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Iran's non-state partners in the Middle East: proxies, really?

The Lebanese Hezbollah, the Yemeni Houthis, armed Iraqi Shiite factions and even, more singularly, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad are often presented as Iranian proxies in the Middle East. The underlying idea is that the key to influencing the actions of these groups would be to exert maximum pressure on Tehran. However, while there is evidence of Iranian material support for these non-state organisations, this does not, by its very nature, imply either total ideological alignment or a clear link of subordination. Speaking in general terms masks a reality that is likely to vary in terms of Iran's effective control over the direction of operations of the entities in question. This analysis highlights the limits of understanding the relationship between Tehran and the armed movements affiliated to it solely through the prism of the notion of proxies.