Ariana Mohammadi, The Cradle, December 29 2022 — A superpower in decline still retains a vast appetite for irregular, proxy warfare to slow down the imminent multipolar order. Iran, Russia, China are its big targets and all tools will be employed.
To maintain its global hegemony in the face of a rapidly emerging multipolar world, the US seeks to restrict the redistribution of power in all regions where its clout is foundering.
While Washington can no longer afford the high costs of engaging in direct, hot wars, its military-industrial complex – the powerhouse of the US economy – is likewise unable to afford disengaging from global conflict. Therefore, US military strategy has shifted from waging war to taking its war to its adversaries, via proxies.
The idea is to capitalize on sending weapons and military equipment to US proxies to sink its adversaries in long-term quagmires. The Pentagon’s 21st century wars are “full spectrum,” which means all tools of warfare are employed, including sanctions, disinformation, and sabotage in order to cause major disruptions in an adversary state’s social, political, and economic stability.
Washington’s end-goal is to reshape their adversaries into subordinate client states, or to neutralize them to such extent that they cannot resist US hegemony anymore.
As US congressman Adam Schiff made clear as far back as January 2020, “the United States aids Ukraine and her people so that we can fight Russia over there and we don’t have to fight Russia here.” By February 2022, Russia began fighting back against the US in Ukraine, with no end in sight for that conflict.
The US military-industrial complex has already started planning and promoting China’s war with Taiwan with a projected $22.69 billion budget allocated for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative. These “deterrence initiatives” generally include a large military presence in the proxy’s territories, thereby provoking the adversary into a confrontation.
Washington’s strategy towards its long-time Iranian foe has been more complex and involves using sanctions, assassinations, cyberattacks, and information warfare to counterbalance Tehran in West Asia, both directly and via US regional client states.
While the US dream has always been to “Libya-fy” Iran – clearly impossible, else the Pentagon would have already done it – plan B seeks to drag the country into a protracted civil conflict and replicate the Syrian model to partition and plunder the country.
Iran’s military capabilities have grown in unprecedented sophistication and reach over the past years, making it a resilient force to counter NATO’s ambitions in West Asia. It is why Washington’s old all-options-are-on-the-table promise has increasingly morphed into a hybrid warfare scenario.
Propaganda and the Iran protests
Following the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody last September, many Iranians took to the streets to demand justice and accountability. Within a few days of protests, a civil movement focused specifically on women’s rights rapidly took on the characteristics of a hybrid war operating on multiple fronts – from astroturfing on social media to lynching of police officers and security forces by mobs of trained and armed young males.
Western media, which gets most of its cues from anonymous sources, rarely, if at all, reported on these all-male mob attacks, likely because it would have clashed with their charmed narrative of a “feminist revolution.”
Much of the cyber propaganda is largely credited to members of the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), now rebranded as the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). Once a US-designated terrorist group that fought alongside Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war – for which it is widely reviled among Iranians of all political stripes – the MEK is today staunchly supported by the likes of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, respectively, US national security advisor and Secretary of State for the Trump administration.
The MEK has for years been running troll farms from their “camps” in Albania, and have long formed the backbone of online propaganda against the Iranian state.
In the Fall, a story-line to justify armed conflict – with some hint of femininity – began to be widely propagated in foreign media. Since September, western-funded Persian-language media has openly encouraged Iranians to join the “war” and resort to “honorable sabotage” (خرابکاری شرافتمندانه).
Iran International, a London-based and Saudi-funded news agency invited Virginia Tech academic researcher Shukriya Bradost to opine on the events in Iran. Like Amini, the young woman at the center of the protest movement, Bradost is of Kurdish origin, and called for the killing of Kurds who cooperate with the Iranian government. While affirming that those individuals are now being identified, she added:
“This is a great tactic in the battlefield because it creates fear in the enemy. The fear of being identified will force those who cooperate with the regime to stop cooperation because as we have seen in Bukan and other cities, the fate of such people is what they should get, which is being killed for cooperation with the regime.”
As the killing of police and security forces intensified, another guest, dubbed an “Iranian-Canadian activist” by Canada’s CBC, appeared on Iran International and urged Iranians to kill the police:
“In a war, it is not possible to be bound by morality. We must recognize that we are at war with the Islamic Republic… killing police officers is moral. If you have the opportunity [to kill a police officer] and refuse to do so, that would be immoral.”
Illogically, when later interviewed by CBC News, the same “activist” claimed that Iran’s charges of violence against arrested rioters are false. In the report, she informs her Canadian audience that she “focuses on fact-checking and propaganda … because the regime is often able to ‘distort the truth’ by amplifying false charges.”
