The West must speak in a language that the Iranian regime understands | USA TODAY

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The West must speak in a language that the Iranian regime understands | Avi Melamed special to the USA TODAY Network | This article has already published in more that 225 other media and newspapers.

In the turbulent landscape of the current Middle East Geopolitics, Iran and its proxies are holding the world hostage through the war in Gaza. Responding to and defending against such a threat is not a simple task.

In Iraq, Iranian-backed Shiite militias have been directed by Iran to launch attacks on United States and allied forces in the region with the claimed objective of pressuring the U.S. to force Israel to cease its war in Gaza and thus secure Hamas’ rule. Following a lethal attack that claimed the lives of three United States servicemembers in Jordan, the American counterstrike led to Iraqi internal tensions within the Iraqi Shi’ite camp between Iraqi Shi’ites who are loyal to Iran and Iraqi Shi’ites who are resentful of Iran’s influence in Iraq. Concerned that the inner Iraqi Shi’ite tensions might compromise Tehran’s influence over Baghdad, Iran ordered its Iraqi Shi’ite proxies to pause their attacks against U.S. and coalition forces.

From Lebanon, Hezbollah — Iran’s most valuable and powerful proxy, has held the world in suspense for the last five months in an ongoing “will they, won’t they” moment in history surrounding a large-scale attack on Israel and the opening of a second front in the war between Israel and Hamas.

On the shores of the Bab al Mandeb Strait, Yemen is one of the most strategically positioned countries in the world. Armed and instructed by Iran, the Houthis continue and escalate their attacks on shipping in the Red Sea, causing substantial damage to world trade and the global economy. Recently, Houthis sabotaged an underwater cable, disrupting communication between Asia and Europe and recently their attacks on commercial shipping claimed the lives of two merchant mariners.

Iran’s proxy warfare strategy is a shield the regime uses to avoid direct retaliation. This calculated and sophisticated tactic allows Tehran to continue its aggression through intermediaries without facing any consequences. The regime strategically exploits any responses by Western militaries to galvanize anti-Western sentiments, portraying itself as a spearhead of the anti-Western, anti-colonial, anti-oppressor camps. The ongoing assaults orchestrated by Iranian proxies underscore the regime’s influence — and ability — to shape the Middle Eastern geopolitical landscape.

However, the Iranian regime is not impervious; it possesses vulnerabilities that can be strategically targeted.

Chief among these vulnerabilities is Iran’s own infrastructure and economy. With a population exceeding 84 million, Iran relies heavily on revenues from its oil and gas sector to sustain basic societal needs. Disruption of this vital infrastructure would severely impede the regime’s capacity to provide essential services and fuel widespread resistance among its population. Recent reports of targeted sabotage, such as the explosion in a major gas pipeline attributed to Israeli intelligence, underscore the fragility of Iran’s economic lifelines.

Without attacking Iran directly, one of the Achilles Heels in Iran’s plan is Syria.

The Assad regime is the backbone of Iran’s proxy model and the cornerstone of Iran’s regional hegemonic ambitions. An endeavor that has become increasingly challenging amidst its growing isolation from the international community. The United States, along with other Western nations, has been particularly vocal in denouncing Iran’s regional aspirations, casting a pall of illegitimacy over its endeavors.

In May 2023, Syria’s readmission to the Arab League and Assad’s welcome back by other Arab nations raised Assad’s expectations for significant financial support from wealthy Gulf countries. However, Syria’s President did not get the support he had expected.

This presents a bonus opportunity for Western governments to counter Iran’s ambitions. A strategy to address the complex situation in Syria must consider a multifaceted approach that combines economic sanctions with a decisive military strategy to challenge the Assad regime’s grip on power. The creation of a Western Protectorate in southern Syria could serve as this critical turning point. By stepping in to fill the vacuum left by Russia’s diminishing presence, the West has a unique opportunity to support the Druze and Arab tribes, the key demographic groups in south Syria who maintain longstanding ties to Jordan. This approach is not merely about exerting Western influence; it’s about establishing a strategic foothold that aligns with the interests of regional allies like Jordan, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, who are increasingly concerned about the specter of Iranian expansion. Such a protectorate would serve as a bulwark against future threats and a stronghold of stability in the region.

The proxies model provides the Iranian regime with an advantage. Iran’s proxies hold the region and the world hostage. Therefore, the West must leverage the Assad regime as a means of pressure on Tehran. The West must speak in a language that the Iranian regime understands.

Avi Melamed is a former Israeli intelligence official who went on to serve as deputy and then as senior Arab affairs adviser to Jerusalem Mayors Teddy Kollek and Ehud Olmert, operating as a negotiator during the first and second intifadas. He is the author of “Inside The Middle East | Entering A New Era,” and his latest docuseries, “The Seam Line,” available on the Izzy streaming platform, focuses on Jerusalem’s flashpoints and his work during the intifadas.

The West must speak in a language that the Iranian regime understands | Avi Melamed special to the USA TODAY Network | This article has already published in more that 225 other media and newspapers.

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Avi Melamed
Avi Melamed
Avi Melamed is an expert on current affairs in the Arab & Muslim World and their impact on Israel & the Middle East. A former Israeli Intelligence Official & Senior Official on Arab Affairs, Fluent in Arabic, English, and Hebrew, he has held high-risk Government, Senior Advisory, Intelligence & Counter-Terrorist intelligence positions in Arab cities & communities - often in very sensitive times - on behalf of Israeli Government agencies. He is the Founder & CEO of Inside the Middle East | Intelligence Perspectives - an apolitical non-partisan curriculum using intelligence methodology to examine the Middle East. As an Author, Educator, Expert, and Strategic Intelligence Analyst, Avi provides Intelligence Analysis, Briefings, and Geopolitical Tours to diplomats, Israeli and foreign policymakers, global media outlets, and a wide variety of international businesses, organizations, and private clients on a range of Israel and Middle East Affairs.

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