In recent months, the world has been busy following two major developments in the Middle East: the opening of avenues for dialogue and rapprochement with Iran, and the alarming rise of the Islamic State and other terror groups in areas stretching from Syria to Yemen. While some of the media coverage of the two has drawn links between them – for example, with regard to the possibility (or impossibility) of an Iranian role in averting the ISIS crisis – very little of it has focused on the benefits Iran may be reaping from the growing violence and instability in the Middle East.
And yet, some reporters have looked beyond the regional power vacuum to gauge who actually holds the power in the Middle East – and found numerous traces pointing to Iranian influence and control over growing swaths of the region. “A reborn Persian Empire,” said The New York Post’s Ralph Peters of the new regional order; a “march toward conventional domination of the Arab world” (coupled with a “march toward a nuclear bomb”), put it Charles Krauthammer of The Washington Post.
Other outlets were less creative, but no less accusatory: Foreign Policy ran a headline last week declaring that “Iran’s Shi’ite Militias Are Running Amok In Iraq” – hot on ISIS’s heels, perhaps, but also “sowing the seeds of conflict for decades to come.” A recent Guardian report, meanwhile, revealed Iran is worried that once the fight against ISIS is over, the West will no longer “tolerate” its sanctions-defying weapons exports to Iraq. According to The Washington Post, these Iranian-backed militias are well on the way to undermining the US strategy in Iraq and the Middle East; The Daily Beast, for its part, said the “tacit collaboration” between Washington and Iran’s Quds Force in Iraq had essentially left Iraq to Iran rather than to the Iraqis.
It seems like Iran’s power in the Middle East is still growing – be it through diplomatic means or under the guise of fighting ISIS. Hopefully, the media will continue to keep a close watch.