Is Iran's Quds Force poised to respond?

The Quds Force has already demonstrated a capability to coordinate with proxy groups in Iraq to harass, intimidate or even conduct direct attacks on U.S. forces, personnel or bases there. And despite the planned U.S. drawdown from 3,000 personnel to 2,500, there are still several targets that the Quds Force could pursue. The Quds Force’s relationship with Hezbollah in Lebanon stretches back decades, and there is also the potential for operations against Israel — although Israel would likely retaliate in a strong fashion, opening up the prospect for a wider cycle of conflict that would be difficult to control, at least early on.

Another option would be to attack the small U.S. footprint in Syria given Iran’s presence there and collaboration with the Assad regime. But like in the Iraq example, operations against the U.S. military or U.S. interests linked back to Iran would trigger a significant U.S. response — as indicated by statements from the head of U.S. Central Command in recent interviews.

Beyond the operations in the Middle East, there is the potential for the Quds Force to consider attacks against U.S. or Israeli targets in other parts of the world. A botched plot against the Saudi ambassador to the United States in 2011 and attempted attacks against Israeli officials in Asia in 2012 suggest that the Quds Force will look outside its core sphere of interest to pursue operations, although it may lack the capability to be effective the further it strays from the region.