A total of six assailants armed with AK47 rifles and explosive vests launched two simultaneous attacks in Tehran targeting two heavily secured sites in the Iranian capital Wednesday morning. The unexpected twin assault left 17 killed and dozens more wounded in Iran’s parliament and the mausoleum of former Iranian regime leader Ruhollah Khomeini located south of the capital.
“Islamic State claimed responsibility and released a video purporting to show gunmen inside the parliament building and one body, apparently dead, on the floor,” according to Reuters in a wire from inside Iran.
The attackers, disguised as women, apparently were able to find their way in the parliament through the main entrance, the semi-official Tasnim news agency cited Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Hossein Zolfaghari. Four hours into the entire rampage Iranian state media reported the incident over with all six assailants dead.
Condemnations cross the board
As ISIS claimed to have staged its first ever attack in Iran, the international community condemned this heinous act of terrorism. Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, condemned the loss of innocent lives.
“ISIS’s conduct clearly benefits the Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader Khamenei, who wholeheartedly welcomes it as an opportunity to overcome his regime’s regional and international impasse and isolation. The founder and the number one state sponsor of terror is thus trying to switch the place of murderer and the victim and portray the central banker of terrorism as a victim,” Rajavi added.
“To uproot terrorism in the region:
– The IRGC must be designated as a terrorist entity.
– The IRGC and paramilitary proxies of the Khamenei caliphate must be removed from Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.
– The Organization of Islamic Cooperation must expel the mullahs’ regime and recognize the Iranian Resistance for ending religious fascism.”
However, there are also questions about the suspicious nature of this entire attack, especially considering the heavily fortified status of the two sites. One of the wounded individuals said in an interview people cannot bring even a pen into the parliament without passing through security.
There are also widespread signs seen in social media users inside Iran expressing uncertainty over ISIS being behind the attack.
There seems to be a general lack of trust on official sources. This is not without precedent.
Iran is also known to resort to such brutal tactics to tarnish the image of its opposition. In 1994 a staged bombing of the Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad, northeast Iran, was staged by Iranian intelligence, leaving 25 dead and more than 300 injured. Iranian authorities immediately claimed of arresting the culprit and he confessed that he was a member of the opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). The PMOI, however, condemned the attack. Some years later it was publicly acknowledged that the bombing of Imam Reza’s shrine, similar to the murder of three Christian priests, also been blamed on the PMOI/MEK, had been planned and carried out by the Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS) to tarnish the image of the group.
Paving the path
It is expected that authorities shall certainly use this incident to increase the level domestic suppression.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, in his first remarks following the attacks, specifically said, “When the central apparatus has such disorders, then you are weapons free.” Khamenei also used the term “soft war officers,” in a reference to principalists and hardcore elements of the Revolutionary Guards Basij paramilitary units, according to the BBC Farsi.
Iranian officials will take advantage of such a turn of events to justify their escalating intervention in Iraq, Syria and Yemen and counter growing popular opposition to its meddling in other states, while the country is in deep economic crisis and poverty is widespread. It is also feared that this incident may be used by Tehran to fuel sectarian wars across the region. Iran is known to support the Shiite Hashid al-Sha’bi in Iraq against ISIS and the minority Sunni community; Shiite Houthis to oust the legitimate government of Yemen and threaten its regional archrival Saudi Arabia; and Shiite militias from Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to prop up the Assad regime against Syrian opposition forces and innocent people under the pretext of fighting ISIS.
Iran has blamed not only ISIS but also the United Sates and Saudi Arabia for the terror attack in Tehran. This is the Iranian regime in practice preparing the grounds for terrorist attacks across the Middle East against its rivals. However, this is the topic of an entire different discussion in the future.
A dangerous outcome of this incident would be the provision of ample opportunity to the Revolutionary Guards and Quds Force to escalate their regional meddling and demand more foothold.
Rest assured the Iranian regime will seek to capitalize this turn of events to boost the very pillars of its establishment, especially after the crisis-riddled presidential election where Khamenei failed to have his preferred candidate, conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi, replace the incumbent Hassan Rouhani.
The mullahs in Tehran will no doubt increase their nationwide crackdown measures through the police and intelligence apparatus, boost their meddling through proxy forces across the region and press the gas pedal on the ballistic missile program.