Days after a drone strike in Jordan killed three US soldiers, which was attributed to an esoteric Iranian-linked military team. It now appears that the larger regional conflict may have been avoided. for the time being.
The head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards stated that Tehran is” not looking for war,” and the US has indicated that it will respond to the attack in a tiered manner, though it has n’t specified how.
However, since the October 7 Hamas assault on Israel and the start of the war in Gaza, Iranian-backed armies in Iraq and Syria have then launched more than 160 attacks against the US government. Additionally, Iranian-backed Houthi extremists in Yemen have threatened to keep attacking boats in the Red Sea.
What then motivates these organizations in the so-called” plane of opposition” and how much influence does Iran have over their behavior?
Shia militant organizations in Iraq
Under pressure from both Iran and Iraq, the military that the US blamed for the helicopter strike in Jordan, Kata’ib Hezbollah, announced earlier this week that it would halt its defense operations in Iraq.
It is just one of many Iranian-backed organizations operating in Iraq under the guise of Islamic Resistance.
In the midst of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, armed militias started to appear there. When these groups came together to form a front against the ISIS terror party, they became rapidly stronger.
Along with other Iran-backed organizations like Hezbollah in Syria, the Popular Mobilisation Forces, or Al Hashd Al Sha’bi, was founded in 2014 and quickly rose to prominence as the primary Shia militia organization fighting ISIS.
The Popular Mobilisation Forces, however, turned their focus back to US goals in Iraq as the threat of ISIS diminished following its military battle in 2019.
These organizations have recently posed as the muqawama, or “resistance,” against the US and its supporters in Iraq. As a result, they have launched hundreds of attacks in Iraq and Syria against US and Greek military installations as well as other goals.
Hezbollah, also known as the” Party of God,” was founded in the 1980s as an armed army to liberate the southern regions of Lebanon from Israeli rule and to better the lot of the country’s marginalized Shia minority.
In Lebanon, the group has since established itself as a respectable social force. Hezbollah has thus been successful in spanning numerous regions. It plays a civilian ( da’wa ) role in Lebanon’s social welfare and religious education, as well as participating in military-resistance ( jihad ), which involves attacking US and Israeli targets there and on the Israeli-Lebanese border.
Over the years, its connection with Iran has grown, with Hezbollah receiving hundreds of millions of dollars annually from Iran for weapons and training.
However, Hezbollah has shown to be very skilled at downplaying its theological ideals and principles in order to function independently as a major political force in Lebanon.
The Houthis are a Shia armed party that emerged from the Zaydi religion in the 1990s from Yemen’s northern hills and is also referred to as Ansar Allah (” Supporters of God” The party overthrew Yemen’s authorities in 2014 and finally seized power over the majority of the nation. The party then fought a military alliance led by Saudi Arabia that was attempting to remove them for decades with Iran’s support.
Ironically, this changed with the Jewish warfare against Hamas in Gaza, despite the fact that Houthis were not directly involved in attacking US targets ( or its allies ) in the past.
These groupings have always shared Shia Islam, a religious and philosophical affiliation.
Shias have previously been a majority in the Arab world, subject to rigorous persecution, political seclusion, and low socioeconomic status in nations like Iraq, Lebanon and the Gulf states.
But after the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the fall of the Shia church there, things started to change. The Iranian government sought to spread the” Shia rebellion” across borders in an effort to end decades of Shia social isolation and socioeconomic deprivation, primarily through its military apparatus, the Revolutionary Guards.
The first and most prosperous of the Iran-backed organizations to emerge from this action was Hezbollah. It became and continues to be a significant regional person in Lebanon thanks to its ability to establish and maintain an impressive military and political appearance there.
Iran took on the role of the intellectual defender of this expanding” shaft” of Middle Eastern groups thanks to its arsenal and financial support. These proxies have in turn assisted Iran in maintaining a significant amount of corporate power in the area, which is essential to its ability to influence others and its foreign policy.
united by opposition
However, despite having close political and ideological ties, these teams continue to function as patriotic organizations in their respective nations. Each has its own regional interests and goals as a result. Shia communities ‘ lives have been improved, and political power has been attained as a result.
This has been characterized as a muqawama or form of resistance. Resistance to occupation, resistance to oppressive regimes, and resistance against imperialist, dominant powers are just a few ways to look at this.
The concept of “oppressors vs. the downtrodden,” which emerged from Hussein ibn Ali’s death during the battle of Karbala in the year 680, is a core of Shia philosophy. This story has come to represent Shia opposition in all of its manifestations.
This explains why organizations like Hezbollah, the Houthis, and the Muslim Weight in Iraq have banded together under the name” Axis of Tolerance.” The Houthis opposition against Saudi-led coalition forces, the Hezbollah resistance to Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, and the military Shi’ite groups in Iraq attacking ISIS and currently US troops are all examples of this concept.
These parties have just banded together as a form of protest against Israel ( and its principal ally, the US), over its conflict in Gaza.
It is still unclear how much control Iran has over these intermediaries. Each party of the” shaft of weight” works freely to resist “aggression and job,” according to Iran, who has denied ordering the attacks on US forces in Iraq, Syria, and presently Jordan.
However, the fact that we are seeing an increase in military operations by each of these groups suggests that they are becoming more and more crucial to Iran’s plan to increase its impact and fight the US in the Middle East.
Mariam Farida teaches counterterrorism and violence research at Macquarie University.
Under a Creative Commons license, this essay has been republished from The Conversation. Read the article in its entirety.