By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Source: Arab News
This week, one of the top stories in Iran’s state-controlled Persian outlets has been linked to the recent suicide attack on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the volatile southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchistan. According to Fars News Agency, 40 members of the IRGC were on the bus that was targeted on Feb. 13 and at least 27 were killed.
The timing of the attack is significant as it occurred during the month that the Islamic Republic has been celebrating the 40th anniversary of it coming to power.
But this attack is not an isolated incident — the number of attacks on the Iranian regime and its military bases appears to be increasing. On Jan. 29, at least four police officers were wounded by a handmade stun grenade and another explosive device, also in Sistan and Baluchistan Province.
In September 2018, during a military parade in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, gunmen opened fire, killing at least 25 people and wounding 55 more. This was considered one of the deadliest ever attacks against Iran’s military inside the country. The military parade was being carried out by members of the IRGC and its elite Quds Force.
In addition, in 2017, a pair of attacks shocked the capital of Tehran, where at least 12 people were killed at the Iranian Parliament and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s mausoleum, which is one of Iran’s most sacred places. In addition, IRGC chief Maj. Gen. Mohammed Ali Jafari admitted that several other attacks have been prevented. Addressing a large crowd at a funeral following the most recent attack, he stated: “Just in the past year, six or seven suicide attacks were neutralized, but they were able to carry out this one.”
In these situations, the Iranian regime immediately reacts by resorting to its modus operandi of blaming other state or non-state actors, without providing any evidence or proof. Iranian leaders generally point fingers at the US, the Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia, extremists, and Israel. This time, Jafari accused Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Both the moderates and hard-liners in Iran reiterate the same message announced by Khamenei and play the blame game.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
During last year’s deadly attack in Ahvaz, without providing any evidence, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei accused other countries in the region, particularly the Gulf Arab states. He said in a statement on his website: “This crime is a continuation of the plots of the regional states that are puppets of the US, and their goal is to create insecurity in our dear country.”
Both the moderates and hard-liners in Iran reiterate the same message announced by Khamenei and play the blame game. The reason for this strategy is to deflect attention from the regime’s support for terrorist and militia groups across the region.
By blaming other nations for the latest attack, the Iranian leaders are also attempting to deflect media attention away from the dire situation of the people in Sistan and Baluchistan. The majority of the population in the province is Sunni and they have long been neglected and discriminated against by the Iranian regime. They are plagued by severe socioeconomic deprivation and suffer from one of the highest rates of poverty in Iran.
In these scenarios, the regime also immediately vows to take revenge through hard power and military forces. Jafari threatened last week that: “The treacherous Saudi and UAE governments should know that Iran’s patience has ended and we will no longer stand your secret support for these anti-Islam criminals.”
It is ironic that the Iranian leaders accuse other countries of harboring radical forces, all while the regime is the top state sponsor of terrorism year after year. It cooperated with and harbored Al-Qaeda members and it arms, supports, trains and funds terror and militia groups across the region, including in Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Syria.
With the Iranian regime’s widespread military adventurism across the Middle East, its continuing support for militia groups that commit egregious human rights violations in foreign countries, and widespread suppression and oppression of its own citizens, it should not come as a shock to Tehran’s leaders that discontent toward the IRGC and the Quds Force is reaching a new level.
The ruling mullahs will more than likely attempt to buttress their unfounded arguments that extremist groups are the country’s rivals, or that Iran is fighting extremism and terrorism in the region. This is to assist the hard-liners in further justifying the deployment of more forces and intensifying their involvement in the region. As Jafari demanded more power for the military, he stated: “We will avenge the blood of our martyrs from the Saudi and UAE governments and ask the President (Hassan Rouhani) … to leave our hands free more than ever for reprisal operations.”
In a nutshell, as a top state sponsor of terrorism, the Iranian regime has no one to blame but itself for the recent attacks on the IRGC.
- Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh