14 April 2024

Religious authority and the Iran strike on Israel

Ancient Persia was a powerful empire of its time, stretching from Macedonia and Libya all the way to the borders of India. In contrast, modern-day Iran is a backward theocracy led by religious fanatics, where the people - especially women - are subjected to the yoke of medieval religion.

In recent years, the country has witnessed an incomprehensible drama by Western standards, where women have refused to comply with the demands of the morality police, despite being raped, tortured, and killed in large numbers.

Undoubtedly, all of this has affected every Iranian in one way or another, polarizing society. For example, many Iranian opposition figures in exile have stated that the recent airstrikes by the ayatollahs on Israel do not have the support of the entire nation, even though they were in response to an Israeli operation in Syria that resulted in the deaths of three Iranian generals.

The Iranian strike itself had little military impact, as Israel's air defense successfully intercepted the hundreds of drones and ballistic missiles sent by Iranian and Yemeni Houthi forces. Reports do not mention any casualties from the strike, but they do note that some people were wounded - including one child victim.

It remains to be seen how Israel will respond to Iran's attack. At this stage, the only certainty is that the consequences are significantly more serious for the Persians than what was seen in Israel last night.

All of this could have been predicted well before Iran's attack. And so, it begs the question: why was the attack launched last night, even though the outcome was known to be dismal for the aggressor?

One possible explanation could be that, as a result of the violence faced by women, an increasingly large portion of Iran's population is fed up with the clerical regime. Consequently, the country's religious authorities have decided to exploit Israel's strike in Syria to foster national unity and sweep the discontent raised by human rights issues under the rug.

Using military action to overcome political difficulties is an old and tested method. The most famous example is, of course, Margaret Thatcher's initiation of the Falklands War, which boosted her political approval rating from 25 percent at the start of the war to 59 percent within a couple of months.

And let's not forget the unity of the Finns who had just fought a civil war only two decades earlier when the Winter War began with the Soviet Union's attack. Nor the Ukrainians coming together to resist the Russians after they violated the young state's independence.

If indeed the strengthening of leaders´ domestic political position is behind Iran's attack, it is a bold gamble. Even though the people will undoubtedly rally behind their leaders after Israel retaliates, the mullahs will find themselves in a precarious position after a losing war when searching for those responsible for the defeat.

And that - in the best-case scenario - may even lead to a revolution, resulting in Iran's transition from a theocratic regime to secular power. And Iranian female students may look quite different from what they do now.

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