Iran’s potential role in managing the Gaza war: An analysis

Iran quickly mobilized all its proxies in the region after the Hamas October 7 attack, initiating a combined attack on Israel and US forces in Iraq and Syria. Hezbollah, for instance, intervened with limited attacks, using rockets, small arms fire, mortars, and drones against Israel. The Houthis in Yemen also joined the attack, targeting Eilat and ships. In Iraq and Syria, Iran-backed militias attacked US forces over 100 times.

Iran had sought to “unify the arenas” against Israel over the past few years, enlisting groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and others. The emergence of the Houthis on the battlefield is a new development, as they had previously been engaged in fighting the Saudi-backed Yemen government. Iran has now pushed its proxies closer to Israel, raising questions about its next steps.

Hezbollah has suffered losses, losing over 115 members since October 7, while Hamas has lost thousands of its fighters. However, the Houthis and Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria remain unscathed. There are indications that Iran may be considering its next phase, as its media has toned down coverage of Gaza, possibly suggesting a lull before further action.

People dance on the deck of the Galaxy Leader commercial ship, seized by Yemen’s Houthis last month, off the coast of al-Salif, Yemen December 5, 2023 (credit: REUTERS/KHALED ABDULLAH)

Hezbollah, Hamas have suffered, but other proxies have not

Iran must now determine its course of action, weighing the benefits of a war of attrition. Tehran and Hamas may be experiencing diminishing returns, and Iran will need to assess who stands to gain from ongoing conflict. Iran’s focus on domestic issues, as indicated by its media, could mean that it is preparing for another regional surprise, taking advantage of distractions caused by the conflicts it has fostered.

Advertisement

Iran’s media accuses Israel of prolonging the conflict and not accepting a ceasefire, while Iran may be focused on domestic matters amid its backing of Hamas and regional conflicts. However, it remains to be seen whether Iran’s preparations for domestic focus are genuine or merely a facade for further regional actions.