Iranian Proxy Groups in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen A Comparative Analysis

 After the fall of Saddam Hussein, Tehran’s leaders took advantage of Baghdad’s weak position and put many Iraqi power centers and local groups under their influence using a variety of soft to hard power instruments. After the withdrawal of coalition forces from the region in 2011 and through its proxy networks, Tehran gained a solid foothold in Iraq and Syria under the guise of helping Baghdad and Damascus fight the Islamic State. Likewise, Iranian proxy groups have backed Houthi rebels in Yemen fighting a regime dependent on Saudi Arabia for survival. Our primary research question is: How does Iran develop, employ, and sustain proxy organizations in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, and what vulnerabilities does its regional strategy face as a result? Our objective is to analyze the role of Iranian influence in its proxy organizations across the Middle East. 

This study, funded by Joint Special Operations University, offers a fresh perspective to the study of Iranian proxy organizations in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Our research employs a comparative analysis of Iranian proxy groups (a target of SOF Research Topics, 2019) across the Middle East. The demise of the Ba’athist Party in Iraq in 2003 created a regional power vacuum gradually filled by Iranian organizations.

Research Dates

01/08/2019 to 07/30/2019