If Iran decides to follow through on its vow of harsh retaliation for the killing of its top general, it can call upon heavily armed allies across the Middle East that are within easy striking distance of US forces and American allies.
Here’s a look at Tehran’s allies in the Mideast: IRAQ MILITIAS
Iran has trained, financed, and equipped Shia militias in Iraq that battled US forces in the years after the 2003 invasion and remobilised to battle the ISIS a decade later. The groups include Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Kataeb Hezbollah and the Badr Organization, all three led by men with close ties to Soleimani, leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force.
The militia, whose Arabic name translates into “Party of God,” was established by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard during Lebanon’s civil war in the 1980s. Today it is among the most effective armed groups in the region, extending Iran’s influence to Israel’s doorstep. Hezbollah was formed to combat Israel following its invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Today, the group has an arsenal of tens of thousands of rockets and missiles that can reach deep into Israel, as well as thousands of highly disciplined and battle-hardened fighters. Hezbollah has fought alongside Government forces in Syria for more than six years, gaining even more battlefield experience and expanding its reach.
Yemen’s Shia rebels, known as Houthis, swept down from the north and captured the capital, Sanaa, in 2014. A Saudi-led coalition entered the conflict on the side of the Government the following year. The war has since killed tens of thousands of people and generated the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Saudi Arabia views the Houthis as an Iranian proxy, and along with Western nations and UN experts has accused Tehran of providing arms to the rebels, including the long-range missiles they have fired into Saudi Arabia. Iran supports the rebels but denies arming them.
Iran has long supported Palestinian militant groups, including Gaza’s Hamas rulers and particularly the smaller Islamic Jihad group. Hamas fell out with Iran after the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, losing millions of dollars in monthly assistance, but Tehran is said to have continued its military support to Hamas’ armed wing.