Thursday, June 8, 2017

Eye on Iran: Trump Suggests Iran Shares Some Blame For Extremist Attacks

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President Donald Trump is suggesting that Iran shares some of the blame for twin attacks by extremists on its parliament and a shrine, insisting that those who sponsor terrorism "risk falling victim to the evil they promote." Hours after conciliatory comments from his State Department, the president on Wednesday offered a seemingly contradictory statement, providing solace to the victims while delivering a broadside against Tehran. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for attacks on Iran's parliament and the tomb of its revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The assaults killed at least 12 people and wounded more than 40. "We grieve and pray for the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks in Iran, and for the Iranian people, who are going through such challenging times," Trump said. "We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote."

The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to advance a bill that would impose new sanctions on Iran, the same day at least 12 people were killed in attacks in Tehran, as lawmakers planned to add a package of sanctions on Russia to the measure. The vote was 92-7 on a procedural motion to end debate on the Iran sanctions bill, clearing the way for a vote later on passage of the legislation. Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat, said most members of his party supported the Iran bill, but that they would only agree to let it go ahead because they expected it would be amended to include "a strong package" of new sanctions on Russia as well. Many lawmakers have been clamoring for new sanctions on Russia over its alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region and support for Syria's government in that country's six-year-long civil war.

Islamic State members who carried out unprecedented attacks that killed 17 people in Tehran were recruited from within Iran, an Iranian official said Thursday, as an investigation into the incidents intensified. "Those individuals who carried out the attacks on Wednesday in Tehran had joined Islamic State from different places inside Iran," Reza Seifollahi, deputy secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, said on state television. He didn't specify whether the attackers were Iranian nationals. Iranian authorities haven't released their identities but the Intelligence Ministry published grisly photos purporting to be of five attackers' bodies, along with their first names. The twin attacks took place at Iran's parliament in Tehran and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic's founding figure, which lies south of the city. They were the first Islamic State-claimed attacks inside Iran, bringing the regional battle against the Sunni Muslim extremist group to the heart of Shiite Iran.


President Trump has for weeks pressed disparate forces throughout the Middle East to band together with Saudi Arabia to fight terrorism and punish Iran, long viewed by hawks inside his administration as the main source of instability and terrorism in the region. But in his push to empower the Saudis, Trump may have unleashed problems, including increased sectarianism and regional strife, that are as bad as the one he was trying to fix, inflaming tensions that could imperil the battle against the Islamic State and other critical U.S. priorities. "That's the fundamental problem in the Middle East," said Phil Gordon, a former official in the Obama White House who focused on the region. "Solving one problem in the region inevitably exacerbates others and can easily lead to escalation."

Iran's foreign minister on Thursday rejected Donald Trump's condolences for deadly attacks in Tehran, calling the U.S. president's words repugnant. Trump had said he prayed for the victims of Wednesday's attacks that were claimed by Islamic State, but added that "states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote." Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on his Twitter account: "Repugnant White House statement .... Iranian people reject such U.S. claims of friendship." Suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the Iranian parliament and Ayatollah Khomeini's mausoleum in Tehran, killing at least 13 people in an unprecedented assault that Iran's Revolutionary Guards blamed on regional rival Saudi Arabia. Islamic State claimed responsibility and threatened more attacks against Iran's majority Shi'ite population, seen by the hardline Sunni militants as heretics. Saudi Arabia said it was not involved.


Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Wednesday close discussions were needed with Turkey on worrying developments in the region, Turkish state broadcaster TRT and other channels reported. Zarif was speaking to reporters on arriving at a hotel in the Turkish capital for talks with President Tayyip Erdogan amid efforts to defuse the Qatar crisis -- prompted on Monday when the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and others severed diplomatic ties with it over alleged support for Islamist groups and Iran.

Bahrain's foreign minister, keeping up the pressure on Qatar in a deepening Arab row, reiterated on Thursday a demand that Doha distance itself from Iran and stop support for "terrorist organizations". Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and several other countries severed relations with Doha on Monday, accusing it of supporting Islamist militants and their arch-foe Iran - charges Qatar says are baseless. In an interview published by Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa said conditions posed by the four countries for a resolution of the crisis were "crystal clear".

