Iran-backed militias: Proxies and bargaining chips

The rise of non-state actors in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Yemen and the decline of the nation-state has long-lasting implications for the region

Iran-backed militias: Proxies and bargaining chips

Since its establishment in February 1980, Al Majalla has earned a reputation for being among the top Arab and international magazines, owing to its team of some of the brightest Arab writers and journalists in the world.

As a part of SRMG's growth and transformation strategy spearheaded by our CEO, Jomana Rashed AlRashid, last year, we launched a redesign: a monthly print magazine accompanied by daily digital content pushed across our social media channels.

Over four decades, Al Majalla has served as a reliable media and information outlet, raising awareness among Arab readers on critical regional and global issues that affect them.

With its new digital arm, Al Majalla completes its transformation into an international Arab magazine, offering content in English, and featuring writers from all around the world.

Each month, our editorial team brainstorms ideas for our cover story, and it is always a challenge to choose a subject that can live both in print and online. We have to stay on top of the news cycle while also providing depth, analysis, and expertise to a diverse audience.

This month marks the first anniversary of Al Majalla's relaunch. On this occasion, our editorial team chose the topic of Iran’s militias as our cover story.

On the occasion of Al Majalla's first anniversary after the relaunch, our editorial team chose Iran's militias as February's cover story.

Special relevance

Although this subject has been widely covered over the decades, it is especially relevant after the 7 October attacks by Hamas on Israel.

Despite being aligned with Iran's resistance axis network, Tehran was reportedly taken aback by the Hamas attack. Iran took a moment to regroup and then began to play its cards in the Middle East — particularly across three Arab theatres.

Hezbollah immediately began launching cross-border strikes into Israel following its war on Gaza. Israel 'retaliated', and the cross-border exchanges intensified with each passing month.

Then Iran-backed groups began attacking US forces in Iraq and Syria, leading to a tit-for-tat exchange between Washington, Tel Aviv and these proxy groups. The escalation became so intense that Iran chose to pull out some of its senior officers from Syria to avoid Israeli air strikes.

Then, Houthi attacks originating from Yemen began to target international vessels and US forces in the Red Sea.

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden's response to the killing of three American soldiers in Jordan adhered to the unspoken "rules of engagement" when, on Saturday morning, it launched a salvo of missile attacks on positions across Iraq and Syria.

Both Washington and Tehran have said they are not looking for regional war and direct confrontation. However, with increasing escalation on both sides, observers remain concerned that any missteps could be disastrous.

Both the US and Iran say they don't want regional war. However, with increasing escalation on both sides, any missteps could be disastrous.

Rise of non-state actors

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran has built up an extensive network of militias, effectively creating an empire aimed at regional expansion and bargaining with American and international stakeholders.

The rise of non-state actors in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Yemen and the decline of the nation-state has long-lasting implications for the region

Our February issue showcases detailed analyses of the complex interplay between Iran and these militant groups.

Additionally, Al Majalla looks into the 'militia economy' and its infiltration of state institutions. We then jump to North Africa, where the proliferation of militias in places like Sudan, Libya and the Sahel region has become a chief cause for concern.

The rise of non-state actors and the decline of the nation-state has long-lasting implications for the region.

Gaza's 'day after' and more

This issue also addresses the 'day after' in Gaza. We interview former US envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross, who warns against establishing a Hezbollah-type model in Gaza.

We also profile former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is being considered as a potential mediator on the issue of displaced Palestinians in Gaza.

Al Majalla continues to publish fascinating stories from exclusively obtained classified documents from Syria. This time, we reveal how the late president, Hafez al-Assad, told a group of close associates in mid-2000 that Prime Minister Mahmoud al-Zoubi had "betrayed him" three days before his alleged suicide.

Our 'Great Debate' section features two perspectives on China. One describes the Chinese model as a successful endeavour that should be emulated, and another suggests the model is actually flawed.

We also feature a series of investigations, interviews and articles on cultural trends in the region and abroad.

font change