News & Politics

Daesh (ISIS) Claims Attacks in Tehran

By Hossein Zohrehvand - CC BY 4.0, via Wikipedia

It appears we’re back to “can’t both of them lose?”

This morning, the Iranian parliament and the shrine at the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini were attacked.

The news is still jumbled, but it appears so far that these were simultaneous attacks. Firstpost is liveblogging the situation and reports a third attack on a metro station:

Two attackers are dead, one was captured alive.

The exploding Daeshi at the ayatollah’s shrine was a woman.

And (per Reuters) the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are blaming Saudi Arabia.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards say Saudi Arabia was behind twin attacks in Tehran on Wednesday that killed at least 12 people and injured 43, a statement published by the Guards said.

“This terrorist attack happened only a week after the meeting between the U.S. president (Donald Trump) and the (Saudi) backward leaders who support terrorists. The fact that Islamic State has claimed responsibility proves that they were involved in the brutal attack,” said the statement, published by Iranian media.

The attacks were the first claimed by the hardline Sunni Muslim militant group in the tightly controlled Shi’ite Muslim Iran.

Okay, so what can we make of this?

As I said, my first thought is “can’t they both lose?” The Iranian government is complaining about terrorism on their soil, and my reaction to that is “turnabout is fair play.” The many dead in Hezbollah terrorist attacks, including nearly 300 in Lebanon in 1983, are getting at least a little revenge.

But now, let’s seriously talk about this. Daesh is a Salafist Sunni group, and of course, Iran is Shi’a, so from one point of view, this is just another operation in the millennium-long fight between the Sunni and Shi’a branches of Islam. While more immediate politics are probably, well, more immediate, I don’t think we can forget that this is at heart a multi-generation sectarian war.

Immediately, it comes a week after President Trump and 50-odd leaders of Sunni nations, including Saudi Arabia of course, met and agreed to fight extremism and Iran’s support of terrorism.

There are a lot of ways we could read this. One would be that Saudi Arabia directed the ISIS attack. I’m not sure I believe this — although my deep knowledge of the Middle East comes from reading newspapers and a couple books, so don’t take this as deep knowledge — anyway, I’m not sure I believe it because I don’t frankly think any of this is that organized. Everything I’ve read suggests that the various Saudi members of the aristocracy consider themselves pretty independent actors, willing to support things out of their own deep pockets.

Similarly, it doesn’t seem like Daesh has strong centralized command and control either. This makes perfect sense for a guerilla organization organized as cells. (One of the best explanations of this I know is actually in Robert Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.)

Because of this, I suspect trying to understand this as a step in an organized campaign is probably a mistake. What I do think it means is that the Sunni nations with which Trump met now feel enough of a mutual threat to take the dispute to Iran directly.

If so, it means this won’t be the last attack in Iran itself.