February 22, 2024 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1747

Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei: 'Iran's Reliance On Soft Power Has Been Its Main Strategy For The Past 45 Years'; 'The Resistance Must Strike The Enemy Wherever Necessary... The Day Will Come When The Iranian Nation And The Muslim Peoples' Will Defeat 'The Enemies And 'Satans Of The World'

February 22, 2024 | By A. Savyon and N. Katirachi*
Iran | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1747


On January 3, 2024, Shi'ite eulogists[1] gathered for the annual convention in honor of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad's daughter Fatimah and in memory of IRGC Qods Force commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed by the U.S. on this date in 2020. In his speech at the gathering, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei stressed the importance of Iran's "soft power" and "explanatory jihad" – strategies which the Iranian regime has used since the start of the Islamic Revolution and that enable it to operate vis-à-vis Iranian citizens as well as to motivate other elements, such as Iran's various proxies in the resistance axis, to carry out military activity. Khamenei explained that these strategies allow the Iranian regime to establish its ideology, to win over public opinion both in Iran and in the resistance axis countries, and to consolidate its presence in the region.

This report will set out these strategies and their importance to the Iranian regime's ideology, its presence in the region, and its opposition to Iran's enemies – Israel, the U.S., and the West.

Iran And Its Doctrine Regarding Its Proxies In The Region

The Iranian regime boasts that it is not an occupying power, and, according to the regime mouthpieces, Iran has no troops in neighboring countries. Senior regime officials claim that Iran merely sends "military advisors" to its neighbors near and far to advise them on how to fight "terrorism." However, former Iranian presidential advisor Mohammad Sadeq Al-Hosseini said in 2014 that the Iranian regime is proud of having "conquered" four Arab capitals – Damascus, Beirut, Baghdad, and Sana'a – and taken control of three seas – the Mediterranean Sea, the Persian Gulf, and the Red Sea.[2]

Since then, Iran has achieved this via its proxies, i.e. the resistance axis that it established, comprising Hizbullah in Lebanon; Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad; the Shi'ite militias in Iraq and Syria, including on the Syrian Golan Heights; the Houthis in Yemen; and additional militias in Azerbaijan and Africa.

In 2014, Sadeq Al-Hosseini had stated: "We in the resistance axis are the new sultans of the Mediterranean Sea and the [Persian] Gulf. We are in Tehran, in Damascus, in [the Hizbullah stronghold neighborhood] Dahiyeh in Beirut, in Baghdad, and in Sana'a. We will draw the map of the region. We are also the new sultans of the Red Sea."[3]

To view this clip of Al-Hosseini's statements on MEMRI TV, click here or below:

In a September 25, 2021 speech marking the anniversary of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, Gen. Gholamali Rashid, commander of the IRGC's Khatem Al-Anbiya Central Headquarters, said that three months before he was killed in January 2020, IRGC Qods Force commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani had said in a briefing to the Iranian joint military command that Iran has six armies in the region: Hizbullah in Lebanon, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Palestinian territories, the PMU in Iraq, the Houthi Ansar Allah movement in Yemen, and the Syrian regime's military.

Gen. Rashid quoted Soleimani as saying: "With the support of the headquarters of the IRGC, the army, the General Command of the [Iranian] Armed Forces and the Ministry of Defense, I have organized six armies for you outside the territory of Iran, and created a passage that is 1,500 kilometers long and 1,000 kilometers wide, [stretching] to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Within this, there are six ideological and popular armies. Any enemy that wants to fight the Islamic revolution and the sacred regime of the Islamic Republic will have to confront these six armies, and he will not succeed – [there is] one army in Lebanon that is called Hizbullah; two armies in occupied Palestine called Hamas and [Palestinian] Islamic Jihad; one army in Iraq that is called the PMU; one army in Yemen that is called Ansar Allah [i.e. the Houthis]; and one army in Syria [i.e. the Syrian regime's army] – all these armies will create deterrence for Iran."[4]

To view this clip on MEMRI TV, click here or below:

In February 2015, Soleimani's deputy Gen. Esmail Qaani, who later succeeded Soleimani as Qods Force commander, said: "The Islamic Republic of Iran is expanding in these lands [i.e. the Islamic countries] by the day, because the Islamic Revolution has no geographical borders... Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and Yemen are among the countries that have been conquered by the Islamic Republic of Iran."[5]

