Student Published in the Washington Post

Peyman Asadzade, UCF student pursuing a doctorate degree in security studies, recently published a blog post in the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage, which is a leading political blog with national exposure. His piece focused on public opinion and Iran’s involvement in the Syrian civil war. It discusses Iranian public response to Iran’s growing military presence in Syria.

Most academic studies and conventional wisdom find that the public is usually casualty-averse, meaning that public support for war will decrease as the number of casualties increases. But three recent polls conducted in 2015 and 2016 show that Iranian public support for involvement in Syria is consistently high despite Iran’s huge casualties. Asadzade seeks to understand and explain the continued high public support.

He argues that several factors are involved. The Iranian government has successfully managed to justify their strategy in Syria with an ideological-religious language. The desecration of holy Shiite tombs by Syrian rebels has become a rallying cry for Shiites not only from Iran but also from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Lebanon. This is why Iranian-backed Shiite fighters in Syria are called “Defenders of the Shrine.” The Iranian government has also rationalized Iran’s involvement in Syria with security concerns – if Iran does not fight the Islamic State in Syria, they would have to fight them on their own streets. This resonates with an Iranian public frightened about the Islamic State’s territorial advances in neighboring Iraq. Finally, despite a perception of Iranian nationals’ widespread presence, only a small number of Iranian forces have fought in Syria. Iran has actually managed to deploy a diverse group of Shiite fighters from countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Lebanon as opposed to using Iran’s own active military personnel.

Asadzade’s research finds that the Iranian’s public tolerance for casualties shows the impact religious motivations or security concerns can have on significantly reducing public sensitivity to war casualties abroad.

Asadzade’s full article can be read on the Washington Post’s page here.

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