At least 12 were killed and at least 43 wounded in dual terrorist bombings at at Iranian parliament and the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran Wednesday. The attack on Parliament was made by a suicide bomber and three others disguised in women’s clothing. Yet another suicide bomber carried out the attack at the tomb of Iran’s revolutionary leader. While ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have blamed Saudi Arabia at a moment of increased tension in the region, and vowed vengeance on ISIS.
Iranian Brigadier General Hossein Salami stated, “Let there be no doubt that we will take revenge for today’s attacks in Tehran, on terrorists, their affiliates and their supporters.”
Saudi Arabia, which is predominantly Sunni, was one of four countries, including United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain who cut diplomatic ties with Qatar on Monday over its allegiance to Iran and supposed ties to extremist groups. One concern is that Iran, which is largely Shi’ite, will have greater political and religious influence if it fills the void left by ISIS in countries throughout the Middle East, or sways other countries susceptible to influence.
Iran has recently been defying U.S. sanctions and shifting the balance of power in the Middle East while also aligning itself with Russia. Its relationship with Saudi Arabia has been especially bad since the execution of a Shi’ite cleric in January. Meanwhile, ISIS has fallen back in Syria, leaving the U.S. and Iran competing over who will fill the void. Similar power struggles between the West and Middle East, as well as been Sunni and Shi’ite factions, are also playing out in Yemen and Iraq as ISIS loses its foothold.
The Revolutionary Guards were quick to pin the attack on not only Saudi Arabia, but to make reference to President Donald Trump, too. “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,” they said in a statement. President Trump, for his part, also wanted credit for Saudi Arabia’s strong stance on Qatar.
“The fact that Islamic State has claimed responsibility proves that they were involved in the brutal attack,” noted the Guards in their statement. The Islamic State plays politics not only in the attacks it carries out but in which it claims. For example, ISIS might have been involved in a truck bombing of the highly secured Green Zone in Kabul, Afghanistan at the end of May.
The Taliban denied involvement, but ISIS didn’t release a statement either way, though the bombing bore some of their hallmarks. If the Islamic State was involved, it might have stayed silent because of the large number of civilian casualties, many of them women and children. A rare attack in a major Iranian city on politically and symbolically significant targets, on the other hand, has far more cachet for the Islamic State.
Reuters also points out that the attack comes at a time of tension between the recently re-elected President Hassan Rouhani and other factions within Iran, including the Revolutionary Guards. The later’s strong condemnation of the attack and attempts to link it to Saudi Arabia and the U.S. is no doubt meant to delineate the difference between the Guards’ stance and Rouhani’s. It is also twelve days into the holy month of Ramadan, a time when some jihadists believe that attacks carried out in the name of Islam will earn increased spiritual awards.