Iran’s goal is to ‘dominate and control’ the region: Gen. Jack Keane
Fox News senior strategic analyst Gen. Jack Keane (Ret.) provides analysis of the growing unrest in the Middle East after a cargo ship in the Red Sea was targeted by Houthi rebels.
A fiery article in the revolutionary newspaper of the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran earlier this month threatened the U.S. and its assets, as well as its allies, in the Middle East.
According to the Dec. 11 article titled “Maximum Pressure With A ‘Balance Of Horror And Fear,'” the paper Kayhan wrote, “Today, in adherence to Imam [Khomeini’s] school of thought, the only way to confront America’s belligerent policy, and to deter and isolate the Zionist regime, is to apply maximum pressure by means of ‘a balance of horror and fear.’’
The Islamic Republic tends to not refer to the Jewish state as Israel but to use the phrase “Zionist regime” in a pejorative sense of the Middle East’s only democracy.
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Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Biden (Getty Images)
Ayatollah Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini was the first supreme leader of the Islamic Republic after the 1979 Iranian revolution. Ali Khamenei, the current supreme leader of Iran’s clerical regime, uses the newspaper Kayhan to express his views and thinking. The Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) first located and translated the Kayhan article from Farsi into English.
Iran’s proxies have intensified their attacks on American forces since Tehran’s strategic partner, Hamas, invaded Israel and murdered 1,200 people, including over 30 Americans in southern Israel.
Kayhan boasted in its article that Khomeini developed the “horror and fear” strategy to fight the West and urged attacks on U.S. vessels in the Persian Gulf. According to Kayhan, Iran “has now created a powerful, effective, and viable means of deterrence in the Persian Gulf and in international waters, and has forced its will on the Americans.”
A U.S. State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital, “Calls for horror and fear are despicable and dangerous. The United States does not seek conflict with Iran, but as the Biden Administration has shown, the United States will do what is necessary to defend itself, its people, and its interests from threats emanating from Iran.”
The spokesperson added, “We have made clear in public and private messaging to Iran that it should not escalate or widen the conflict – or take advantage of the current situation. And our bolstered presence in the region, including the arrival of two aircraft carrier groups, is a clear message to any actor in the region – be it nation-state or otherwise – that this is not a time to take advantage of the conflict between Israel and Hamas to widen this conflict.”
For close watchers of the Islamic Republic’s warmongering and terrorism, Kayhan provides a window into the psyche of Khamenei’s Iran.
David Wurmser, a former senior adviser for nonproliferation and Middle East strategy for Vice President Dick Cheney, told Fox News Digital, “Iran has three objectives in such statements. First, Iran is increasingly concerned that Israel has recovered and is becoming a strategically dangerous foe again. But Tehran also realizes it’s easier to respond to that danger via threats to the U.S. in hopes that Washington reins in Jerusalem rather than via escalating yet further against Israel.”
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A huge mural of Iran’s supreme leader overlooks Motahari Street in Tehran on March 8, 2020. (Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images)
He added, “Second, Tehran casts its unprovoked aggressions in the language of balance and deterrence. The U.S. posture regarding Hezbollah in Lebanon, on Shiite militias in Iraq and Iran itself at the beginning of the Hamas war on Israel starting October 7 focused on the word ‘don’t’ and was meant to deter Tehran from expanding the parameters of the conflict. Tehran is seeking to frame its increasing efforts to destabilize via proxy as some twisted sort of reactive, defensive cycle to that in which Iran is the victim.”
Wurmser continued, “Third, at the same time and perhaps contradictory to Western ears, Iran wants to show victimhood but also strength and dominance. It wants to crop U.S. behavior as weakness born of fear and defeat at Iran’s hands. For Iran, every interaction is an opportunity, indeed imperative to establish who drives the agenda, who is submitting to the other’s will, and who ultimately strategically controls and is in ascent in the region. Iran thus seeks to manipulate every American act of deterrence – no matter how robust in reality – as an intended American aggression from which Washington had been cowered into empty, passive displays of bluster.”
