In a lecture and Q&A with foreign journalists last night, strategic analyst Dr. Mostafa Khosh-Cheshm summarized the history and current state of what he described as the US hybrid war on Iran. He asserted that the American campaign has stalled due to Iran’s successful counterattacks and deterrents, but anticipates possible escalation into new battlegrounds despite the American side’s failure to make any progress toward achieving its objectives.
The apparent failure of the Israeli-inspired US hybrid war on Iran comes at the worst possible time for the US empire, which faces impending military catastrophe in Ukraine as even The New York Times has belatedly admitted. Future historians may look back on the neoconservatives’ decision to simultaneously target Russia, China, and Iran as one of the biggest blunders in history, on the scale of those analyzed in Barbara Tuchman’s The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam. Writing of the foolish Goth king Recared, who inadvertently opened Spain to Muslim conquest, Tuchman notes that “for a ruler opposed by two inimical groups, it is folly to continue antagonizing both at once” (p.16). True enough; and how much more foolish to simultaneously antagonize three such groups!
The biggest mistake, from a US geo-strategic perspective, is making an enemy of Iran. China and to a lesser extent Russia are, due to their size and resources, peer competitors whose aspirations the US has reason to wish to contain. Iran, for its part, is a large and important country blessed with significant natural and human resources, but is not a natural peer competitor of the US. But since it occupies a critically-important strategic location at the crossroads of the Eurasia-Africa world island, and has historically suffered from Russia’s southward expansion, Iran and the US have every reason to maintain friendly relations and make win-win deals. The problem, from Iran’s perspective, is that the US seems incapable of making win-win deals (and sticking to them) while respecting the sovereignty of its partners. Instead, it arbitrarily shreds its own solemn agreements and aggressively insists on economically and militarily subjugating other nations, while exporting its own decadence in the form of “woke” obsessions with deviant sexuality, attacks on traditional family structures, nihilistic Soros-funded revolts against all forms of traditional authority, and other bizarre fetishes that the non-Western world wants no part of.
According to Dr. Khosh-Cheshm, the US is attacking Iran with a multi-point hybrid war. He listed the following battlegrounds:
War of perception. The US and its vassals, especially Saudi Arabia, maintain and lavishly fund Farsi-language propaganda media, which work in tandem with Zionist-owned Mockingbird mainstream media to wage psychological war on Iran. Among their mendacious perception-management ops, these weaponized media have created false impressions that “Iranians are rising up against their government,” which leads us to the second category:
Instigating riots/ color revolutions. The CIA and its allies (Soros, etc.) regular try to overthrow governments they don’t like by fomenting riots and trying to escalate them into bloody civil wars. The trick is to find a way to get a crowd into the street to protest against the targeted government. It is easy enough to create such a crowd of “protestors” using paid agents (rent-a-mobs) while trolling for dupes on social media. (Note that almost all major social media are controlled by the CIA, as the Twitter Files has revealed.) Once a crowd has taken to the street, paid agents instigate violence by smashing windows, burning shops and cars and police stations, attacking police, and generally inciting mayhem. When the police respond by trying to control the crowd and arrest perpetrators of violence, snipers on rooftops and/or or infiltrators with handguns shoot both police and protestors, with the intention of making each side blame the other. Additionally, knife attacks on police are a new wrinkle the CIA is apparently experimenting with in Iran. 60 police officers were murdered by CIA assets in three months, using the weapons that Mike Pompeo bragged about smuggling to US-supported terrorists in Iran. According to Dr. Khosh Cheshm, protestors facing police were frequently shot from behind with handguns with silencers. Other random people unrelated to the protests, sometimes six blocks or more away, were murdered by the same CIA-trained Operation Gladio professionals. Western media reports falsely blamed these murders on Iranian police. “It’s called ‘taking the toll,’ Dr. Khosh Cheshm explained. Alongside a smaller number of actual victims of the rioters-vs.-police clashes, the Gladio victims inflate the toll and contribute to the impression of outlandish government repression, when in fact it is the government’s restraint, in the face of the murder by CIA terrorists of 60 protestors in three months, that is outlandish.
The real-life CIA riot campaign in Iran has been spectacularly unsuccessful. The largest crowd of “protestors” anywhere in Iran numbered only around 600, while vastly larger marches have supported the government. (Annual commemoration of the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, including this weekend’s, always draw millions of people.) But CIA-organized protests in dozens of Iranian cities, despite drawing smallish crowds, have provided images, soundbites, and other fodder for the concocted media war.
