Expanding Regional Power: Iran’s Ambitions and Strategies

In a recent speech, Iranian military advisor Yahya Safavi revealed Iran’s intentions to establish “strategic depth” in the Mediterranean, showcasing the country’s larger ambitions in the region. Through its proxies, Iran already controls significant territories in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon and has utilized the Houthis in Yemen to target ships in the Red Sea. Additionally, Iran supports Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas, indicating its expanding influence.

Safavi, a former Iranian military commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, currently serves as a military advisor to the Iranian regime and holds an academic position at various universities. As a key player in Iran’s security apparatus, his insights provide valuable information on the country’s strategic thinking in the region.

Speaking at a conference commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Imam Hossein University, Safavi emphasized the crucial role of the university in Iran. Established in 1986 by an IRGC commander, the university boasts thousands of students and serves as a significant institution for the state.

Iranian regime’s Support for Terrorist Organizations

Safavi’s declaration, “Our strategic defense depth is the Mediterranean Sea,” highlights Iran’s desire to extend its power not only in Iraq but also across Jordan, reaching the West Bank and Israel. This expansionist agenda involves backing proxy groups armed with advanced weaponry like long-range missiles and drones.

Groups supported by Iran, such as the Houthis, Hezbollah, and Hamas, have demonstrated their ability to threaten Israel with missile attacks. Iranian-backed factions in Syria and Iraq have also targeted both Israeli and US forces in the region, showcasing Iran’s growing influence and military capability.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and military commanders observe military activities during an annual parade in Tehran, Iran, September 22, 2023. (credit: MAJID ASGARIPOUR/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS)

Safavi’s emphasis on the Mediterranean and Red Sea as strategic points indicates Iran’s focus on maritime and aerial dominance in future conflicts. Despite its relatively small air force and navy, Iran aims to bolster its sea power by developing new ships, drones, and long-range missiles. The recent Houthi attacks on shipping routes underscore the threat posed by Iranian-backed groups in the region, enabling Iran to assert its influence with impunity.

Iran’s ambitions are facilitated not only by its network of proxies but also by the reluctance of neighboring countries to engage in conflict with Iranian-backed militias. This dynamic allows Iran to expand its influence and threats towards Israel and the wider Mediterranean region.

Safavi’s speech at the university in Tehran reflects Tehran regime’s strategic thinking and intentions. By mobilizing proxies against Israel and orchestrating conflicts on multiple fronts, Iran aims to establish itself as a dominant regional power. The concept of a 5,000km “strategic depth” signifies Iran’s view of the entire region as its sphere of influence, posing a significant challenge for neighboring countries to address.

As Iran’s ambitions grow, countries must devise strategies to counter Tehran regime’s expansionist goals in the region.