OpinionMiddle East

The attack on Iran’s IRGC leaders in Damascus and the Iranian attack on Israel: An Iranian view

From Iranian and Sunni Arab perspectives, the U.S. administration is doing everything it can to strengthen the Iranian regime at the expense of Israel, its Arab Sunni allies and finally, the Iranian people.

Israeli interceptors fired to stop Iranian missiles fired at Israel appear above the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem on April 14, 2024. The nearby Al-Aqsa mosque is the third holiest site in Islam. Source: X.
Israeli interceptors fired to stop Iranian missiles fired at Israel appear above the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem on April 14, 2024. The nearby Al-Aqsa mosque is the third holiest site in Islam. Source: X.
Harold Rhode (Credit: Wikipedia)
Harold Rhode
Harold Rhode received in Ph.D. in Islamic history and later served as the Turkish Desk Officer at the U.S. Department of Defense. He is now a distinguished senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute.

Political leaders make policy based on their perceptions, not those of others. Americans/Westerners tend to believe that people who speak good English think like Americans. They don’t. Even worse, some of the West’s worst enemies speak superb English; they use this skill against us. We ignore this fact at our peril.

Javad Zarif, Iran’s then-foreign minister, bamboozled then-President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Kerry into submitting to Iran’s demands in what began the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—which was, in essence, American submission to Iran’s will. Zarif bragged about this in his tell-all book in Persian.

We cannot understand the attack on Iran’s senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps leaders in Damascus on April 1, 2024, which many attribute to Israel, and the subsequent Iranian attack on Israel without taking the above into account.

Iranians constantly worry about a “Grand Conspiracy” (in Persian “Tote-e-ye Bozorg“) against them and their country. The events of the past few weeks fit perfectly into this mindset.

The Iranians ask: How did Israel know precisely when and where to eliminate Iran’s senior IRGC leadership in Syria and Lebanon?

Iranians reason: It was their erstwhile Alawite allies in Syria who run the country, i.e., the Assad regime.

How does Iran know this? Because the Alawites, though an offshoot of Shi’ism, aren’t truly allies because, while they both share the belief in the centrality of Muhammad’s cousin Ali as the central figure of their respective religions, Alawites see Ali as a god, which is anathema to Shi’ism. So, in the end, no matter how close they are as allies against the Sunnis, the Shi’ites have long suspected them as unreliable.

The Iranians reason: Assad’s people knew which Iranians were there, and Assad has been somewhat “unreliable” lately. How did Israel “get to them?” Did Assad change sides?

The Alawite-Jewish-Sunni plot

In the 1930s and early ’40s, Alawite leaders often saw the Jews in Palestine as an ally against the Sunnis, who then ruled Syria and were the largest group in British Palestine. Assad’s great-grandfather was one of seven Alawite leaders who signed a letter to the French rulers of Syria asking them to set up an independent Alawite state in Syria. In the letter, they compare the Sunnis’ treatment of the Jews in Palestine to the Sunnis’ treatment of the Alawites in Syria. One of the Alawite leaders who signed this was the great-grandfather of Bashar Assad, the present leader of Syria.

So now, “behind the curtain (posht-e pardeh),” as they say in Persian, this supposedly “proves” the Alawite-Jewish/Israel connection.

How did Iran’s missile attack on Israel fail so miserably?

Let’s continue the reasoning: How did it fail? That’s a miracle, even by scientific standards! Does this mean that Allah is against them? If so, what is Iran doing wrong? We’ve heard multiple answers to this question.

One of the more interesting suggestions from Iranians is that the leadership feels pushed into a corner. This fact plays into the hands of one of the ruling factions in Iran, which believes that if they provoke a conflagration with the Jews, then their Mahdi (Messiah) will come down and save them. The late professor Bernard Lewis used to say that for them, a conflagration was an incentive, not a deterrent.

Others within the Iran regime fear an Israeli attack and do not want to go for broke.

Read the writing on the wall

But what concerned the Iranian regime even more was that Israel’s fantastic success deeply humiliated the Iranian government.

After Israel’s strike, graffiti began appearing on the streets in Iran. Though we don’t know how widespread it was, we know that the Iranian people were emboldened, because they scribbled on walls requests for Israel to continue striking: “You (i.e., Israel) go after the regime, and we will go out into the streets (and do the rest.)”

To complicate matters further, we have been hearing from many people in the Arab world and Iranians that there are now two opposing alliances in the Middle East:

On one side, the American administration and their ally—the Iranian government. On the other, the Arab Sunni regimes (minus Qatar) and Israel.

Why do more and more Middle Easterners believe this? Because the American administration is putting massive pressure on the Israelis not to attack Iran’s allies—i.e., not to go into Rafah in the Gaza Strip and destroy Iran’s Hamas ally, not to go after Hezbollah, the Iranian’s fifth column in Lebanon, and, of course, not to attack Iran.

Absurd conclusions

From the Iranian perspective, this “proves” that their view of the American-Iran alliance vs. Israel makes perfect sense.

From both an Iranian and Sunni Arab perspective, the American administration has shown that it is doing everything it can to strengthen the Iranian regime at the expense of America’s supposed ally Israel, America’s supposed Arab Sunni Allies, and finally, against the Iranian people.

Absurd? Certainly, from a Western point of view.

But it makes perfect sense to Middle Easterners.

Originally published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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