Today, June 7th, 2017, after many years of the Iranian people leading peaceful and secure lives in the midst of a sea of war and terrorism in the Middle East, the horror of global terrorism against people of the world found its foothold in Iran. Several assailants attacked the Iranian parliament and the Imam Khomeini mausoleum in Tehran, resulting in several deaths and many injuries. ISIS has claimed responsibility for these attacks.
As New York Times (NYT) points out, “While terrorist attacks have become relatively commonplace in Europe and in most of the Middle East, Iran had remained comparatively safe.” Iran has succeeded in keeping the Iranian people safe even while supporting movements and nations of the Middle East both in their resistance to US and NATO interference and in fighting the attacks of terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS. Iran has been an ally and supporter of the Palestinian movement, Syria, Lebanon and the current Iraqi government’s fight against ISIS. It is a fact that whenever a country opens itself to the US, whether voluntarily (such as in Libya when Gadhafi opened relations with the US) or through US invasions (Afghanistan and Iraq), global terrorists follow.
Despite the US threats against Iran, declaring all options including military intervention as “on the table” as a way of forcing Iran to “change its behavior”, US success in covert operations has remained relatively limited. The NYT reported* that because of the lack of a US embassy in Iran, there is no diplomatic cover for US covert operations. Therefore, it follows that as long as there is no US embassy there, Iran is safer from US covert operations than it otherwise would be. I said as much in my article on the dangers of the Iran-US nuclear agreement in 2015, in which I warned of “Increased probability of covert US operations in Iran resulting in revolts and chaos as is happening in many Arab and/or Islamic countries where the US has had access to do so.”*
Although the US has not opened an embassy, the Rouhani government’s opening of Iran to all sorts of westerners and especially to Americans, including anti-Iran organizations, business people and news agencies including an Israeli news agency, with no security checks or lengthy visa process, has, in fact opened the door to all possible covert and/or terrorist operators. While the US government has increased impediments for Iranian travel to the US and included Iran in its ban on Islamic countries, Iran has removed all impediments to American travel to Iran. As far as embassies go, Britain opened its embassy immediately after the signing of the nuclear agreement and can very well act as a diplomatic cover.
In 2009, the US supported the “green movement” in the prevailing fashion of giving support to “color revolutions”, in an effort to defeat Ahmadinejad’s presidential run and bring about the success of the “moderate forces”. Ahmadinejad won, however, but their efforts continued and they were successful in 2013 with the election of Rouhani representing the faction that supported opening of Iran to US and global capital. This success had the intended outcome of leading to the signing of the nuclear agreement, which has weakened Iran’s defenses both militarily and in terms of domestic security.
Since the victory of Syria in defeating ISIS and the US supported rebels (the support for rebels in Syria is openly stated by the US government and media) with the help of Iran and Russia, the US seems to have decided to push for more direct actions against Syria and its allies. For the first time, after the victory of Syria in Aleppo in the fall of 2016, Obama sent US troops to Syria openly. This more open and aggressive policy has continued with the Trump presidency.
This more aggressive policy was diplomatically solidified in the recent trip by Trump to Saudi Arabia and Israel, especially in the conference by Trump with the heads of pro-US Arab countries. In that conference the biggest verbal attacks were against Iran where Trump and the Saudi king called Iran a leader of “global terrorism” and vowed to further isolate Iran. Right after the conference, in a diplomatic rift over Iran, Saudi Arabia decided to cut all economic and diplomatic ties with Qatar and pressured other gulf states to join in. The extreme measures against an important ally of the US (with two important US bases) are based on Qatar’s opposition to total isolation of Iran.
