“The Iranians are trying to say, ‘We can still talk the talk,’ ” says Meir Javedanfar, an Iran specialist in Israel. “This is Iran trying to say that it’s still in charge of the Palestinian issue, to milk the international backlash against Israel after the flotilla incident.”
This weekend, the Iranian Red Crescent society announced that it would launch two ships of humanitarian aid to Gaza by the end of the week. The Revolutionary Guard, an elite ideological military force that has tightened its grip on everything from Iran's oil to last year's post-election protests – has declared its readiness, if ordered, to provide a naval escort.
The first anniversary looming of Ahmadinejad’s disputed reelection on June 12 last year – an event that sparked weeks of violent protests – is one of several factors coalescing into Iran's even stronger criticism of Israel. In addition, after three decades of investing in militant groups and “exporting” the revolution, Iran is trying to preserve aspects of its reputation.
“This is the atmosphere right now: You’ve got all sorts of Turkish flags being raised in Gaza, people naming their children Erdogan [after the Turkish prime minister],” says Javedanfar, who says Iran sees Turkey as stealing the limelight. “There’s no Iranian flag in sight, and I haven’t heard of one Palestinian naming their child Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.”