Another member of Tehran’s “Axis of Resistance” has been sanctioned by Washington. How the U.S. enforces its penalty is set to matter more than its announcement.
Should Iran have taken the decision to attack civilian vessels that carry oil, it could represent one way to do damage to global oil shipments without inviting massive retaliation. Such a move would be consistent with Iran’s highly graduated approach to escalation and desire to respond to the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign.
An overemphasis by the West on seeking to check Tehran’s ballistic missile program has led to inattention to Iran’s cruise missile capabilities and intentions. Over the weekend, Iran unveiled and test-launched a “new” land-attack cruise missile, dubbed the Hoveizah, days in advance of the Islamic Republic’s 40th anniversary.
Iran’s willingness to resort to tactical SRBM launches against regional targets warrants a larger discussion about the country’s missile power and escalation dynamics. It also requires an accurate assessment of what occurred on the ground against Iranian Kurds in Iraq and in the media space on this issue since September 8.
Last week, the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington D.C. released a nine-page primer on Iran’s continued support to Yemen’s Houthi rebels. Buried within the same document was photographic evidence of Saudi Arabia’s latest charge against Iran: the provision of the Sayyad-2C surface-to-air missile (SAM) to Houthi rebels.
Pro-Houthi media outlets like Yemen News Agency (SABA) reported that at least three types of projectiles were fired into the Kingdom. They include the Burkan-2H, the Qaher-2M, and the Badr-1. Both the Burkan and the Qaher have been used multiple times in the Yemeni theater, while the Badr was only unveiled last week.
On select measures of the Iran threat, the 2018 document is remarkably consistent with themes from past assessments. Yet, in this latest assessment, additional attention is paid to the country’s evolving cyber aptitudes and to its turbulent domestic politics.
At the strategic level, if Iran’s provision of ballistic missiles to the Houthi rebels is confirmed, it could be seen as an indicator Tehran’s increased tolerance for risk in a distant conflict theater, one which has sought to weaken Saudi Arabia by any means possible.