The 2023 war on Gaza: Iran between realpolitik and ideology

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This article is featured in Orient I/2024.

The 2023 war in Gaza has become a focal point in international relations, attracting the attention of various nations with vested interests in the region. A prominent player in this conflict is Iran, which has played a significant role in shaping the discourse surrounding the Palestinian cause. This article aims to delve into the intricate web of Iran’s perspective on the Palestine-Israel conflict, examining its historical development, the domestic political ramifications and the international reactions to Iran’s involvement. The article analyses Iran’s stance on the Gaza conflict, focusing on its rhetoric, key themes and diplomatic nuances. It also explores the relationship between Iran and its allies, examining its involvement in the events of 7 October and the Hamas attack on Israel. Iran faces a difficult decision of intervention and restraint, with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s realist approach providing context. examining the potential acceleration of Iran’s nuclear programme as a response to the conflict highlights the correlation between military strategies and geopolitical considerations. lastly, the article delves into the intricate relationship between Iranian politics and public sentiment, highlighting the diverse perspectives within Iranian circles and the varying views of the Iranian public. It also examines the surprising lack of grassroots support for the Palestinian cause within Iran, highlighting the influence of media, social dynamics and economic concerns on public opinion.

Mahjoob Zweiri is Professor in Contemporary Politics and History of the Middle East with a focus on Iran and the Gulf region and Director of Gulf studies Center at Qatar University. Before joining Qatar University in 2010, he was senior researcher in Middle East Politics and Iran at the Center for Strategic Studies, University of Jordan. From 2003 until 2006 he was a research fellow and then Director of the Centre for Iranian Studies in the Institute for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Durham University. He has more than 90 publications in areas such as Iran and Contemporary Middle East History and Politics, Gulf Studies, Social Sciences in the University of the Future and Artificial Intelligence and Social Sciences. His latest book is Arab-Iranian Relations Since the Arab Uprisings (2023).

Thomas Bonnie James is a PhD Candidate in the Gulf Studies Program, Qatar University.

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