Operating in the ‘Gray Zone’ to Counter Iran

September 18, 2019

Weapon Program: 

  • Missile
  • Military


Michael Eisenstadt


The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

The best way to counter Iran’s asymmetric strategy in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere is a U.S. gray zone strategy, which can help manage escalation and buy time for the administration’s pressure policy to work.

The combined drone/cruise missile strike against key Saudi oil facilities on September 14 marks the most audacious in a series of Iranian asymmetric “gray zone” operations since May, all intended to counter Washington’s “maximum pressure” policy. These operations can be expected to continue as long as the United States focuses on driving Iranian oil exports to zero; for this reason, President Trump’s decision to double-down on sanctions after the strike will likely exacerbate matters. At the same time, if Washington does not impose a military cost on Tehran for such actions, the regime will continue to escalate, with negative repercussions for the U.S. economy, American credibility, and regional stability. Understanding Tehran’s gray zone strategy, and learning how to operate in the gray zone against Iran, is therefore necessary if further escalation is to be avoided.


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