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Will Israel Strike Iran As Revenge For Hamas Support?

Iran denies direct involvement with the Hamas assault on Israel, even if it has given it its full backing and praise, and has offered support over the years. The specter of Israel striking Iran is driving fears that the war is bound to spread across the region.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) members in front of a ''Khaibar-buster'' missile during the annual pro-Palestinian Al-Quds, or Jerusalem, Day rally in Tehran, Iran, Friday, April 29, 2022

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) members during the annual pro-Palestinian Al-Quds, or Jerusalem, Day rally in Tehran, Iran, on April 29, 2022.

Sobhan Farajvan/Pacific Press/ZUMA


Middle East observers are trying to gauge the scale of possible repercussions of the war that has broken out between Hamas and Israel, including the risk that the conflict could spread across the region. Perhaps the most dangerous question is the involvement of Iran, which was quick to praise Hamas for its assault on Saturday.

The Speaker of the Iranian parliament, Baqer Qalibaf, termed the attack the dawn of a "new age in the resistance against the Zionist occupiers," adding he would "kiss the hands" of the Palestinians involved.

The head of the Iranian armed forces joint command, the Revolutionary Guards General Muhammad Baqeri, has said the "operation" had shown that plans for Israel to normalize ties with states like Saudi Arabia could not prevent its own collapse. Another senior guards officer and adviser to the Iranian supreme leader, Yahya Rahim-Safavi, said Iran "backed" the attack, in general terms.

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Yet beyond this praise, speculation is rife on whether or not the Iranian regime, which has repeatedly declared that it wants to see Israel "wiped off the map," had a hand in the attack, through provision of arms, money or training.

Of course, praise and complicity are not the same. Iranian statements made sure the steer clear of offering any hint of direct participation, while Iran's ambassador at the UN explicitly denied involvement of Tehran in this weekend's attack. That denial came after a report fromThe Wall Street Journal that Iran “helped plan Hamas’s Saturday surprise attack on Israel and gave the green light.”

Whether its hand was directly involved, the head of Iran's land forces recently spoke of an Iranian drone, the Arash 2, which he said was designed specifically to strike the Israeli cities of Haifa and Tel Aviv. There was a "structure in place" to destroy Israel, but he said "I'm not allowed to speak about" it.

Anonymous military sources in Tehran have suggested Hamas could not have mounted such an operation alone, while some of the urban warfare tactics it has used may have been learned from the Revolutionary Guards.

In Tehran, the conservative Kayhan newspaper (not associated with Kayhan London) often cited as an unofficial platform for the supreme leader, was reported as describing Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and the Shia militias of Iraq and Yemen as "fully coordinated at present." Another legislator, Hussein Jalali, said on Monday that "we cannot be physically present" in that fighting, but "fight Israel using the forces of the resistance."

An Iranian foreign ministry spokesman also warned that any "stupid" actions against Iran would meet with a "destructive" response, telling Israel to defend itself instead, if it could.

Iranian President EBRAHIM RAISI (C) standing in front of the new Iranian long-range ballistic missiles during the joining ceremony of ballistic missiles to Iranian Armed forces as his Defense Minister MOHAMMAD REZA GHARAEI ASHTIANI (L) and head of the Revolutionary Guard's aerospace division General AMIR ALI HAJIZADEH (2R), accompanies him.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (center) standing in front of the new Iranian long-range ballistic missiles with his Defense Minister Mohammad Reza Gharaei Ashtiani (left) and head of the Revolutionary Guard's aerospace division General Amir Ali Hajizadeh (right).

Iranian Defence Ministry/ZUMA

Shia drills

On Sunday, Fereidun Abbasi Davani, a Tehran legislator and former head of the country's atomic program, dismissed any threats of a strike against Iran as an Israeli "bluff," saying Israel had more than it could handle with the Palestinians.

"Israel is too insignificant" to threaten Iran, he told the website Dideban-e Iran, arguing it had a small population and limited hardware, and lacked Iran's high-tech equipment. In Tehran however, there were reports of Shia militiamen performing drills, suggesting preparations for possible unrest or perhaps targeted attacks.

Iran makes no secret of the support it gives a range of militias in the Middle East.

Iran makes no secret of the support it gives a range of militias in the Middle East, including Palestinian groups, and its hatred of Israel has been a leitmotif of public declarations since the 1979 Revolution. In July, the head of one of those militias, the Islamic Jihad, was in Tehran to thank the regime for its money, which he said was spent on "helping Palestinian families and buying arms."

To say that it had nothing to do with this attack because nobody can prove it is like accepting its claims of pursuing an entirely peaceful nuclear program, or that it has done nothing to aid Russia in its war on Ukraine. Since Saturday, a number of Iranian opposition groups and ordinary Iranians have voiced their support and sympathies for Israel online — perhaps recalling its unstinting, vocal support for anti-government protests in Iran in 2022.

Possible fears of strikes down the line or more sanctions on Iran raised the price of the U.S. dollar in Iranian exchange shops, while pushing down stock values. The business daily Donya-ye eqtesad observed on Monday that the crisis would affect Iran's economy more than others, and might prevent the release of the $6 billion Iran was set to recover as part of a recent deal with the Biden administration that included a prisoner release.

Israel is perhaps unlikely to act before it gets a grip on its own territory. But if and when it does, it would as before act with lethal discretion.

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Photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin

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