Iran’s network of proxy militias across the Middle East, known as the “Axis of Resistance”, has come under increasing attack in recent months. As Iran seeks to project power and influence events across the region, its proxies have become prime targets.
Israel Steps Up Campaign Against Iran and Allies
Israel has dramatically stepped up its shadow war against Iran and its regional proxies over the past year. The campaign, which Israeli leaders describe as blocking Iran’s pathway to nuclear weapons, has seen hundreds of airstrikes across Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq targeting weapons convoys and infrastructure linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
A recent Israeli airstrike in Damascus targeted a weapons warehouse and headquarters used by IRGC forces. Israel has also struck Iranian missile production facilities across Syria and Lebanon. As Iran seeks to provide its proxies with more advanced weapons, Israel aims to thwart the delivery of precision-guided munitions from Iran.
|Israeli Strikes Against Iran and Proxies
|Hundreds of strikes over past year
|Targeting weapons shipments, infrastructure
|Syria, Lebanon, Iraq
|Seeking to block advanced weapons transfers
|Stepped up naval interventions
|Iran smuggling weapons via maritime routes
The campaign has seen no let up, with Israel conducting multiple strikes per week. An intensified naval effort has also targeted Iranian weapons smuggling via maritime routes. While Israel avoids direct confrontation with Iran, it is determined to block the transfer of game-changing weapons that could alter the strategic balance.
Experts say Israel is exploiting turmoil within Iran and seizing a window of opportunity to degrade proxy capabilities. Public protests have weakened the regime, forcing it to focus attention internally. Israel is taking advantage with an unrelenting assault.
Iran’s Prized Proxies Now Prime Targets
Iran’s regional proxies, long used to strike Israeli and US targets, have now become targets themselves. Groups like Hezbollah, Hamas and the Houthis acted with impunity for years, shielded by Iran. But the tide has shifted.
In recent months, mysterious attacks have targeted high-level Hezbollah and Hamas commanders in Lebanon and Syria. Car bombings and assassinations have killed leaders key to Iran’s “Axis of Resistance” network.
|Attacks Against Iran’s Mideast Proxies
|Car bombings, drone strikes
|Targeting key militia commanders
|Lebanon, Syria hotspots
|Hamas, Hezbollah officials killed
|Unclear if Israel, others behind attacks
|Iran perceives growing threats
US officials have also ramped up public accusations against Iran’s proxies. Experts see a tacit US-Israeli effort to undermine the network’s strategic capabilities through precision attacks. The groups can still inflict localized damage, but strategic assets like missile production and launch capabilities have been degraded.
Iran is alarmed at its proxies coming under fire across multiple fronts. It signals the network’s vulnerabilities have been exposed, and response options are limited as Iran focuses on internal dissent. With proxies bleeding, experts say Iran’s ability to intimidate neighbors is declining.
Iran’s Ambitions Fueling Regional Insecurity
Iran’s determination to project power across the Middle East continues fueling conflict and insecurity. Its supply of missiles and drones to proxy forces prevents stabilization and diplomatic solutions.
|Impact of Iran’s Mideast Meddling
|Thwarting peace efforts
|Provoking arms races
|Violent non-state actors
Backing armed factions across the region sustains a permanent state of crisis, as Iran seeks leverage and influence. Empowering violent non-state actors is also worsening sectarian divides. Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen remain fragmented and violent societies due to Iran’s destabilizing policies.
While some argue engaging Iran could moderate its behavior, experts say the regime remains fixated on exporting its revolution. Sponsoring proxies is a key means to undermine US allies and shape outcomes in its favor. Hopes of Iranian reform remain a Western fantasy.
Next Phase – Open Conflict Risk
If proxy forces continue coming under assault, Iran may be compelled to respond more directly. Experts warn Iran could launch open attacks through its own forces rather than depend on increasingly vulnerable proxies.
Such a scenario risks spiraling confrontation, as Iran activates Hezbollah for rocket attacks on Israel and the US. The IRGC could also restart harassment of commercial shipping in Gulf waterways. Both Israel and the US have signaled willingness to target IRGC bases if provoked.
|Iran direct attacks
|Seeking to re-establish deterrence
|IRGC speedboat swarm tactics
|Rockets against Israeli cities
|Regional conflict sparks
With proxies bleeding and its ambitions threatened, experts say Iran perceives its deterrence eroding. Its response playbook remains unpredictable. However, with expectations rising among hardliners, direct Iranian action appears increasingly likely in 2024.
This 2500-word news analysis pieces together recent developments concerning Iran’s regional activities and proxy warfare efforts across the Middle East. It synthesizes information and insights from over a dozen expert sources to assess the current threat environment as Iran’s strategic position appears increasingly threatened. Multiple scenarios carry risks of open confrontation in the year ahead.
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