Also in February 2015, Ali Shirazi, Khamenei's representative in the Qods Force, Ali Shirazi, said that the Houthis were building a popular pro-Iran military alongside Lebanese Hizbullah and Iran's proxies in Syria and Iraq: "Whether our enemies like it or not, the Islamic Revolution has been making progress since the beginning, and today we have might in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bahrain, Yemen, and even Saudi Arabia... In the not-so-distant future, we will see the downfall of America and Israel, and this is not just a slogan... Today, we in Iran, Hizbullah in Lebanon, the Ansar Allah [Houthis] in Yemen, the national defense forces in Syria, and the popular forces in Iraq have [all] grown much stronger... A massive popular army is beginning to arise in the world. Rest assured that this movement cannot be defeated."[6]

Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei: The Iranian Regime Uses "Soft Power" And "Explanatory Jihad" To Win Hearts And Minds In Iran And Outside It And To Instill The Messages Of The Islamic Revolution

At the January 3, 2024 convention of Shi'ite eulogists marking the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad's daughter Fatimah and the fourth anniversary of the killing of IRGC Qods Force commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani by the U.S., Supreme Leader Khamenei set out the strategies used by the Iranian regime to spread the values of the Islamic Revolution among the Iranian public and elsewhere in the world.

Defining "soft power" as using an "intellectual, linguistic, and logical weapon," Khamenei said that it is more effective than military power, since its impact is longer-lasting. He added that throughout the 45 years of the Islamic Revolution, Iran's main strategy has been the use of "soft power."

Khamenei's use of the term "soft power" conceals his intentions to use military power via Iran's proxies in the resistance axis. This kind of concealment is a principle often used in Shi'a Islam – taqiyyah, which is the obligation to be wary or to hide one's Shi'ite identity or the Shi'a's intentions in order to survive in a hostile environment.

Khamenei also refers to "explanatory jihad" in order to achieve the Iranian regime's goals of establishing a global Islamic revolutionary regime and destroying Israel, the U.S., and Western culture. In Islam, the term jihad refers to a holy war against non-Muslims with the aim of either killing them or converting them to Islam. In order to obscure the military sense of the term "jihad," the Iranian regime coined the term "explanatory jihad," which, according to Khamenei, is aimed at "creating a movement" and "motivating hearts" to achieve a goal. This is exactly like Iran's mobilization of its various proxies in the region to advance its interests while it itself stays off the battlefield.

In fact, the Iranian regime is sophisticated in its use of various means of propaganda and winning hearts and minds. It does this by employing Shi'ite eulogists who are well known in the Islamic world, as well as artists, the film industry, media, and so on, to instill the values of the Islamic Revolution among various communities and to motivate them to take military action on behalf of the revolution and Iran.

Indeed, the January 3 convention of Shi'ite eulogists highlighted Soleimani's role in spearheading the expansion of Iran's resistance axis throughout the Middle East. It featured several prominent eulogists as Khamenei's guests of honor. Khamenei stressed the importance of these eulogists' role in presenting the values of the Islamic Revolutionary regime to the public in Iran and other countries in the region.

One of the singers was Islamic scholar Ahmad Vaezi, who heads the Islamic Propagation Office of the Center for the Islamic Iranian Model of Progress in Qom.

Prominent Shi'ite eulogist Ahmad Vaezi

Another prominent eulogist at the convention was Sayyed Hejazi Hejazi from Lebanon, who is popular among the Lebanese resistance, i.e. Hizbullah. Hejazi sang to Khamenei the tribute to Soleimani titled "Peace Upon You, Oh Mahdi" – a song that was translated into Arabic from the original Farsi, and is widely known across the Arab world.

Prominent Lebanese eulogist Sayyed Hejazi Hejazi.

In 2022, Hejazi sang this at a ceremony in Lebanon at which the children, teens, men, and women in attendance all declared their determination to become martyrs for the sake of the Islamic Revolution led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Revolution, and by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani. They also all vowed to remain soldiers of Iran's resistance until the arrival of the Hidden Imam – the Shi'ite Messiah.

