Iran’s Involvement in Conflicts from Gaza to Pakistan |

Israel and the Gaza Strip. Yemen and the Red Sea. Lebanon, Syria, Iraq – and now Pakistan, too. At every flashpoint in a set of conflicts spanning 2897 km and involving a hodgepodge of unpredictable armed actors and interests, there’s been a common thread: Iran.
The Iran connection stems partly from Iran’s decades-long efforts to deter threats and undermine foes by building up like-minded militias across West Asia. In addition, Iran faces armed separatist movements and terrorist groups in conflicts that readily spill over borders.
Ever since the 1979 revolution that made Iran a Shia Muslim theocracy, it has been isolated and has seen itself as besieged. Iran considers the US and Israel to be its biggest enemies. It also wants to establish itself as the most powerful nation in the Persian Gulf region, where its chief rival is Saudi Arabia, an America ally and a predominantly Sunni Muslim country.
With few other allies, Iran has long armed, trained, financed, advised and even directed several movements that share Iran’s enemies. Iran, which calls itself and these militias the “Axis of Resistance” to American and Israeli power, sees it all as “part of a single struggle”, said West Asia policy analyst Hasan Alhasan. Investing in proxy forces – fellow Shia groups in Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen, and the Sunni Hamas in the Gaza Strip – allows Iran to cause trouble for its enemies, and to raise the prospect of causing more if attacked.
But as tensions rise across the region, Tehran has increasingly become a target. Last month, separatist group Jaish al-Adl that operates along the Iran-Pakistan border attacked a police station in southeastern part of the country, killing 11 people. Two senior Iranian commanders were assassinated in Syria, and Iran blamed Israel. Then this month, suicide blasts in Kerman killed almost 100 people – the deadliest terrorist attacks since the Islamic Republic was founded. The Islamic State claimed responsibility.
With this week’s direct missile strikes on targets in Iraq, Syria and Pakistan, Iran went on the offensive. Analysts and Iranians close to the military say government wanted to make a show of force with an eye to the hardliners who make up its base of support, and were already incensed at Israeli attacks.
But why involve non-West Asia player Pakistan? Iran and Pakistan have accused each other of not doing enough to prevent militants from crossing the border. Iran said its strikes in Pakistan targeted bases for Jaish al-Adl, but Pakistan pushed back, citing what it said were civilian casualties. Pakistan and Iran have had mostly cordial ties, but the recent events have the potential to damage that. At a time when the region is already on edge, a miscalculation could be especially dangerous.

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