Israel-Palestine war: Allegations of pro-war lobbying crack open Iranian divides on Gaza


Allegations by Iran’s former foreign minister that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was being lobbied by ultra-conservatives to intervene more in the Israeli-Palestinian war have caused a scandal and fueled a debate about Tehran’s role. accept.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, who was foreign minister in the previous moderate administration that entered into the 2015 nuclear deal with western powers, made the remarks on November 11 at a conference, where he emphasized Iran’s constitutional duty to support the people suppression without resorting to direct military action.

Zarif said he believed Iranians are “tired of paying the price” of the Iranian government’s confrontational approach to Israel and its occupation of Palestinian lands.

He warned against unnecessarily escalating tensions, urging a balanced approach to policy-making.

Since the October 7 Hamas-led attack on Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip, in which approximately 1,200 Israelis were killed, Israel has waged a bombing and ground campaign in the Palestinian enclave that has killed more than 13,000 Palestinians.

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In launching the attack, Hamas military chief Mohammed al-Deif called on his allies in the Resistance Axis, an Iranian-led coalition of state and armed anti-Israeli groups, to fight the Israelis alongside the movement. of Palestine.

Many groups responded in different ways. Fighting quickly broke out between Hezbollah and Israel along the Lebanese border, and continues today. Paramilitaries in Iraq and Syria have repeatedly targeted US bases and occasionally fired missiles at Israel.

In Yemen, the Houthi movement launched missile and drone attacks on Israel, and over the weekend seized a ship in the Red Sea that it says is owned and crewed by Israel.

Iran said it had no advance warning of the Hamas attack. He insists that his allies act of their own free will, and that he himself has not directly intervened.

But according to Zarif, a group of princes, also known as hardliners, wrote to Khamenei urging Iran to enter the war.

Follow Middle East Eye’s live coverage for the latest on the Israeli-Palestinian war

Referring to Tehran’s current policy of non-involvement in Gaza, Zarif said: “Now that the country has adopted a sensible policy, let’s not unite extremism.”

A former conservative official, speaking anonymously, told Middle East Eye that there are three things that explain and reflect Iran’s policy on Gaza.

“First, Ayatollah Khamenei’s public declaration that Tehran was not aware of the Hamas attack on October 7,” he said.

“Then, look at the commanders of the Republican Guard, who remained mostly silent, despite being proud of their eagerness to go to war against the Zionists,” he said.

“Third, consider the Iranian government and diplomatic staff repeatedly saying that the Axis of Resistance attacks on US and Israeli targets have nothing to do with Tehran.”

Anger and consensus

Zarif’s interpretation of Iran’s policy and his allegations that Khamenei was being lobbied to intervene in the war drew the ire of leading politicians.

Mohammad Jamshidi, an aide to President Ebrahim Raisi, said Zarif failed to understand “the power of the country” despite being given military briefings while in office.

“America repeatedly calls on Iran not to take action, but [he] it shows Iran in a weak position,” Jamshidi said, accusing Zarif of being a burgher.

Influential preacher and longtime critic of Zarif Alireza Panahian responded by advocating a proactive approach to the conflict, citing religious stories to justify preemptive actions.

But there are generally signs that the leadership of the Islamic Republic is on the same page as Zarif, or at least happy that its allies would be ratcheting up the tension for now.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei looks at an Iranian drone during his visit to the IRGC Aerospace Force Achievements exhibition in Tehran, November 19 (Reuters)

Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adal, Khamenei’s son-in-law and an influential fundamentalist figure, has said that entering a full-scale war may be exactly what Israel wants.

“It means turning the Gaza battle into a war between Iran and America. If this happens, Israel may survive, because it has been encouraging the US to go to war with Iran for years,” he said.

“It is not clear from a strategic point of view that Iran’s entry will benefit the Palestinian cause.”

According to a Reuters report last week, Khamenei told Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh that Iran would continue to give the group its political and moral support, but would not intervene directly.

The supreme leader reportedly blamed Haniyeh for not warning about the attack on Israel.

‘It is not clear from a strategic point of view that the arrival of Iran [into the Gaza conflict] will benefit the Palestinian cause’

Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adal, an influential fundamentalist

A source in the Iranian government confirmed the report to some extent, saying that neither the Revolutionary Guards nor Khamenei had any prior knowledge of the Hamas-led attack. Even Haniyeh was not aware, the source said.

According to the source, Iran was not prepared for the attack or its outcome and never expected that to happen.

The source noted that the next phase of an agreement recently brokered between Tehran and Washington was supposed to be implemented. The first step in the Iran-US deal was the release of five US citizens from prison in exchange for unfreezing billions in Iranian assets.

The government source did not elaborate on the nature of the second phase of the agreement.

“Several key Arab countries, as well as Qatar, are relaying messages between Iran and the US, working as a hotline to prevent miscalculation and escalating tensions.”

Foreign minister under pressure

Despite the fact that Iran’s current strategy appears to be coming from the top, the principals who are unhappy with the approach are trying to oust the foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

They are accusing Iran’s diplomatic staff of inaction, especially compared to the Saudis, who gathered Arab and Islamic countries earlier this month for a summit on Gaza.

Israel-Palestine war: Iran told US it does not want regional escalation, report says

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Mahmoud Abbaszadeh Meshkini, a principle member of the parliament’s foreign policy commission, criticized the foreign minister, asking: “How is it that until some time ago there was talk of ending the Zionist regime, but now the discourses of change?”

However, a former Parliamentary Examiner told MEE that they did not think it was possible to predict Amir-Abdollahian.

“Such issues need the leader’s approval, especially against the foreign minister, so this action against Amir-Abdollahian will lead nowhere,” said the former MP.

“Although we are in the middle of a conflict in the Middle East, it is unlikely that the leader will allow such a move. This is even though Amir-Abdollahian is directly following the orders of the leadership regarding the Gaza conflict.”

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