Amir Taheri
Amir Taheri was the executive editor-in-chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran from 1972 to 1979. He has worked at or written for innumerable publications, published eleven books, and has been a columnist for Asharq Al-Awsat since 1987

One War and Two Visions

If you thought you knew all you need to know about the war in Gaza, think again. Much depends on where and how you get your news from. Last week I decided to do a little, obviously non-scientific, experiment by following the Gaza news through two channels: the old BBC, one of Great Britain’s most adulated institutions, and in parallel with it, the various news outlets controlled by Iran's Revolutionary Guard in Tehran.
A number of themes emerged.
The BBC has already sent the 7 October attack by Hamas on Israel to its dead archives while the IRGC outlets keep mentioning it as “the battle that ended the myth of Zionist invincibility.” The fact that 7 October was an ambush unleashed against unarmed people, including youths attending a concert, and not a battle is beside the point; it must be constantly mentioned to justify Tehran’s thinly disguised hope that the Gaza war continues “longer than any think.”
The BBC gives massive coverage to so-called diplomatic initiatives to bring about a ceasefire. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s “shuttle diplomacy” between Washington and the Middle East is presented as a serious enterprise rather than a banal version of shadow-boxing. If there is no sign of a ceasefire the reason is Israel’s obstinacy. Forgetting that fire is coming from both sides, even now, the Beeb only wants Israel to rein in its furies, never mentioning that Hamas, too, could help by stopping rocket and missile attacks on Israeli civilian targets.
Beeb commentators imply that Israel is no longer in real danger from Gaza and thus should be magnanimous and accept a “humanitarian ceasefire” which, again according to the wise men of London will encourage Hamas, too, to cease fighting.
IRGC propaganda, however, not only wants Hamas to stay in the game but also encourages other members of the queer club known as “Resistance Front” to join the deadly game. In fact, it already claims that the Lebanese Hezbollah, the Yemeni Ansar Allah and the Iraqi Hashd al-Shaabi are already dealing “deadly blows” not only to the “Zionist enemy” but also to its ultimate protector “the American Great Satan”.
To back the claim that Israel is losing the war and that the “Resistance Front” must, well, resist, the IRGC strategist Hassan Rashvand recalls that since Pearl Harbor no foreign power dared attack the United States. Even the mighty Soviet Union backed out of a confrontation over the Cuban missile crisis with the US at the last minute. That gave the “Great Satan” the illusion of invincibility which led to Washington’s global hegemony. “It ended when the Islamic Revolutionary Guard hit the American base at in al-Assad with 14 missiles in 108 kilometers inside Iraq.” The Americans had no notion but to eat humble pie and prepare for leaving the Middle East.
Even now the “Great Satan” dare not try to rescue the “Zionist state” because of “heroic” operations by the Houthis who, according to the daily Kayhan, now control the Red Sea and decide which shop can get through Bab al-Mandab.
While the Beeb believes that Hezbollah does not intend to go beyond gesticulations, IRGC theorists claim the Lebanese militia has already launched “680 deadly attacks” on Israel and is mobilizing ground forces for an invasion of “usurped Palestine.”
The official agency IRNA quotes a retired Israeli general, named Yithzak Brik, as telling the Israeli daily Maariv that Hezbollah has the ability to just walk into Israel without encountering serious resistance. IRNA adds that Hezbollah attacks have already made 94 Israeli towns and kibbutzim “un-livable” and forced inhabitants to flee.
If you follow Beeb you may get the impression that the only victims in this war are unarmed people of Gaza, especially women and children, old men and journalists, and that Israelis are mainly bombing schools, hospitals shopping malls, and cultural centers. That helps sustain the narrative of victimhood by Hamas and its apologists. The narrative is backed by footage of ruins often with a child, mostly a little girl, sitting among them and looking straight into the camera and saying “I want to be back in my home.”
Unwittingly perhaps, IRGC propaganda gives the impression that it is Israel that is the victim. The IRGC cannot tell its audience that those heroes of the “Resistance” have been unable to protect the people they have under their rule for almost two decades. Thus, IRGC offers no footage of “charred bodies of children” or heaps of rubble where once stood a Gazan village or town.
The ayatollahs greet the deaths of so many Gazans as an occasion for “both congratulation” (tabrikat) and “condolences” (tasliah”. Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi assures everyone that “martyrs” in Gaza have the good fortune of going straight to paradise.
Asked why some people wonder why the IRGC isn’t sending its “volunteers for martyrdom” to help Hamas; Muhammad Hussaini, President Ibrahim Ra’isi’s Assistant for Parliamentary Affairs, says “The question is why, instead of attacking the Islamic Republic in Iran, Daesh doesn’t go to Gaza to help the Resistance there.”
However, last week’s attacks by Daesh on a funeral cortege in Kerman claiming at least 100 lives, and two days later (in Bampour, also in southeast Iran have not stopped questions about Tehran’s turning Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and now Gaza into battlegrounds against it real or imagined enemies by asking Arabs to pay the rice with their blood.
For Beeb, the word Hamas is synonymous for Palestine while the IRGC tries to avoid both words using, instead, the word “Resistance” (Muqawimah) to imply that Gaza is on fire because of the war declared by the “Supreme Guide” on Israel and the US.
While the Beeb constantly warns of the Gaza war expanding into a regional one involving Iran, the Khomeinist leaders in Tehran pretend to be no more than interested observers as if they are just watching the tragedy on TV.
Quds Corps chief Major-General Ismail Qa’ani has put it succinctly: “We give our Arab brothers who join the Resistance Front everything they want including arms and training. But we shall not fight on their behalf.”
A similar message comes from former Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi: “Resistance Front members are mature enough and take their own decisions. We support them and educate them on how to handle a crisis (i.e. war) but this is as far as we go.”
In other words, the glory of martyrdom is not for us but for those we hire to die on our behalf.