The leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has vowed “revenge” on the U.S. over the recent Ahvaz terror attack. According to Al-Jazeera, the attack took place during the annual military parade held in Ahvaz. It killed 29 people and injured 70 more, with both military personnel and civilians among the casualties. The attack has been blamed on Iran’s Arab separatist groups, organisations which Iranian officials claim are supported by the U.S.
On Monday the 24th of September, thousands of Iranians gathered at the Mosque to mourn the lives lost the previous Saturday. According to CBS the Revolutionary Guard’s acting commander General Hossein Salami vowed revenge against the attack’s perpetrators and what he called the “triangle” of Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States. “You are responsible for these actions; you will face the repercussions,” the general said, going on to state that, “We warn all of those behind the story, we will take revenge.”
The U.S. condemned the attack, with its U.N. envoy saying it took place because Rouhani has “oppressed his people for a long time.” Mostafa Koshcheshm, a Tehran-based political commentator and journalist, told Al Jazeera that the al-Ahvaziya movement had been “nurtured, supported, and trained by Saudi Arabia…It’s been operating for the past several years. They are looking to cut off and separate Iran’s energy-rich province of Khuzestan from Iran, which is exactly what Saddam Hussein wanted to do.”
President Hassan Rouhani vowed to deliver a “crushing response”, while Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei linked the attack with the U.S. and its “allies in the region.” The country’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said “regional terror sponsors” were responsible for the attack, adding he held “their U.S. masters accountable.” Before leaving the U.N. General Assembly in New York, President Rouhani added, “All of those small mercenary countries that we see in this region are backed by America. It is Americans who instigate them and provide them with necessary means to commit these crimes.”
According to Al-Jazeera, while Iranian officials have not directly named the Gulf states, their comments are believed to be directed at Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and Israel, which all have hostile relations with Iran and have promised to counter its influence in the region.
As noted in the New York Times, Saudi Arabia and U.A.E. have clashed with Iran over Yemen, Qatar and Syria. The attack has escalated tensions between Iran and the Persian Gulf states and their American allies. In addition, the Trump Administration has taken a rough stance against Iran, withdrawing from the nuclear agreement and imposing sanctions that have damaged Iran’s already unstable economy.
Tensions within the Middle East have been high, and although ethnic divisions within state borders have played a role, many feel that the involvement of foreign powers has been the greatest source of unrest. The relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia has been particularly troubled as they both aim to be the greatest power in the Middle East. As it is not unprecedented for countries to sponsor terrorist organizations or rally support to overthrow a regime, there may be some justification to attempts by Iranian officials to blame Saudi Arabia for the terror attack. They have also aimed criticism at the U.S. by arguing that it is responsible for instigating hostilities and providing Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E with the means necessary to commit these crimes.
Iran has now received significant backlash from Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Israel, and the US due to their increasing influence. According to CNN, the Shia theocracy has become more closely ingrained in Iraq’s institutions and more entrenched in Syria. Israel’s leaders have come to consider Iran an existential threat, a view increased by the fact that a group many feel is Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, is gaining strength just over Israel’s border in Lebanon. On Thursday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah capped 10 days of Shia celebrations with a speech announcing that he now possesses “precision missiles” capable of accurate strikes deep inside Israel.
According to Al-Jazeera report, US and Saudi officials have expressed strong public support for groups that Iran considers terrorist organizations. They’ve also openly called for the destabilization of the Iranian government. “I would say the number one [national security threat to Iran] is the United States,” said Hamed Mousavi, a professor of political science at Tehran university. “The Americans have a very powerful army, they have a history of attacking countries in the Middle East and I think that is understood very well in Iranian military circles [that] the major national security threat to Iran is the United States.” Mousavi also argued that President Donald Trump’s administration has been exerting immense psychological pressure on Iran through American sanctions and what Iranian leaders have called “economic warfare.” Whereas talking to previous American administrations was possible, Mousavi said, Iran’s elite see Trump’s demands as extreme and illogical and talks have failed to reach conclusive or reliable agreements.
It is clear that there needs to be a more humane way to deal with unwanted regimes; supporting terrorist attacks, however, is not it. Throughout history we have seen that meddling within state affairs has rarely ever produced the desired outcome as more often than not it leads to greater hostility and violent clashes between groups. The evidence so far suggests that neither U.S. sanctions on Iran nor the provision of resources to insurgent groups will yield the outcomes that the U.S. or Saudi Arabia might have in mind. Instead there needs to be talks and negotiations between the parties effected in order to put an end to the violence and killings. Coercion and violence will only lead to retaliation and revenge wars which will harm civilians in those countries.
As long as the U.S. and Saudi Arabia continue to aggressively influence Iran’s domestic affairs, it seems inevitable that there will be escalating violence. Although the death of the military personnel and the civilian bystanders during the military parade is horrendous and cannot be ignored, responding with violence will only make it worse and hurt more innocent civilians.
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