Analyzing Iran’s Role and Escalating Violence in the Middle East

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January 20, 2024

Analyzing Iran’s Role and Escalating Violence in the Middle East

• The escalating violence in the Middle East involving Iran and its proxies has raised concerns globally. Iran denies direct control over its proxies but acknowledges broad support for their anti-Israel and anti-U.S. actions. Recent missile strikes on Iraq, Syria, and Pakistan, coupled with proxy attacks on U.S. and Western interests, intensify fears of a broader conflict.
Reasons Behind Iran’s Strikes
• Iran attributes its strikes to responses against attacks on its soil or Iranian targets. Missile strikes in Syria followed a bombing in central Iran, targeting Islamic State militants. Strikes in Iraq targeted alleged Israeli spy sites, while in Pakistan, Iranian forces attacked bases of the Baluchi militant group, Jaish al Adl, responsible for a previous attack on Iranian security forces.
Areas of Iranian Involvement
• Under the leadership of Qassem Soleimani, Iran nurtured a network of proxy forces across Arab countries. These proxies operate in Gaza, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran supports groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and the Houthi rebels, each pursuing its own interests alongside the common goal of opposing Israel and U.S. presence.
Goals and Varied Interests
• Iran and its proxies share the overarching goals of halting Israeli bombardment in Gaza and expelling U.S. troops from the region. However, each proxy group also has unique local interests. Hezbollah seeks to maintain its dominance in Lebanon, the Houthi rebels aim to assert control in Yemen, and the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) in Iraq pursue economic and political power.
Domestic Challenges in Iran
• While navigating external conflicts, Iran faces internal challenges. Nationwide protests in 2022 and 2023 posed a serious threat to the Shi’ite clerical rule. The government’s harsh crackdown aimed to suppress dissent, but recent attacks, including the one at Soleimani’s commemoration claimed by the Islamic State, have further heightened domestic concerns about security.
Potential Involvement of Russia
• The growing closeness between Russia and Iran, evident in joint actions in Syria and shared opposition to U.S. dominance, raises questions about Russia’s potential involvement. While both countries have collaborated, Russia expresses alarm at the Iran-Pakistan flare-up and calls for diplomatic resolution.
Escalation Risks and Regional Dynamics
• Amidst concerns of escalation, Iran appears reluctant to directly confront the U.S. or Israel but is willing to use proxies to keep them engaged in the region. The greatest danger lies in miscalculated attacks, potentially triggering a broader conflict. Western and regional officials emphasize the need for caution to prevent further escalation.
• The complex web of Iran’s involvement and the actions of its proxies create a volatile situation in the Middle East. Understanding the nuanced goals of each group is crucial in assessing the potential for further escalation and the role of external actors like Russia. The international community closely watches developments, hoping for diplomatic solutions to mitigate the risk of a wider conflict.

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Analyzing Iran’s Role and Escalating Violence in the Middle East | Vaid ICS Institute