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The Islamic Republic and Israel from another perspective

After the Islamic Republic announced on April 14th that it had targeted Israel for the first time with over 300 drones, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles, we witnessed numerous reactions from officials of various countries. The Islamic Republic referred to these attacks as “Promised Vengeance.” The significance of this issue can be examined from three perspectives: first, from the perspective of the Islamic Republic; second, from the perspective of Israel; and third, from the perspective of international relations.

The Islamic Republic, which had previously claimed that its “nuclear scientists” and IRGC commanders had been assassinated by Israel, had always promised “harsh revenge,” but each time, its revenge ended up affecting Iranian citizens, leading to mockery of Iran on social media. This time, after the Iranian embassy in Damascus was hit by missiles on April 1st, resulting in the death of several IRGC members stationed there, including Mohammad Reza Zahedi, the Islamic Republic and Ali Khamenei themselves called this attack an “invasion of the Islamic Republic territory.” From the aspect of international law, however, the issue of the embassy and diplomatic premises as part of its territory is disputed; the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 provides a definition of diplomatic places in Article 1, paragraph (i) that states: “(i) The “premises of the mission” are the buildings or parts of buildings and the land ancillary thereto, irrespective of ownership, used for the purposes of the mission including the residence of the head of the mission.” Therefore, all buildings, premises, and properties affiliated with an embassy, consulate, or the residence of a chief diplomatic representative fall under diplomatic premises. Consequently, in subsequent clauses, the immunity of these premises from inspection, confiscation, seizure, or encroachment is determined. Accordingly, all laws of the country hosting the mission apply within the diplomatic premises of that country; no official or authority of the host country can enter the embassy or consulate of that country without official permission; and the host country is obligated to protect the diplomatic premises and their dignity, even in the event of conflict or direct war with that country. Thus, there is a significant difference between the soil of territory and diplomatic premises, and the mistaken belief that such premises are part of the territory of the sending country should not be entertained, as it is not the case. For example, when the issue of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder was raised, it was the Turkish police and judiciary authorities who were responsible for the investigation and ultimately addressed the matter, whereas if the Saudi consulate were considered Saudi soil, the investigation would have been conducted according to Saudi laws and by Saudi authorities. The issue here is that a regime that, throughout more than four decades of its shameful existence, has not valued embassies established in Iran and has seized diplomatic premises of other countries since its inception, suddenly values its embassy and resorts to retaliatory measures. Of course, it should not be overlooked that the Islamic Republic derives its legitimacy from a lower level among Iranians, and it has been announced that in the latest elections, the participation of citizens was less than 30 percent according to statistics.

The issue is also significant from the perspective of Israel. Although Israel perceives Hamas attacks on itself as proxy attacks orchestrated by the Islamic Republic, this view is supported by statements repeatedly made by leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah, acknowledging the financial and logistical support provided to them by the Islamic Republic. A simple search on the internet can prove that from Yasser Arafat to Hassan Nasrallah can attest to this matter. However, it cannot be denied that Hamas’s attacks on Israel caused embarrassment for its security forces and perhaps implied the inefficiency of the governing administration in Israel. How could Mossad, considered one of the world’s strongest security forces, be caught off guard like this? Undoubtedly, Hamas attacks were not the result of an overnight plan, and it is unlikely that Israeli authorities were unaware of their occurrence. It is worth mentioning that at the time of these attacks, the Netanyahu government faced a legitimacy crisis domestically in Israel, and widespread protests against the government were underway.

Now, let’s briefly examine the relations between the Islamic Republic and Israel. Following the Islamic-Communist Revolution in Iran, the first foreign political figure to visit Iran was Yasser Arafat. At that time, Khamenei gifted the “Israeli Trade Representation” building to Yasser Arafat, which was transformed into the Palestinian representation office in Iran. Khomeini also designated the last Friday of Ramadan as Quds Day and officially unveiled the project for the elimination of Israel. Shortly thereafter, the Islamic Republic engaged in war with its neighboring country, Iraq, which was rooted, in part, in Khomeini’s call for Iraqi soldiers to accept his leadership and overthrow the ruling regime in Iraq, under the assumption that Saddam Hussein had issued orders for Khomeini’s exile from Iraq to France. With the onset of the Iran-Iraq War, Israel seized the opportunity to assist Iran in its war against Iraq, and despite severe anti-Israeli slogans, the new government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Israel maintained unofficial but secretive relations with each other. Although the Islamic Republic has always denied the existence of such relations, according to Israeli claims, Israel’s objective in these relations was not to support the Islamic Republic but rather to aid Iran in countering the Saddam regime (a common enemy of Iran and Israel) to create a balance in the Iran-Iraq War. In other words, according to Israel’s claim, Iran’s increased power was dangerous, but the formation of a more dangerous Arab coalition was even more so. From the viewpoint of the friendly government, Iraq was the most powerful enemy of Israel after Egypt. On the other hand, Israel had no opposition to the fall of Saddam. Meanwhile, according to Iran’s claim, Iraq’s cooperation with Israel in protecting oil pipelines had given this country a new role in the region, and Israel had an unofficial embassy in Iraq, where Iraqi intelligence personnel were trained by Mossad.

