Iran Refuses to Bow — Can it Afford to Stand?

The Islamic Republic has been confronted with the most important challenge it has faced since Saddam Hussein mounted his invasion of the country in 1980, writes John Wight. 

Funeral procession in 2010 in Qom for “anonymous martyrs” a term for the remains of those Iranians who were killed in the Iran–Iraq War but could not be identified. (Mostafa Meraji, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

By John Wight

The Islamic Republic of Iran is that rare entity among the family of nations, in that it is both a regressive and progressive force at the same time. In other words a state in which a reactionary and revolutionary impulse occupies the same political and geopolitical space.

The Islamic Republic was established, it should be pointed out, on the back not of a revolution but a counter-revolution. 

The actual Iranian Revolution of 1979 was waged and won by a popular front consisting of Islamists, communists, trade unionists, nationalists and adherents of various other political and ideological currents. 

Upon the Shah’s overthrow the Islamists, at the direction of the Ayotollah Khomeini, promptly turned against and ruthlessly purged their erstwhile allies in the name not of justice but power.

Since then the country has trod an uneasy path between reaction at home and revolution abroad, forging a schizophrenic identity at once incompatible with modernity but also a committed disciple of it. 

In this respect, the Islamic Republic bears comparison with the 1868–1912 Meji Restoration in Japan, which sought to combine Japanese cultural traditions with Western modernisation in a process that led directly to the rise of Japanese imperialism as an antidote to Western imperialism.

Allegory of the New fighting the Old, in early Japan Meiji, around 1870. (Printing Museum News, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

In the here and now, the Islamic Republic has existed in the crosshairs of U.S. imperialism ever since the Shah’s overthrow in ’79, and with good reason. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s regime was a major plank of U.S. geostrategic power in the Middle East, a veritable American aircraft carrier and market for U.S. capital investment. 

Along with Saudi Arabia and Israel, Iran under his rule was a vital Cold War asset and its loss a serious blow to U.S. prestige and global hegemony at the time.

But let us not be deceived by any insincere statements of concern emanating from Washington and other Western capitals for the plight of the Iranian people under a supposedly evermore authoritarian regime in Tehran. 

The Islamic Republic’s pariah status in the West is entirely down to the fact that under the mullahs, Iran has dared to assert its sovereign right to an independent foreign policy and has set its face against the U.S.-led Western imperialism in the region and beyond.

In this regard, Tehran has been crucial to the ability of President Bashar al-Assad’s Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinians to continue to resist the determined attempt to subvert all in the name of Israeli military domination of the region in the cause of expansionism.

But now, in the wake of the brazen Israeli airstrike against the Iranian consulate in Damascus, responsible for the deaths of senior IRCG commanders, the Islamic Republic has been confronted with the most important challenge it has faced since Saddam Hussein mounted his invasion of the country in 1980.

Respond directly to the recent Israeli missile strike, as it has both the legitimate and moral right to — and also perhaps the need to militarily — and Tehran faces the prospect of direct military confrontation not only with Israel but also with the U.S.

Fail to respond and the Islamic Republic risks being exposed as a paper tiger. And this not only in the eyes of its Zionist and U.S. adversaries, but also perhaps even more crucially in the eyes of its allies.

[Iran fired about 300 drones and missiles at Israel early Sunday local time. No one was killed. Iran said the matter was over, but Israel said it would respond. Biden told Netanyahu the U.S. “will not join an offensive counter-strike on Iran should Israel choose that road after Tehran attacked it this weekend, according to two people familiar with the conversation,” Politico reported.]

Ironically, both Hamas’ Yahya Sinwar and Israel’s Netanyahu have had the same vested interest in dragging Iran into a wider regional conflict since Oct. 7 was launched. 

 Netanyahu addressing the 2018 Munich Security Conference and displaying what he said was a piece of an Iranian drone. (MSC/Karl-Josef Hildenbrand, MSC/Lennart Preiss MSC/Michael Kuhlmann MSC/Lukas Barth-Tuttas, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Up to now the Iranians have judiciously navigated what has been an incredibly dangerous ecosystem on the back of the Hamas-led military operation. 

Further still, that the Sinwar leadership in Gaza chose neither to inform the Iranians nor the leadership of Hezbollah in Lebanon prior to staging the Oct. 7 incursion into southern Israel remains revelatory as to the character of the so-called Axis of Resistance.

During a face-to -face meeting between Hamas’ leader in exile, Ismail Haniyeh, and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in November 2023, the latter is reported to have informed Haniyeh that Iran would not enter the war directly, having received no prior warning of Oct. 7.

This posture on the part of the Iranians could now well change in the wake of Israel’s attack on its consulate in Damascus. 

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2012. (, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 4.0)

Here, the timing of the Israeli strike is telling in the extreme, coming as it did just days after the Joe Biden-Benjamin Netanyahu phone call during which the U.S. president reportedly laid down the law to the Israeli prime minister after an Israeli drone strike killed seven aid workers, six of them citizens of U.S. Western- allied countries.

