ISIS Terrorist Attack In Iran Adds More Tension In An Already Troubled Region

On the 7th on June, suicide bombers linked to ISIS attacked the parliament and the mausoleum Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic after the revolution in 1979. The coordinated attack in the two locations took Iranian security forced by surprise and left at least 46 wounded and 12 people were killed. The violence started around 10:30 in the morning when men, who were armed with AK-47s, hand grenades, and explosive vests entered parliament and started a gunfire that lasted for more than four hours. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard neutralized all of the attackers, and four of the terrorist were killed at the parliament and two, including a female attacker, were killed at the mausoleum. The official news also reported the capture of other five suspects, whose identities remain unknown.

This is the first ISIS attack suffered by Iran and the worst terrorist strike in the country in years. Compared with many of its neighbours, the Islamic Republic of Iran was considered “stable” with security forces that are strong enough to face terrorist groups in the regions. However, ISIS has recently targeted the country. For instance, in March the terrorist group published a video in Persian warning that it will “conquer Iran and restore it to the Sunni nation as it was before,” and accused Iran, a Shia-majority country, of persecuting Sunnis over centuries.

The ISIS attack adds more tension to a traditionally weak relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the region. The strategic competition between the two regional powers can be explained, in part, by the division among the two most important branches of Islam, Sunnis-majority in Saudi Arabia and Shias-majority in Iran. Despite this, ISIS claimed the attacks, and the hardline of the Iran’s Revolutionary Guard suggested a relation between the visit of U.S. President Donald Trump to Saudi Arabia last week and the terrorist events. In a statement, the Revolutionary Guard said that “This terrorist action, coming one week after the meeting of the president of the United States with the leader of one of the region’s reactionary governments [Saudi Arabia] … shows they are involved in this savage action.” The Iranian hardline political analyst, Hamidreza Taraghi, added “ISIS ideologically, financially and logistically is fully supported and sponsored by Saudi Arabia — they are one and the same,” showing that this view is shared by a portion of the Iranian population.

Saudi Arabia and the U.S. rejected the accusations and expressed its solidarity with Iran. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir denied any responsibility and stated that “we condemn terrorist attacks anywhere they occur.” The U.S. State Department, in a statement, condemned the attack adding that “the depravity of terrorism has no place in a peaceful civilized world.” However, President Trump, who said he was praying for the victims, added that “states that sponsor terrorism risk failing victim to the evil they promote.” Immediately, Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif criticized the White House statement and Tweeted the following: “Repugnant WH statement & Senate sanctions as Iranians counter terror backed by US clients. Iranian people reject such US claims of friendship.”

The terrorist attack on Iranian soil just added more tension to an already troubled region. Over the last few days, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, UAE, Yemen, among other countries cut ties with Qatar arguing that the country is linked to the financing of terrorist groups in the region. ISIS is achieving one of its main objectives, not only causing terror around the world, but also by destabilizing the Middle East and Europe. Last week, the terrorist group were linked to terrorist events in London, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Australia, Philippines, and other countries in Africa, which shows its global capacity. Middle Eastern countries and Western countries, such as the U.S. must understand that ISIS is a common threat and cooperate to defeat terrorism around the globe. For the wellbeing of the people in the Middle East, states in the region must avoid divisions and tensions because these will be used by terrorist to achieve power and the capacity to cause more harm and fear among innocents.

Diego Cardona T.