Dr. Mason is a fellow with the Sectarianism, Proxies and De-sectarianisation Project at Lancaster University, a non-resident fellow at theArab Gulf States Institute in Washington, and co-editor of the Political Economy & International Relations Series at AUC Press Abstract
This article interrogates and extrapolates Iran's bilateral relationship with the Assad government and Hezbollah in the context of the so-called Resistance Axis, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps's objective of enhancing its strategic depth in Syria after the onset of conflict in 2011. Utilizing a complex realist conceptual framework, and with reference to constructivism, it argues that Iran's strategic depth in Syria could have been addressed as part of a dialogue on regional security after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the Iran nuclear deal) in 2015. However, it has been reinforced by the legacy of past warfare, the Trump administration's “maximum pressure” policy, and a regional trend toward the creation of enclaves in conflict zones. This trend, including Turkey's forward-defense strategy in Syria, could create further instabilities as state and nonstate actors vie for security and political influence and as long as enclaves remain untethered to broader interests and alliances. The case of Pakistan highlights enduring themes such as how shifting US diplomatic and military strategy and dependency could impact strategic depth.
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