My late grandfather used to mock Yasser Arafat whenever he showed up on TV by calling him Yasser “Talafat,” which means casualties! My grandfather wasn’t alone in his opinions. This approach is common in Iran. Seeing Iranian citizens reveal sympathy with Israel now isn’t unexpected. Many people around the world follow the news about the war, but despite Iranians, they don’t have to spend the wealth of their nation on it. It’s irritating for Iranians that every single rocket Hamas shot and every ammo Hezbollah uses is a piece of their ruined lives and shattered dreams. They blame the foreign policy for the affliction of Iran. Since the 2009 protests in Iran, one of the most frequent slogans in every anti-regime demonstration was “Not Gaza, not Lebanon; I devote my life to Iran.”
The Islamic Republic of Iran was a catastrophe in the field of economy. On constant prices, the Iranian GDP per Capita never returned to the level of 1977, the last year that Iran was a normal country. But this regime has never hesitated to provide financial support and armaments for terrorist groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah. The Irony that made many Iranians despise these groups more is that they never had the back of Iran in those kinds of regional disputes that indicate Iranian nationalism, especially over the debates on the name of the Persian Gulf and the conflict with UAE over three Islands. It sounds so disgraceful of them for Iranians.
Of course, only ordinary people consider this behavior as disgraceful. The regime doesn’t care about it because their ideology blatantly denounced nationalism. In June 1981, Ayatollah Khomeini declared, “Nationalism is against Islam.” The focus of the Islamic Republic regime was on making an Islamic front (with the priority of Shia Islam) against Israel, and Shia Muslims in southern Lebanon were the best investment option. This issue was so essential for them that one of the conditions that the President of Iran, Ali Khamenei (the current supreme leader), mentioned in his letter to the general secretary of the United Nations in June 1982, after a crucial victory for Iran in the war against Iraq for ceasefire and truce, was providing a land path by Iraq for the Iranian troops to battle against Israel!
In 1982, some Iranian troops went to Lebanon, and even an IRGC commander, Ahmad Motevaselian, got killed there. This group founded Hezbollah. However, the history of Iranians encouraging Shias to military action is a decade older. It started with a religious aristocrat named Musa Sadr. He was born and raised in Iran in a noble family of Shia clergies. Then, he moved to Lebanon, and in 1967, Sadr became the first president of the Supreme Islamic Shia Council. Musa Sadr was a big Israel hater. “If Israel fights against Satan, we will stand alongside Satan,” It’s one of his most famous quotes.
Even the Shah of Iran donated him money several times to help the poor Shia people in Lebanon. In the daily notes of Asadollah Alam, Former Iranian prime minister and the minister of the Royal court, we read he reminded Shah occasionally that he’s not only the king of Iran but also all Shias. This ties between Iran and Shia Muslims in other countries, especially in the place we call the south of Lebanon, is an institution traced back to the 16th century. Old institutions won’t disappear easily. Even after the 1979 revolution and the elimination of monarchy in Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini and later Ayatollah Khamenei, although as the supreme leaders of Iran, used the same institution (The sovereign of Iran as the sovereign of Shia Muslims) to control the Shia population in Lebanon.
Musa Sadr’s political efforts later led to a military direction when a peculiar person joined him, Mostafa Chamran. He obtained his Ph.D. in physics from Berkley and even worked in the bell labs. But he preferred to leave America and train as an elite commando in Egypt! They founded the Amal movement in 1974 as a military branch, but today, Amal is usually considered the Shia Lebanese political arm, while Hezbollah is the military muscle. It’s also due to the decisions of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the past 40 years. Sadr disappeared in Libya in 1979, and Chamram was killed in the Iran-Iraq war two years later. As I mentioned earlier, Iranian troops established Hezbollah in 1982. They used the old soldiers of Chamran and Sadr, but they did not cooperate with Amal directly because they thought Amal’s system was too secular.
Meanwhile, Khomeini had bid dreams. The constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran noted “the defense of the rights of all Muslims” and “supports the struggles of the mustad’afun (helpless people) against the mustakbirun (the tyrants) in every corner of the globe” as duties of the Iranian foreign policy.
In an Interview with Abolhassan Banisadr, the first president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in January 2002, he said, “Khomeini had the illusion of defeating Iraq and, with the Alevi Syria and Shia control over Lebanon, making the Shia belt in the middle of the Islamic world.” Now, we can say Khomeini’s dreams were not total delusions. Iran has significant influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, and Hezbollah is a substantial threat to Israel.
A policy that neglects the national identity and wastes the national capital cannot attract a big portion of any society. That’s why you shouldn’t be surprised if you met an Iranian who showed sympathy with Israel. What is surprising and irrational is that the smaller portion of Iranian society still clings to Khomeini’s ideas, those who celebrated the massacre on Saturday.
I tried to talk to them, but they believe Israel has no civilians. All Israeli citizens are occupiers, even the Arab-Israelis! They also mentioned the story of the Banu Qurayza tribe multiple times. It was a 7th-century Jewish tribe near Medina. The city was under the control of Mohammad and his Muslim followers. In the early ages of Islam, during a battle between Muslim Arabs and non-Muslim Arabs, The Jewish tribe was accused of cooperating with the enemies of Islam. Mohammad ordered the execution of all its Men and the enslavement of the rest. This story is like a legal precedent for them. Also, they sometimes refer to Purim, which they regard as the massacre of 75 thousand Iranians by Jews! So, they justify the massacre as vengeance.