The National Interest:

The Iraqi government’s curfew to check the spread of coronavirus has not prevented factions from the pro-Iranian Iraqi Popular Mobilizational Forces (PMF) from firing rockets at the American Embassy in Baghdad, as happened on March 26, 2020. In fact, on March 10, Khata'ib Hezbollah fired a volley of rockets at the Taj military base north of Baghdad, killing two American soldiers. Following a similar pattern, the Trump administration responded by striking five PMF weapons depots in Iraq.

This violent cycle of asymmetrical warfare, more or less intensified by the American assassination of Iranian general Qassem Suleimani in Iraq, reveals dangerous developments that have become the new matrix of the American-Israel-Iran relationship. Chief among them are: a) the U.S.-Iraq relationship has become precarious; b) the proxy Iran-Israel (and U.S.) asymmetrical warfare has become direct and capacious; and 3) the foreign policy objectives of the United States, Israel, and Iran have become strategically conflicted and clearly outlined. These developments constitute the ingredients of a new brewing regional war irrespective of the desire of concerned parties to avoid a war. Unless Washington and Tehran rethink their strategies, they are marching headlong towards a Middle East catastrophe coupling a ravaging pandemic with a devastating war.

The asymmetrical warfare between Tehran and Washington initially played out by proxy in Lebanon during the 1980s. Iranian Islamist proxies, which later on amalgamated into Hezbollah, bombed the American Embassy (twice) and the U.S. Marines barracks in Beirut in which 241 marines were killed. Taken by surprise, the U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies, the CIA and Mossad respectively, cooperated in Lebanon and established that Islamic Jihad, a precursor faction of Hezbollah, was responsible and that its founder (and Hezbollah's future international operations chief) Imad Mughniyah was behind the terror bombings.

Reportedly, this cooperation led to couple of retaliatory attempts, including the 1985 car bomb attempt on the life of Hezbollah spiritual leader Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, which resulted in eighty killed and scores injured in Beirut.

Similarly, as Hezbollah increased its attacks on Israel Defense Forces (IDF) occupying southern Lebanon, Israel targeted two leaders of the Islamist party, Ragheb Harb and Abbas Moussawi. Hezbollah retaliated by bombing both Israel’s Embassy in Buenos Aires on March 17, 1992, murdering twenty-nine people; and the Jewish Cultural Center in Buenos Aires on July 18, 1994, murdering eighty-seven people.

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