Intelligence officials said, “We do face a threat” due of the existence of “sleeper cells” directed by Iran and/or Hezbollah within the US.
Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s special operations Quds Force, recently posted a controversial image to his Instagram account that shows him holding a walkie-talkie while the White House is engulfed in flames behind him. It is captioned, “We will crush the USA under our feet.”
As long as it can maintain plausible deniability, the regime learned 35 years ago that selectively attacking U.S. targets can work in its favor, with the bombing of the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, committed by Iranian agents and possibly approved at the top levels of the Iranian government.
The attack killed more than 300 people, but the US had no immediate evidence of state involvement, and ultimately chose to withdraw its forces from the city. Much of Iran’s future uses of terrorism were informed by this incident.
But Iran’s involvement in the 1996 Khobar Towers attack, which killed 19 U.S. service members and injured nearly 500, damaged its relationship with other Gulf states, as well as its diplomatic standing around the world.
As well, Iran’s relationship with European countries was threatened by the findings by a German court that Iranian agents were behind the 1992 assassination of Kurdish leaders in Berlin.
So, Iran began using more furtive forms of terror sponsorship, and halted open support for terrorist groups. Still, Iran continues to be cited as the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, due to its financial and logistical assistance to Hezbollah, Palestinian terrorist groups, and other organizations throughout the Middle East.
Iran not likely support an overt attack against the US. However, if an attack that disguised Iran’s responsibility may be an attractive option. Research reveals that states may support terrorist attacks when:
1.) They are in a particularly adversarial relationship
2.) When they are weak relative to their adversary.
The relationship between the U.S and Iran is more adversarial than ever, with the abandonment of the Iran nuclear deal and the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions.
Since the end of 2017, the largest public protests against the Iranian regime have been raging in the country, with the sanctions only fueling this dissent. Iran is weaker than it has been in some time.
The Iranian regime is in an increasingly dire situation. If it believes that the US is to blame, then it may be backed into becoming convinced that an attack against the US would outweigh the costs.
A US retaliation would actually benefit the regime because the average Iranian’s focus would shift to external enemies. It is therefore concerning that Iran blamed the US for last week’s attack against its military parade and promised a “swift” response.