Iran is vulnerable to these tactics because it bends over backward to protect the right to peacefully protest. Under the CIA-asset Shah’s regime, protests were banned and routinely met with extreme violence by police and soldiers. Protestors were dragged to CIA-built torture chambers and tortured by CIA-trained torturers. The Islamic Republic reacted against this sad history by enshrining the right to protest in the constitution. So protests are constantly happening in Iran, and always have been since 1979. The normalcy of protesting makes it easier for the CIA to get crowds of at least a few hundred people, many of them sincere protestors duped by social media propaganda, into the streets to provide cover for the Operation Gladio operatives’ violence.
Iran’s government has neutralized the CIA color revolution primarily through flexibility and mercy (though the “Iranian war on terror” has unfortunately included a degree of extrajudicial violence as all such efforts do). Several months ago the government ordered police to stop enforcing mandatory hijab, and it is now normal to see a few women in public with fully-uncovered hair. But the vast majority, well over 90%, still cover—showing that there is no mass support for the CIA’s anti-hijab campaign.
The government’s “mercy and flexibility” approach also includes Monday’s announcement by the Supreme Leader pardoning tens of thousands of prisoners, a fraction of whom are protestors. All protestors except paid CIA-Soros agents and terrorists are being pardoned, alongside a much larger number of common criminals. It’s worth noting that Western media reports of protestors being executed are misrepresentations. In reality, the “protestors” who were executed were murderers who stabbed or shot police officers. Their executions came after murder convictions.
Funding separatist terrorist groups. Alongside astroturf protests focusing on the headscarf and economic issues, the US, Saudis, and Israelis have armed, funded, and incited separatist terrorists in Kurdistan and especially in Arabic-speaking Khuzestan. The latter region harbors ISIS-style groups propagandized, recruited, and paid by the Saudis to commit mayhem. Though a nuisance, and a tragedy for individual victims and their families, these groups are too small, and their appeal is too limited, to make a decisive contribution to the hybrid war.
Cyber wars. The US and Israel, not necessarily in that order, have launched what Dr. Khosh Cheshm calls “vast cyber-attacks” on Iran’s infrastructure. Last spring, dozens of Iranian entities were targeted. Shortly thereafter, the Albanian government’s entire data base “vanished into the cloud.” In its place, a message appeared: “We love the people of Albania, but the MEK (the biggest US-supported anti-Iran terrorist group) is there doing cyber and physical terrorism. We are sorry your data has been removed.” NATO threatened retaliation but did nothing effectual. Meanwhile Israel routinely launches anti-Iran cyber-attacks, but Iran’s ability to retaliate in kind, and its increasing reliance of nearly-unhackable homegrown software, has limited the effectiveness of anti-Iran cyber-warfare.
Foreign currency meddling: The US government and its oligarch owners, notably people like George Soros, are experts at attacking the value of targeted nations’ currencies. They have had only modest success at sending the message that Iran’s refusal to surrender in negotiations with the US will be punished with such attacks, which inflict economic pain on ordinary Iranians.
Assassinations: A significant number of Iranian scientists and government officials have been assassinated, chiefly by Israel’s Mossad, but also by the US, as in the case of General Soleimani. Iran’s policy is normally tit-for-tat payback. For example, in response to the murder of Iran’s top physicist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Israeli rocket scientist Aby Har-Even, the founder and head of Israel’s rocketry and space programs, “succumbed to wounds sustained when rioters torched Efendi Hotel (owned by Israel’s aerospace agency) at peak of Arab-Jewish violence” according to the Times of Israel. The precisely one hundred stab wounds that ended the life of Har-Even sent a message about the excessiveness of Israel’s murder of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and Netanyahu’s threat against Iran of “death by a thousand cuts.” Note that such presumed Iranian tit-for-tat assassinations are deniable and have not been publicized by either side.
In the case of General Soleimani, Iran is exacting multipronged revenge, consisting of the well-known rocket attack on the US base at Ain al-Assad, Iraq; threatened assassinations of every major US official involved in the murder, with bounties on all their heads (including a one million dollar bounty on Trump); and the eventual termination of the Zionist entity occupying Palestine, and expulsion of the US from the region.
Sabotage. After Israel’s second attack on Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility, the center of Israel’s ballistic missile program mysteriously blew up. The mushroom cloud was visible for miles around. An Israeli leader of the program was cited in the media begging “please stop, we’re losing more than the Iranians.” That media story was in fact a covert message asking Iran for a truce.
Shipping war. The US and especially Israel are bent on disrupting Iran’s oil exports and have attacked and seized various Iranian ships, and even non-Iranian ships allegedly containing oil sourced to Iran. Iran has responded, as usual, tit-for-tat retaliation. For instance, after one such ship was seized off the coast of Greece last spring, Iran seized two Greek ships, which were held until the Iranian ship was released. Iran’s ability to retaliate has led to a change in tactics: Now captains are being offered bribes to renege on their delivery agreements. But few if any are doing so, perhaps because making Iran a lifelong enemy is just not worth it.