In other words, was the Israeli airstrike on Iranian sovereign diplomatic territory in Damascus Netanyahu’s direct and withering riposte to a Biden administration that had “dared” to become overtly vocal in its criticism of the way the Israeli Defense Forces has been conducting its offensive in Gaza? The answer would seem to be implicit in the question.

What is unfolding now is a high stakes game of chess between both allies and adversaries. With this in mind, Biden’s “ironclad” guarantee of an American response should Iran mount an attack on Israel, which he announced immediately after Israel’s airstrike, has to all intents confirmed that Netanyahu has succeeded in snapping Biden back into line. 

In so doing, Netanyahu has deftly weaponised a U.S. presidential election year in which a resurgent Donald Trump is hovering in the background as a putative hawkish alternative.

For the Iranian leadership in Tehran, meanwhile, the law of unintended consequences will be being heavily weighed when it comes to any response to Israel’s recent airstrike. How can the current regime be confident of mass support at home for direct military confrontation with Israel, much less the Americans too? 

The brief but militant “Hijab Protest” in the summer of 2022 exposed fissures within Iranian society that remain extant if hidden for now. The risk of those social fissures being rent asunder again is a stark one, going forward.

Protest in Tehran’s Keshavarz Boulevard in September 2022 after the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody. (Darafsh, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Not that Israeli society is currently an exemplar of social cohesion in comparison. Netanyahu’s fascistic coalition is well aware of the deep and deepening detestation with which it is viewed by a significant proportion of its own people. This after six months of unrelenting military assault that has failed to achieve the destruction of Hamas and/or the release of the remaining Israeli captives in Gaza.

Escalation under these circumstances, and at this juncture, is imperative for Netanyahu and the last thing the Iranians need. The result is a chessboard upon which the future of the entire region, and by extension global stability, is currently being played out with just one move all it will take.

John Wight, author of Gaza Weeps, 2021, writes on politics, culture, sport and whatever else. Please consider taking out a subscription at his Medium site.  

This article is from the author’s Medium site.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

11 comments for “Iran Refuses to Bow — Can it Afford to Stand?

  1. vinnieoh
    April 15, 2024 at 12:46

    Thanks CN for re-posting this excellent analysis. Some points that were not so interesting until now: Hamas not sharing advance warning with apparent sympathizers/allies; first, limits possibility of discovery by their enemy, second give said friends and allies military and diplomatic wiggle room. And whereas the Kim dynasty in NK replays the now hackneyed ploy of yanking the chain of every newly-installed POTUS, Hamas seems to have fully plugged into the US election cycle, yanking more chains than one – before the fact. Whether intentioned or not it all goes into the volatile mix.

    Iran’s response does seem to have been carefully orchestrated, as hypothesized above.

    Despite some of the frothing dogs in the halls of US Congress and think-tanker shills for the MIC, I believe it is even obvious to Biden et. al. that the electorate is not supportive of the prospect of wider conflicts that look to spiral out of control.

  2. the blame-e
    April 15, 2024 at 08:16

    Better to die standing on your feet than getting shot in the head crawling on your belly.

    Along with all those drones, cruise and ballistic missiles, Iran lobbed into Israel on Saturday, April 13, 2024, were hypersonic missiles. Just where did Iran get that technology? Russia? China? Probably the same place it got (and has) its nuclear bombs. China? Russia?

    History was made on Saturday, April 13, 2024. Meanwhile, World War III continues, albeit in slow motion.

    And what sovereign countries allied with the West have nuclear weapons?

    NATO member nuclear weapons sharing states — Belgium, France, the UK, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey — have nuclear weapons. Where did they get them? The United States? The United States?

    This sucker could go nuclear at any time.

      April 15, 2024 at 08:38

      It is only a claim on Iran’s Press TV that Iran fired hypersonic missiles.

  3. sisuforpeace
    April 14, 2024 at 17:15

    I wish the Iranian leadership would take the highroad and just expose what Israel is doing – provoking a regional war to get the US involved – and basically say, we are not going to bite for the sake of avoiding war and more killing in the region. I fear instead that they will bite the macho carrot and retaliate because that’s what “real tough men” do.

    I also fear the fascist Netanyahu and Israel’s nuclear weapons. Why is nobody talking about this?

    • April 14, 2024 at 19:14

      As an opponent of militarism across the board (whether it emanates from Neoconservatives, Kahanists, Neo-Eurasianists, “Wolf Warriors,” Banderites, Muqawamists, Jihadists, or otherwise), I certainly concur that Iran taking the high road and using the opportunity to diplomatically embarrass Israel would be preferable, while posing a far less substantial escalation risk than the course of action that they have pursued, as I have also argued in the case of, e.g., Russia in Ukraine (for instance, see my comment reply to Dienne and AG on “SCOTT RITTER: The Onus Is on Biden & Putin,” Consortium News, Sep. 30, 2022), and as the United States had the uncharacteristic wisdom to do in response to, e.g., the 1983 bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon (Stephen Kinzer, “The Time Ronald Reagan Kept the US Out of War in the Middle East,” The Boston Globe, Jan. 31, 2024).

