The day the massacre began, October 7, is significant. On the Gregorian calendar, October 6 was the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War. That conflict, fought from Oct. 6–26, 1973, had the purpose and potential to snuff out Israel. Israel was surprised by a joint attack by Egypt and Syria. Both countries had lost territory and prestige to Israel during the 1967 war. Both rejected Israel’s legitimacy as a sovereign country. The Israelis fought on two fronts: their northern and southern borders. Iraq and other Arab states also entered the conflict.
Over 20 days of fighting, the Israelis dramatically pushed the Arab forces back. But they suffered 2,691 military casualties as well as others killed and injured.
Though Egypt technically lost, it regained its status as the leader of the Arab world and of Middle Eastern resistance to Western “imperialism.” In many ways, it was the “king” of the region.
President Anwar Sadat wrote in his autobiography that the campaign’s successes ultimately “restored the self-confidence of our armed forces, our people and our Arab nation. It also restored the world’s confidence in us, and exploded forever the myth of an invincible Israel.”
Sadat later sacrificed his prestige by making peace with Israel in 1977, making him a pariah in the Arab world. He was assassinated in 1981, most likely by the new Islamist radicals who had just taken control of Iran.
Since then, no one power has been “king” of the Islamic world. Egypt and Israel today are on good terms. Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and other states have worked in the direction of peace with Israel. Turkey squabbles with Israel but has never denied its right to exist.
What better way to claim “kingship” over radical Islam and the Middle East in general than to launch a repeat of the Yom Kippur War and to show oneself as the only major Islamic power willing to lead the way in exterminating Israelis and Israel?
Regardless how this conflict ends or what the long-term effects will be, Iran has already accomplished this. “Yom Kippur War 2.0” is therefore Iran’s coronation as king of the radical Islamic world.
This king isn’t finished with his conquests. The latest war is but a small foretaste of the push Iran will exert to control the Holy Land. This war is Iran’s boldest move in a long time, and we can expect it to grow even bolder and more provocative until it faces an existential crisis of its own.