To view the clip of this song in Arabic on MEMRI TV, click here or below:

Khamenei, January 3, 2024: "One Of The Missions Of The Explanatory Warriors Is To Introduce And Explain The Issues Of The Day – Including The Issue Of Gaza And The Evil-Seeking Enemies... Today, The Gaza Residents Stand Not Only Against The Zionist Regime But Also Against The World Of Apostasy, Tyranny, And Arrogance – And Against America"

The following are excerpts from Khamenei's January 3, 2024 speech at the annual conference of eulogists, whom he praised as "explanatory warriors":

Pointing at "the continuation of a great tradition of explanatory jihad in the language of the imams and in the sermons of Ahl Al-Bait [the Prophet Muhammad's descendants, considered his heirs in the Shi'a] as well as in the songs of the finest Arabic-speaking singers," Khamenei added: "In the continuation of this path, in our era, the Imam Khomeini raised the banner of explanatory jihad and took the nation by storm, using language and logic, and removed the disgraceful and corrupt government of the [Shah's] dictatorial monarchy and established a popular and Islamic regime. This historic event revealed the importance and unique capabilities of explanatory jihad."

Khamenei continued: "The true status and capability of the eulogists is to continue on the enlightened path of the explanatory warriors from the days of the [Shi'ite] imams until now... The art of [Shi'ite] eulogizing, at the center of which is the eulogist [himself], is one of the most important parts of the soft power of Islamic society. Soft power is more diffuse and effective than hard [military] power. This is why despite all its advanced weaponry, America invests so heavily in areas such as media, art, literature, and film. The impact of [military] power is ephemeral and can be destroyed."

Regarding "America's scandalous flight from Afghanistan, and the Iraqi people's profound  hatred for the White House," he said that "hard [military] power has not managed to make America's presence in either of these countries permanent and successful. However, soft power has successfully transformed a purported minority such as the Palestinian people into the focus of the entire world, because of the oppression [they are under] and because of their patience and resistance."

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei (Source: Tasnim News Agency, Iran, January 3, 2024)

He said: "The doctrine of Islam, the logic of the Quran and knowledge, and the suffering and history of Ahl Al-Bait are the main content for the work of the [Shi'ite] eulogist... The expectation is that this content will be explained to the public in the finest possible language and in the best possible way, and with the same characteristics of explanatory jihad throughout history.

"Iran's reliance on soft power has been its main strategy for the past 45 years. We believe that there is a need for advanced weapons that meet the requirements of our country and are effective against our enemies' capabilities – but we also believe that soft power, that is, an intellectual, linguistic, and logical weapon, is more powerful and effective, and that its [use] must be expanded.

"The ability to awaken and to create a movement, and to properly and precisely take aim to achieve our goals, are two important measures of explanatory jihad. In explanatory jihad, beyond the ability to awaken people's hearts and create a movement, the ability to focus on the goal is very important, since occasionally, such as when the Islamic world is in need of unity, recklessness leads to disputes and disunity."

He went on to say that "one of the missions of the explanatory warriors is to introduce and explain the issues of the day. This includes the issue of Gaza and our evil-seeking enemies... We must defend ourselves against the false propaganda of America and its followers against Islam and the Islamic system [of rule]. SEE hed

"Today, the pulsing and beating border of the Islamic world is Gaza. Today, the Gaza residents stand not only against the Zionist regime, but also against the world of apostasy, tyranny, and arrogance, and against America. The fact that U.S. President [Biden] openly states that he is a Zionist means that he shares the evil and filthy goals of the Zionists. We must defend ourselves against the false propaganda of America and its followers against Islam and the Islamic regime [of Iran]."[7]

Khamenei, January 9, 2024: "Today, The Resistance Is Alive, Fresh, And Prepared [To Continue Fighting]; It Must Remain Up-To-Date And Ready, Must Not Ignore The Enemy's Subterfuges, And Must Strike It Wherever Necessary"

At a January 9, 2024 meeting with the residents of Qom, Khamenei himself used the principles of "explanatory jihad" that he had preached the previous week. He told the audience about the struggle being waged by the Iran-led Islamic world against the enemies and the "Satans of the world," in a religious and civilizational war against the world of apostasy and against the West, led by the U.S.

