The recent attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities, for which the U.S. officials have accused Iran, have substantially raised the tensions between the two countries.
Now that Iran has thrown stones at the U.S., the U.S. will have to throw something back, not just for teaching Iran a lesson, but also for reminding the world that the U.S. can protect its allies and its interests in other parts of the world.
Surely, this cycle is likely to continue for a while, as Iran will also try to retaliate once again. Even if the U.S.’ retaliation is not military in nature but diplomatic, Iran would be retaliating everything with military means anyway, as Iran has lost the diplomatic and economic means that are necessary to retaliate in non-military method.
Iranian MOIS’ hostility on Western soil
Iran’s retaliation could even include targets in Western cities as well as Western assets and interest in non-Western countries.
If Iran’s attack include any target inside the U.S., this would certainly mean an attack on the U.S. But what happens when Iran attacks a U.S. asset inside a European country. This would mean an attack on the U.S. as well as on that European country, because the attack took place under a jurisdiction of that European country.
For conducting these hostilities on Western soil, Iran would be relying more on Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) than Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
It is worth noting here that while Iranian regime uses the IRGC to recruit, expand and spread its terrorist proxies primarily across the Middle East, it uses the MOIS for fulfilling its global agenda and for carrying-out hostility in other parts of the globe in cooperation with the IRGC.
As the Iranian leaders are now feeling the pressure of oil sanctions and the IRGC’s terror-designation, they will try and shift much of the IRGC’s human resources and assets into an intelligence service that operates under the MOIS.
Many MOIS agents operate under diplomatic cover. Hence, they enjoy foothold, via Iranian embassies, inside many Western and Arab countries as well as many South Asian, Southeast Asian and South American countries. Last year’s thwarted Paris explosion-plot targeting a rally of Iranian expatriates gives a clear picture of how the MOIS agents operate under diplomatic cover.
Hence, Western assets and interests, particularly those of the U.S., are not only vulnerable in Middle Eastern or Western cities, but also in countries which are friendly to both West and Iran, including Indonesia, India, Malaysia and Pakistan. It goes without saying that Western interests, particularly the U.S. assets, are already vulnerable to Iranian hostilities in countries like Iraq and Lebanon, where Iranian regime enjoys a substantial foothold via Iran-backed militias and militants.
Preventing the hostility
In this context, the West would not be able to prevent the coming Iranian hostility if the Western governments in North America and Europe, particularly the U.S., fail to follow up the terror-designation and oil sanction moves with more measures to curtail the finances of Iranian regime as well as restrict the international mobility of the people from the regime and its auxiliary organizations.
On the other hand, if the Western governments, particularly the U.S., take strong follow-up measures, they can effectively prevent the coming Iranian hostility.
In this regard, designating the MOIS as terrorist organization would effectively limit the ability and scope of the MOIS operatives to conduct hostility in the Western cities and on the Western assets and interests in non-Western countries.
In the process, the Iranian regime’s hold on power would be weakened, as without proper finance for, and mobility of, the IRGC and MOIS operatives, Iran would effectively lose its major strengths of challenging its adversaries both at home and abroad.
*Syafruddin Arsyad is an independent researcher on the latest current affairs in the Middle East and their impacts on other regions of the world, including Southeast Asia.