Tensions Rise in the Middle East: The Role of Iran and Wider Implications

As conflict continues to escalate in Gaza, significant players in the region and beyond are weighing in, adding layers of complexity to an already volatile situation.

by Faruk Imamovic
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Tensions Rise in the Middle East: The Role of Iran and Wider Implications
© Getty Images News/Manu Brabo

As conflict continues to escalate in Gaza, significant players in the region and beyond are weighing in, adding layers of complexity to an already volatile situation.

Iran's Growing Concern

Israeli actions in Gaza have prompted Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to assert that red lines have been crossed, a scenario which, in his words, "can force anyone to take action." This assertion by Raisi points to a growing concern of Iran regarding the situation in the Middle East.

While Iran remains wary of direct involvement in the Israel-Hamas war, it might not be able to control its regional allies. Groups such as the Lebanese paramilitary faction Hezbollah, known for their ties with Iran, might take autonomous action, especially as Hamas faces increasing challenges and the civilian death toll in Gaza climbs.

Sima Shine, who leads the Iran Program at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, sheds light on Iran's connections in the region: “What links all these groups to Iran is their anti-Israel policies,” noting, however, that Iran doesn't always dictate every move of its allies.

CNN notes that Raisi's recent comments join a chorus of warnings from Iranian officials about the potential for wider conflict. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has also voiced concerns, stating that if Israel persists with its airstrikes on Gaza, it could trigger confrontations on multiple fronts.

Diplomatic Maneuvering Amidst Conflict

In the midst of these military tensions, there have been attempts at diplomatic communication. Abdollahian revealed that the US approached Iran with two messages concerning the escalating situation.

While one message emphasized the United Nations' disinterest in escalating the war, the other urged Iran to show restraint and to advocate for restraint among other nations. Abdollahian, however, criticized the US for what he perceives as its contradictory stance—calling for de-escalation while simultaneously backing Israel.

A Potential Powder Keg

Trita Parsi of the Quincy Institute in Washington, DC, shared insights on the broader picture, highlighting that while neither Iran, the US, nor Israel have any real desire for a widespread war, the ongoing situation has the potential to inadvertently ignite a much larger conflict.

With US President Joe Biden endorsing Israel, anti-Israeli and anti-US sentiments are surging across the Arab world. Parsi pinpointed Hamas as the only party potentially benefiting from an expanded conflict, stating: “The only actor that has a clear interest in (a wider conflict) is Hamas, given that an enlargement of the war could change the dynamics in a favorable way for them”.

As Israel continues to mobilize a significant military presence, other regional actors may be compelled to intervene based on their strategic considerations.

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