Iran's Proxies Are More Powerful Than Ever

October 16, 2019

Weapon Program: 

  • Military

Author: 

Ariane M. Tabatabai and Colin P. Clarke

Publication: 

RAND Corporation

Related Country: 

  • Iraq
  • Lebanon
  • Syria
  • Yemen

Since U.S. President Donald Trump took office, his administration has pursued a so-called maximum pressure strategy designed to alter the course of Iran's foreign and security policies. The strategy relies heavily on sanctions to change Iranian behavior by complicating its access to external markets and the international financial infrastructure. The overarching objective is to deny Tehran the financial resources required to maintain nuclear and missile programs and a network of proxies including Lebanese Hezbollah, various Shiite militias in Iraq, the Houthis in Yemen, and a growing network of foreign fighters in Syria recruited by Iran from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It's impossible to deny that the maximum pressure campaign has damaged Iran. The country's economy has slowed down significantly, and its oil revenues have plummeted. As the Trump administration sees it, Iran now has fewer resources to devote to its regional agenda. And the less money Iran has at its disposal, according to this line of thinking, the less damage it can inflict directly or via its proxies in the region.

But if maximum pressure has succeeded at its narrow goal of damaging the Iranian economy, it has failed at its broader goal of changing Iranian foreign policy.

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Read the full report at the RAND Corporation.