Iran’s growing influence points to a bleak future for the Middle East

After six years of fierce fighting and with hundreds of thousands dead, the Syrian civil war finally appears to be settling down. The country is now divided into various pockets of influence, with Turkish-backed rebels in the north, US-backed Kurdish forces and their allies in the east and the Syrian regime and its Iranian-backed militias in the centre and the capital, Damascus. This now gives Iran, with the influence it already has in Lebanon and Iraq, a sphere of authority stretching from Tehran to the Mediterranean Sea.

The spread of Iranian influence in the region is largely a result of the country’s ability to capitalise on the tumultuous recent history of the Middle East. The last few years of bloodshed have created a vacuum which Iran has willingly filled…

While the Syrian war may now be quietening down, none of these Iranian militias will disband any time soon. Instead, it seems likely that at least some of them will morph into an outfit similar to Hezbollah – an armed political party with extra-territorial ambitions. Iran is also alleged to be constructing military bases in Syria and Lebanon. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned this week that ‘Iran is busy turning Syrian into a base of military entrenchment’.

Other states in the region have read the tea-leaves and are seeking to co-operate with a rising Iran…

If Iran is allowed to entrench its position across the Middle East, it will not only be Israel that will find itself threatened; a new round of conflict inevitably becomes more likely. The picture of a post-Isis Middle East should be a positive one free from the cancer of extremism. Unfortunately, the increasing role of Iran means it may be a bleak one instead.

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