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Iran’s ‘pistachio’ approach against Israel

April 18, 2024 at 6:30 pm

A group gather in Palestine Square in the Iranian capital Tehran, staging a demonstration to support Iran’s drone and missile attacks on Israel on April 15, 2024 [Fatemeh Bahrami – Anadolu Agency]

In an interview with Kuwaiti newspaper Alhadath in February 2021, Hamad Bin Jassim Al-Thani, the former Prime Minister of Qatar and architect of the small Gulf state’s foreign policy, praised Iran’s “tolerance” in foreign affairs, likening it to the methodical approach of cracking open a pistachio nut.

“When we have meetings with Iranians, they usually offer generous hospitality and serve pistachios and fruits,” explain Al-Thani. “We used to have some pistachios, crack them open quickly, and eat them, but Iranians would have one pistachio, look at it carefully, open it slowly, and savour it. This approach is reflected in their politics as well.”

Iran’s military response to Israel’s attack on its consulate in Syria could be seen as a consequence of this “pistachio” style of strategic approach against the occupation state.

A close observation for nearly two weeks led to a widespread, impactful, media-savvy response, not only reclaiming Iran’s diminished credibility post-7 October, but also providing an upcoming opportunity for Iranian diplomacy to draft a new equation in the Middle East. This equation, if successful, will eventually solidify over time and establish a new regional norm or red line. It revolves around securing Iran’s foreign bases, which have long been targeted by Israel, the US, and European allies, without adequate retaliation.

The intensity of Iran’s response was calibrated to prevent victimisation, a longstanding Israeli strategy in international forums and media. The response was deemed successful by global media and prominent international relations analysts, positioning Iran as the “winner” in recent events. Despite the positive assessment of Iran’s legitimate defence thus far, there remains the possibility of tensions escalating in Israel’s favour.

READ: Israel pushing for more sanctions against Iran

The Zionist state now has three options: a strong retaliation against Iran; a weak response against Iranian proxy forces or Iran’s foreign bases; or no response at all. Each option has its pluses and minuses. A strong retaliation regains the Israeli military’s credibility as the most potent force in the Middle East while undermining its relations with Western allies, especially the US. Moreover, it might increase international inclination towards recognising an independent Palestinian state, considering the upcoming UN General Assembly meeting where the issue will be voted on. However, Netanyahu and his cabinet could capitalise on extremist views within Israel more than ever before and exploit them for political gain.

The second option, viewed geopolitically, could be the most beneficial for Israel, satisfying some Israelis, maintaining the alliance between Israel and its Western allies by not ignoring the pleas of the latter, and simultaneously increasing diplomatic pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran. Nevertheless, this solution undermines Iran’s new strategy of setting a new red line around its proxy forces, as Iran is unlikely to seek direct retaliation for minor attacks.

No response at all also contributes to a negative perception of Israel around the world, diminishes the image of an all-powerful Israeli military, and assists in solidifying Iran’s new regional strategy. Nevertheless, this non-response is likely to prompt comprehensive diplomatic and economic measures against Iran, including increased sanctions and joint resolutions from the West, as a reward to Israel for not escalating the issue.

Regardless, Iran’s response, which demonstrated a justifiable, rational and calculated defence strategy, akin to the methodical approach of savouring a pistachio, serves as a significant lesson for regulating Iran’s subsequent actions. Ultimately, the country’s diplomatic backing and even long-term military strategy lie within its borders. The numerous multi-dimensional challenges gripping the nation today socially, politically and economically, could ultimately lead to the loss of the ground gained if not addressed effectively.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.