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Iranian proxies in the Syrian conflict: Tehran’s ‘forward-defence’ in action.

Akbarzadeh, Shahram and Gourlay, William and Ehteshami, Anoushiravan (2022) 'Iranian proxies in the Syrian conflict: Tehran’s ‘forward-defence’ in action.', Journal of Strategic Studies .


This article examines Iran’s ‘forward-defence’ strategy, in particular its deployment of proxy forces in the Syrian conflict. Iran’s expanded presence in regional conflicts is regarded by its adversaries as indication of hegemonic intent, while Tehran posits its regional posture as a defensive response to security threats. We argue that Iran’s ‘forward-defence’ strategy offers practical benefits, shaping strategic realities, and performative benefits, allowing Tehran to propagate a discourse of military fortitude. On balance, however, the strategy has fed suspicions of Iran’s intentions and increased hostility towards the Iranian leadership, thus is likely to be counterproductive.

Item Type:Article
Full text:Publisher-imposed embargo until 04 July 2023.
(AM) Accepted Manuscript
File format - PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Strategic Studies on 4th January 2022, available online:
Date accepted:01 December 2021
Date deposited:17 February 2022
Date of first online publication:04 January 2022
Date first made open access:04 July 2023

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