Storming Across the Mideast

Iran—the modern descendant of the ancient Persians—is seeking to revive its ancient empire, this time with an Islamic slant. With the Middle East in turmoil, Iran is expanding its power and influence faster than ever. Here are the nations feeling Iran’s presence the most.


This home of America’s 5th Fleet has experienced significant Iranian-fueled unrest since the “Arab Spring” of 2011. If the Iranian-supported Shiite majority successfully overthrows the Sunni monarchy, it could lead to the ouster of the 5th Fleet. This would massively boost Iran’s influence over the Persian Gulf and 30 percent of seaborne oil. Bahrain is also located adjacent to Saudi Arabia’s most important oil fields, which are in majority Shiite regions. Expect more Iranian attention to be given to this tiny nation.


The fall of northern Iraq to Islamic State terrorists has provided Iran the perfect opportunity.

With Iraq’s government facing collapse, Iran was invited in as a savior. It now boasts unprecedented military involvement in the nation—its troops are on the ground; its air force patrols the skies. In Baghdad, Iranian cargo planes continuously unload military hardware and supplies. Iran’s generals command Iraqi forces, train Iraq’s recruits, and take credit for the victories.


Following the ouster of Muammar Qadhafi, Libya was effectively divided among several

warring tribes. Here again Iran is vying for influence. Control or influence in Libya would grant Iran influence over another major oil exporter. It would give it access to 1,100 miles of Mediterranean coastline and a major immigration causeway to Europe.


To Iraq’s west lies the next link in Iran’s “Shia crescent.” The civil war in Syria long ago morphed into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Much like in Iraq, the Syrian regime has been propped up by finances, weapons and guidance from Iran. Without Tehran’s military aid and Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah fighters, Bashar Assad would have fallen to the rebel troops long ago.


In late January, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels took the presidential palace and demanded more control of the government. A week later the U.S.-backed government resigned. The U.S. government has since decided to work with the Houthis, thus giving its implicit acceptance of the coup.


Beyond Syria lies Lebanon, currently another extension of Iran. Southern Lebanon is the home of Iran’s most effective terrorist group, Hezbollah. This organization provides a key ally for Bashar Assad and is Iran’s closest and most effective weapon for attacking Israel. It also makes up half of the Lebanese government. Relying almost entirely on Iran for its existence, Hezbollah plays a crucial role within the Iranian empire, giving Iran access to Syria and northern Israel.