Jacob Nimrodi, an Israeli arms dealer, signed a contract with the Ministry of Defense of the Islamic Republic, in which $135 million worth of missiles, including Lance and Hawk missiles, were sold to the Islamic Republic[1]&[2]. In March 1982, The New York Times published an article demonstrating that Israel had sold over $100 million worth of weapons to the Islamic Republic in the 18 months preceding the article. The Milan-based newspaper, Panorama, published documents showing that Israel had sold 45,000 Uzi submachine guns, anti-tank missiles, Howitzers, and aircraft parts to the government of the Islamic Republic. According to the newspaper, most of the weapons seized by Israel from the Palestinian Liberation Organization during the 1982 Lebanon War were stockpiled in Tehran. According to John Bullock[3], in 1983, In 1983, Israel sold over $100 million worth of weapons to the Islamic Republic. The volume of arms shipments from Israel to the Islamic Republic was so significant that a special office was established in Cyprus for this purpose. One of the most important dealers in this trade was the Saudi businessman Adnan Khashoggi. Manucher Ghorbanifar acted as the intermediary for the Islamic Republic in this trade. An article was published in the Cyprus-based weekly magazine in 1981, indicating that Larnaca Airport was being used to send weapons to the Islamic Republic. On March 18, 1982, another article was published in The New York Times, in which Israeli officials confirmed that they were selling weapons to the Islamic Republic[4]. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel confirmed the arms sales to the Islamic Republic during his trip to the United States in 1982[5]. In a press conference in Paris in 1983, Sharon stated that Israel was selling weapons to the Islamic Republic with the approval of the United States. Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Moshe Arens, stated in 1982 that the sale of arms by Israel to the Islamic Republic was being conducted with the approval of the highest officials of the United States government.

However, regardless of the brief history mentioned above, the roots of enmity between the Islamic Republic and Israel can have various factors. From an Islamic perspective, one of the teachings of the Quran is that Muslims, if driven from their homes, can engage in armed struggle (Surah Al-Hajj, verses 39[6] and 40[7]). Indeed, in Surah Al-Ma’idah, verse 21, it narrates the story of the Children of Israel and explicitly states after conveying statements from Moses: “O my people, enter the Holy Land which Allah has assigned to you and do not turn back [from fighting] and [thus] become losers.” This verse, of course, indicates the affiliation of Israel with the Jews, not the Arabs, and colloquially, the Palestinians. One of the unresolved knots of the Palestinian crisis, heavily relied upon by the Islamic Republic, is the issue of Palestinian refugees being deprived of their right to return. According to the United Nations definition, Palestinian refugees are those who lost their homes and livelihoods between June 1, 1946, and May 15, 1948. According to UN estimates, approximately 5 million Palestinians are currently living under these conditions[8]. The second factor is the religious one that the Islamic Republic in Iran alleges has led to its sustained hostility towards Israel, as well as the Palestinian religious movements, is the occupation of Jerusalem and its declaration as the capital by Israel. Jerusalem, or Beit al-Muqaddas, is a land considered sacred by each of the Islamic, Christian, and Jewish religions. This place holds special significance for Muslims due to the presence of Al-Aqsa Mosque, which was the first Qibla for Muslims before Mecca.

