As you may have heard, the risk of war between Israel and Iran is high. Even as Israel is determined to rid its borders of pro-Iranian actors, Iran is even more determined to extend and solidify its presence in Syria, and beyond into the wider region: politically, militarily and socially.

Many people are pinning their hopes for avoiding such a war on Iran backing down, thinking that threats and sanctions and limited military engagements will make it quit stoking conflict with Israel, Saudi Arabia and in the wider Middle East. But that’s not going to happen.

Here are four reasons why:

1. The Iranian hardliners have not closed the chapter on the Iran-Iraq war.

The majority of Iranian regime hardliners, generals and commanders who continue to shape Iran’s regional agenda, are Iran-Iraq war veterans who still yearn for revenge on the “evil” countries that helped Saddam Hussein kill their compatriots in the war he launched that lasted from 1980 to 1988.

Iran’s newest front line with Israel is along the contested Golan Heights in Syria. When commentators assess Iranian influence in Syria, many bring up Major General Qassem Soleimani, the mastermind and enforcer of Iran’s overseas military strategies, commander of Iran’s Quds Force, and one of the most senior officers in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Soleimani himself is an embittered survivor of the brutal Iran-Iraq War with a list of grievances as long as the list of his friends killed during that eight-year conflict.

Many Iran-Iraq war folk heroes, who survived that devastating conflict, were later dispatched to Syria and died there, among them Brigadier General Hamdani who was killed in 2015; Colonel Hasounzadeh who was killed in 2015; and Brigadier General Khosravi who was killed in 2017.

These same hardliners and commanders remember too well how the entire world, minus a bare handful of countries, sat idle while Saddam Hussein tried to annihilate them and their fledgling dream of a perfect Islamic Republic. They remember the many countries that helped arm their enemy during those years when over a million people were killed. And by those lights every war crime seen in Syria today, in their eyes—the sieges, displacement, relentless aerial bombardment of population centers, and chemical warfare—pales by comparison.

2. The Iranian hardliners who decided to risk everything for Assad made the decision based on their religious beliefs, and as help to an old ally who stood with them “against the world.”

During the Iran-Iraq war, Bashar’s father Hafez al-Assad was the first Arab president to break with the Arab League and actively support Iran. The only other Arab country to come to Iran’s aid was Libya under Muammar al-Gaddafi, but he provided merely symbolic support.

Hafez used every tool possible to undermine Saddam’s war machine, from disrupting the flow of goods between Syria and Iraq to shutting down the Kirkuk-Baniyas oil pipeline, depriving Saddam of 30 percent of his crude oil revenues from the Mediterranean. Hafez’s regime actively trained and armed Iranian paramilitaries inside Syria, hoping to help Iran as much as it could at a time when the United States and the Gulf countries supported Saddam Hussein with guns and money.

Source » thedailybeast