Rebuilding U.S. Deterrence to Counter Iran-led Escalation

The Biden administration’s warnings of “don’t” and its force buildup across the greater Middle East are highly welcome and necessary, but still far from sufficient, to deter Tehran and its proxies from dangerously escalating the Israel-Hamas conflict amid an impending Israeli ground operation in Gaza. By gauging U.S. willingness to respond and seeking to undermine the administration’s pledges to support Israel and prevent a broader war, the recent spate of regionwide Iran-backed attacks on U.S. forces shows how much work remains for the United States to overcome its profound credibility deficit in Tehran’s eyes, maximize the prospects for successful deterrence, and fully prepare to deny or mitigate any ensuing escalation if deterrence fails. Redressing this deficit requires immediate and concerted steps by the administration to make explicitly clear it holds the Iranian regime responsible for escalation, and that it will respond directly against Iranian targets in any such scenario. These stronger warnings must be paired with additional and more robust U.S. military preparations across the broader Middle East.

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Jonathan Ruhe – Director of Foreign Policy