It is in this context that today’s attack on Iran takes place. I believe that my warning has come to pass. The opening of the Iranian borders to all types of possible infiltrators from the West and especially the US, has borne bitter fruit in the form of this terrorist attack. This opening has broken down the strong domestic security which had so far made it impossible for global terrorists to enter Iran under cover and carry on their horrible acts. This attack immediately follows the increased rhetoric and actual planning by the US and its gulf allies to damage Iran. And the opening of the borders by the current government provided the logistic opportunities for operatives from all Iran’s enemies, whether ISIS or US and Saudi Arabia. It is important to remember that ISIS, which is an extremist Wahhabi organization, has no domestic base or support in Iran. 90-95% of Iranians are Shia Muslims (CIA World Fact Book), who, irrespective of their political position, are opposed to ISIS, which considers Shias as infidels who should be beheaded. In fact ISIS has killed many Shias in areas where it has taken power. So, it can be inferred that all ISIS operations are from beyond Iran borders.
However, ISIS has some political motives that coincide with those of the terrorist Mojahedin Khalgh Organization (MKO). The US is also interested to use the MKO for covert military actions. The common interests of MKO, ISIS and the US is the destruction of the Iranian nation. The US removed MKO from its list of terrorist organizations in 2012 to make it easy to cooperate with them without being criticized for supporting a terrorist organization. The MKO representatives met with a Saudi prince in Paris last year. It is reasonable to conclude that the Saudis were recruiting MKO for their operations against Iran. Consequently there is a good chance that the perpetrators of these attacks were connected to the MKO. In addition, this type of terrorist attack in Iran has been characteristic of MKO, which carried out terrorist attacks in Iran before finding refuge in Saddam Hussein’ Iraq where they fought against Iran alongside Hussein’s army. There have been reports that one of the attackers took a cyanide pill to commit suicide, another characteristic of MKO. The Iranian government has reported that at least two of the attackers had traveled to ISIS-controlled areas in Iraq during last year.
This international terrorism inside Iran is the first step towards the creation of chaos and the destabilizing of the country. It also may force the Iranian government to divert attention and resources away from the protection of the borders, away from Iran’s aid to neighboring countries in their struggles, and toward fighting international terrorists within the country. Iran’s support for its neighbors such as Syria has been a bone of contention with the US and any reduction of such support is in the interest of the US.
In addition these events may force the Iranian government to impose western style** police and military security measures against its own people within the country whereby endangering the freedoms of both movement and privacy of the Iranian people. Today’s news photos from Iran in the NYT show Iranian police responding to a terrorist attack in sedan vehicles (not armored vehicles) and with no body armor but a simple bullet-proof vest. If international terrorism increases in Iran, this relaxed police presence is bound to change. Not only will the Iranian people be under physical attack but their peaceful way of life will be threatened.
Ebrahim Noroozi/Associated Press via New York Times
* Full quote from NYT: “Iran has been one of the hardest targets for the C.I.A. The agency has extremely limited access to the country — no American embassy is open to provide diplomatic cover — and Iran’s intelligence services have spent nearly four decades trying to counter American espionage and covert operations.”
** While I believe in diplomatic, economic and friendly relations among nations, it is inadvisable and dangerous for a country such as Iran to open its doors to a country such as US which proclaims Iran as an enemy and repeatedly states that it opposes the Iranian government and keeps all options against Iran on the table including military option. The US has been carrying on a low-level war against Iran including a proxy war against the Iranian people through Saddam Hussein (including the use of chemical weapons), downing an Iranian commercial flight killing all Iranians aboard, assassinations against Iranian nuclear scientists, and hacking of Iran’s nuclear energy facilities. The US has never apologized for those actions and has continuously undermined the Iranian people and nation. And subsequent to the signing of the nuclear agreement by the Rouhani government, the US government during the administration of Obama, refused to lift any meaningful sanctions against Iran and in fact, the US Congress imposed more sanctions on Iran and the Trump administration has ramped up the belligerent agenda against Iran.
*** The French response to terrorist attack was to impose one year of martial law. In the US the security measures in public places, including universities and libraries, have increasingly subjected Americans to extreme search and interference with their privacy. The same goes for Britain.