Middle East: does Iran want escalation?
The authoritarian Iranian regime has been supporting armed groups such as the radical Islamic Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah with money and weapons for years. Since the terrorist attack by Hamas on 7 October, Tehran has repeatedly threatened military involvement should Israel or the US "cross red lines". Commentators shed light on Iran’s role in the Middle East and assess the threat of Iranian intervention.
Soon the disadvantages could predominate
Political scientist and Iran expert Mohammad-Reza Djalili comments in Telos:
“At first glance, the events of the past few days would appear to benefit the ideological agenda of the Islamic Republic of Iran: the Israeli-Arab normalisaton process is frozen and the Palestinian question has returned to being the main focus on the regional and international stage. However, if the Israeli-American response succeeds in weakening the military capabilities of Tehran’s non-state allies, this will require new investments by Tehran in the region at the expense of the country’s internal situation, which remains explosive.”
Other fish to fry
An open war with Israel is not in Tehran’s interest, Hospodářské noviny believes:
“First, Iran is not ready for a major conflict. The Ayatollah’s regime’s main priority is to remain in power and preserve the country’s own stability, which has long been a problem. Tehran will try to keep up the pressure on Israel. But according to Reuters there is a consensus among regime leaders that the priority is to focus on the situation at home. Whether the Iranians will really be able to rein in their Hezbollah allies in southern Lebanon is another matter.”
Things are going well for Tehran right now, La Stampa observes:
“Negotiations with Washington resulted in a prisoner exchange and the release of six billion dollars in Iranian funds in South Korea; the reconciliation with Saudi Arabia was also moving forward. ... With the Hamas offensive and above all Israel’s ongoing military response, the Iranian regime has made further gains: anti-Israeli sentiment in the Arab world has reached a new high, and a normalisation of relations between Israel and Riyadh to the detriment of the Palestinians is back on ice. But precisely because Tehran has benefited from the situation so far, it only stands to lose if the war expands. A conflict between Iran on the one hand and Israel and the US on the other would be devastating for everyone, including the Iranian regime.”
Tehran a force to be reckoned with
Iran’s Middle East policy should not be taken lightly, warns T24:
“By encouraging the settlement of Iranian citizens in the Gulf states, Iran is implementing a long-term demographic strategy. The 7 October attack could only take place with Iranian support. And with the attack, the lines that were just taking on a new shape in the Middle East suddenly froze in panic. It is very hard to predict what will happen next. But anyone planning ahead in the region must now factor in ‘Iranian influence’. Iran may have few friends, but the number of those who don’t want it as an enemy is quite high.”