The clash between Israel and Iran in the Syrian arena Feb. 10 has sparked fears of an escalation into all-out war, and rightly so. The risk of thousands of precision missiles fired at Israel resulting in thousands of casualties and devastating the Israeli economy is prompting decision-makers in Jerusalem to step on the brakes. The regime in Tehran also has good reasons to exercise caution: War with Israel would play into the hands of US President Donald Trump and the Republican camp, both seeking to undo the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran. Its end would result in renewed sanctions on Iran, dealing a severe blow to millions of Iranians.
When neither side has a rational interest in escalation, one can assume each will make every effort to avoid one. However, the same cannot be said when a group of self-appointed warriors of God holds sway over political decisions. Enlightened states hospitalize or incarcerate people who undermine national strategic interests for the sake of “sanctifying God’s name.” The State of Israel, on the other hand, caters to a fundamentalist group willing to sacrifice its sons and daughters for a piece of land. The Jews call them “martyrs," and for Muslims they’re “shahids,” an Arabic word that also means martyr. Jewish rabbis promise their dead a life in Paradise. Muslim clerics add a bonus: 72 virgins awaiting the shahids in Paradise.