If Iran Deploys Missiles in Iraq: U.S.-Israeli Response Options

May 13, 2019

Weapon Program: 

  • Missile

Author: 

Michael Knights and Assaf Orion

Publication: 

Washington Institute for Near East Policy

If Iran duplicates its formula from Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen by sending long-range missiles to Iraq, then future conflicts with Israel would likely include military action on Iraqi soil.

Iran’s long-range rockets and missiles allow it to threaten enemy forces and populations hundreds of kilometers away, while proxy warfare enables it to indirectly harass and deter these enemies with minimal risk of confrontation on Iranian territory. In recent years, Tehran has combined these strategies to great effect in Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. There are signs that Iraq may be the next theater for this approach—signs that were evident well before the latest U.S. military deployments to the region and meetings with Iraqi leaders. If so, such a scenario would threaten Iraq’s hopes for a peaceful future and its relations with the United States.

IRAN’S FORWARD BASING OF MISSILES

Iran’s foreign missile transfers have followed a distinct pattern—first, long-range artillery rockets are provided (and occasionally upgraded with better accuracy), then short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) are added. Where longer reach is required, extended-range SRBMs have been provided. These range increases not only expand the number of reachable targets, but also allow for a broader and less predictable set of launch locations. Tasking forward proxies with manning the launchers allows Iran to increase its fire volume with less risk compared to firing from its own territory or using Iranian crews. Several examples of this pattern are evident:

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Read the full report at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.