While main focus is on potential Iranian plots in Middle East, Tehran may be quietly preparing to deliver a blow overseas.
While the US and Israel are on alert for Iranian attacks in the Middle East, Tehran may be working in parallel on activating its terror networks abroad. Striking overseas would enable Iran to sidestep the defensive moves of its rivals while distancing itself from actions beyond the region.
Immediately after top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed near Tehran, Israel boosted security measures at embassies worldwide, with a focus on Africa. Defense officials later issued a global terror alert, warning that Israelis and Jews faced a heightened threat of attack.
These warnings remain in effect as Israeli intelligence agencies monitor suspicious global moves in cooperation with foreign partners. However, Hezbollah is believed to retain sleeper cells worldwide that could be mobilized under the radar of the security services.
Hezbollah’s Unit 910 is at the forefront of its efforts to build a vast terror infrastructure. This professional force recruits operatives and funds terror activities, while utilizing the drug trade to boost its resources and logistic network.
Notably, Hezbollah also maintains a special department charged with building ties with Lebanese Shiite communities across the world. These efforts enable the group to raise funds and recruit local collaborators who can provide vital support in executing attacks.
Deceptive Iranian moves?
Iran’s movements in the Middle East could serve as a cover to divert attention away from malicious plots elsewhere.
Israel and the US recently detected transfers of advanced weaponry to Iranian proxies in Iraq and Yemen and are focusing on this threat. But Tehran could deliberately expose these maneuvers to shape its rivals’ intelligence assessments while concealing other steps.
Meanwhile, some officials and experts say that a major Iranian strike in the Middle East at this time makes little sense. Given Tehran’s weakness and the potential for a devastating US response, a broad assault could carry disastrous consequences for Tehran, they argue.
Any action that instigates a war with the US would be a suicidal move for Iran, Mideast affairs analyst Orit Perlov tweeted. Tehran is a level-headed actor and will not initiate a war even if its nuclear program was attacked, she wrote.
But other observers insist that Iran will very likely strike in the region this month. They say that Tehran has little choice but to avenge the high-profile killings of key figures if it wants to maintain some deterrence, while reassuring its own citizens and allies abroad.
In any event, an Iranian operation overseas remains a viable threat. Planning and executing an attack could take longer, but carries potential advantages that Tehran may wish to exploit at this or a later junction.