Iran has acceded to launch attacks against Iraq and Pakistan over the last few days. Iran’s Ministry of Defense stated Iran’s right to protect itself, claiming the attacks were defensive. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps also claimed to target “Zionists” and “ISIS” in its attacks. The autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq rejected Iran’s claims, highlighting the fact Iran killed civilians in its attacks.
Iran will continue to carry out attacks exploiting areas with weak governance or supporting influential militias. Iran’s attacks in Pakistan target the Balochistan region, while in Iraq, Iran targets the Kurdistan region. The Kurdish region hosts US forces, and Iran exploits this, targeting what it considers a weak region that cannot resist its attacks. Iran already has powerful lobbies in Baghdad in the form of various political parties and militias.
Iran has exploited Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon in the same way. In Yemen, Iran pushes the Houthis to attack more ships in the Red Sea to threaten Israel, commercial shipping, and western navies. Iran’s foreign minister also met with Pakistan’s Prime Minister after Iran’s attacks inside Pakistan.
Iran previously used missiles and drones to attack the Kurdistan region, targeting Kurdish dissidents and “Zionists.” Iran seeks to send a message, draw red lines, and openly show that it can carry out attacks near where US forces are based. Iran has used its militias to do the same thing in Iraq and Syria.
Iran’s goal is to carve out a zone of influence, extend that influence, and normalize these attacks. It already had influence in Baghdad, Syria, Hezbollah, and the Houthis, among others. In the last year, Iran systematically sought to increase the range and power of these groups and carried out more than 120 attacks in Iraq and Syria. Iran has also attacked the Kurdistan region of Iraq and Pakistan.
Iran is showing it has impunity to harm civilians in these attacks and knows it faces no consequences. These developments show that the arc of instability Iran has created is increasing in the region.