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Rep. King Tries to Scare You: An Intro to Iran’s Asymmetric Capabilities

(To read the rest of our series, “The Case Against War with Iran”, please click here.)

I could easily make a rule for On Violence that:

If the honorable Representative Peter King, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, worries about a national security threat, immediately dismiss it.

That’s extreme, I know. But I have to. Last year, Rep. King took on the threat of “Islamic Radicalization in America” with barely enough evidence to justify a hearing. More recently, he waded into the breach on the threat of Iran/Hezbollah using terrorists to attack America.

As evidence, his committee heard the testimony of the NYPD’s top cop for intelligence, Mitchell Silber, who testified that on six different occasions, the NYPD spotted Iranian embassy employees videotaping...places like the Brooklyn Bridge! And other “historical landmarks”!

To put this in perspective, imagine an American soldier stationed abroad at the 173rd Airborne Brigade in, let’s say, Vicenza, Italy. When he has days off from work, he travels to Rome, Florence, Milan, Venice and tons of other cities with his brother, taking pictures of the Duomo, the Coliseum, the Last Supper, and more. Oh, wait, that’s exactly what my brother and I did when we lived in Italy. (Full disclosure: we’re not terrorists.)

This is a shame because Representative King’s hearing distracts from Iran’s very real capability to attack civilian targets around the Middle East.

To kill civilians--in an effort to sap their opponents will to fight (the effectiveness of which we will address in a later post)--Iran has two options: “terrorism” and ballistic missiles, which will each get their own post. Both of these sections of the IPB will have significantly more hedging than the naval section or the proxy war section (or the upcoming Air IPB) because of their complexity.

Take, for instance, predicting where Iran could attack. They could attack America, Israel, allied nations in Europe, Gulf Cooperation Council nations (roughly allied with America), Pakistan and Iraq. They could attack Americans traveling or living abroad as well. Or take predicting how they could attack. They could bomb buildings, take hostages, or shoot down airliners. They could use chemical or biological weapons.

And good luck predicting the intentions/plans of an elite unit shrouded in secrecy, the IRGC Quds Force. The Quds Force trains and equips asymmetric fighters--terrorists and insurgents--like a bizarro U.S. Army Special Forces, if America’s Special Forces trained terrorists. Good luck finding concrete, open source information on Iran’s asymmetric unit.
So expect tomorrow’s post to hedge on any and all predictions. But this doesn’t change the fact: Iran’s capability for terror attacks on civilians is a very real threat.

But probably not in America. I can’t predict the likelihood of this happening (and anyone who claims they can is lying). But for Iran to try to kill Americans in America would require exceptional planning and run tremendous risks...so I don’t see them doing it.

I bring this up because the debating tactic of “all or nothing” wears at me. I think war with Iran could turn out very poorly, but I don’t want to exaggerate threats that I don’t think are likely. Domestic terrorism in the U.S. falls into that category, and I think Rep. King has exaggerated Hezbollah and the Quds Force presence in America. I think Iran will probably lash out asymmetrically if attacked, but I don’t see them doing it on American or European soil, which I will explain over the next two days.