The Ongoing Influence of Iran in the Middle East: An Analysis

The Gaza war has dominated our lives in Israel and seized the attention of much of the world since October 7, and how it ends will have implications for the region for years to come. But it will end – with the full-intensity stage of the conflict facing a three to five week deadline. In contrast, the assassination of Sayyed Reza Mousavi, a senior commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), in an alleged Israeli airstrike in the vicinity of the Syrian capital of Damascus, and an attempted terror attack by Iranian proxies on an Israeli embassy in India on Tuesday are part of a shadow war which is decades old, and which will likely continue for decades.

If the Gaza war and its aftermath may determine much of the outlook for Israel in its neighborhood for the next five years, the shadow war with the Islamic Republic may be the overarching theme for the next 50. Mousavi was not just any IRGC commander. Rather, he was responsible for coordinating the financing and logistics of transferring weapons from Tehran to proxies in Syria.

Mousavi would be the highest profile killing of an Iranian in years. He was also considered extremely close to Qasem Soleimani, the former head of the Quds Force who was killed by a US drone, aided by aspects of Israeli intelligence, in January 2020. While the Mossad was given credit by Iran for assassinating its nuclear chief Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in November 2020, and a wide range of nuclear science experts, weapons experts, and terror officials from April to June 2022, Mousavi would be the highest profile killing of an Iranian in years. The killing of Mousavi, presuming it was carried out by Israel, would thus seem to be not only a message to Iran to stay out of Syria but also the most damaging response yet by Jerusalem against the Islamic Republic for its sponsorship of Hamas and Hezbollah.

Although Israel and the United States, as well as Iran – in most of its statements – and Hamas have all said that the ayatollahs had no direct connection to the October 7 Hamas invasion of Israel, the Islamic Republic’s funding, logistics help, and training of Gaza’s terror rulers for years is well-known. Moreover, in February of this year, The Jerusalem Post was told that Iran would be trying to use its proxies against Israel in more aggressive ways than before. And Iran did give a direct order to Hezbollah to attack Israel on October 8, once the current war had broken out.