guided munitions, which can strike within meters of their target. If Hezbollah goes all in, Israel will be thrust into a two-front war that could quickly expand.

Iran and Syria Could Join the Fight

Iran could reinforce Hezbollah by striking Israel with its ballistic missiles. Direct Iranian involvement would likely draw the United States into an unwanted Middle East war. Already, Washington has dispatched a U.S. Marine Expeditionary Unit to Israeli waters.

In addition to Hezbollah, Iran has a network of Pakistani and Afghan Shiite militias in Syria that it could enlist to join the fight. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could also dispatch some of his remaining armed forces or missile assets.

Increased Attacks Against U.S. Forces

Senior U.S. officials confirmed on Monday, October 23, that Iran-backed militias are preparing to escalate attacks against American forces in the Middle East. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said the administration is “deeply concerned about the potential of any significant escalation of these attacks in the days ahead.” He noted that there is “a very direct connection between these groups” and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Earlier on Monday, U.S. forces shot down two drones targeting American troops in Syria. At least five similar incidents occurred last week in Syria and Iraq.

The Persian Gulf

Between January 2021 and July 2023, Iran targeted 26 foreign vessels in the Persian Gulf, many of them oil tankers. Approximately a fifth of the world’s daily oil supply travels through the region. In a prospective regional war, Iran could blackmail importing countries by choking maritime traffic through the Gulf.

How War Could Engulf the Entire Middle East,” by David Adesnik

Iranian-Backed Militias in Iraq and Syria Continue Attacks on U.S. Troops,” FDD Flash Brief

U.S. Surges Additional Combat Forces to the Middle East,” FDD Flash Brief


Arab Politics Gulf States International Organizations Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Israel at War Lebanon Palestinian Politics Syria