Shortly after Hamas’s assault on Israel, The Wall Street Journal, relying on Hamas sources, reported that the Islamic Republic of Iran had green-lit the Oct. 7 attack. U.S. government officials said they don’t have evidence of Iran’s involvement, and Tehran itself claims that Hamas is an independent actor. But American and Israeli intelligence agencies’ lack of evidence isn’t surprising, since they also failed to predict Hamas’s attack. Those who understand the Islamic Republic’s regime find it hard to believe that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei didn’t give his consent.
In the U.S., elected officials and political appointees make policy, and permanent bureaucrats implement it. In the Islamic Republic, the opposite is true. Elected officials and political appointees implement the policies of the permanent state. Mohammad Khatami, a former president, once referred to himself as “the system’s logistics officer.”
Iran’s permanent state begins with Mr. Khamenei, whose every decree supersedes the law. Military and administrative chains of command are determined by access to power, not laws. The chief of the general staff is the highest-ranking military officer, for instance, but the head of the Quds force calls the shots. The Quds Force is the unconventional-warfare branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, one of the regime’s two military forces.
Javad Zarif, a former foreign minister, made this clear in a leaked interview two years ago. He suggested that he wanted to pursue diplomacy but since the permanent state’s preferred strategy was “the battlefield” dictated by Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, “diplomacy was sacrificed for the sake of the battlefield.”
Understanding this structure is crucial in investigating the extent of Iran’s involvement in the war. If journalists’ sources in the Islamic Republic’s government aren’t in Mr. Khamenei’s policy-making circle, they are unlikely to have known about Tehran’s involvement. In the same vein, the intelligence community is unlikely to uncover crucial information by intercepting communications among people outside Mr. Khamenei’s office.
Read the rest at WSJ.
Shay Khatiri is a Senior Fellow at the Yorktown Institute.