Sanctions/Economic pressure. Iran is buried beneath layers upon layers of sanctions and has responded by learning how to evade them. During the past year, virtually the whole world, with the exception of a handful of ultra-compliant US vassals, is joining the sanctions-evading game, thanks to the counterproductive sanctions on Russia. Many are asking Iran for advice. Though sanctions have negatively affected the Iranian economy, they have not even come close to damaging it badly enough to make a difference.
Pressuring the IAEA UN, and other international bodies. The US is pushing the IAEA to charge Iran with noncompliance and take it to the UN. But that is a two year process. It would only take two months to achieve similar objectives by invoking the trigger process in the JCPOA nuclear deal. So once again, the US is trying to increase psychological pressure on Iran, but lacks the means to enforce its wishes
Abraham accords. The US has attempted to ramp up pressure on Iran by weaponizing the Arab signatories of the so-called Abraham Accords, a phony Palestine-Israel peace plan that is despised by virtually the entire population of the region. Not only is the Arab public strongly pro-Palestine, as this year’s World Cup in Doha showed, but even the supposedly pro-Zionist Arab leadership is giving the Americans the cold shoulder. Saudi leader Bin Salman, for example, has refused to take Biden’s and Blinken’s phone calls, humiliated Biden with “second-rate guest” treatment, and generally made it clear that Saudi Arabia is no longer taking American orders.
Failure of the Hybrid War
The Israeli-American hybrid war on Iran has stalled, as Iran fights the aggressors to a stalemate on each battleground. Iran has successfully sent the message: “For each wound you inflict, we will retaliate with an equivalent or worse.” As a result, the US is in no position to force Iran into the kind of agreement the Americans want: A renewed “JCPOA” that would not provide Iran with any significant sanctions relief. The Americans want the promised “relief” to only last for three years, after which it would be canceled if Iran doesn’t succumb to American demands unrelated to the nuclear remit. Since no US or European companies will invest in Iran unless they are guaranteed a two or three decade time frame in which they won’t be sanctioned and forced to pull out at a loss, the US proposal as it stands won’t help Iran’s economy and thus offers Iran no incentive to join.
So the hybrid war’s purpose is to bring Iran to its knees and ultimately force it to dismantle its (non-nuclear) rocket program, abandon its ties to Axis of Resistance allies, and thereby deeply compromise its national security and its sovereignty. For Iran, of course, that’s a non-starter. Iran would be happy to comply with the original JCPOA, severely limit its 100% civilian nuclear program, and enjoy genuine sanctions relief. But that’s not enough for the Zionist-run US. Why not? The real underlying issue is Iran’s commitment to the liberation of Palestine. As long as Iran stands by the Palestinians, the US, dominated by Zionist oligarchs, will do everything it can to hobble Iran and ultimately subjugate and enslave it.
Now that the hybrid war on Iran has stalled, just as the war on Russia through Ukraine is poised to collapse, the Empire may be tempted to escalate. No wonder United Nations chief António Guterres just warned that World War 3 may be starting.
The problem is that Iran, like Russia, can match any feasible escalation. Just as the Russians have rough nuclear parity with the Americans, Iran has a formidable non-nuclear “nuclear option”: shutting down oil traffic from the Persian Gulf. With its highly maneuverable navy, a mountainous shoreline bristling with formidable anti-ship missiles, and the ability to easily (and deniably or non-deniably) take out the docks at Ras Tanoura, Saudi Arabia’s only deepwater port, Iran can blow up the world economy any time it wants to. Short of that non-nuclear nuclear option, Iran has every US military installation in the region in its crosshairs, and can lay waste to Israel with its rockets, in response to enemy escalations. The upshot is that Atlantic Magazine’s expert simulation of a US-Iran war showing that Iran would win is even more relevant today than it was in 2004.
The smart move would be for the US to call off its hybrid war. To do that, though, it will have to remove the neocons from power and radically reformulate its policies. That may be easier said than done. But the only alternative is writing a new chapter for the next edition of The March of Folly.
Dr. Kevin Barrett, a Ph.D. Arabist-Islamologist is one of America’s best-known critics of the War on Terror.
He also has appeared many times on Fox, CNN, PBS, and other broadcast outlets, and has inspired feature stories and op-eds in the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, the Chicago Tribune, and other leading publications.
Dr. Barrett has taught at colleges and universities in San Francisco, Paris, and Wisconsin; where he ran for Congress in 2008. He currently works as a nonprofit organizer, author, and talk radio host.