From the perspective of Khomeini and his followers, who are present today at the leadership level in Iran, one of the repeated objectives of the Islamic Revolution has been to revive the “greatness and pride of Islam.” The extensive defeat of Arab countries in the 1967 Six-Day War and the subsequent humiliation of the Islamic world due to that historical defeat, along with the continuation of Israel’s high-handed policies towards the Palestinians, have left conservative religious sentiments, both leaders and followers, wounded in the Islamic world, and this situation still persists. Naturally, the Islamic Republic is not exempt from this rule, with the difference being that it is the only country governed by religious and Islamic institutions, and its reactions to Israeli approaches are public and severe.

From its inception, the Islamic Republic has perceived its existence and survival in the face of constant threats and the existence of an imaginary enemy from non-Islamic countries, especially Israel. Emphasizing enmity with Israel aims to mobilize religious masses and consolidate the government’s base among conservative religious factions, which play a major role in the stability of the government. On the other hand, the Islamic Republic seeks to reclaim its old ambition of leading the Islamic world with this stance. According to Khomeini and his followers, who are present at the leadership level of Iran today, one of the goals of the Islamic Revolution that is frequently addressed has been the restoration of “the greatness and glory of Islam”. The widespread defeat of Arab states in the 1967 Six-Day War and the humiliation of the Muslim world for that historic failure, along with the continuation of Israel’s high-profile policies towards the Palestinians, has influenced the feelings of religious conservatives, both leaders and followers. The Islamic world was hurt, and the situation is still ongoing. Naturally, the Islamic Republic is no exception to this rule, except that it is the only country ruled by the Islamic and religious establishment, its reactions to Israel’s approaches are open and strong. From the first day of its existence, the Islamic Republic has been calling its existence and survival dependent on the constant threat and the existence of a supposed enemy by non-Islamic countries, especially Israel. The emphasis on hostility to Israel is to mobilize the religious masses and consolidate the state’s base among conservative religious strata that play a major role in the stability of the state. On the other hand, the Islamic Republic is trying to take over its old passion which is the leader of the Islamic world.

Considering all that has been mentioned above, it appears that the retaliatory attacks by the Islamic Republic under the banner of “Promised Vengeance,” and indeed the swift action of the IRGC to apprehend Iranians who criticize these attacks, and Israel’s Iron Dome, are viewed as a win-win game for both sides. The Islamic Republic, perceiving itself as constantly on the brink of collapse, presents the issue of Iran’s threat by a “presumed enemy” and unveils terrorist attacks! While even once securing its survival through an eight-year war with its neighbor, Iraq, it is now planning to unite Iranians under the pretext of war and territorial threats – which, of course, is a fallacious fantasy, and the oppressive regime of Iran well knows that if such a war were to break out, few Iranians would rise to defend the Islamic Republic. Israel, on the other hand, by neutralizing these attacks, regains its lost prestige and showcases its military and strategic superiority. Indeed, the defeat of the Islamic Republic is far more significant than the defeat of a terrorist group like Hamas. Furthermore, with over four days passed, despite condemnation of these attacks internationally, everyone has invited Israel to self-defense, and even Melanie Joly, the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, reminded her Israeli counterpart: “Please accept this victory and rest assured that we can restore peace to the region through cooperation.” Also, in the news, we have seen and heard that even American officials have cautioned Israel against retaliatory actions, and Matthew Miller, spokesperson for the US Department of State, has admitted that Israel has been asked not to respond to these attacks.

[1] Scott, Peter Dale, The Iran-Contra Connection: Secret Teams and Covert Operations in Reagan Era, 1987, South End Press, p. 169-174

[2] Jane Hunter, November 1986, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Israeli Arms Sales to Iran

[3] Bulloch, John, The Gulf War: Its Origins, History, and Consequences by John Bulloch and Harvey Morris, London: Methuen London, 1989, p.190

[4] Israel’s Quest for Recognition and Acceptance in Asia: Garrison State Diplomacy, Jacob Abadi, Routledge, 2004, p.49

[5] The Israeli Connection: Whom Israel Arms and Why, Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi I.B. Tauris, 1987 , p. 13.

[6] Permission (to fight) is given to those upon whom war is made because they are oppressed, and most surely Allah is well able to assist them;

[7] Those who have been expelled from their homes without a just cause except that they say: Our Lord is Allah. And had there not been Allah’s repelling some people by others, certainly there would have been pulled down cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques in which Allah’s name is much remembered; and surely Allah will help him who helps His cause; most surely Allah is Strong, Mighty.

[8] https://www.unrwa.org/palestine-refugees

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