The Middle East: Why Iran is embroiled in so many conflicts

There are a number of armed groups across the Middle East with ties to Iran, including Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis and Yemen, and other groups in Iraq, Syria and Bahrain. Known as the "Axis of Resistance," many of these groups have been designated terrorists in Western countries, and according to Ali Vaez, an Iran expert at the think tank Crisis Group, they share one goal: "to protect the region from American and Israeli threats."

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Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.

As the war in Gaza continues, the role Iran is playing across the Middle East is drawing the world's attention.

Iran supports Hamas in the conflict between Israel and Gaza, launched airstrikes against Iraq, Syria and Pakistan, and its weapons are used by Russia against Ukraine.

Although Iran denies direct involvement in some attacks in the Middle East - such as attacks on Israel from Lebanon, a drone attack on US troops in Jordan and attacks on Western ships in the Red Sea from bases in Yemen - they have been claimed by groups it supports. Iran.

But who are these groups and what is Iran's involvement in these conflicts?

Which groups does Iran support?

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There are a number of armed groups across the Middle East with ties to Iran, including Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis and Yemen, and other groups in Iraq, Syria and Bahrain.

Known as the "Axis of Resistance," many of these groups have been designated terrorists in Western countries, and according to Ali Vaez, an Iran expert at the think tank Crisis Group, they all share one goal: "to protect the region from American and Israeli threats."

"Iran's perception is that the biggest threat is the US, followed by Israel, which Iran perceives as an American mediator in the region," he says.

"Iran's long-term plans have created an incredible network that allows it to demonstrate force."

Iran has denied being behind a drone attack in Jordan on January 28 that killed three US soldiers, but the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, made up of many groups, some of which are backed by Iran, has claimed responsibility.

It was the first time US troops had been killed in an attack in the region since Hamas's deadly attack on Israel on October 7, which triggered the Gaza war, so US President Joseph Biden felt great pressure to respond.

In retaliation, the US struck the Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guards and related paramilitary groups in Iraq and Syria a week later, followed by a joint US-UK attack on Iranian-backed Houthi targets in Yemen.

Iran is often on the fringes of these conflicts, even though more than three decades have passed since the country was last officially at war.

Although Iran often denies a direct link with intermediaries, Tehran has supported extremist groups since the country's revolution 45 years ago, and they became a prominent part of the regime's national defense strategy in the early XNUMXs.

History of Iran and its relationship with the USA

Events from Iran's modern history can help explain the country's position in the region and its strained relations with the US.

After the Iranian Revolution of 1979, Iran isolated itself from the West.

CENTRAL BANK OF IRAN

In Washington, the Jimmy Carter administration was desperately trying to free 52 American diplomats who had been held hostage in the Iranian capital Tehran for nearly a year, and the impression was that Iran deserved to be punished and isolated on the international stage.

This led the US and its Western allies to favor Iraq, ruled by Saddam Hussein from 1979 to 2003, over Iran.

Then the war between Iran and Iraq broke out, which lasted from 1980 to 1988.

The conflict ended with both Iran and Iraq agreeing to a ceasefire, but at a high cost, with a million people killed or wounded on both sides, and the Iranian economy destroyed.

This has created a view among senior Iranian officials that Tehran must be able to repel any future invasion through a variety of means, including developing a ballistic missile program and a network of proxies.

Later, the American-led invasions of Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003), as well as various uprisings across the Arab world since 2011, only reinforced that view.


Watch the video: Why Iran and America are sworn enemies


What does Iran want and why?

Militarily, Iran is considered much weaker than the US, so many experts believe that this so-called deterrence strategy is crucial to the survival of the Iranian regime.

"War with the US is the last thing Iran and the axis of resistance want," said Alex Vatanka, founder and director of the Iran Program at the Middle East Institute (MEI).

"Iran wants to drive the US out of the Middle East." It is a long-term strategy of blackmailing the other party," says Vatanka.

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Kamran Martin of the University of Sussex in Great Britain agrees and claims that Iran wants to be a powerful player on the world stage.

"Ancient Iran, known throughout history as Persia, has a glorious past and was the dominant country in Western Asia for more than 12 centuries," explains this senior lecturer in international relations.

"Iran believes it deserves a significant role in regional and global affairs, with its rich culture of Persian art and literature supporting this perception of Iran as a great state and power."

How much control does Iran have?

Political activist and Iran scholar Jasamin Mader, from the University of Oxford in Great Britain, argues that Iran does not have that much control over its intermediaries.

Using the example of the Houthis in Yemen, who attack ships in the Red Sea, Mader says, "They are not simply following orders from Iran." They have their own goals to present themselves as a powerful force in the region, not just as a proxy for Iran."

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Vaez from the Crisis Group agrees with that.

"The problem for a country like Iran, which subcontracts regional politics to non-state actors, is that it doesn't have full control over that network."

Vaez also thinks Iran's power is often exaggerated.

"There is a perception that Iran is the mastermind behind this whole chess game across the region.

"But Iran and its allies have failed to achieve any of their key strategic goals, from forcing Israel to agree to a cease-fire in Gaza to expelling the US from the region."

However, Iran has a nuclear program, which Vaez claims is "more advanced now than it's ever been in the last 20 years" and he thinks it could create "even bigger problems for Israel and the West than Iran achieves through its network." partners and mediators."

"World War III?"

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And while attacks across the region are multiplying, so are Internet searches for the phrase "World War III."

Vatanka from MEI says that Iran must act cautiously because it is under pressure from within its own borders, after unprecedented protests in recent years, led by women against the regime.

"There is a very angry Iranian population that sees no sense in what the regime in Tehran is doing in the region."

Also, the West does not want a war with Iran, claims Eli Geranmayeh, deputy head of the program for the Middle East and North Africa at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

"The American president cannot afford that before the elections. Israel cannot afford that knowing that it is very vulnerable internationally at the moment, given its operations in Gaza," she says.

Like most experts, Geranmajeh agrees that all-out war is not on either side's agenda.

"The US and Iran use regional actors to target and attack each other.

"They deliberately fight with one hand tied behind their back to avoid a direct confrontation that neither side can afford and the consequences of which would be drastic," she claims.

Although, considering the last decade, which Geranmayeh describes as "dangerous, fluid and chaotic", she nevertheless warns: "Without serious diplomacy, Washington and Tehran will continue to drag each other into a military course".

"And if just one of the major state actors is not careful and very controlled, it could lead to a bigger escalation than we've had so far."


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