Last Wednesday, two incidents involving gunmen took place in the Iranian capital, Tehran. In the first incident, gunmen reportedly used machine guns to attack the heavily guarded mausoleum of Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, with one of the attackers then blowing himself up with an explosive belt, wounding a number of regime security personnel. In the second incident, gunmen reportedly stormed the equally heavily-guarded Iranian parliament, occupying two of its upper floors and opening fire indiscriminately on security personnel and civilians. Hussein Zulfiqar, Iran’s Deputy Interior Minister, subsequently announced that 13 people had been killed in the two attacks and 43 more injured.
These events revealed many of the weaknesses in the Iranian interior and the structure of the ruling regime, as seen in the following points:
1. The militants managed to easily storm the parliament, whose security personnel are themselves heavily armed, with apparent ease. During a visit by Iran’s health minister and a camera crew to the hospital where one of the bystanders shot by the militants was recovering, the injured man asked the minister, “How is it reasonable for gunmen to enter the legislative body in the district of Baharistan with weapons of this size? There were no police, no security forces; all those who were there killed, they were all killed in front of my eyes!” This statement, along with inconsistencies in the regime’s account of the incident, has led to some skepticism amongst observers in Iran, who know that the regime, concerned with increasing unrest amongst Iran’s long-oppressed minorities, particularly those in the Kurdish and Balochi border regions, is seeking a scapegoat to justify further repression; as a result, some people are asking whether the regime orchestrated the armed attack as a false flag operation. It’s possible that the regime, which has to date failed to launch any large-scale organized operations against the armed separatist movements amongst Iran’s minorities, may be attempting to slander these groups as ISIS in order to both gain international sympathy for supposedly being a victim of terrorism and to provide a pretext for major military operations against the country’s ethnic minorities, particularly those around Iran’s eastern and western borders. Certainly, this interpretation of the situation is supported by video footage which spread across social media earlier this week showing massive columns of regime tanks and military vehicles carrying missile launchers heading towards Iran’s border with Pakistan.
2. The footage from the attacks on the parliament showed the gunmen appearing quite casually at the windows of the building and shooting at bystanders in the area before going back inside, apparently with no concern at the possibility of being shot themselves. Given that the regime is a military dictatorship with no shortage of guns and heavy artillery, many Iranians find it hard to believe that there would have been no troops or marksmen targeting any gunmen, more particularly in the parliament building. The footage also shows an armed member of the regime’s security forces at the building hiding behind the civilians he is supposedly meant to protect without even attempting to confront the gunman, let alone to defend the people as he’s supposed to.
3. The video footage from the scene shown on Iranian TV shows hand-to-hand fighting between members of the regime’s Internal Security Forces and troops from its Revolutionary Guards Corps sent to resolve the situation whilst both groups are supposedly making efforts to deal with the chaotic scenes following the gunmen’ takeover of the parliament building and Khomeini’s mausoleum.
From the footage, it seems that both groups – the security forces and the IRGC troops – wish to deal with the situation in their own way; these scenes are a microcosm of the political tensions playing out within the regime, with the government institutions such as the security forces associated with the interior ministry and president, while the IRGC are more closely affiliated with the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. This conflict, which is an open secret in Iran but is rarely so clearly seen in public, reveals the lack of coordination and harmony and the competitiveness between the regime’s different arms.
4. Following the attacks, the regime’s different arms issued conflicting statements, with the IRGC’s Deputy Commander, Brigadier General Hussein Salami, immediately accusing Saudi Arabia of being behind the armed operation, whilst Mahmoud Alavi, the Iranian intelligence minister stated that it was still too early to confirm any party’s involvement in the incident.
Meanwhile, individuals described by Iranian media as “Iranian experts on the Arabic language” analyzed the recording supposedly issued by an ISIS spokesperson taking responsibility for the attacks, with these self-described experts asserting that this individual and the gunmen, who were heard during the attacks, were clearly of North African origin since they spoke with Tunisian and Libyan accents. These experts apparently worked this out by analyzing the gunmen’ dialect and pronunciation of phrases such as the Arabic term for “Do you think?” in the recording. These assertions seem to directly contradict the regime’s subsequent claims that the gunmen who were killed were all of Iranian nationality and origin.
5. Iranian media published photographs of one of the militants killed by Iranian security forces, which showed his body in various different positions; in one picture, the same individual was shown with his shoes on; in another, his shoes had been taken off and placed next to his body. In some photos, the same individual’s body was shown as being in a huddled pose on his side with his knees pulled up to his body, whilst in others, his arms and legs were stretched out flat. In some photos, his trousers were torn, in others the same trousers were intact. These multiple discrepancies cast further doubt on the regime’s version of events.
6. Another reason for skepticism towards the regime’s account of the attacks is that ISIS, which usually waits for some hours after it has concluded its attacks to claim responsibility, did so in this case while the armed attack was still underway.
7. Iranian officials have said previously that members of the ISIS terror group would not dare to approach the Iranian border, let alone cross it and that the Iranian people of all sects cannot be influenced by terrorist ideology. After this incident, if we ignore the discrepancies and accept the regime’s claims that the attacks were in fact carried out by ISIS attackers from Iran, this proves that the regime’s claims that the Iranian people are immune to terrorist ideology are, in fact, false, and that the regime is not the anti-terror force, which it claims to be.
More importantly, of course, it is widely known and acknowledged by many Western intelligence agencies that the Iranian regime has longstanding ties to Al Qaeda, sheltering many of the group’s senior members, including its creator Osama Bin Laden, as well as ISIS’ founder, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Iran’s regime has consistently been identified by the CIA and other Western intelligence agencies as the world’s foremost state sponsor of terror. This cynical exploitation of terror as a political tool, which the regime deploys whenever it feels that the West may be intensifying pressure on Tehran’s leadership, mean that the regime’s claims to be the victims, rather than the perpetrators of terror, should be treated with the utmost skepticism.
A noteworthy moment from the media coverage of the gunmen’ stand-off with security forces came when one of the gunmen shouted, “Do you think we’re going to leave?” This prompted many to ask what the gunman meant by this statement, with some suggesting that the regime may have decided to cut its ties with the group, prompting some of its members to retaliate in a lethal fashion.
In conclusion, the threat of terrorism is a global dilemma, which requires collective efforts to eradicate. In order to do so, terror sponsors, financiers, and perpetrators, of all sects, whether state or non-state actors, must be clearly and accurately defined and jointly confronted. Unless and until this is achieved, the danger posed by the cancer of terror will continue to threaten the world.
Opinions in this article reflect the writer’s point of view, not necessarily the view of The Arabain GCIS