Following a series of Iranian arrests and prosecutions, a former Voice of America (VOA) reporter offered bounties on Twitter for the assassination of Iranian lawyers, investigators, and judges involved in protest-related cases, offering payment in bitcoin for the killings, having doxxed their names and addresses online. He later announced on Twitter that he had to remove his posts due to the company’s policies, but that his offer still stands.
The incitement of violence through surrogates is a common tactic in subversive western hybrid warfare, and is intended to either exploit the consequences if security forces respond, or portray them as weak and ineffective if they do not.
Unsurprisingly, the “honorable sabotage” and “moral murder” slogans, along with western media coverage soon lost momentum after Iran resumed nuclear talks with EU countries ravaged by a global energy crisis, and in need of cheap energy.
Employing Azerbaijan in the hybrid war against Iran
After the second Nagorno-Karabakh War in 2020 between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Iran has increasingly come into conflict with Baku. One point of contention is President Ilham Aliyev’s aspirations for the creation of a Turan Corridor to alter the international borders between Iran and Armenia. Iran has vehemently opposed Baku’s encroachments into the Syunik region in Armenia and has vowed to use any necessary means to prevent changes to its national borders.
The Research Center of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations recently published an article suggesting that the second Karabakh War was a cover for creating NATO’s Turan Corridor in Zangezur, a corridor similar to Hitler’s Danzig Corridor whose creation was ideological and aimed at making geopolitical changes prior to the inception of the Second World War.
The article argues that the Turan Corridor is designed to bring NATO directly onto Iran’s northern borders, Russia’s southern borders, and China’s western borders in Xinjiang – and encircle Russia from the Black Sea, China from the South China Sea, and Iran from the Persian Gulf.
NATO’s Turan Corridor will also weaken Iran, Russia, and China geopolitically and will enable the western military alliance to foment ethnic unrest among Azaris in Iran, Tatars in Russia, and Uyghurs in China.
Inexplicably, at the height of Iran’s “feminist” protests, an ISIS terrorist attack in Shiraz took the life of 15 people. Tensions between Baku and Tehran further intensified after it came to light that the perpetrator entered Tehran from Heydar Aliyev International airport in Baku. Shortly after these reports surfaced, Baku arrested five Azerbaijanis charged with spying for Tehran.
There are also reports dating back over a decade that warn about the presence of the Albania-based MEK in Baku, which has executed bombings and assassinations in Iran over many decades.
Following Aliyev’s recent visit to Albania, unofficial reports have suggested that there may be plans to partially resettle the members of MEK in Baku. Iran has warned that allowing Azerbaijan to become a safe haven for terrorists and malign actors will be seen as an act of war and will bring an end to Aliyev’s rule.
Woman, Life, Freedom…and NATO
The western “Woman, Life, Freedom” construct became even more transparent when thousands gathered in Berlin, the capital of a country that until recently was Europe’s Russian gas hub and resisted toeing NATO’s line on the Russia-Ukraine war.
Tens of thousands of protesters joined forces in Berlin to support Iranian women – all while waving the flag of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (a US-backed Kurdish regime), the flag of the Free Syrian Army, the flag of Iraqi Kurdistan, the flag of Jaish al Adl terrorists who operate on Iran’s Pakistani border, and the flag of Al-Ahwaz, a Saudi-backed terrorist group that seeks to seize southern Iranian territory. The flags of Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and Israel were also among the supporters of “women in Iran.”
And they gathered to narrate a “dream,” a dream in which “… the neighboring countries [of Iran] will have peace,” a dream in which “there is no chaos and conflict in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq,” a dream in which “no one gives weapons to Putin to kill Ukrainians,” a dream in which “oil [reserves] are a blessing, not a blight…,” and “this dream will come true only with toppling the Islamic Republic.”
On the same day, US President Joe Biden promised to support the “Iranian dream.” The United States has once again mobilized its “moderate rebels” and “freedom armies” to turn the blight of oil in another West Asian country into a blessing. This time, however, the global energy crisis is ravaging NATO countries, and the stakes are higher.
A destabilized Iran not only scrambles Russia’s key West Asian strategic partner bordering strategically-vital South Caucasus, Afghanistan and Iraq, but also provides an opportunity to green light NATO’s Turan Corridor with catastrophic geopolitical consequences for Iran, Russia, and China.
Woman, Life, Freedom – whatever its provenance – is now a slogan for irregular warfare in a US adversary state.