The Islamic Republic of Iran has cultivated and supported terrorist groups in the broader Middle East for decades. Hamas, operating in the Gaza Strip, and Lebanese Hezbollah, now a leading party in the coalition running the Lebanese government, are among the groups continuously receiving funding, weapons, and other assistance from the Iranian regime. Through these activities, Iran has developed the capability to project force by proxy and threaten American interests and allies in the region, including Israel.
Public professions of support for Hamas and Hezbollah are commonplace among Iranian officials and clerics. Often times, these statements also shed light on the nature of their ties and on how these proxies fit into Iran’s expansionist regional map. Recent remarks by Iranian leader Ali Khamenei’s representative to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are illustrative in this regard. Ali Saidi, a cleric appointed to serve as a sort of commissar for Khamenei, told a recent audience that “The world’s people should know that today the positions of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine are considered as Iran’s ‘border’ with Israel, and any threat to these regions is seen as an attack on positions and interests of the Islamic system.”
Saidi’s statement is significant in its suggestions that Hamas and Hezbollah are not simply accessories but limbs of the regime and that Gaza and Lebanon are essentially forward bases for the regime. As a statement of Iranian doctrine, such a declaration would have dangerous implications for regional stability and Israel’s ability to defend itself, particularly as the regime continues its drive toward a nuclear weapons capability.