Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq, Argentina, and so on ... Iran is everwhere.

How is Iran able to project its influence so far away from home, even though they are under US sanctions?


2 Answers 2


First, most of the international sanctions, not just US, have been lifted in the wake of the JCPOA, usually called the Iran Nuclear Deal.

Iran is the center of Shia Islam, as opposed to Sunni Islam. Shia and Sunni correspond roughly to Persian and Arab, although the Muslims who aren't in either ethnic group tend to be Sunni, and there are a few cases of Persians who are Sunni and Arabs who are Shia. Lots of longstanding grudges between those two groups, dating back to the basic argument over who should lead Islam after Mohammed's death. Shia believe it should be a direct descendent of Mohammed, while Sunni believe it should be an elected position. The Shia have a bit of a problem with the Sunni, as Sunnis control the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

Before that, we have Arab vs Persian, quite possibly the most longstanding grudge in human history. They really don't like each other. Never have, and probably never will.

Iran is active in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and Iraq, as those countries have large Shia populations, or in the case of Yemen and Syria, Shia aligned (Houthi and Alawite).

Iran is more closely aligned with Venezuela, which has a decaying economy and few friends, despite Venezuela's huge oil reserves, while both nations have a bit of a pariah status with the economic powerhouses.

Iran is simply pursuing a course of action that it sees as in its best interests. It is not really projecting power, other than very limited military support to Syria and Yemen, and while the Sunni-Shia conflict raged in Iraq, to the Shia majority there.

One other factor to be considered, is our current 'news media' and their need to stir up panic to raise ad revenue. They tend to make a mountain of a molehill on a lot of stories... good for their business, until the general population figures that out.

  • not an answer...
    – user 1
    Jul 15, 2017 at 14:51
  • 2
    Okay, the simple answer is - Iran is not projecting power. It's a combination of providing military support, what they've been doing with Hezbollah for ages, and a lot of media panic hype to stir up ad revenue.
    – tj1000
    Jul 15, 2017 at 18:16

Those operations are reasonably cheap for an economically advanced state like Iran.

Iran prioritizes its regional presence and might make budget cuts elsewhere to continue to further its international goals.

Little of its defense industry has been linked to the west in recent decades, so sanctions from the US are not as meaningful to power projection as they are to quality of life of the people (McDonald's aren't called McDonald's).

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