Imagine a country that is hit by airstrikes each week, or a country whose symbols and leaders are assassinated by a foreign country and half a ton of its secret files are stolen. These two scenarios can normally mobilize global public solidarity and move peace advocates and violence and aggression opponents across the globe.
However, that is not the case when Iran and Syria are the countries subjected to the aforementioned atrocities in a painful, costly, and insulting manner.
There are obviously people who express solidarity with Iran and Syria because they are anti-US regardless of the latter being right or wrong or led by Trump or someone else. These people do not reflect public opinion and its active voices in parties, newspapers, trade unions, religious institutions, environmental and pacifist movements, and other civil society organizations.
Also, if we look at Netanyahu, for example, we notice a huge difference between the amount of compassion for his Palestinian victims and the low sympathy for his Iranian opponents. Some people despise Trump and his policies, but when it comes to Iran and Syria, they soften their criticism and condemnation of him. Even those who criticize Trump for withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and advocate reviving it justify their position as a step to prevent evil and the spread of the dangers of the Khamenei regime. This is the position of many Europeans.
Some people might attribute this apathy to an inherent Western indifference to Muslims and events in their countries.
But this is not true at all; take, for example, the intervention of NATO forces in 1994-1995 in the Bosnian war alongside Muslims against the Serbs, and intermittent interventions to protect the Muslim Kurds in Iraq and Syria, most important of which was in 1991, leading to the establishment of Kurdistan as a de facto autonomous region.
This argument is further weakened by the widespread sympathy among the American and European public opinion with the persecuted Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar or the persecuted Uyghur Muslims in China.
The problem with the Iranian and Syrian regimes is that they cannot portray themselves to the world as victims of aggression. This image of victims does not suit them.
The Khamenei and al-Assad regimes are, by definition, regimes of brutal aggression that use chemical weapons, develop nuclear arms, commit murder, assassination, and mass displacement, drop barrel bombs on civilians, and seek territorial and influence expansion at the expense of other territories and sovereignties.
So, this is not Czechoslovakia against Hitler or Kuwait against Saddam Hussein. Instead, Iran and Syria are two aggressors whose ability to be vicious has weakened today, so they are frustrated assailants. Let’s not forget that many Syrian and Iranian intellectuals appealed to the world to intervene to stop the hostility of these two regimes against their peoples.
But even if we put actions aside, the aggressive language of the regimes is completely different from the victims’ language. This is easily interpreted and witnessed by the whole world. The vocabulary of the two regimes consists of threats, shows of force, and waving earth-shaking missiles. What’s even worse is that they cannot speak the language of the vanquished even if they wanted to. Their warlike nature triumphs over any other attempts to change.
To corroborate this, let’s take a quick look at what they are saying while they are taking painful and humiliating blows.
This is a sample of what their TV stations and newspapers say to justify the lack of Iranian and Syrian responses to those hits:
- Israeli and American operations are mere responses to their defeat in Syria...
- The Israelis and the Americans acknowledge the strength and accuracy of the resistance’s missiles...
- The Israelis and the Americans are petrified of a future timely hit...
This far-fetched difference between reality and their description of it indicates how deeply war is rooted in the two regimes, and how much they lack a vocabulary that suggests a desire to leave the state of war or acknowledges their crystal-clear feebleness.
However, there is an even stronger reason behind this denial of reality, which is that authority collapses by simply showing signs of weakness. These two regimes are built on force, and if force is put aside, they have nothing else left to show off.
The world that loves peace and sympathizes with the victims does not love heroes much, let alone fake ones with nothing left to offer except their claim to heroism.
Anyhow, this does not call for sympathy, but rather for disdain.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.