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Iran's dangerous self-assurance and media portrayal of Israel's weakness risk misjudgment

Updated: Jun 10, 2023

"Kayhan," the official mouthpiece of Khamenei, continues to laud the actions of Egyptian soldier Muhammad Salah, who killed three Israeli soldiers using a Kalashnikov. According to the publication, Salah's ability to infiltrate the border areas and conduct successful ambushes represents a significant security failure for the Israeli army, aligning with Hassan Nasrallah's claim that the Zionist regime is weaker than a spider's web.

This article is part of a broader trend in Iranian media, with Kayhan and other outlets depicting Israel as weak and vulnerable. Iranian officials and media platforms, such as Press TV and al-Alam TV, also contribute to this narrative, focusing on Israel's alleged military weaknesses, internal divisions highlighted by ongoing protests, and susceptibility to terrorism. The aim appears to be boosting Iranian morale and undermining Israel's relationships with key allies, including the United States, the signatories of the Abraham Accords (UAE and Bahrain), and potential countries considering normalization with Israel (such as Saudi Arabia).

Since the eruption of protests in Israel, Iranian media has been providing weekly coverage of the demonstrations, emphasizing the perceived fractures within Israeli society. Alongside these reports, the Iranian press and senior spokespeople often highlight instances of refusal within the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and statements by former high-ranking IDF officials opposing Prime Minister Netanyahu and expressing reluctance to serve under proposed reforms.

Iran meticulously monitors Israeli media independently and via Palestinian organizations and Hezbollah. It scrutinizes newspapers, interviews, broadcast channels, regional radio stations, and research institutes. The Iranian media frequently features statements from senior Israeli officials criticizing their government and its policies, reports on demonstrations, and updates on the economic situation. These reports reinforce the Iranian regime's narrative that Israel and its ally, the United States, are weakening while Iran and its "resistance camp" allies are growing stronger and reaching their peak.

For instance, after unveiling the supersonic missile "Fattah," Iranian media extensively quoted Israeli military reporters and press reports claiming that Israel's air defense had no effective response to the missile. The main page of "Kayhan" featured extensive quotations from Tal Inbar, the Head of the Space Research Center at the Fisher Institute for Air & Space Strategic Studies, regarding his interviews with international media. In these interviews, Inbar highlighted the strengths of Iran's "Fattah" supersonic missile and its capacity to challenge Western anti-missile defense systems.

However, these reports may present a distorted perception of Israel's true strength to Tehran's leadership and Hezbollah. During "Operation Shield and Arrow," conducted amidst the protests and incitement against the Israeli government, Iran faced a different reality than its media's weak and vulnerable image. Despite Iran's calls for other elements of the resistance camp to join in firing rockets at Israel, Islamic Jihad, considered Iran's prominent Palestinian protégé, stood alone in confronting Israel.

Iran's growing self-confidence recently stems from its improved international position due to advancements in its nuclear program, strengthening ties with China and Russia, the renewal of diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, and the United States' efforts to return to the nuclear agreement. Iran views these developments as part of its "field diplomacy," simultaneously expanding regional relations (such as with Saudi Arabia) and international efforts (as seen in the release of Assadallah Asadi) while continuing to enhance its missile capabilities and military strength. Senior Iranian officials criticize the previous passive diplomacy of the Rouhani government and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, deeming their policies towards the West as failures.

Given this overestimated sense of self-confidence, there is a risk that the Iranian government and Hezbollah may miscalculate their ability to challenge Israel even before acquiring their first nuclear weapon. Such miscalculations could expose their nuclear program and critical infrastructure to severe damage.


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