      At the same time, if Iran was going to directly respond to the Israeli attack on their diplomatic facilities with military force launched from its own territory in a manner calibrated to minimize (though not completely negate) escalation risks, then the way they went about it in this case was something close to ideal (i.e., primarily launching slower drones supplemented by a wave of missiles that could be easily intercepted by the air defenses of Israel and other states, thereby making every effort to avoid casualties while still actively demonstrating an Iranian ability to strike Israeli territory). The view that this was an intentional strategy on Iran’s part is reinforced by specialist observations of the similarly limited manner in which Iran responded to the US assassination of Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 3, 2020 (see Sirwan Kajjo and Mehdi Jedinia, “Experts: US, Iran Unlikely to Escalate Tensions,” VOA News, Jan. 9, 2020, and Mary Louise Kelly, et. al., “2 Years After the U.S. Killed Iran’s Qasem Soleimani, Tensions Remain,” National Public Radio (NPR), Jan. 3, 2022), recently corroborated by Donald Trump’s remarks to Maria Bartiromo that Iran notified his administration of their intentions in advance (“Trump Makes Major Revelation Over Iran’s Revenge,” FOX Business, Feb. 5, 2024, available on YouTube).

    • James 1
      April 16, 2024 at 00:17

      Iran can look after itself pretty well & it does have help available. The uSA is apaer Tiger now scared shitless because their Middle East bases are unprotected. American coming home in body bags can NOT be hidden for long & Biden would be demolished as he should have been long ago – senile bastard!

  4. JonnyJames
    April 14, 2024 at 13:45

    Before Shah Reza Pahlavi was installed, the imperialist dynamic duo of the UK and US orchestrated the overthrow of the democratically-elected, secular government of Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953. The US and UK cynically use “democracy” and the “rule of law” (or the new Orwellian “rules based order”) as PR slogans to cover their hypocrisy and crimes.

    Given the almost total lack of democratic accountability, ignoring public opinion for decades, and after Citizens United, unlimited political bribery is now legal, and the US is now formally an oligarchy with no functioning democracy. Many are still in denial and assert the US is a beacon of human rights, freedom and democracy.

    Also, Israel is called “the only democracy in the ME”) which is a tragic lie. Apartheid, ethnic cleansing and genocide are now “democratic values” in the inverted reality of today’s Twilight Zone.

    Scott Ritter has an interesting take on all this as well.

    The US/UK/Israel appear to have a “total hegemony or total destruction” policy. Let’s hope Scott Ritter is right and the Axis of (fill in the blank) realize their vulnerability, and not escalate. Of course the state is set for escalation and possible nuclear war. (Samson Option?) Let’s just hope there are some sane people left in the US ruling class.

    • April 15, 2024 at 02:05

      “Before Shah Reza Pahlavi was installed, the imperialist dynamic duo of the UK and US orchestrated the overthrow of the democratically-elected, secular government of Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953.”

      So those big bad Soviets, those big bad Communists, were not the only ones in the business of subverting and overthrowing democracies during the Cold War.

  5. Friends of Che
    April 14, 2024 at 12:53

    Do have to love the American Left …. they are so committed to losing, that they can not even see victory.

    Israel is losing Israel was desperate to attack Iran in Damascus. Israel desperately wants a larger war. Desperation is not a sign of impending victory. Not in Kiev, not in Jerusalem, not in the Pentagon. And yet, the American Left can only see defeat and problems.

    Iran just defused American participation in a war against it. And struck back at Netanyahu’s genocidal state. And did so in such a way that now the Democrats are telling the Israelis that they can’t strike back. And, even Trump has told Israel that they are going too far. Israel’s strategic position is horrible, and keeps getting worse. Just like America’s. In both cases, wider wars lead to their own destruction, but neither nation can see any course except war. And yet, the American left can only see problems and defeat. The American left is so committed to losing, that it can not even imagine victory, much less watch it unfold before them. If the American left were on the verge of victory, they’d search desperately for a way to lose. Gee, I wonder why they are on a 50 year losing streak?

    They are dancing in the streets of Iran and Palestine. The world is cheering the video of Iranian missiles flying over the golden dome of Al-Aqsa Mosque. For Israel, all roads seem to lead to defeat, which means the end of this ongoing genocide, and probably the only way it ends. The Democrats certainly will not end it. To borrow from Bob Dylan and put it into a different context … “now is not the time for your tears.”

  6. April 14, 2024 at 10:45

    “Fail to respond and the Islamic Republic risks being exposed as a paper tiger. And this not only in the eyes of its Zionist and U.S. adversaries, but also perhaps even more crucially in the eyes of its allies.”
    Instead of doing what everyone expects, the Iranian leadership should have let this go, throw them of balance. Garland Nixon, a commentator I follow used the example of someone throwing a rock down a well and never hearing the splash, just sitting there waiting, waiting and no splash. How would that make you feel?
    In a situation like this, every leader should ask themselves, WWPPD?
    What Would President Putin Do?
    He would take the L and move on.
    Stick to the plan, stay the course.

  7. Em
    April 14, 2024 at 09:06

    High time out-of-sight insight!

Comments are closed.