Iran’s Axis of Resistance: Countering Israel from Multiple Fronts

What resources will Tehran be able to use in response to the attack on its consulate in Syria?

On Monday, the Israeli Air Force struck a building near the Iranian embassy in the Syrian capital. As a result of the attack, the consulate building was destroyed and the commanders of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) unit, Generals Mohammad Reza Zahedi and Mohammad Hadi Haji Rahimi, were killed.

President Ebrahim Raisi has already  that “this unfair crime won’t go unanswered.” 

“Zionists must know that they will never achieve their sinister goals with such inhumane actions and, day by day, the resistance front and the disgust and hatred of free nations against their illegitimate nature are being strengthened, and this cowardly crime will also not go unanswered,” he said. 

What the answer will be is still unknown. However, in recent years, Tehran has managed to become a full-fledged superpower in the region, with support in many countries in the Middle East.

Shadow of Iran

The escalation of the conflict in Gaza, which started with the Hamas-led invasion of Israel last October (“Operation Al-Aqsa Flood”) and the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) subsequent military operation that claimed tens of thousands of lives, gave rise to much speculation about the weakness and short-sightedness of the Israeli leadership and the exceptional military training of Israel’s opponents. And it’s not just Hamas that we’re talking about, but Iran.

Iran was immediately accused of being involved in the Hamas attack. The WSJ  that Iran had trained the Palestinians and instructed them on how to break through the Israeli border.

Moreover, it was said that Tehran had green-lighted the attack. The detailed coordination of the operation allegedly took place during a meeting between senior members of Hamas, Hezbollah, and two other Iran-backed militant groups in Beirut shortly before October 7. Officers of the IRGC also attended the meeting.

Later, the IRGC  that the Hamas attack had been planned as revenge for the 2020 murder of the head of the Quds Force (part of the IRGC), General Qassem Soleimani. However, rumors about Iran’s direct involvement in the anti-Israeli operation haven’t been verified.

On November 3, 2023, the secretary general of the Lebanese movement Hezbollah, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah,  that Iran had not been involved in operation Al-Aqsa Flood.

“The decision behind this operation was 100% Palestinian, and its implementation was 100% Palestinian. [It was launched] in order to draw the attention of the whole world to this problem. Its planners hid it from everyone, even from the movements of the Axis of Resistance,“ he said.

“Absolute secrecy is what ensured the brilliant success of the operation through the element of astonishing surprise. The Islamic Republic of Iran publicly supports the resistance movements but it does not exercise any guardianship over them [or] over their leaders.”

On the one hand, this statement made by the leader of Iran’s main proxy force in the region marked the lines which Iran was not ready to cross. On the other hand, Nasrallah reminded the world that Iran was able to confront Israel and its allies without starting World War III. In fact, the Axis of Resistance – an informal regional alliance between several Middle Eastern nations and political organizations which oppose the West and Israel and are united by Shiite ideology – was created for this very purpose. 

In a way, Iran has created the world’s most successful coalition, which proved itself capable not only of restoring order in the region and fighting terrorism, but also challenging global forces.

The “Party of God” heads the resistance

After the explosion in the port of Beirut, when chaos reigned in Lebanon, I talked with one of my friends from Hezbollah. At the time, he assured me that it was largely due to the efforts of Hezbollah that the country didn’t fall into the abyss. And yes, Iranian funding had a lot to do with it. After all, Hezbollah is made up of ordinary Lebanese people who support their country’s economy. However, it would not be fair to say that Hezbollah is totally dependent on Iran and subordinate to it, since Iran has a special relationship with the countries that are part of the Axis of Resistance. However, to gain a deeper understanding, let’s start from the beginning. 

FILE PHOTO: People with Hezbollah flags at the Hezbollah Political Party Rally in Baalbek in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.

©  Francesca Volpi / Getty Images

The roots of Hezbollah go back to the early 1960s, when a clerical movement arose in Lebanon that wanted to revive the key principles of Islam. The idea was proposed by several Muslim theologians who had just returned from Najaf, Iraq, where they had been studying in Shia seminaries. Two of these people are particularly noteworthy.

The first is Imam Musa al-Sadr, who was educated in Qom, Iran. He embarked on his political journey in the Lebanese city of Tyre, but his activities soon spread throughout the country. Al-Sadr was very popular, he often spoke at various mass cultural and educational events and surrounded himself with prominent intellectuals from various backgrounds. In 1967, he created the Supreme Islamic Shia Council (SISC), an official religious institution that supported the Shiite community. Many politicians, even those who shared Sadr’s faith, disapproved of this. Nonetheless, al-Sadr continued his political activities. He founded the Movement of the Oppressed and a military group to fight against Israel, called the Lebanese Resistance Regiments (the Amal Movement). In all his sermons, the Imam called for war with Israel. Eventually, Al-Sadr was abducted in Libya, where he came at the invitation of President Muammar Gaddafi on August 31, 1978. His fate remains unknown.

The Imam’s work continues

Modern-day Hezbollah is associated with the name of another Muslim theologian, Ayatollah Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah. This prominent Shiite scholar built a cultural center that included a mosque and a religious school in east Beirut. After moving to the southern suburbs of the city, he led prayers at the Imam al-Rida Mosque and became involved in politics, drawing on the experience of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. Fadlallah founded the Association of Charitable Organizations, which united many educational, religious, and social institutions. This organization played an important role in the further development of Hezbollah, and Fadlallah himself has been called its leader, although he claimed that this was not true. Gradually, the organization grew, it established a power vertical and acquired symbolic attributes. The Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 greatly contributed to the development of Hezbollah. 

In Lebanon, there was an urgent need to create a single Islamic organization that would unite all Shiite groups. Islam was to become the intellectual, religious, ideological, and practical foundation of the proposed political party. The party’s main goal was to resist the occupation, and its leader was to be a sayyed – i.e. a descendant of the Prophet Mohammed. 

Nine representatives of the main Islamic groups held a meeting, and issued a document known as the Manifesto of the Nine. This manifesto was sent to Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran, who approved it.

The manifesto was then adopted by the majority of the religious groups in Lebanon. Their leaders dissolved existing partnerships in favor of a single new structure, which became known as Hezbollah. One of the prominent leaders of the movement, Sheikh Naim Qassem, in his book ‘Hezbollah: The Story From Within’, wrote that the Lebanese Shiites enlisted the support of Tehran from the very beginning. The guardians of the Islamic Revolution were given an order to support the allies in their fight against Israel, primarily through military training and the provision of necessary infrastructure. A delegation of high-ranking Iranian military officials came to Syria, and Damascus agreed to deploy the IRGC to Lebanon. 

Training camps were set up in Lebanon’s Bekaa region, and a system was developed that included military, religious, and moral training of the fighters. Young people flocked to the