Nearly two weeks have passed since Hamas launched its brutal surprise assault in Israel, and concerns abound that the conflict could expand.
On Oct. 7, Hamas killed at least 1,400 people during a series of deadly rampages across southern Israel and at a music festival. The Gaza-based terror organization also kidnapped roughly 200 hostages, who are believed to be held in the group’s underground tunnel network.
Since the Israeli government has declared war against Hamas and vowed to eliminate the group, other regional actors have begun to exploit the instability. U.S. and Israeli officials are concerned that the Lebanese-based Hezbollah and the Islamic Republic of Iran could intervene.
Iran’s control over its proxy groups
Iran is the head financier and supporter of both Hamas and Hezbollah, which strive to eliminate Israel. Hezbollah first popped up in Lebanon in the early 1980s as a vehicle for Iran to export its Islamic Revolution. Over the years, the group has risen to prominence in all spheres of Lebanese society and politics. According to Lebanon, Hezbollah is a “resistance” group, yet the organization is responsible for numerous terror attacks, including the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, and the 1983 barracks bombing that killed 241 American servicemen in Beirut.
While Hamas’ origins spring from the Muslim Brotherhood, Tehran has funded, trained, and supported the terror group since the early 1990s. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps helped Hamas produce a domestic missile and rocket system to better equip them to launch attacks targeting population centers in Israel. Over the last two years, Iranian officials have met with their regional proxy groups to covertly discuss operations. According to The New York Times, these secret meetings included both Hamas and Hezbollah.
As the main puppeteer driving both organizations, Iran’s ultimate goal in the region is to destroy the Jewish state. Earlier this week, Iranian officials warned of the “possibility of expanding the scope of war and conflict to other fronts.” Although Tehran celebrated Hamas’ brutal assault on Israeli civilians, it has continuously denied direct involvement in the attacks. Even if a direct link is not discovered, the weapons used by Hamas on Oct 7 can largely be traced back to the Iranian regime.
War against Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran?
Israel is preparing for a ground invasion in Gaza as Hezbollah ramps up rocket attacks targeting Israel Defense Forces assets in the north. Although the U.S. and other European allies have deployed carrier strike groups and other military assets to the Eastern Mediterranean to deter Hezbollah, Iran could have other ideas. Israel has called up 300,000 reservists so far, in part to prepare for a potentially larger war from the north and south alike. The war is unlikely to shift to Iran itself, but in the event it spreads, the regime will undoubtedly be supporting both its proxy groups with funding, weapons, and manpower.
Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.