The recent outbreak of conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, initiated by Hamas’s “Al-Aqsa Storm” operation, has raised concerns over regional stability and the broader geopolitical landscape. While the direct parties involved are Israel and Hamas, Iran, a key player in the Middle East, stands to gain the most from this escalation. This article examines how Iran’s interests align with the ongoing conflict and its regional strategy.
Iran’s Anti-Israel Stance:
Iran’s foreign policy orientation, dating back to the 1979 Islamic Revolution, has been marked by vehement anti-American imperialism and anti-Israeli Zionism. The Iranian revolution aimed to confront oppression and injustice worldwide, with a particular focus on governments backed by the United States, notably Israel. Iran viewed Israel and the U.S. as representing immorality and injustice, posing the greatest threats to Muslim society and Iranian security.
Historical Ties: Iran’s deep-seated hostility towards Israel is partially rooted in the close ties between Israel and the Shah of Iran, who maintained a repressive regime. Israel, along with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), supported the Shah’s oppressive tactics, including mass imprisonment, torture, and killings, which fueled resentment among Iranians.
Support for Palestinian Liberation: Iran’s revolutionary message emphasized support for Palestinian liberation. The 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon provided an opportunity for Iran to challenge Israeli forces in Lebanon, aligning with its anti-Zionist rhetoric and resisting U.S. influence in the region.
Fostering Militant Groups: Iran has consistently supported anti-Israeli militant groups, notably Hezbollah, through its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). These groups received training, weapons, funds, and ideological support from Iran, contributing to Iran’s regional influence.
Fueling Palestinian Conflict: Iran’s support extends to Palestinian groups, enabling surges in militant violence against Israel during periods of heightened tensions. Iran has maintained a smuggling network to supply weapons to Gaza, despite an Israeli blockade.
Iran’s Regional Agenda:
Iran’s regional strategy revolves around challenging U.S. and Israeli influence in the Middle East, often via proxies. The recent conflict between Israel and Hamas aligns with Iran’s broader objectives:
- Disrupting Normalization Efforts: Iran opposes any normalization efforts between Israel and Arab states, viewing them as betrayal. The recent violence is likely to complicate Saudi Arabia’s normalization with Israel, which Iran welcomes.
- Provoking Escalation: The conflict’s escalation could trigger Palestinian uprisings in East Jerusalem or the West Bank, leading to more significant Israeli responses and regional instability.
- Promoting Chaos: Even if Israel uses minimal force, the underlying issues driving the conflict remain unaddressed. Iran expects and welcomes the perpetuation of Israeli-Palestinian violence.
While Israel and Hamas are the immediate actors in the ongoing conflict, Iran stands to gain the most from the situation. Iran’s anti-Israel stance and its regional strategy converge with the conflict’s outcomes, potentially hindering normalization efforts, fueling regional instability, and perpetuating the cycle of violence. As events unfold, Iran’s role and interests in the region will continue to shape the Middle East’s complex geopolitical landscape.