Iran’s Proxies and the Risk of Escalation in the Israel-Hamas Conflict


As the Biden administration seeks to keep the Israel-Hamas conflict contained in Gaza, Hezbollah and Israel have struck each other in limited but escalating ways, with the U.S. encouraging Israel to show restraint. Other Iranian-linked armed groups, including the Houthis in Yemen and the Kata’ib Hezbollah militia from Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), have exchanged blows with U.S. forces in the region, killing three U.S. servicemembers in Jordan last weekend. What are Israel’s strategic goals for reducing its security vulnerability on its border with Lebanon? What is the view from Beirut, and the prospect for a negotiated outcome which avoids further escalation? How does Iran view its interests in relation to the regional forces it supports, including Hezbollah and Kata’ib Hezbollah, and the specter of potential direct conflict with the U.S. and/or Israel?

On January 31, the Center for the National Interest hosted a panel discussion on these important questions featuring three leading experts:

—Hamidreza Azizi is a Visiting Fellow in the Africa and Middle East Research Division at SWP Berlin. He has previously taught at Shahid Beheshti University and the University of Tehran.

—Meir Javedanfar, Ph.D, is an Iranian-Israeli lecturer, author, and commentator. He has been teaching Iranian politics at Reichman University in Israel since 2012 and is a Non-Resident Scholar at the Middle East Institute. He is the coauthor of Ahmadinejad’s biography, “The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran.”

—Randa Slim is the Director of the Conflict Resolution and Track II Dialogues Program at the Middle East Institute and a non-resident fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced and International Studies (SAIS) Foreign Policy Institute.

Greg Priddy, Senior Fellow at the Center for the National Interest, moderated the discussion.