Why did Iran attack targets in Iraq and Syria?

(CNN Spanish) — The Middle East is experiencing one of the most serious surges of violence since the emergence of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) in 2014 or even the Iraq War that began with the US invasion in 2003.

Since October 7, 2023, when the extremist group Hamas launched a brutal terrorist attack against Israel that killed 1,200 Israelis, Gaza has been at the center of a war that has led to the deaths of 24,000 Palestinians in Israeli attacks. Hamas-controlled health ministry. But this is not the only source of conflict.

Violence continues to escalate in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and a terrorist attack was also reported in Ra’anana in central Israel on Monday. While in the north, on the border with Lebanon, Israel and the Hezbollah group have been engaged in a firefight for weeks.

Also in the Red Sea, Houthi rebels, who have captured much of Yemen and receive support from Iran, have been attacking cargo ships – they say, in solidarity with the Palestinian population in Gaza – and last week The United States and the United Kingdom retaliated by bombing their positions.

Protesters and members of the Iranian Basij paramilitary forces march during an anti-Israel demonstration to show solidarity with Palestinians in Tehran on November 24, 2023. (Credit: Hossein Barris/Middle East Images/AFP via Getty Images)

Iran, one of the main actors in the region, was the target of a brutal terrorist attack – one of the worst in its history – in early January, when a memorial event in Kerman for the killing of General Qassem Soleimani There were explosions during. ISIS has taken responsibility for the attack.

And now, Iran has staged the latest episode by attacking the Kurds in Iraq and the targets of “anti-Iran terrorist groups” in Syria.

In the case of Iraq, Tehran said it attacked an Israeli spy base in the northern city of Erbil, located in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan. Israel has not expressed its views on this matter.

While in northern Syria, Iran claimed to have attacked targets of groups linked to the ISIS attack in Kerman.

It seems that the eternal gunpowder of the Middle East has been lit, and the world is looking with concern and expectation at the beginning of 2024, the region is plagued with challenges and complexities, among them the ongoing war in Ukraine, global World leaders will debate in Davos over tensions between the United States and China – increasingly focusing on Taiwan – and the economic difficulties of the post-pandemic world.

Iran’s recent move, with its growing ties to Israel’s arch enemy, Hezbollah and the Houthis’ guarantor and Hamas, is a solid escalation and focuses attention on Syria and Iraq, two countries that were at the center of previous major Middle East crises. 2014 coincided with the emergence of ISIS, a group that emerged in the chaos in Iraq following the 2003 US invasion.

In fact, as a result of the fight against ISIS that began at that time, Iran significantly increased its presence and influence in both Iraq and Syria, usually by cooperating with Russia and local groups and factions, as opposed to those preferred by the United States. Supported. Its associates.

Iraq, a region that hosts both bases of the United States-led international coalition and groups that respond to Iran, including a local version of Hezbollah – both of which have come into conflict on more than one occasion. Still recovering from the war The fight against ISIS ended in 2017 with the recapture of areas held by the terrorist group.

An image shows a view of a damaged building after a missile strike launched by Iran against Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region, on January 16, 2024. (Credit: Saifin Hamid/AFP via Getty Images)

On the other hand, the civil war in Syria continues – which began in 2011 – and the country is geographically divided into several factions, including the government of President Bashar al-Assad – an ally of Russia and Iran – and the Kurds – backed by the United By State America – and many others.

But why are Syria and Iraq so important to Iran?

Iran is geopolitically and religiously related to Iraq: they share a 1,599-kilometre border and in the 1980s, the two countries fought a brutal and prolonged war that cost hundreds of thousands of lives and was historically The example that defines your entire present. Relationships.

The existence of the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan in northern Iraq is also a source of tension for Iran, which hosts a significant Kurdish minority on its territory. These 10 million people also want greater autonomy and have become involved in the conflict with Tehran.

On the other hand, Iraq and Iran are Muslim countries where the majority of the population belongs to the Shia sect (over 60% in Iraq and over 90% in Iran). Iraq is a secular republic, but Iran is organized as a secular republic. The Islamic theocracy arising from the 1979 Islamic revolution, considered the guarantor of the “Shia crescent”, an area in the Sunni-dominated Middle East stretching from Iran to Lebanon, through Syria and Iraq.

The war between Iraq and Iran between 1980 and 1988 occurred at the same time that Iraq was ruled by Saddam Hussein, the Sunni leader of a largely Shia country.

The majority of Syria’s population is, in fact, Sunni, but a large portion of the country’s elite, allied with its President Assad and Iran, belongs to the Alawite sect, related to Shiism.

This conflict between Sunnis and Shiites explains, in part, why ISIS, a Sunni Islamic movement, has become a significant enemy of Iran, and why Iran is interested in maintaining a presence in Syria, where remnants of ISIS reside. Are.

Syria plays another geopolitical role for Iran: with its 83-kilometer border with Israel, Tehran’s other enemy that is now at the center of the scene due to the war in Gaza, it acts as a buffer state between the two. Does. Thus, units of the Lebanese group Hezbollah, supported by Iran, have been operating in Syria for years along the border with Israel, increasing tensions.

With many open fronts, the increase in violence in the Middle East has not stopped since the Hamas terrorist attack, which has taken by surprise not only Israel, but the entire international community, and now a Pandora’s box opening in the ever fertile Appears to be an area for conflict.

With reporting by Hamdi Alkhashali, Nechirvan Mando, Helen Regan, Oren Lieberman, Haley Britzky, Natasha Bertrand and Jennifer Hunsler.


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