The whole Middle East has already been affected by the Israel-Hamas war, and there is an increasing chance that regional and international powers will collide. The majority of the fighting in the area has been small-scale conflicts involving militias backed by Iran, the US, Israel, and their allies. However, given the recent direct operations by the US and Iran, worries that the two nations’ proxy war would turn direct have grown.
So far, Iran and the US have avoided going to war with one another. The US has attacked Iranian-backed militias in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq, while Iranian-affiliated organizations have targeted US soldiers in same countries. Additionally, Tehran has attacked organizations in Pakistan, Syria, and Iraq that it said were anti-Iranian. Pakistan retaliated with counterattacks.
The Islamic Republic has spent the last three decades creating a network of Islamist, anti-Western, and anti-Israel militias that it trains, finances, and weapons. The Islamic Republic has long resisted the presence of US forces in what it views as its backyard. These organizations, particularly the Houthi rebels in Yemen, have recently escalated their hostilities. They have cut off an important international waterway, disrupting international trade and forcing Western governments to step in. Furthermore, it has developed relationships with and provided funding for Hamas, which on October 7 began its war against Israel.
Despite years of attempts to distance itself from the Middle East, the US is being dragged back into the region. With more than 30,000 soldiers, it already maintained a sizable military presence in the area before to the conflict.But since the start of the war, Washington has greatly enhanced its military presence in the area, deploying about 1,200 US service members in addition to thousands more on Navy carrier strike groups and a roughly 2,000-person-strong Marine Expeditionary Unit.Furthermore, the US and its allies’ military presences overlap in a few areas, such as Syria and Iraq.
Here are the locations of US forces, Iran or its allies, and the sites of military activities carried out by both sides since the commencement of the Israel-Hamas conflict as tensions in the region rise:
Hezbollah: A paramilitary organization supported by Iran that is well-established in Lebanon and actively engaged in the Gaza War
The strongest paramilitary group in the Middle East is based in Lebanon and is supported by Iran. Hezbollah is one of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s most useful regional proxies.Since the start of the Gaza War, the group has been engaging in gunfire with Israel from its main position on the Israel-Lebanon border. The movement in Gaza is linked to Hamas.Experts have calculated that the Shiite Islamist group possesses between 150,000 and 200,000 missiles in addition to rockets and mortars, however the precise amount of its arsenal is unknown. Many of those missiles “are highly destructive and highly precise,” according to the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies.
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah claims the group has 100,000 fighters, including active soldiers and reservists. Iran is believed to be Hezbollah’s main arms supplier.
Iran-sponsored Shiite Militias in Iraq: Impact, Make-up, and Latest Attacks on US Troops
Tehran holds significant influence over several Shiite militias that are closely linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). They include Harakat al-Nujaba, Kataib Hezbollah, and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada.Experts claim that some of the groups, including Kataib Hezbollah, are more answerable to the Iranian government than to the government in Baghdad. The US Office of the Director of National Intelligence states that there could be up to 10,000 members. Iraq is also the home base of Asaib Ahl Al-Haq and the IRGC-founded Badr Organization.
Since the beginning of the Gaza conflict, terrorists backed by Iran have launched many attacks against US forces in Iraq; in response, the US has responded with airstrikes. Over the weekend, a ballistic missile attack on Iraq’s Al-Asad Air Base resulted in injuries to US servicemen. Ballistic missiles seemed to have been utilized against US and coalition forces in the nation for the second time since October 7.Up to 160,000 US soldiers were stationed there in 2008, during the height of the conflict in Iraq. Approximately 2,500 soldiers are currently stationed at several locations, including as Erbil AB, Al-Asad AB, and the JOC-I (Union III) camp located in Baghdad.
This month, Iraq’s prime minister declared that his country is looking to leave the coalition led by the United States because he fears it would become a theater of a regional conflict. The United States has emphasized that its armed forces are in the nation at the government’s invitation.
Shiite militias supported by Iran and their presence in Syria and Iraq
Thanks to the deployment of the Quds Force, an elite IRGC unit in charge of overseas operations, which was dispatched there to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the wake of the 2011 uprising, Iran has a direct presence in Syria. On Assad’s front lines, its soldiers fought alongside militias supported by Iran and offered military guidance.Additionally stationed in Syria are the IRGC-affiliated Shiite militias Zainabiyoun and Fatemiyoun Brigades, which are said to recruit from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
800 US soldiers are now fighting ISIS in Syria as part of this mission. The majority of US personnel are positioned in the northeast of the country, in what military authorities refer to as “the Eastern Syria Security Area,” where the US backs the Syrian Democratic personnel (SDF), an opposition group to the Assad. Additionally, there are some US troops stationed in southeast Syria, where the US backs the Syrian Free Army, another group that opposes the Syrian government. The US is viewed as an intruder by the dictatorship.
Iran-backed militias have been attacking US forces in Syria more often in recent weeks; the US has responded with airstrikes.The present proxy war between Iran and the US centers on the Houthi rebels in Yemen, who have been stepping up their attacks on ships in the Red Sea and saying they are reprisal against Israel for its war in Gaza.The group, which currently controls the northern part of Yemen, fought a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and backed by the United States for nearly eight years prior to the end of the combat last year.
The Development and Significance of Iranian Elements in Houthi Weaponry
manufactured in the country Most of the Iranian components that went into making the Houthi weapons were brought into Yemen in little amounts. However, a former CNN official with knowledge of US intelligence told CNN that over time, the group made small adjustments that added up to major overall advantages.US warships positioned in the Red Sea, off the coast of Yemen, have been targeting Houthi targets. In December, the US organized a coalition comprising more than 20 countries to defend commercial vessels in the Red Sea against Houthi attacks.