In the wake of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict, world policy calls into question the future of Western-led alliances and their approach to warfighting strategy. The Iran nuclear deal has also been challenged by the conflict between Russia and the Western allies of Ukraine. Hugh Hewitt, writing with The Washington Post, voices concerns that the current Iran nuclear deal has served Russia’s political purposes, as Russia is expected to build the nuclear reactor facilities that Iran will be allowed to construct under the terms of a new nuclear deal.
As early as 2005, Western strategists and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization used the term “hybrid warfare” to describe preemptive responses to hybrid conflict threats. The term was initially used to describe the warfighting strategies of Hezbollah in 2006.
Hezbollah’s 2006 strategies included decentralized army cells, adaptive tactics in ungoverned zones, and distributed guerilla cells, see Foreign Policy Review 2006. These tactics, which were employed by Lebanon’s Hassan Nasrallah, exposed some of the outdated approaches to combat in the opposing Israeli Defense Forces of that era, and led to a heightened global attention to such a mixed bag of tactics.
Over the years of Russia’s tactics toward Ukraine, war strategists have called the focus on “hybrid threats” into question, per the NATO Review 2015. The 2022 Russo-Ukraine conflict era has once more brought the efficiency of focusing on hybrid threats into the limelight.
“It’s too early to tell how—or whether—Western planners adjust to Russia’s reminder of hybrid warfare’s limitations,” said Seth Cropsey, founder and president of the Yorktown Institute. Mr. Cropsey is a former naval officer who served as deputy Undersecretary of the Navy.
“Western economic sanctions, diplomacy, defense budget increases, and increased troop levels in central/eastern Europe are reactions to the invasion. Time will offer a better idea of how or if the planners reconsider hybrid warfare,” he explained.
Cropsey also explained that strategists have focused on using the ancient tactic of hybrid warfare, or “actions short of armed conflict” as an effort to use “indirect means to accomplish political objectives.”
“Lessons from Ukraine for Western planners is that traditional warfare is more likely and possible than had been previously thought,” Cropsey said.
Hybrid Warfare and Technology Advances
While limited, hybrid conflict methods have been hand-in-glove with the advance of warfighting technology. As the diplomatic efforts of Western-allied leaders to bring Iran into a comprehensive nuclear deal have reportedly fallen short, hybrid drone conflict between Israel and Iran has come to the spotlight once again.
Lt. Col. Wayne Phelps (USMC, retired), author of “On Killing Remotely: the Psychology of Killing with Drones,” explains the recent drone conflict engagements of Israel and Iran:
“Israel and Iran are two of the world’s leading developers of military drones. The two countries have also been embroiled in varying degrees of shadow conflict for decades. Iran has mostly used proxies such as Hezbollah in Lebanon to attack Israel, while its leadership has openly called for the destruction of Israel as a state. Israel vowed to never allow Iran to become a nuclear-armed state. It has taken actions to prevent Iran from doing so, including a cyber-attack on the Natanz nuclear site in Iran and the killing of a top Iranian scientist using a remotely operated gun. Over time, drones have taken a more prevalent role in the hostilities between the two nations, ” Phelps explained to American Pigeon.
U.S. Leadership In Question As Biden Alleviates Pressure on Iran
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid have admonished U.S. President Joe Biden on his recent considerations to remove the Iranian Quds Forces from the Foreign Terrorist Organizations list, according to The Jerusalem Post. The Israeli leadership found it “hard to believe” that Biden considered removing the group from the list in exchange for promises “not to harm Americans.”
“We believe that the United States will not abandon its closest allies in exchange for empty promises from terrorists,” the Israeli leaders reportedly said.
Despite Israel’s statements regarding the American commitment to its allies, United States congressmen express public skepticism. Representative Jim Banks (R-IN) recently appeared on Fox News to discuss what he considers “dire” implications of Biden’s Iran policy.
“This is absurd that the Biden administration would go back to a deal that was disastrous under Barack Obama and are now hell-bent again on renegotiating a new deal that rewards Iran for their bad behavior,” said Banks.
“Now, the only thing I can guess is that the Biden administration is so desperate for oil they would rather negotiate with terrorists than work with American energy workers to open up oil and make America energy-independent once again. But that’s exactly what the Biden administration is well on its way to doing,” Banks added.
Banks also warned that if the deal passes Biden would be sending “billions of dollars” to a terrorist group. Banks also expressed his disgust that American taxpayer dollars would be sent to do business with the IRGC Quds force-led regime rather than working out the oil industry crisis with American businesses.
The “billions of dollars” in taxpayer funds that Banks referred to holds dangerous implications for world security. Experts highlight the impact that hybrid conflict measures of Iran’s Quds forces have had to date on the Middle East security landscape.
Experts continue to speculate about the backfiring implications of the current U.S.-led policies toward Iran and Russia. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) believes the U.S. has “no choice” but to move forward with the Iran nuclear deal without the Russians.
“We cannot allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon,” he said on NBC News.
Murphy reasoned that failure to establish a deal would “set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.” Yet, as Hugh Hewitt wrote in The Washington Post, the facts about Iranian leader Ayatollah Khameini, Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and Chinese Communist Leader Xi Jinping don’t comply with Biden’s terms for a deal:
“That tyrants can be talented in their cruelties doesn’t make them less evil or more reliable, just more dangerous,” writes Hewitt. Hewitt explains that the religious clerics in the Ayatollah’s government are “in league” with Putin and the Kremlin’s state-owned Rosatom nuclear agency. This agency is expected to build two of the nuclear reactor facilities that Iran will be allowed to construct under the terms of a new nuclear deal.
While American leaders such as Putin and Murphy call for haste in securing the Iran nuclear deal, even while potentially cutting Russia out of the deal, experts warn that this has the potential to backfire. Hewitt says that Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was one of many leaders expressing support for former President Donald Trump’s departure from the Iran nuclear deal.
McConnell says that, in his view, Sunni Arab allied states in the Middle East will see a move to lift sanctions on Iran and allow Iran to proceed with building nuclear reactors as “the U.S. cozying up to Iran.” This adds a ripple of backfiring political tensions throughout the Middle East at a time when warfighting experts have disclosed an intricate and escalating threat of volatile shadow conflict through drone technology.
Hewitt also quotes McConnell as saying that, through his reluctance to engage, Biden has shown Putin that the Ukraine invasion would not be met with steep consequences. McConnell says that these signals to the Kremlin go back to the end of the American mission in Afghanistan, and how many world leaders perceive America’s poorly executed withdrawal from Kabul as a breaking of faith. This action was seen as a sign to Western rivals that the U.S. cannot be trusted to keep its promises in foreign policy.
Hewitt concludes his analysis, which compared Biden’s appeasement politics to those of former UK Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. Hewitt warned that just as these policies failed for Chamberlain they will fail for Biden.
As policies continue to backfire, they show a growing shift in the status quo of modern warfighting. Tactics demand a different approach, one that combines the best efforts necessitated by hybrid warfighting and traditional warfighting in a way that is logical for the advance of warfighting technology. From foreign policy to internationally allied tactics, the status has changed and Western allies appear, in the eyes of their counterparts, woefully unprepared for the future of that world order shift.