Dr. Salem Alketbi
Dr. Salem AlketbiCourtesy

Dr. Salem Alketbi is a UAE political analyst and former Federal National Council candidate

Iranian leaders and officials are accustomed to denying any connection between their country and the barbaric behavior of militias and sectarian terrorist arms that operate within what is known as the “resistance axis” led by Iran, a declared axis whose existence Tehran is keen to confirm. Iran does not deny its leadership of this axis, which also includes Syria and several terrorist militias, including “ Lebanese Hezbollah, the Yemeni Houthi group, various Iraqi Shiite factions, in addition to the Palestinian Hamas movement.

The “Axis of Resistance” is neither a traditional alliance nor an official institutional framework, nor does it include multiple international powers or parties. It is closer to militia terrorist centers of influence in which Iran has been investing money and equipment for many decades, and it is based on a sectarian ideological basis.

This axis raises the slogan of hostility to what it calls “global arrogance,” by which it means the United States in addition to Israel. This axis claims to seek to liberate Jerusalem and the what it calls Palestinian Arab territories, and has stood on common ground with Syria since the outbreak of the Khomeini revolution in 1979 and then the establishment of “Hezbollah,” the strongest arm of Iran regionally after the invasion of Beirut in 1982.

In order to anticipate the extent of Iranian influence on these proxies, we can be guided by numbers in this regard, as a paper issued by the Washington Institute in July 2015 indicates that Iran funds the Lebanese Hezbollah with about $200 million annually, in addition to weapons, training, and intelligence support. And at to that, logistical assistance.

This is support that is negatively and positively affected by Iran's oil export resources, although Tehran is keen not to reduce the level of this support to any significant degree, given the party's pivotal role in training and supporting other regional terrorist militias, as well as its role in planning and preparing external operations on behalf of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Despite the ideological difference, Iran's relationship with the terrorist movement Hamas occupies exceptional importance in the thinking of the Iranian leadership, because it provides the latter with vital cover to intervene in the Palestinian Arab issue and raise mobilizational slogans related to this issue.

Although the strategic goals that Iran worked on since 1979 did not include the Palestinian Arab issue in any way, this relationship now provides an important cover for Iran to refute the idea of the “Shiite axis” and link itself to the Sunni Islamic world by supporting one of the most prominent Palestinian Arab factions.

Note that these factions were originally engaged in strong alliance relations with Syria, but the decline in the role and influence of Damascus since 2011, and Syria’s preoccupation with its internal conflict, provided Iran with a valuable opportunity to monopolize the leadership of this “axis,” some of whose arms were employed in waging a proxy war in support of the Syrian regime.

The "axis of resistance" is one of the most dangerous tools for implementing Iranian foreign policy, especially with regard to expanding Iran's influence and consolidating its hegemony and strategic expansion in the Arab region, to the point of boasting of "control" over four Arab capitals.

This was mentioned in a famous statement made by Haider Moslehi, the former Iranian Minister of Intelligence, in April 2015, in which he also affirmed that “the Houthi group is one of the products of the Iranian Revolution,” as well as the statement of the former Iranian President’s Advisor for Minority Affairs, Ali Younesi, in which he considered Iraq “the capital of the new empire of Iran,” a statement that angered Baghdad at the time against which it officially protested.

Meanwhile, the Commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Major General Ismail Qaani, said, “Iran continues to conquer the countries of the region, and the Islamic Republic has begun its control over Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Palestine, and today it is advancing in its influence in the rest of the countries of the region!”

In light of the above and other indicators and evidence, there is a pivotal question about the nature and limits of Iran’s relationship with its agents or militia terrorist arms.

Here we point out that the relations between Iran and these agents are a relationship of very strong interdependence of interests, given the dependence of these arms on Iranian financing and equipment.

If we add to that the ideological link, as is the case with the Lebanese Hezbollah, the ties with Tehran remain very deep-rooted.

Hassan Nasrallah, the party’s leader, publicly and repeatedly asserts that his primary loyalty is to the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. He was the one who said in September 2019, “I am Ayatollah Khamenei’s arm in Lebanon,” and he also expressed his pride in being “a soldier in the army of the Guardian Jurist.”

We followed how Ismail Haniyeh, one of the leaders of the terrorist Hamas, visited Tehran after the October 7th massacre caused the outbreak of the war in Gaza, where he met with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

This prompts a discussion of the fact of the Iranian official’s repeated denial of Tehran’s responsibility for the practices and actions of the arms spread throughout the region, and adherence to the Iranian narrative that says that these organizations enjoy Tehran’s support, but the latter does not interfere in the decisions and policies of these organizations, according to what Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Abdullahian always confirms.

This is something that is difficult to accept in light of all the existing evidence, and in light of the analysis of the nature of the complex relations existing between Iran and these terrorist arms that depend on Iranian financing, equipment, and support to varying degrees, but which are extremely important and indispensable to them.