The media seems to have varying opinions regarding Iran’s bid for more power in the Middle East, running from limited power to too much influence. Some outlets contend that Iran has too much power and influence in the region; while in other instances, the view is that Iran has limited influence, less than it is made out to have (Iran, of course, would argue it does not have enough, painting itself as the only power that can keep the countries of the region together).
This week, for instance, several outlets again seemed to express opposing views on Iran’s attempts to secure regional hegemony. On Al-Monitor, a think piece by Abbas Qaidaari pointed to evidence that Iran is becoming a “major regional arms producer.” Tehran, Qaidaari wrote, has already become self-sufficient in producing conventional weapons, bypassing the nuclear deal’s stipulation that it must be barred from conventional arms trade until October 2020. Instead, Iran is marketing its own domestically-produced weapons to countries in Asia and elsewhere.
But in The Wall Street Journal, Zalmay Khalilzad opined that Iran’s power in the region (and particularly over its neighbors) is still limited, writing that although Iran’s presence in Iraq is considerable, it is not extensive enough to preclude improved ties between Iraq and the US. A Canadian think tank, the Centre for Research on Globalization, said that even this limited presence is in Iran’s interests, stemming from its wish to preserve – via the preservation of intact states in Iraq and Syria – a corridor to the Mediterranean. The Washington Times, meanwhile, viewed it as an avenue for Iran to spread its Islamic Revolution around the region and world.
With Putin withdrawing his own forces from the region, leaving more room for Iran to step in, and with Iran poised to send commandos and snipers to Syria and Iraq, is it still possible to claim that Iran’s influence in the Middle East is limited? Particularly when the latest analyses now suggest that Iran’s domination of Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon may have been the cause of Putin’s withdrawal in the first place?