The U.S. has lots of options to restore deterrence with Iran

It’s not unrealistic; one U.S. national security official told me that Iran has numerous options against U.S. citizens throughout the Middle East and abroad. It could launch more precise rocket and missile attacks at U.S. consulates and embassies in Iraq, direct assaults on U.S. naval vessels or coordinate terror attacks through proxies. But the U.S. is not without options of its own. “It will be bad for us,” this source said, “but it will be bad for them too.”

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and Quds Force, it should be noted, are spread out throughout the Middle East. Not only are senior officers stationed in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon, but there are Iranian military outposts in these countries as well. Since 2017, the U.S. intelligence community has prioritized the mapping of these Iranian forces in the Middle East. Options currently under consideration include strikes on those outposts timed not to result in casualties. A more serious option under consideration: direct lethal strikes on Iranian commanders stationed outside of Iran. As I wrote earlier this week, another kinetic option is strikes on Iranian naval facilities.

And the list of U.S. options is not limited to traditional warfare. Currently, the U.S. limits its cyberoperations to Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, according to U.S. officials. If Iran continues to escalate, the U.S. could attack Iranian military computer networks.