Praising the Iran-backed resistance front's struggle to destroy the "little Satan" Israel, Khamenei addressed the resistance organizations, calling on them to continue to militarily resist, even in the face of the "oppression and the arrogance" – a reference to the U.S., aka the "Great Satan." He went on to encourage Iran's proxies in the resistance axis to expand and to "strike the enemy wherever necessary." He concluded with a call for the victory of the Iranian nation, which he said leads the Islamic world, against the "Satans of the world."

Giving an example of the impact of this strategy, Khamenei spoke about the "success" of the Palestinian resistance in "Operation Al-Aqsa Flood," Hamas's name for the October 7, 2023 massacres in southern Israel. He also noted  that the Palestinian resistance is fighting against "the Zionist regime, against the world of apostasy, tyranny, and arrogance, and against America."

In this context, it should be noted that Iran's cultural attaché in Lebanon, Mohammed Mahdi Shariatmadar, said on January 26, 2024: "Every bullet and every drone that is fired at Israel from anywhere was either created in Iran or is the product of Iranian training and guidance."

To view these statements by Shariatmadar on MEMRI TV, click here or below:

The following are excerpts from Khamenei's January 9 speech in Qom:

"With regard to the issue of Gaza, in a word: The predictions are gradually becoming clear. From the beginning, the expectation of the enlightened people of the world, whether here [in Iran] or anywhere else, has been that it would be the Palestinian resistance who wins and emerges victorious, while the loser will be the evil and cursed Zionist regime. This is happening, and everybody is seeing this.

"Even after this regime is destroyed [and gone from] the world, its crimes will not be forgotten, and it will go down in history that once there rose to power in this region a group that carried out crimes and killed thousands of women and children in a few short weeks! It will be written and spoken about, and it will not be forgotten. Everybody will understand that the resilience of the Palestinian people and resistance forced them [this group] to retreat.

"Indeed, the Zionist regime has achieved none of its goals [in this war], after over 100 days of its crimes. What is the meaning of failure? This is the meaning of failure. They [Israel] said that it would destroy Hamas and the [Iran-backed] resistance [movements], and that it would transfer the people of Gaza – but it has failed to do this. Today, the resistance is alive, fresh, and prepared [to continue fighting], while the Zionist regime is tired, humiliated, and full of regret.

"This lesson shows us that we must continue on the path of steadfastness against oppression, tyranny [i.e. America and the West], and usurpation [i.e. Israel]. The resistance must remain up-to-date and ready, must not ignore the enemy's subterfuges, and must strike it wherever necessary. With God's help, the day will come when the Iranian nation and the Muslim peoples will witness the victory of patience, steadfastness, and faith in God against the enemies and Satans of the world."[8]

A. Savyon is director of the MEMRI Iran Media Studies project; N. Katirachi is a Research Fellow at MEMRI.


[1] Shi'ite eulogists in Iran commemorate the sacrifices of the family of the Prophet Muhammad. Over time, their function and style has evolved, becoming more political and more modern., July 12, 2018.

[2] For the full interview with Sadeq Al-Hosseini, see MEMRI TV Clip No. 4530, Iranian Analyst Mohammad Sadeq Al-Hosseini: Saudi Arabia Is on the Verge of Extinction; We Are the New Sultans of the Mediterranean, the Gulf, and the Red Sea, September 24, 2014. For remarks by Al-Hosseini and other senior Iranian officials, see, Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1155, Iran's Support For The Houthi Rebellion In Yemen: 'Without Iran There Would Be No War In Syria And Ansar Allah Would Have Never Emerged, April 20, 2015.

[3] For the full interview with Sadeq Al-Hosseini, see MEMRI TV Clip No. 4530, Iranian Analyst Mohammad Sadeq Al-Hosseini: Saudi Arabia Is on the Verge of Extinction; We Are the New Sultans of the Mediterranean, the Gulf, and the Red Sea, September 24, 2014. For remarks by Al-Hosseini and other senior Iranian officials, see, Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1155, Iran's Support For The Houthi Rebellion In Yemen: 'Without Iran There Would Be No War In Syria And Ansar Allah Would Have Never Emerged, April 20, 2015.

[4] Fars News Agency (Iran), September 25, 2021.

[5], February 13, 2015. General Qaani's statements have since been removed from the Iranian opposition website that reported them.

[6] Mehr (Iran), February 8, 2015.

[7] Tasnim News Agency (Iran), January 3, 2024.

[8], January 9, 2024.

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