The twin attacks carried out in Iran’s parliament and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini on Wednesday are a powerful reminder that no nation on the planet can consider itself immune to the ravages of terrorism. Not since the early years of the 1979 revolution has the Iranian capital witnessed the kind of terrorist violence as it did on the morning of June 7. Until then Tehran had lived in a bubble of relative security and safety — in stark contrast to its volatile neighbour Iraq and its arch-foe in the region, Saudi Arabia, which has seen multiple attacks in different cities and towns. This is not to suggest that Iran has never been a target of terrorism. Parts of Iran, especially in the south, have routinely been hit by militant groups like Jundollah and Jaish-ul Adl.
Even though Iran has played a significant role in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, it has managed to ward off the threat of any serious retaliatory action by the group on its home soil for long. Its near-perfect record against IS and al Qaeda would have still stood had it not been for the Tehran attacks. The IS has already claimed responsibility for the attacks which, if true, would represent a major coup against its traditional foe and the first time that the extremist group has been able to get past the defences of the Iranian security services.
The assault on parliament was supposedly undertaken by gunmen disguised as women, one or more of whom might have detonated a suicide vest. Another suicide attacker blew himself up on the premises of Khomeini’s mausoleum. Out of the dozen or so fatalities in the attacks, it wasn’t clear whether the official death toll included the terrorists or not. The attacks have come at a terrible time when the whole Gulf region is aflame in tensions, most recently over Qatar. The shocking rift among GCC states and Iran’s role in Syria has created an extremely tricky situation for all.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 8th, 2017.