Small Wars Journal

Iranian Hybrid Warfare

Iranian Hybrid Warfare by Oliver -  Wavell Room

The most recent retaliatory strike window looks set to close with more US sanctions being placed on Iran.  A short term conclusion to what was very nearly a military strike.  Large scale military action against Iran has been touted repeatedly since the start of the War on Terror.  Despite the clear threat, Iran has become increasingly influential through its adaptable and bold use of hybrid warfare.  Iranian actions have global consequences due to its strategic location dominating access to the Strait of Hormuz, through which a quarter of the world’s oil travels in vulnerable tankers.

Iranian actions on the world stage can be directly traced back to the Islamic Revolution in 1979.  Where an increasingly Westernising US backed monarch was overthrown in favour of an Islamic (Shia) Republic.  The political power structure ruling since is seen as complicated; however the supreme leader Ali Khamenei has the ultimate political and religious power.  This power is exercised through a web of tightly controlled, unelected councils.  The Intelligence Services, Armed Forces and Revolutionary Guards Corps answer directly to the Supreme Leader as Commander in Chief.

The key to understanding Iranian actions is to look at Iranian grand strategy and foreign policy.  Helpfully, this is clearly stated in their constitution.  The Iranian constitution states that it’s foreign policy is based on the “rejection of any kind  of  domination,  both  its  exercise  and  submission  to  it; the  preservation  of  the  all-inclusive independence of the country and its territorial integrity [and] non-alignment in relation to the domineering  powers”.  The constitution is one step short of explicitly naming the US and key regional allies of Saudi Arabia and Israel as the domineering powers.  But it goes a long way to explain recent actions.

The bloody taste of conventional warfare with Iraq soon after the revolution has seen Iran move away from trench warfare and human wave attacks to more refined methods in one generation.  Iran’s tactics now cover the full spectrum of warfare, from soft to hard power, diplomatic persuasion to military action.  Iran’s adaptable playbook allows it to seize the initiative and exploit opportunities to increase Iranian influence and power in the Middle East…

Read on.