As the IDF expands its area of operation in Gaza, Iran's proxies, particularly Hezbollah, are steadily increasing their involvement in the conflict. Tehran’s strategy is based on the hope that a show of force will not allow Israel to eliminate Hamas, and most importantly, will act as a deterrent for the United States from more decisive intervention in the conflict. This opinion was expressed by experts Said Ghasseminejad and Behnam Ben Taleblu from the American Foundation for Defense of Democracies in their recent article for 19fortyfive.
According to the authors of the material, this strategy for Iran is as destructive as it is brilliant.
As experts put it, on the one hand, the gradual introduction of new participants into the conflict from controlled terrorist groups, which Tehran calls the “Axis of Resistance,” could work as a lever of pressure on Israel and the United States, which would force them to abandon the destruction of Hamas and weaken their positions in region. On the other hand, the expansion of the conflict in the Middle East, even if it occurs gradually, will sooner or later allow Israel and its allies to establish a connection between Iran and its proxies, and then hold Tehran fully responsible for the terrorist attacks of October 7 with all the ensuing consequences.
As a result, according to the authors, the “patron” of Hamas and Hezbollah today faces a difficult choice – to carry out threats regarding the expansion of the conflict when the IDF crosses “red lines” in Gaza or continue to “scare” Israel and the United States with further statements.
However, an intermediate conclusion about Iran’s future intentions can be made in the near future. Today, the leader of Hezbollah is due to issue a statement in which he will make it clear how involved the group is in the current conflict.
Meanwhile, experts, citing a recent Reuters article citing data allegedly obtained from unnamed Iranian security officials, write that Tehran has already given the “green light” to its proxies for “dosed” attacks on US positions in the region. As a result, on October 18-19, Iran-backed Shiite militia groups attacked US bases in Iraq three times and once in Syria using drones and missiles.
As the Middle East's longest-serving autocrat, Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has seen and studied changes in U.S. military power and, most importantly, its willingness to use it, Foundation for Defense of Democracies put it. By attacking American bases with his proxies, Khamenei is trying to drive a wedge between Washington and Jerusalem, as well as increase the cost to the United States of supporting its regional partner.
In general, according to the authors of the material, Iran is trying to play out a gambit in the Middle East, essentially allowing the option of “sacrificing” Hamas. After all, Tehran was ready to take advantage of the chaos that Palestinian militants sowed on October 7.
Moreover, Iran has already partially succeeded. The fallout from Israel's air campaign has already ignited violent protests and reintroduced the Palestinian issue as a potential sticking point between Washington and Arab capitals. Now, with regional discontent at its peak, Tehran is counting on shocking images of Israel's evolving ground operation to give resonance to its anti-American, anti-Israeli message of "red lines."
Summing up, experts emphasized that Washington should have already revealed this Tehran gambit. Now the Iranian leadership needs to make it clear that involving proxies in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in order to expand the escalation to the entire region will have the most negative impact directly on Iran itself.
Until this happens, the Islamic Republic and its "Axis of Resistance" will continue to try to expand their influence at the expense of innocent lives throughout the region
- summed up Said Ghasseminejad and Behnam Ben Taleblu.