For 40 years, Iran's military has used unconventional operations in an effort to destabilize the Middle East and make up for what it lacks in traditional military capabilities.
Its unconventional operations are run via the Quds Force, a branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. Until recently, the guard was led by Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a Jan. 2 U.S. airstrike.
At 15,000 strong, the Quds Force's influence is far more significant than its numbers. What it lacks in forces, it makes up through proxy groups. These include Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, the Houthi rebellion in Yemen, and various Palestinian groups. Most recently, an Iranian-backed group in Iraq killed a U.S. contractor, sparking military action in recent weeks.
“Clearly, the use of proxies to execute Iranian political objectives is part of their modus operandi,” retired Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula told the Washington Examiner. “It is a method by which they can instill terror and conduct aggressive actions without being associated with the actual conduct of the act.”