In the event of war with the United States, Iran “will not be alone.”
That message was delivered by the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah terrorist group to a mass rally in Beirut in February marking the 40th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution. “If America launches a war on Iran, it will not be alone in the confrontation, because the fate of our region is tied to the Islamic Republic,” Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said.
From Lebanon and Syria to Iraq, Yemen, and the Gaza Strip, Tehran has significantly expanded its footprint over the past decade, finding and developing powerful allies in conflict-ravaged countries across the Middle East.
Hezbollah is one of the most prominent members of the self-styled “axis of resistance,” armed groups with tens of thousands of Shiite Muslim fighters beholden to Tehran.
Iran has used such groups in the past to strike its regional foes and could mobilize them if the latest tensions with the United States lead to an armed conflict – dramatically expanding the battlefield.
Here’s a look at Tehran’s allies in the Mideast:
The terrorist group, whose Arabic name translates into “Party of God,” was established by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards during Lebanon’s civil war in the 1980s. Today it is among the most effective groups in the region, extending Iran’s influence to Israel’s doorstep.
In a paper for the Brookings Institute earlier this year, former US Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman described the group as revolutionary Iran’s “most successful export” and Tehran’s “multi-purpose tool.”
Hezbollah was formed to fight Israel in 1982 and has had many confrontations with Israel.
Today, the group has an arsenal of tens of thousands of rockets and missiles that can reach deep into Israel, as well as thousands of highly disciplined and battle-hardened fighters. Hezbollah has fought alongside government forces in Syria for more than six years, gaining, even more, battlefield experience and expanding its reach.
At home, the group’s power exceeds that of the Lebanese armed forces, and along with its allies has more power than ever in the parliament and government.
Despite the rhetoric, Hezbollah says it is not seeking another war with Israel, and it is not likely to join in any regional confrontation. It has lost hundreds of terrorist fighters in Syria, exacting a heavy toll on the Shiite community from which it draws most of its support.
Yemen’s Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, swept down from the north and captured the capital, Sanaa, in 2014. A Saudi-led coalition entered the conflict on the side of the government the following year. The war has since killed tens of thousands of people and generated the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Saudi Arabia views the Houthis as an Iranian proxy, and along with Western nations and UN experts has accused Tehran of providing arms to the rebels, including the long-range missiles they have fired into Saudi Arabia. Iran supports the rebels but denies arming them.
The Houthis have given up little ground since the coalition entered the war, and have targeted the Saudi capital, Riyadh, with long-range missiles. Earlier this week they claimed a drone attack that shut down a major oil pipeline in Saudi Arabia, which responded with airstrikes on Yemen’s rebel-held capital that killed civilians.
Iran has trained, financed, and equipped Shiite militias in Iraq that battled US forces in the years after the 2003 invasion and remobilized to battle the Islamic State group a decade later.
The groups include Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Kataeb Hezbollah and the Badr Organization, all three led by men with close ties to Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force and the architect of Tehran’s regional strategy.
The militias fall under the umbrella of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, a collection of mostly Shiite militias that were incorporated into the country’s armed forces in 2016. Together they number more than 140,000 fighters, and while they fall under the authority of Iraq’s prime minister, the PMF’s top brass are politically aligned with Iran.
US forces and the PMF fought side-by-side against Islamic State militants after Iraq’s parliament invited the US back into the country in 2014. But now that the war is largely concluded, some militia leaders are calling on US troops to leave again, threatening to expel them by force if necessary.
Iran has long supported Palestinian militant groups, including Gaza’s Hamas rulers and particularly the smaller Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) group.
Hamas fell out with Iran after the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, losing millions of dollars in monthly assistance. The group today is in a severe financial crisis; its employees and public servants in Gaza have not been paid full salaries in years.
Tehran is said to have continued its military support to Hamas’ armed terrorist wing, but the group appears to get most of its aid from Qatar, making it less likely that it would rally to Tehran’s side in a regional conflict. PIJ, another Sunni militant group, is seen as much closer to Iran but still not as deeply intertwined as Hezbollah or other groups.
Source » israelhayom