A Houthi forces helicopter approaches the cargo ship Galaxy Leader on Nov. 19, 2023. Houthis seized the ship in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen. (Houthi Media Center via AP)
The U.S. State Department classified Iran’s regime as the world’s worst international state sponsor of terrorism. The mouthpiece of Khamenei, Kayhan, also seemed to revel in the massacre of Jews and foreign nationals on Oct. 7, with a view toward stoking more terrorism.
The paper wrote, “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood [Hamas’ Oct. 7, 2023 invasion of southern Israel] created a ‘balance of horror’ with regard to the existence of the Zionist regime. But from now on, as far as the resistance [axis] is concerned, any ship departing from, stopping at, or headed for Israel will constitute a legitimate target for the resistance, that is, creating ‘a balance of horror.’”
The paper backed up its rhetoric with military action carried out by Tehran against the U.S., “As the Islamic Republic [of Iran] did in the past by shooting down an [American] Global Hawk drone [over the Strait of Hormuz in June 2019] and by attacking America’s Ayn Al-Asad Airbase [in Iraq following the January 2020 assassination of IRGC Qods Force commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani], as well as by capturing European ships and oil tankers and taking their naval forces captive in its territorial and extra-territorial waters, [Iran] has now created a powerful, effective, and viable means of deterrence in the Persian Gulf and in international waters, and has forced its will on the Americans.”
The guided-missile destroyer USS Carney in Souda Bay, Greece. The American warship and multiple commercial ships came under attack Dec. 3, 2023, in the Red Sea, the Pentagon said. (Petty Officer 3rd Class Bill Dodge/U.S. Navy via AP)
A day after Kayhan published its article against the U.S. and its allies, Iranian Navy Cmdr. Admiral Shahram Irani said, according to a MEMRI translation, “Many have said that the [USS Eisenhower] has arrived in the region in order to change the balance [of power in the region]. But it should be said that they have come here in order to spark fitna [civil rebellion] and to meet their own needs, and I say we must expel them from the region, and soon.”
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The Pentagon deployed the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier strike group from the Persian Gulf into the Gulf of Aden, near the coast of Yemen, to possibly retaliate against Iran-backed Houthi attacks in the region.
Biden delisted the Houthis-based movement in Yemen as a terrorist movement in 2021. The slogan of the Houthis is: “Allah is great, death to America, death to Israel, curse the Jews, victory to Islam.”
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said on Monday in Israel that “Iran’s support for Houthi attacks on commercial vessels must stop.”
Members of the Iranian revolutionary guard march during a parade to commemorate the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war. (Reuters)
Lisa Daftari, the editor-in-chief of the Foreign Desk, told Fox News Digital, “At the start of the Islamic Revolution 44 years ago, the Ayatollah Khomeini declared many times that the enemies of the country are the ‘Big Satan,’ referring to the United States and the ‘Little Satan,’ referring to Israel. This has been the ongoing stance of the regime. The United States on the other hand has not been consistent in the way in which it has received this threat. “
Daftari, a leading expert on Iran, added, “In the last 10 years specifically, Presidents Obama and Biden have favored normalizing relations with the mullahs at the cost of ignoring the regime’s nefarious agenda. Moving forward, the United States has to reevaluate its current Iran policy and how it has played a devastating role in emboldening Iran’s regime in continuing its terror campaign against Israel as well as the United States through its proxies in Yemen, Syria and Iraq.”
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Surface-to-surface missiles and an Iran flag are on display at Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) National Aerospace Park in western Tehran, Oct. 11, 2023. (Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Wurmser, the Iran expert, said Tehran “seeks to paint every U.S. move as an attack downgraded into a bluff – an act of aggression intended to cover the U.S.’s own weakness but from which Washington had been deterred into empty bluster.” He added “and this may be the key to understanding what Iran hopes to achieve by the measured escalations of its proxies and its inflated language of belligerent deterrence: it is projection, a mirror, of how Iran is navigating its own fears and tenuousness. Iran is trying to manipulate its actual weakness and fear into a theatrical display of strength.”
Iran’s foreign ministry and its mission to the U.N. declined to respond to Fox News Digital press queries.
Benjamin Weinthal reports on Israel, Iran, Syria, Turkey and Europe. You can follow Benjamin on Twitter @BenWeinthal.