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(photo credit: DADO RUVIC/REUTERS)
Sadegh Zibakalam, a political science professor at the University of Tehran and prominent liberal intellectual, sparked outrage in the Iranian conservative media with a tweet that questioned the government's bellicose stance and actions towards Israel.
"If, God forbid, there is a war between us and Israel, we will have to tell future generations why we fought a war with a country 200 kilometers away that never threatened us or had any other dispute with us," Zibakalam wrote on Twitter on May 10. "What were all those casualties, and the billions of dollars in military expenditures for?"
Zibakalam's comment came on the same day that the Israeli Air Force struck dozens of Iranian targets in Syria
, the most significant confrontation since the recent rise in tensions between the two countries over Iran's involvement in the Syrian civil war and entrenchment in Syria.
The tweet attracted 2,500 comments and was favorited almost 10,000 times on the popular social media platform. It was shared, among others, by Israel's official Twitter account in Persian.
The ultra-conservative daily newspaper Keyhan, whose editor-in-chief Hossein Shariatmadari is reportedly a close confidant of Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, blasted Zibakalam for his tweet.
"Zibakalam's tweet falsely ignores all of Israel's crimes against oppressed Palestinians, its terrorism against Iran's nuclear scientists, its attempts to strike our country's interests in the region and to martyr our Holy Shrine Defenders in Syria," the unsigned article said, referring to Iranian advisers and military personnel engaged in the ongoing Syrian civil war.
Other conservative media outlets, including the Javan newspaper, also joined in attacking Zibakalam.
"I have a simple question: Who gave us the responsibility for destroying Israel?" Zibakalam wrote in response in sarcastic post on Twitter yesterday. "Have the Iranian people held a referendum and asked the government to do this?"
Zibakalam, who participated as a student in the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, has, like many former revolutionaries, gravitated towards more liberal positions in the decades since. One of the most prominent reformist thinkers in the country, he has taken controversial stances against Iran's nuclear program and the country's official anti-Americanism.
Politicians representing more moderate and conservative political visions have battled over the future of the Islamic Republic in recent decades. Supreme Leader Khamenei is aligned with the most conservative elements, while President Rouhani is largely supported by the more moderate reformist camp.