May 13, 2024 | Longitude

The Looming Crisis

The new normal for Iran and its proxies in creating provocations and America’s insistence on responding to them by putting up a stronger defensive line, means that deterrence is eroding, not improving. For now, the much-feared escalation in the region is contained. Yet the calm may be brief and illusory. Tracing back the Biden doctrine is crucial to grasp this widening insecurity.
May 13, 2024 | Longitude

The Looming Crisis

The new normal for Iran and its proxies in creating provocations and America’s insistence on responding to them by putting up a stronger defensive line, means that deterrence is eroding, not improving. For now, the much-feared escalation in the region is contained. Yet the calm may be brief and illusory. Tracing back the Biden doctrine is crucial to grasp this widening insecurity.

Excerpt

For four decades, the Islamic Republic of Iran has fought its adversaries through proxies, conducting a shadow war against the United States, Israel, and others. No more. Iran sees its enemies weakened, checked by its power and that of its proxies. Since October 7, it has unleashed its proxies in a conflict designed to sow chaos in the region and challenge Tehran’s enemies. Of the many factors guiding Tehran’s calculus, one merits our attention: America, the Ayatollahs believe, no longer has the resolve to protect its allies and defend its interests, because it has no appetite for escalation. And while chaos mounts, fomented by Iran’s proxies, Tehran is moments away from becoming a nuclear weapon state.

It is difficult to see how the Islamic Republic of Iran, with its revolutionary zeal protected by a nuclear arsenal, could play a constructive role in pacifying the regional tensions it is currently fomenting. Its proxies will be able to shelter under the destructive power and diplomatic prestige of Iran’s nuclear umbrella. Israel’s ability to respond to Iranian aggression will be severely diminished. Western response options will be constrained. Moderate Arab states will hedge their bets. The regional prospects of normalization under the Abraham accords will wither, replaced by instability, conflict, and growing Iranian influence. We may be only months away from such a prospect. And the past six months have given the world a taste of what Iran may be capable of doing once it crosses the last technological threshold before going nuclear.

Emaunele Ottolenghi is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington D.C. Follow him on X @eottolenghi.

Issues:

Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran Nuclear Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Israel at War Military and Political Power U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy