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Explained | Who are Iran's proxies & allies in the Middle East

While the United Nations, European Union, US, Britain, France, Mexico, Czechia, Denmark, Canada, Japan, and the Netherlands all condemned Iran's attack, here we list Tehran's proxies and allies.
Last Updated : 15 April 2024, 12:17 IST
Last Updated : 15 April 2024, 12:17 IST

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Iran launched dozens of drones and missiles at Israel late on Saturday, an attack that triggered escalation between the regional archenemies.

Exhibiting its support to Israel, the United States military said it had shot down dozens of the drones and missiles that Iran fired at Israel on Saturday, as other allies affirmed support for Israel or pledged to help defend it.

While the United Nations, European Union, US, Britain, France, Mexico, Czechia, Denmark, Canada, Japan, and the Netherlands all condemned Iran's attack, here we list Tehran's proxies and allies.

Hezbollah: Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group reportedly gets it military and financial backing from Iran. Hezbollah, meaning "Party of God", was set up by Iran's Revolutionary Guards in 1982 with the aim of fighting Israeli forces that had invaded Lebanon that year. The heavily armed group, also an influential political player, shares Iran's Shi'ite Islamist ideology and is widely regarded as more powerful than the Lebanese state.

Hezbollah has served as a model for other Iranian-backed groups across the region, some of which it has advised or trained. The United States and other governments including US-allied Gulf Arab countries list Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation. As per a report, Iran provides an estimated $700 million to Hezbollah annually. Hezbollah also has intellectual alignment to Iran as mentioned in its 1985 manifesto where it pledged its allegiance to the then Supreme Leader of Iran and called for the destruction of Israel.

Hamas: Hamas, whose 1988 founding charter called for Israel's destruction, is classified as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the United States, the European Union, Canada, Egypt and Japan. With the ongoing Hamas-Israel war, for Iran, Hamas has helped it realise a years-long ambition to encircle Israel with legions of paramilitaries, including other Palestinian factions and Lebanon's Hezbollah, according to Western officials. Meanwhile, Iran reportedly provides Hamas at least $70m-$100m a year. Over the years, Iran has supported Hamas in multiple aspects without which the group would not have been able to sustain the conflict with Israel.

Houthi Movement: Also known as Ansar Allah, Houthis are an armed group that control most parts of Yemen. They rose to prominence only in 2014 when the group's putsch led the government to step down. Several reports claim that the Houthis were receiving weapons from Iran by 2014. The United States has in the past noted Iranian support to the Houthis. Though the group has reportedly had Iranian backing in the past, a section of experts believe that Houthis have had their differences with Iran and should not be viewed as Iranian proxy.

Al-Ashtar Brigades: A Bahraini Shia militant group that has been charged with committing terrorist attacks against Manama's government and is reportedly funded, trained and armed by Iran. Established in 2013, AAB has taken responsibility for various terrorist attacks.

Islamic Resistance in Iraq: Shi'ite groups with ties to Iran emerged as powerful players in Iraq after the 2003 US-led invasion, and developed militias with tens of thousands of fighters. Reuters reported in February that the head of Iran's Quds Force asked the militias to lie low to avoid US strikes on their senior commanders, destruction of key infrastructure or even a direct retaliation against Iran. On April 1, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed responsibility for an aerial attack on Eilat in Israel.

The groups that targeted US forces included Kataib Hezbollah and the Nujaba group, both of which are closely linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Their arsenal includes explosive drones, rockets and ballistic missiles.

The groups are designated terrorist organisations by the United States. Other than this, the Badr Organization, formed by Iran's Revolutionary Guard in 1982 is also a proxy.

Syria: The Syrian government led by President Bashar al-Assad is part of the Axis of Resistance but has not played any direct role in the current conflict. However, Syrian territory has been an arena of escalation. This has included attacks by Iran-backed militias on US forces in the east, Israeli airstrikes in Syria against Iranian personnel and members of Hezbollah, and occasional exchanges of fire between the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and southwest Syria. The Syrian government has for decades been a close ally of Iran, and Iran-backed forces have deployed across much of Syria since arriving more than a decade ago to aid Assad in the Syrian civil war. Tehran and Damascus say Iranian forces are in Syria in an advisory role at the government's invitation.

Meanwhile, Iran's attack on Israel drew applause from many Palestinians in Gaza on Sunday as rare payback for the Israeli offensive on their enclave, although some said they suspected Tehran had staged the assault more for show than to inflict real damage.

"For the first time, we saw some rockets that didn’t land in our areas. These rockets were going into the occupied Palestine,” said Abu Abdallah, referring to land that became Israel in 1948 rather the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

(With Reuters inputs)

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Published 15 April 2024, 12:17 IST

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