The current attacks on Israel by Hamas and Hezbollah repeat an essential misperception shared by the Arabo-Iranian elites : that Israel is not a country in its own right with citizens willing to die for it. So they keep on making the same mistake of using force which brings counterforce down with interest on their own heads. Why don’t they learn from experience ? Essentially this is a cultural matter. They have grown up and been educated to despise Jews; and to be resisted and even defeated by these despicable creatures is a shame not to be borne, again and again demanding to be wiped out, whatever the cost. Down the ages, Muslim authorities all agree that Jews are by nature cowardly and ignominious, and therefore their present military successes cannot be what they seem. Somebody has to be empowering them, and that somebody is the United States. Shame is this engine of these fantasies.
The Iranian leadership believes that jihad against the United States will absolve shame, and jihad begins with Israel on the grounds that it is nothing but an American tool. They are Shias, and further fortified in their jihad by expectation of the return of the hidden Imam, who is the messiah and herald of the end of days. Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, are all Sunnis, but they too believe that jihad is the right response to shame.
What we are witnessing is a convergence of jihadis, Shias and Sunnis alike. The culture is proving stronger than doctrinal differences. Al Qaeda leaders are known to be sheltering in Iran. The Alawis (heretical Shias) ruling Damascus push jihadis to join the Sunni insurgents in Iraq. Zarqawi was a Sunni who denounced and murdered Shia. How old-fashioned! By the look of it, someone with a belief in the new-style jihad common to both wings of Islam must have denounced him.
Calling up ground forces, the Israelis appear to be resolved to eliminate the Hezbollah threat in southern Lebanon. This would produce another gusher of shame. President Ahmadinejad is already talking the talk : “If this volcano [of Muslim pride] erupts – and we are on the brink of eruption …and if this ocean rages, its waves will not be limited to the region.”
Perhaps Iran is incapable of mounting a Shia equivalent of the Sunni coup of 9/11, but it seems obvious that a major set-back for Hezbollah would prompt them to do their worst. The Iranian leadership can call on inventive people well able to spring unpleasant surprises. They have the United States in their sights and a culture that distorts the real balance of forces.