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Into The Grey Zone: How countries can fight adversaries indirectly

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Iran has “shown a facility” for using proxy forces against opponents such as the United States, according to General David Petraeus, a former director of the CIA and former top military commander.

He was speaking on Sky News’ Into The Grey Zone podcast which this week explores how countries can fight adversaries indirectly, often in a third country, by partnering with militias and other forces.

“If you think what Iran does with its proxies – Lebanese Hezbollah, the Shia militias that it supports in Iraq, in Syria to a degree in Yemen and some other places – that is really quite skilful and indeed has an effect in these countries,” General Petraeus said.

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“The truth is, we’ve all sought to have, again, allies and partners and so forth.

“But what distinguishes what Iran, and perhaps some others are doing, is the way that these forces are actually active on battlefields or in countries carrying out kinetic activity, as well as just sheer intimidation, assassination, pressure, crime and all the rest of this.

“And that can be effective in certain ways in certain countries. And Iran has shown a facility for that, certainly.”

But Seyed Mohammad Marandi, a professor at the University of Tehran, said Iran only partnered with legitimate forces.

He instead questioned US actions in the Middle East, including the 2003 invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein.

“I think the issue of morality here and the rule of law is the other way around,” he said.

“It is Western countries that are above that or see themselves as above the law and therefore their regional proxies behave lawlessly along with them as well.”

Episode six of Into The Grey Zone looks at how Iran allegedly uses proxy and partner forces under the threshold of war. It also tracks how grey zone tensions between Iran and the United States almost ignited a real war.

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