A senior official in Iran has said that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah have launched a “war of attrition” to destroy Western civilization.
Alireza Panahian, a cleric and senior official in Khamenei’s office, was quoted by local media as saying during a television program that “With Israel’s destruction, Zionism will not disappear. Currently, Hassan Nasrallah and our leader are waging a war of attrition to uproot it. Western civilization will be destroyed by a war of attrition in this region.”
Panahian is known as a speaker for Khamenei’s office, and he would hardly make such statements without coordination with the Supreme Leader’s inner circle. Usually, Iranian politicians, commentators and media take Panahian’s statements as indication of what Khamenei wants to convey to the public.
Since the October 7 brutal Hamas attack against Israeli border towns, the Jewish state has reacted with overwhelming force, first bombing hundreds of targets in Gaza and then starting a ground invasion of the northern part of the enclave. Israel has declared that the aim of the operation is to eradicate Hamas. Some commentators have argued that Iran did not expect such a strong reaction and overwhelming Western support for Israel.
The Islamic Republic has been backing Hamas and other Islamist Palestinian groups financially and militarily for the past two decades. Hamas officials have thanks the Iranian regime for its support. It is generally believed that militant Palestinian group would not have launched its terror attack on Israel on October 7 without the knowledge and approval of the Iranian regime.
In addition, the Iranian government celebrated the attack that killed more than 1,000 civilians in Israel and kidnapped more than 200 others. Tehran’s actions and contradictory statements since then have provided more signs of its strong support for Hamas’ actions.
Panahian added that the Western strategy is based on quick victories, but a long war is not part of their culture. He emphasized that followers of Shiite Iran will be the victors of a long conflict.
Asked if he supports a ceasefire, Panahian said, “Yes, a ceasefire in these conditions without the victory of the Zionists is detrimental to them. However, the point is that Hamas, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Yemen, and the resistance do not unveil all their capabilities. This means that a ceasefire poses a significant threat hanging over their heads.”
This remark would reinforce the arguments of those who are against a ceasefire at this point, which they say would enable Hamas to survive, regroup and continue terror attacks.
Panahian’s theory of Iran waging a war of attrition is partly based on the calculation that eventually countries will put enough pressure on Israel to agree to a ceasefire before a decisive Hamas defeat.
However, it could also be public posturing to demonstrate that Tehran did not miscalculate in allowing or planning the October 7 attack, since it has decided to mostly watch Hamas’ possible destruction from the sidelines. After all, the Iranian regime has an audience of hardliners at home and allies and proxies in the region and cannot afford to look weak and confused.
Walter Russel Mead argued in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal that Iran’s real goal of allowing the Hamas operation was to disrupt Saudi Israeli normalization talks.
“But so far, from a global perspective, the most important fact is that Iran isn’t getting what it wanted from the war. Iran’s objective in arming, training and encouraging Hamas wasn’t solely to cause Israel pain. The real goal was to disrupt the gradual deepening of the strategic ties between Israel and its most important Arab neighbors,” Mead maintained.
He highlighted that countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates “have all signaled that they intend, once the storm has passed, to go on working with Jerusalem for a safer, more stable Middle East. Worse from Iran’s point of view, the Arabs are committing to a revived form of Palestinian governance that can exclude Iran’s proxies from both the West Bank and Gaza.”