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

Akbarzadeh, Shahram; Gourlay, William; Ehteshami, Anoushiravan

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Shahram Akbarzadeh

William Gourlay


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.


Akbarzadeh, S., Gourlay, W., & Ehteshami, A. (in press). Iranian proxies in the Syrian conflict: Tehran’s ‘forward-defence’ in action. Journal of Strategic Studies,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 1, 2021
Online Publication Date Jan 4, 2022
Deposit Date Feb 16, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jul 4, 2023
Journal Journal of Strategic Studies
Print ISSN 0140-2390
Electronic ISSN 1743-937X
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed


Accepted Journal Article (938 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Strategic Studies on 4th January 2022, available online:

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