Iran’s branches of influence are growing, not retreating

Going only by the coverage emerging from the Middle East these past few weeks, you would be forgiven for believing that Iran’s influence over its various proxy forces, militias and puppet governments is in decline.

As President Trump withdrew America’s support for the Iran nuclear deal, the leadership in Tehran seemed to have been forced into an embarrassing scenario in which, to save the existing nuclear arrangement, they have no choice but to now acquiesce to the demands of the remaining nuclear deal signatories.

But this narrative is one designed and manufactured to generate sympathy for the Iranian cause in the West. The truth is that Iran has been delivered the outcome it desired most. Its position now allows the Iranian leadership to advantageously barter with Europe, while plans to restart its nuclear programme have already been set in motion.

If anything, Iran’s open and explicit confrontation with President Trump – over both the US position on the nuclear deal and the decision to relocate its Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem – will only allow its leaders to curry further favour amongst their various allies and proxies across the Middle East. Trump’s close relationship with the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, gives Iran’s Rouhani the golden opportunity now to falsely label them as the region’s oppressors; twin devils of Westernisation and modernity.

Iran’s main proxy forces, the infamous Hezbollah in Lebanon and the bloodthirsty Houthi rebels in Yemen, are unlikely to see any flagging in support from Tehran over the coming months. Europe’s negotiations with Trump failed, so Iran has absolutely nothing to gain from ending its controversial ballistic missile programme. The products of which have been smuggled into Houthi-controlled territories in Yemen, destined to be fired at civilian targets in Saudi Arabia across the border.

Likewise, Iran’s puppets in Lebanon will see no change to the weight of their wallets. Following its withdrawal from the nuclear deal, the Trump administration has been busy reinstating economic sanctions and designating Iranian individuals as being involved with terrorism. However, as is the case with its ballistic missile programme, Iran has little to fear from European reprisal.

The UK, France and Germany – all original signatories to the deal that have chosen to abide by it in its current form – won’t be listening to anything the US has to say on sanctions until they begin to affect their own businesses. And even then each of those countries will have to weigh up whether they value enhanced diplomatic and trade relations with Iran over a partnership with a US that no longer seems to share their values.

In Syria, there appears to be no stopping Iran. Fresh after a strike against Israeli troop positions in the Golan Heights and with their support from Russia given renewed vigour via the nuclear deal, Iran has found itself in an incredibly strong position. How can any regional power question Iran’s intervention in the Syrian civil war, on behalf of the incumbent dictator Bashar Al Assad, when they are fighting on two fronts against the terrorists of ISIS and US-backed rebels?

But these are all areas in which we know Iran has a stake in the game. What about its interests’ further field? Agents of the Iranian regime and their Hezbollah proxy forces have been operating in Latin America for decades and the current political turbulence in the region is reaping them nothing but rewards.

Take Venezuela for example. You would be hard pressed to find a more explicit example of total economic collapse in recent times. The Maduro regime has taken the country to its knees, forcing the President to recommend his citizens consume pets like rabbits to stave off hunger. Yet he and his cronies have continued to live an extravagant and well-funded lifestyle.

How is this possible? Iran certainly bears partial culpability. Venezuela has a history of selling off large tracts of undeveloped, isolated land to the Iranian regime, which in turn has used it to develop missile test facilities and set up money laundering operations. High-ranking members of the Venezuelan Government have also been accused of, and subsequently sanctioned due to, providing passports and travel documents to members of both Hamas and Hezbollah.

The precarious political situation enveloping several of these Latin American nations is providing ample opportunity for Iran to further cement its presence there. Acting as a financial and political backer for unstable regimes on the continent, Iran’s influence outside of the Middle East is evidently growing stronger day by day.

So pay no heed to those who suggest that Iran is a diminishing power. If anything, now is the time to heighten our awareness of the actions being taken by the decision makers in Tehran – and the wars being waged by their puppets across the globe.