Thursday, January 18, 2024

Geopolitical sideshow

A few days ago, I learned that Iran struck a militant group located in Pakistan, Jaish al-Adl. This was days after Iran struck other targets in Northern Syria and Iraq, claiming that those targets conducted attacks on Iran. To me, the Iraq strikes did not seem so random, but maybe I am misguided in that view. The Pakistan strikes seemed really random. Pakistan striking back today seemed like even stranger behavior. 

Iran supports several proxy groups around the world that it hopes will help it carry out its geopolitical interests. They call this the axis of resistance, which is essentially a group with similar anti-Western interests. It includes Hamas, Hizbollah, the Houthis, some militants in Iraq and Syria, and others. Iran is a potent military force, despite its relative economic seclusion to the Western world. They recently sold ballistic missiles to Russia and their drones being used to attack Ukraine and by the Houthis

Iran's proxies are kind of taking Ls right now, so to speak. The Houthis, the somehow-incredibly-resilient militant group controlling a part of Yemen, is no match for American destroyers precision bombing Houthi bases while simultaneously posting about dogs. Israel continues to pound Gaza, where Hamas is outgunned. Hezbollah has not declared war on Israel (yet?). Even if they aren't taking Ls, they haven't wracked up any clear Ws. 

Why is Iran bombing a range of targets across the region? I don't know, but I am confused. I searched around to find out if anyone knows. Usually, Iran does not tell us in the West what is Iran is thinking, and Western media is very uninterested in reporting what Iran or people in Iran are saying. WSJ:

Iran wanted to showcase its ballistic-missile capability to prove they are a credible threat to Israel, said independent London-based and Iran focused geopolitical analyst Mostafa Pakzad.

“Iran is responding to popular demand to retaliate by striking nonstate actors,” said Sanam Vakil, director of the Middle East and North Africa at London’s Royal Institute of International Affairs. But it is also “defining its red lines in response to the war in the region.”

Iran is making pretty impressive attacks! This map shows how widespread their ballistic missile reach has been:

Israel is most likely within striking range of Iran. With friends in Hamas and Hizbollah, as well as the Houthis, they have Israel (America's best friend) slightly surrounded. The Houthis have scrambled global trade by functionally blocking the Red Sea. But does that make Iran powerful? The Economist says no. I'm not entirely sure I agree with them. But I am compelled by the explanation that Iran is simply flexing its muscles to demonstrate to the West that they can strike. But will they strike? I don't think Iran wants a world war. Iran's friends (Russia, maybe), or at least countries it can call closer (China) probably do not want a world war either.