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Fear, frustration in Iran after attack on Israel

Youhanna Najdi
April 14, 2024

As world leaders condemn Iran's major attack on Israel, many Iranians are worried the volatile situation could lead to further escalation between the two regional rivals.

Passengers use a BRT bus in downtown Tehran, looking out of the window
Many Iranians appear to be worried about the threat of the escalating conflictImage: Vahid Salemi/AP Photo/picture alliance

Experts monitoring developments in Iran have raised concerns about Israel's potential response to the weekend's drone and missile attacks, warning both sides could quickly launch a dangerous tit-for-tat exchange.

General Hossein Salami, the commander of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard, said on Iranian state TV that Tehran had entered a "new equation" in which any Israeli attack on its "interests, assets, officials, or citizens would be reciprocated from its own territory."

General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, the chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces, warned Iran's "response will be much larger than tonight's military action if Israel retaliates against Iran."

As if to underline the government's position, a mural in Tehran's Palestine Square was unveiled overnight, with the phrase "The next slap will be fiercer" written in both Persian and Hebrew.

'Anti-Israel sentiment is in the DNA of Islamic Republic'

Hamed Mohammadi, an Iranian journalist based in Berlin, told DW Iran is relying on military means to demonstrate its strength, after what Tehran has called an Israeli strike on its Damascus consulate earlier this month killed seven high-ranking officers.

"Anti-Israel sentiment is in the DNA of Islamic Republic. With this approach, the level of conflict in the region has incrementally risen," he said. "The recent escalation marks a new phase, effectively giving Israel a green light to take more aggressive actions, even within Iranian territory."

Why Iran directly attacked Israel

But among the general population, many Iranians appear to be worried about the threat of the escalating conflict and preparing for potential Israeli attacks on Iranian cities.

On Sunday, DW's Persian department observed multiple social media posts showing long lines at gas stations, with Iranians anticipating a sudden increase in gas prices. Supermarkets were filled with people buying up essential items such as rice and bread, and Iran's currency, the rial, briefly plunged to a record low against the US dollar on the open market, according to foreign exchange monitoring site Bonbast.

Many Iranians feel 'uncertainty' for the future

Soroush Mozaffar Moghadam, a writer and Iranian affairs analyst who was forced to leave Iran after anti-government protests began in 2022, was in contact with people inside Iran via social networks for hours after the attack. He told DW that many appeared to be confused, fearful, anxious and hesitant.

Why Iran and Israel are enemies

"Among those I spoke with, the consequences of Israel's military attack on Iran, pessimism about the future, and uncertainty were prevalent emotions," he said, adding that he believes most Iranians don't back the official policies of the Islamic Republic but feel powerless to effect change.

"One individual I spoke with, a young man, stressed that he sees no prospects for his future and believes the majority of people cannot affect the aggressive behavior of the government," said Moghadam.

Edited by: Kristin Zeier