On October 7, 2023, the Hamas terrorist group launched thousands of rockets deep into Israel and then attacked the south of the country by land, sea and air, killing over 1000 civilians and taking many hostages. Compared to the attack on the World Trade Center towers in New York on September 11, 2001, which resulted in the deaths of nearly 3000 people, the recent terrorist attack has been called "Israel's 9/11."
In the following days, Western and Israeli officials accused Iran of being behind the attack. In addition, some American outlets published investigative reports that indicated Tehran was directly responsible for the terrorist attack. According to them, IRGC officers and representatives of Hamas and Hezbollah had been planning the attack for several months in Beirut. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later said that the conflict between Israel and Hamas is "the war of the civilized world with an axis of evil led by Iran and its partners."
In my opinion, the Hamas terrorist attack was launched at the behest of the Iranian regime to obstruct the normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia and consequently the entire Arab and Islamic worlds.
The installation of Qassem Soleimani's bust in Isfahan's Naqsh-e-Jahan Stadium prior to the football match between Sepahan and Al-Ittihad, to which the Saudi squad responded by refusing to play against the Iranian team, could be interpreted as Iran's Supreme Leader's warning to Saudi Arabia to "dispel the illusion of a total-loss gamble" of normalizing with Israel. When Riyadh failed to take the warning seriously, defended Ittihad's decision to withdraw from the match, and under the auspices of the U.S. continued to negotiate with Israel, or in Khamenei's words, to "bet on the wrong horse," the attack on Israel became inevitable.
As long as it exists, the Islamic Republic will not allow Arabs and Israel to normalize relations. The Iranian regime regards this as an existential threat to itself and its far-reaching imperialist designs on the region. From Tehran's perspective, the Arab-Israeli normalization will lead to the collapse of the "Axis of Resistance," the network of extremist armed proxies that it has created from Yemen to Lebanon to impose its will on the Middle East.
By consistently inciting Hamas to attack Israel and forcing Israel to defend itself, and then declaring strong support for the rights of the "Palestinian people," the Iranian regime presents itself as the champion of Palestinian Arabs and the "Leader of the Islamic World." This catches Arabs in fait accompli and puts them between a rock and a hard place. When Arabs take a strong stand against Israel over the issue, normalization efforts fail. In fact, with its apocalyptic approach to world politics and particularly the issue of Israel, Tehran has taken the Arabs and the wider Islamic world hostage, not allowing them to lead a peaceful life.
The larger and long-term goal of the Islamic Republic is to drag the Middle East into the new not-so-Cold War between the superpowers of the Orient and the Occident in order to tip the balance of regional power in its own favor. By relying on the capabilities of Russia and China to overpower Arabs and Israel, Tehran intends to rule the region with complete hegemony as the junior partner to the Moscow-Beijing alliance. America's withdrawal from the Middle East and its highly costly conflicts with Russia in Ukraine and China in the Far East have left the field open for Tehran.
In addition, there are signs that the Kremlin is keen on opening a front against the West in the Middle East in order to break the Western resolve on the Ukraine front. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has accused Russia of wanting to precipitate conflict in the Middle East to undermine international support for Ukraine. Vladimir Putin's public stance towards Israel after the Hamas terrorist attack has also been muted and mostly unsympathetic. The Russo-Israeli relations started to deteriorate after an initially neutral Israel gradually tilted toward Ukraine under American influence.
It should be noted that China, as Iran and Russia's closest ally, might have endorsed the Hamas attack in order to put a knife in America's side and then gain further global prestige and leverage by posing as a mediator, as it did in the case of Iran and Saudi Arabia. Since the start of the war, both Moscow and Beijing have been trying to insert themselves into the conflict as mediators, but apparently with an agenda to undermine the West and gain more ground in the Middle East and on the world stage.
On the other side of the equation, Israel, which has received the most terrible national security shock in its 75-year history, intends to eradicate Hamas. The West, despite the clear signs that the Islamic Republic was instrumental in the attack on Israel, does not yet want a direct conflict with the Iranian regime and consequently the spread of the war to the rest of the region. So, it has given Tel Aviv the green light to destroy Hamas, provided that it refrains from directly confronting Tehran. However, as the Islamists in Iran keep threatening Israel with annihilation, and as Tehran's proxies across the region keep attacking American military bases, there is a good chance that the war in the Eastern Mediterranean will escalate and spill over into the rest of the Middle East.
But the fate of Hamas has been sealed. Although the "head of the octopus" is in Tehran, Israel has decided to cut off one of its tentacles in its vicinity. Israel's next move could be to try to cut off the tentacles of the Iranian regime in Syria and Lebanon. However, cutting off the head of the octopus is not something that Israel can do alone, and in order to do that the United States must enter the field and take the lead by securing a global and regional consensus against the combined might of Iran, Russia and China.
Considering the recent developments in the Middle East, an American military confrontation with the Iranian regime in the foreseeable future is a distinct possibility. Tehran's direct attack on Israel and the ruthless massacre of Israeli and other citizens shocked the world and brought back to life the horrendous images of the suicide attacks on the Twin Towers, warning the West and especially the United States that similar acts of cold-blooded terror and mass violence can once again occur on Western soil.
Hamas' terrorist attack on Israel marked a turning point in the global strategic equations that will rock the region and change it forever. But in the meantime, the efforts of Tehran and Tel Aviv to hurt each other will exponentially increase, which is bound to further escalate the tensions and pull in other regional and global actors. Finally, it is not far from expectation that Khamenei will finally unveil his nuclear arsenal and hasten the Middle East's apocalypse.
Reza Parchizadeh, a Ginsburg/Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, is a political theorist, security analyst, and cultural critic.