icon bookmark-bicon bookmarkicon cameraicon checkicon chevron downicon chevron lefticon chevron righticon chevron upicon closeicon v-compressicon downloadicon editicon v-expandicon fbicon fileicon filtericon flag ruicon full chevron downicon full chevron lefticon full chevron righticon full chevron upicon gpicon insicon mailicon moveicon-musicicon mutedicon nomutedicon okicon v-pauseicon v-playicon searchicon shareicon sign inicon sign upicon stepbackicon stepforicon swipe downicon tagicon tagsicon tgicon trashicon twicon vkicon yticon wticon fm
11 Apr, 2024 19:07

Fyodor Lukyanov: Iran’s present should be Israel’s future

The Jewish state can’t change its location, so it must learn to embrace the Middle East
Fyodor Lukyanov: Iran’s present should be Israel’s future

The Middle East is waiting for another big event – Iran’s retaliation for the (nominally anonymous, but clearly Israeli) attack on its consulate in Damascus.

A peculiarity of Tehran’s political culture is the desire for restraint; no matter the situation, retribution doesn’t come immediately. Ominous statements about imminent retaliation sometimes seem theatrical, especially if the pause is prolonged. But regional players know that Iran will not stop at words; action of one kind or another is inevitable. In this case, the act of destroying a diplomatic institution was very demonstrative, so the vengeance should be no less flamboyant. After all, asymmetry is another of Tehran’s favorite principles.

The strike on the consulate took place on the 45th anniversary of the proclamation of the Islamic Republic by Ayatollah Khomeini. It was probably a coincidence, but it was nevertheless, as they say, symbolic. The revolution of 1979 created a state that was very much at odds with the political landscape of the region at the time. The new republic came into conflict with everyone, without exception, simply because of the nature of the regime, which was qualitatively different from that of any external partner. As a result, it could only rely on itself and also exploit the objective contradictions of the others. Hence, from the very beginning, Tehran used tactics that were much later on described as ‘hybrid’ or indirect. It leads to all sorts of indirect and often unrecognized forms of confrontation, leaving a wide margin for flexibility. Much has changed since then, of course, and Iran is no longer a revolutionary pariah, but the traditions and the separate self-perception remain.

The paradox is that Iran and Israel, the main antagonists in this part of the world, have much in common, at least in terms of their positions in the region. Israel is another state that is in most respects at odds with all its neighbors. Its survival strategy is also largely based on the use of a variety of unorthodox means, some of them hidden. This includes exploiting conflicts between surrounding countries.

The fundamental difference is that, unlike revolutionary Iran, Israel relies not only on itself but also on an external patron – the United States. The genesis of this relationship is obvious. The emergence of the modern Jewish state in Palestine is the result of 20th-century European history, in which the Americans played a decisive role. The decisions made in the middle of the last century were a direct consequence of the catastrophe of the Holocaust. External support for Israel has been determined by other factors. But what is important in this context is that it was decisive. Things turned out differently. On the one hand, external aid has allowed Israel to become the strongest country in the Middle East militarily and to insulate itself politically. On the other hand, in almost every conflict involving Israel, major external players have inevitably intervened to serve their own interests, which have not necessarily coincided with the country’s aspirations.

This deviation is not motivated by an interest in the past, but by a desire to understand the present and the likely future. If external patronage is seen as a prerequisite for Israel’s success, then change can take place. The intensity of the current confrontation in Palestine is extremely high – the concentration of violence and the extent of the obvious damage are great. This is so significant that outward rejection of what is happening – especially Israel’s actions – is becoming an increasingly tangible fact of life.

Of course, a state can ignore the decisions of international institutions that do not have the means to enforce their decisions. However, it can’t ignore public opinion. Right now, critical mass is accumulating, and it can affect the nerve of patrons, especially since each of them has its own internal political peculiarities.

The operation in Gaza has been going on for six months, and its main problem remains the lack of tangible results. A quick solution would probably have justified the means, but now the effect is the opposite. From this point of view, Hamas has succeeded in provoking Israel to pursue actions that harm it and make the Americans, who already have a lot on their plates, jittery. If this trend continues in the coming decades, the loyalty of the US and the broader West to Israel may be further compromised. 

Once again, to repeat, Israel’s central position in the West’s geopolitical perception of the Middle East has been determined by the events of the twentieth century, from which we are moving further and further away. In order to survive in a hostile region (against the backdrop of a not-so-friendly world, in general), Israel will probably have to become much more of a part of it, i.e. use its own initiative to build relations with its neighbors. The Iranian experience shows that this is possible.