Iran’s Struggle with Israel Is Ideological and Religious—Not Geopolitical

Sept. 14 2021

While the Islamic Republic invests enormous resources in supporting groups that attack the Jewish state, and the Jewish state likewise sees the Islamic Republic as its greatest strategic threat, the two have no fundamentally competing interests or territorial disputes. Instead, writes Eran Lerman, their conflict stems entirely from the ayatollahs’ theological commitment to destroying Israel:

At the root of the ancient rift between Sunni and Shiite (literally, the tradition vs. the faction) lies a dispute over political history: who should have been the rightful successor of [Mohammad]. With the Shiites loyal to the claim of his son in-law Ali and his progeny—the prophet’s grandsons Hasan and Husayn—their faction’s defeat at the hands of the Umayyads in the battle of Karbala in 680 became a cataclysmic event, an emblem of a history gone wrong. . . . [U]ntil the twist it took under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in the last quarter of the 20th century, this Shiite mourning about the state of the world was not necessarily translated into a call to arms.

What Khomeini did—perhaps inspired, at least to some extent, by Frantz Fanon and his “Third-Worldly” Marxist creed aimed at “the wretched of the earth”—was to translate the ancient Shiite grievance into a modern revolutionary agenda. The redress of the shattering wrong of the 7th century became synonymous with the overthrow of the existing order of the late 20th.

As it happened, the coming to power of the Islamic revolution in Iran coincided with . . . Anwar Sadat’s peace with Israel, signed in March 1979, within weeks of Khomeini’s triumphant return to Tehran. This, in turn, gave Iran’s position on Israel a unique twist, which grew and persisted now for more than four decades: namely that while the treasonous Sunni regimes have laid down their arms, it is now the duty of the true faith of Islam—the Shiite version of revolutionary Islamism—to prove itself by remaining, alone if necessary, “in the business” of destroying Israel.

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Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran, Shiites

Why the Leader of Hamas Went to Russia

Sept. 30 2022

Earlier this month, the Hamas chairman Ismail Haniyeh and several of his colleagues visited Moscow, where they met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Russian officials. According to Arabic-language media, Haniyeh came seeking “new ideas” about how to wage war against the Jewish state. The terrorist group has had good relations with the Kremlin for several years, and even maintains an office in Moscow. John Hardie and Ivana Stradner comment on the timing of the visit:

For Moscow, the visit likely reflects a continuation of its efforts to leverage the Palestinians and other issues to pressure Israel over its stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russia and Israel built friendly relations in the decades following the Soviet Union’s dissolution. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Jerusalem condemned the war, but made sure to tread carefully in order to preserve working ties with Moscow, lest Russian military forces in Syria disrupt Israel’s strategically important air operations there.

Nevertheless, bilateral tensions spiked in April after Yair Lapid, then serving as Israel’s foreign minister, joined the chorus of voices worldwide accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Jerusalem later provided Kyiv with some non-lethal military aid and a field hospital. In response, Moscow hardened its rhetoric about Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian issue isn’t the only way that Russia has sought to pressure Israel. Moscow is also threatening, on seemingly spurious grounds, to shutter the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency.

Moscow likely has little appetite for outright conflict with Israel, particularly when the bulk of Russia’s military is floundering in Ukraine. But there are plenty of other ways that Russia, which maintains an active intelligence presence in the Jewish state, could damage Israel’s interests. As Moscow cozies up with Hamas, Iran, and other enemies of Israel, Jerusalem—and its American allies—would do well to keep a watchful eye.

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Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Hamas, Israeli Security, Russia