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The concept of ‘proxy warfare’ is very much in vogue, and given Iran’s effectively competing with the US across the Middle East, few doubt its effectiveness. There is a considerable literature about proxy ‘strategies’, but far less on the operational level. How does Iran actually manage a disparate coalition of actors with varying degrees of alignment in objectives or outlook? To what extent does it exert control, and to what extent does it need to do so? What are the points of leverage and how are they developed?
Understanding the command and control framework allows the mapping of points of vulnerability, and allows for appropriate planning as to the viable levels of tempo, coordination, and precision that Iran can expect from its proxies. Failure to appropriately map the C2 structure meanwhile leads to kinetic action, aimed at achieving cognitive effect, against individuals who either don’t have decision making authority, or are under no pressure to exercise it. Jack Watling details how Iranian proxy warfare is practiced at the operational level of war.