Criticism and concern: How the Israel attack is viewed in Iran


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Iran’s first direct military confrontation with Israel on Saturday did not come as a surprise to some. 

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself warned Israel would “be slapped”, following a suspected Israeli airstrike on an Iranian consular building in Syria earlier this month. 

Still, the fallout from the strike – which saw Tehran launch more than 300 drones, ballistic and cruise missiles at Israel – is no less concerning for the Iranian population. 

While state media depict mass celebrations among the people, a significant portion of the population is deeply concerned about the economic fallout, more internal repression and possible retaliatory action by Israel that could drag the country into war. 

Iran’s crisis-ridden economy

The plummeting value of Iran’s currency against the dollar, euro and pound reached a record low following the attacks.  

Escalating inflation and shortages of essential goods, which could worsen amid a new wave of international sanctions, have become the primary concern for people in recent years.

The price of 1 US dollar reached more than 70,000 Iranian rials for an hour on Sunday, though later decreased. 

FILE – In this July 19, 2016 file photo, Iranians walk through the Tajrish bazaar in northern Tehran, Iran.

Iran’s currency has lost 94 per cent of its value against the dollar over the past decade, analysis by the Economist revealed in March 2023. 

This has hit peoples’ standard of living hard, sinking millions into poverty. 

While Washington is not looking to participate in Israel’s possible retaliation against Iran, US President Joe Biden has called for a coordinated and diplomatic response from the G7 industrialised nations. 

If the US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan hit Iran’s already ailing economy with sanctions, more hardship for Iran’s population could follow. 

**Risk of internal repression **

In 2022, Iran’s Islamic regime was hit by the largest outburst of anti-government unrest in decades. 

Protests were sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini after her arrest by the country’s morality police for allegedly not covering her hair properly and wearing skinny jeans. 

Though demonstrations have largely been suppressed, contestation still surrounds Islamic dress codes and the government has lost legitimacy in the eyes of many. 

Some in Iran worry a more direct military confrontation with Israel will allow the Islamic Republic to face internal challenges more easily under the pretext of avoiding instability or extraordinary war conditions. 

An Iranian woman protesting in 2022.

Iran’s government may be able to persist in its violations of human rights and enforce stricter mandatory hijab laws, which were quietly implemented yesterday but overshadowed by Iran’s attack on Israel.

On Sunday, the Iranian Revoluntary Guard Corps warned it would deal with “supporters of Israel in cyberspace.” 

Online criticism of the Islamic Republic’s regional policy and its military operation on Saturday could be considered as “supporting Israel” in this vein. 

Risk of a wider war

Within Iran’s population of approximately 88 million, there exists a segment supportive of the regime’s foreign policies. 

Some are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and criticise what they see as harmful policies in the Middle East by Israel and its principal ally the US. 

However, Iranian Intelligence authorities have taken measures to suppress dissenting voices, banning newspapers and public figures from expressing any form of opposition to the attack on Israel and its aftermath, echoing tactics reminiscent of the Kremlin’s actions during the Ukraine conflict.

A prevailing anxiety among Iranians is for their families and future in the event of direct conflict.

In this Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, photo, a girl walks past a poster of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini,.

The haunting memory of the brutal eight-year war with Iraq from 1980 to 1988 – which saw some 200,000 Iranian casualties – adds weight to these concerns.

Recent trends on social media suggest that a significant portion of internet users scrutinise Iran’s claimed success in the attack on Israeli soil, suspecting it to be a premeditated move potentially permitted by the White House. 

Another segment of opinions on social media regards the real winner of this attack to be Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who managed once again to showcase his country’s defensive capabilities by neutralising 99% of Iranian drones and missiles. 

Iran’s hesitancy to act against Israel with many days passing after the strike on its consular building underscores its weakness, some say. 

By fending off Iran’s attack, Netanyahu has demonstrated that even amidst domestic crises and increasing international criticism of Israel’s actions in Gaza, Israel still possesses the necessary capability to rally the West and its allies.

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