Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei believes that were it not for his country’s soldiers who were killed in the war in Syria, they would have been forced to fight American and Zionist agents in Tehran, Khorasan and Isfahan. We can consider what Khamenei said to his people and the families of the dead as a mere justification for the human losses that Iran has suffered in its war in Syria, a country that it does not share any borders with. What he says may have other meanings that are deep and honest such as the presence of threats against the regime in Iran, and that moving the war outside of Iran is necessary for the regime’s safety.
Iran’s leaders are repeating talk of and statements about justifications for its foreign wars to silence critical voices that object to sacrificing their country’s forces in an unnecessary war that only satisfies religious and military leaders in Tehran who want to expand and dominate. However, the longer the war lasts, the higher the number of losses, and thus there is more condemnation and questions are repeated. The logic in confronting America and Zionism that was peddled for more than thirty years has lost its credibility. Confronting America and Zionism was a slogan and its latest aim was to maintain power.
During the decades after the revolution, Iran’s leadership has been justifying its support for terrorism, fuelling regional and global violence, threatening its neighbours, building its nuclear programme and preparing for wars; the state’s only project and its ideology. All of this is being done under the pretext of self-defence and the claim that they are at threat of an invasion from the global western Zionist regime. After Iran negotiated and signed the nuclear deal and reconciled with the west, its argument that it is fearful of its enemy is no longer valid. However, instead of opening up and turning towards peace, Iran has increased its foreign military adventures.
The regime has adopted the concept of militarising society since Tehran’s war with Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s presidency in the eighties. The late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini did not end the war which lasted eight years until around five years had passed during which he was obstinate and rejected calls made by international mediators to stop the war. The war served the regime’s need to eradicate the remnants of the Shah’s leaders, and later, internal rival powers.
Why does the regime need more wars today to consolidate its internal pillars if it has already eradicated most of its opponents? Iran is a big country, and in it there are multiple forces that are not necessarily hostile, but they oppose the regime intellectually and socially. In the ruling religious and security circle itself, there are competitive forces that are besieged and sometimes eliminated.
Fighting foreign wars is an old way of imposing internal control and is a method used by regimes that cannot secure their internal conditions. Although Iran is a poor country internally, its military and security institutions such as the Revolutionary Guards, the Basij, the intelligence services and the army are rich and large. They are characterised by advanced industries and own huge companies including oil companies, refineries, import and export companies and hotels.
Iran’s problem, and its leaders are aware of this problem now, is that it is not achieving decisive victories in the foreign wars that it is waging. In Iraq, whenever a fire is extinguished, another breaks out. In Syria, even if Iran succeeds in achieving consecutive victories for the Assad regime, it is still not strong and would collapse if the Iranians withdrew their forces and militias from the country. As a result of this expansion of wars, Iran has a military presence in Yemen, Afghanistan and Lebanon. Tehran’s leadership faces a dilemma because it refuses to accept moderate political solutions to crises in conflict zones. This is keeping it suspended in those zones and it will continue to fight for years.
The question is: until when will the Iranians endure their losses and the adventures of their regime? The matter depends on the extent of the security services’ effectiveness and their ability to tighten control over the situation in the streets as official speeches and media propaganda will not last. As part of its propaganda, Iran initially used sectarian and religious justifications including defending shrines. However, most of the fighting is not in sacred areas. Now, there is talk that the fighting in Aleppo, the distant city, is defending Iran’s internal security.