Shiite fighters firing a rocket during a clash with Islamic State militants in al-Alam, Iraq, March 2015.
Thaier Al-Sudani / REUTERS

For the first time since the demise of the Qajar dynasty in the early twentieth century, Iran is extending its political and military reach to what it considers its rightful sphere of influence: Mesopotamia and the areas of the eastern Mediterranean and Arabian Peninsula with sizeable Shiite communities.

Iraq has emerged from the 2003 U.S. invasion and years of sectarian war as a fragmented Shiite-led state and is on the verge of becoming an Iranian satellite. In Lebanon, Hezbollah, the Shiite armed movement that Iran has sponsored for more than three decades, has become the country’s strongest and best-organized force. Once an equal partner, Syria is now partly militarily dependent on Iran, which has sent Iranian fighters to support the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his country’s brutal civil conflict. And in Yemen, Iran has extended its patronage to the members of an Islamic sect close

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  • TAREK OSMAN is the author of Islamism: What It Means for the Middle East and the World and the writer and presenter of several BBC documentary series.
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