The Role of Iran in the Middle East

Submitted by BIC on Thu, 11/08/2018 - 11:33

The Challenge

Arrays of intersecting conflicts in the Middle-East have drawn the region into a complex battle-field, with damaging effects on its social fabric. Even before the 2011 Arab uprisings, major conflicts in the region tended to intersect with local divergences, creating primary as well as secondary conflict clusters, distorting relations between regional and international actors and obstructing sustainable peace. The complex dynamics are best illustrated by the region’s major powers’ persistent support to domestic and foreign fighters to various Syrian, Iraqi, Libyan and Yemeni groups, including provision of logistical support, subsidizing travel costs and armament and financing many of their capabilities.

Since the 1979’s revolution, the Islamic Republic of Iran has had a crucial part in the hybrid and changing course of the conflicts in its neighbors and in the overall balance of power in the region. With significant activity in the Shi’a Crescent, Iranian rise as a leading regional power is closely related to developments in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, where Iran succeeded in strengthening its position through the trans-border Shiite connection in each of the Arab countries mentioned earlier. In all cases, the Iranian interventions reinforced the regional and transnational sectarian connections, often taking advantage of power vacuums, and supplying radical Islamist groups with necessary support needed to empower their position. Iran's long-lasting alliances with Hezbollah, as well as a strong engagement with Assad, Shia militias and some of the Kurdish groups and the Houthis are a clear illustration of the country’s efforts to expand its influence in Iraq, Syria and Yemen[1].

Our Approach

This project examines the intersectionality of regional politics and conflict in the Middle East, specifically focusing on proxy clashes between regional hegemonies intersect with sectarian and local divergences. BIC seeks to provide contextual analysis to show how the weakening of states in the Middle East, in both economic and political terms, has played a key role in destabilizing the region by creating fixed struggles for regime survival.

Our research goes further to illustrate how Iran’s traumatic experience following the 1979 Revolution and Iraq-Iran War has pushed the new regime towards survival tactics that include building network of partners to contain external threats, and engaging in reckless proxy warfare abroad to protect its security, political and economic interests. The project focuses on how these dynamics poison relationships between regional and international actors complicating attempts for peaceful solutions.