Attackers dressed in military fatigues and allegedly
supporters of an Arab separatist group waded into a military parade by the
Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps in the Iranian city of Ahvaz spraying
bullets in a brazen public attack killing dozens captured on live television
and social media.
from the attack on the regime’s vaunted IRGC elite sprawled helplessly on
the ground and in some cases even running away or hiding in a drainage ditch
contributed to an image contrary to what the mullahs have carefully sought to
cultivate of military might.
It was the deadliest terrorist attack within Iran since an
assault on Iran’s parliament in 2017 that ISIS claimed credit for. While this
attack was claimed by ISIS and little-known group calling itself the Ahvaz
National Resistance, the Iranian regime instead sought to blame the U.S., Saudi
Arabia and the Gulf States.
Top mullah Ali Khamenei himself blamed
the Arab countries in the Persian Gulf and the U.S., while other Iranian
officials also claimed Israel was behind the attack.
Iranian officials provided no evidence that the countries
they blamed were behind the attack. The U.S. and the Emirates issued statements
dismissing the accusation.
Predictably the accusations came with promises of a heavy
response from the IRGC, but it’s is doubtful it could do much since direct
military action against the U.S. or Saudi Arabia would undoubtedly only provide
them with the provocation necessary to go after Iranian military assets in
Syria and Iraq.
Unlike last year’s attack on parliament, Iranian officials
sought to downplay the terrorism angle with this attack and instead focused on
its regional enemies. The difference in accusations was important since it
reflected the changing political realities inside Iran.
Domestic protests and widespread civil unrest have plagued
the mullahs since late last year and have only continued through 2018 as
Iranians rebel at the poor economy, dimmed employment, death spiral in currency
valuations and rampant corruption and incompetence within the government.
That domestic unrest has forced the mullahs to look for
scapegoats which is why it has increasingly focused on perceived enemies abroad
including Iranian dissident groups around the world; most notably its longtime
nemesis the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK).
In keeping with the central messaging from Tehran, the Iran
lobby weighed in by raising the specter of war between the U.S. and Iran with
this incident a potential catalyst.
“It is impossible to discount the possibility that this
attack was deliberately timed and targeted to prompt an escalatory response
from Iran that triggers a broader war with the United States. American
officials spent this week issuing veiled threats against Iran. American ally
Saudi Arabia has also, dangerously, warned that it would take the fight inside
Iran. Moreover, National Security Advisor John Bolton last year called for
assistance to Iranian separatist groups, including Khuzestan Arabs who claimed
credit for today’s attack,” read
a statement by the National Iranian American Council, a leading cheerleader
for the Iranian regime.
Trita Parsi, the NIAC’s founder, also chimed in with an editorial
in Middle East Eye in which he claimed this attack could similarly trigger
a war with the U.S.
“Unlike previous terror attacks, this one may spark a much
larger regional conflagration – involving not just regional rivals Saudi Arabia
and Iran, but also the United States. In fact, it may have been designed to
trigger just that,” Parsi writes.
Parsi goes on to echo, almost verbatim, the charges made by
Iranian officials in claiming how Saudi and American belligerence was fueling
the violence against Iran.
The effort by the Iran lobby to deflect any potential
homegrown terrorism reflects the need by the regime to shift any attention from
the internal problems confronting it and instead attempt to turn Iranian ire
outwards lest it focus on the clerics rule and call for regime change.
The shift also explains Tehran’s stepped-up efforts to mount
military strikes against its enemies abroad such as Iranian Kurdish fighters in
Iraq and Iranian dissident groups meeting in Paris in an attempted bombing.
All this stepped-up aggression by Tehran demonstrates the
regime’s increasingly desperate efforts to distract an unhappy population over
its own growing domestic troubles.
Krishnadev Calamur, a
staff writer at The Atlantic, pointed out the irony of Iran blaming the
U.S. for the attacks.
“The problem with Iran accusing the U.S. of orchestrating
the latest attack is that it distracts from Iran’s own difficulties protecting
itself from such incidents one year after a similar attack. What’s even more
striking is that this is the second attack on a well-protected area. This says
as much about Iran’s ability to put in place security measures that prevent
high-profile attacks as it does ISIS’s ability to carry them out,” he writes.
“The U.S. response, both then and now, appears to suggest
that Iran’s problematic domestic and foreign policies are to blame for
terrorist attacks—ironically, a rationale lifted straight from the playbook of
those who blame American foreign policy for the various attacks that have been
carried out on U.S. soil since 2001, including the most recent ones claimed by
ISIS,” he adds.
The senior commander
of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, Brig. Gen. Esmayeel Kossari, said the
reactions in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – along with
“documents” that he said had been found in Iraq and Syria — were
proof that “the Americans gave orders to Riyadh and supported this
attack.” He was quoted by Iran’s FARS news agency.
military officers also warned that Iran will seek revenge, according to National Public Radio.
“We promise to
show an annihilating and destructive response which makes them (the culprits)
regret their deeds and no one will be able to kill our children in this
territory, and this will not be the end of the story and we warn everyone that
we will take revenge,” said Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, the Revolutionary
Guard’s lieutenant commander, according to FARS.
It seems the only party talking about raining death and
destruction on people is the Iranian regime.