More moves against Qatar, including further curbs on business, remain on the table in a row with Arab neighbors, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) said on Wednesday, warning against allowing its Gulf adversary Iran to exploit the unprecedented rift. In a Reuters interview, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said it would be very complex to disentangle the "very diverse" business ties between Qatar and its neighbors but suggested this might be necessary. "You cannot rule out further measures," he said. "We hope that cooler heads will prevail, that wiser heads will prevail and we will not get to that," he said. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain severed diplomatic relations with Qatar in a coordinated move on Monday, accusing it of support for Islamist militants and Iran. Qatar strongly denies supporting terrorism, and on Tuesday called for talks to settle the dispute.


Iran said on Thursday that gunmen and bombers who attacked Tehran were Iranian members of Islamic State who had fought in the militants' strongholds in Syria and Iraq - deepening the regional ramifications of the assaults. The attackers raided Iran's parliament and Ayatollah Khomeini's mausoleum on Wednesday morning, in a rare strike at the heart of the Islamic Republic. Authorities said the death count had risen to 17 and scores were wounded. Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards have also said regional rival Saudi Arabia was involved, further fuelling tensions between Sunni Muslim power Riyadh and Shi'ite power Tehran as they vie for influence in the Gulf. Saudi Arabia dismissed the accusation. Iran's intelligence ministry said on Thursday five of the attackers who died in the assault had been identified as Iranians who had joined the hardline Sunni Muslim militants of Islamic State on its main battlegrounds in Iraq and Syria.

Islamic State said in a statement on Wednesday that five of its fighters were responsible for a raid on Iran's parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Khomeini, using assault rifles, grenades, and suicide vests, and killing and injuring almost 60 people before dying. The Sunni militant group also threatened Iran's majority Shi'ite population with more attacks, saying "the caliphate will not miss a chance to spill their blood" until Sharia law is implemented.


If the Islamic State did carry out the twin terrorist attacks on Wednesday in Iran, as the militant group claims, it struck at an opportune time to further the cause of chaos. Iran rushed to blame Saudi Arabia, its chief rival in a contest for power playing out in proxy wars in at least two other countries in the region, Syria and Yemen. Saudi Arabia, however, seemed too preoccupied to respond. Its state-run news media was dominated by criticism of its neighbor and ostensible ally, Qatar, after the Saudis and other Arab allies cut off ties to Qatar as part of a different struggle for power within the Persian Gulf. The attacks in Tehran threatened to escalate the broader regional conflict between the two heavyweight powers, Iran and Saudi Arabia, at a time when the Western-allied gulf bloc is divided against itself.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards say Saudi Arabia supported ISIS in the deadly twin attacks in Tehran on Wednesday, an accusation likely to infuriate the Saudi kingdom amid high tensions in the region. At least 12 people were killed when six attackers mounted simultaneous gun and suicide bomb assaults on Iran's Parliament building and the tomb of the republic's revolutionary founder, in one of the most audacious assaults to hit Tehran in decades. The targets were highly symbolic. Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia and Shiite-majority Iran have had strained relations throughout their history and have been involved in a sectarian feud for more than 1,000 years. The two rivals are on opposite sides of the violent conflicts in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, and given the tensions, Iran's implication about the attack isn't a great shock.


The growing rift within the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Saudi-led regional alliance, the isolation of Qatar and Wednesday's terror attacks in Iran represent a witches' brew of trouble for US policy in the Gulf and the attainment of the Trump administration's goals in the region. It's too early to predict to what extent, if at all, these events will reshape Arab politics or power balances. But here are the key takeaways: If ISIS' claim of responsibility is true, it would mark its first major operation within Iran. Before Wednesday morning's mayhem in the Iranian Parliament and in the mausoleum housing the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founding father of Iran's Islamic Revolution, Tehran routinely branded itself as an island of stability in an otherwise tumultuous neighborhood. With destabilization of regional bulwarks after the Arab Spring -- Iraq, Syria and Yemen -- Iran positioned itself as an Islamic heavyweight not to be ignored.

Islamic State claimed credit for a coordinated attack on Iranian government targets Wednesday morning that killed at least 12 people. We're reminded of the warning about those who live by the sword. Discussion of security vulnerabilities is taboo in the Islamic Republic, and the details are likely to remain murky. Several assailants infiltrated the Majlis, Iran's Parliament, and opened fire before security forces neutralized them. A suicide bomber also struck outside the mausoleum of regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini. No act of terrorism is justified, including these, but the irony is hard to miss. Khomeini's followers pioneered many of the tactics deployed by today's Islamists, Sunni and Shiite. These range from hostage-taking as statecraft, to behemoth suicide bombs like the one that killed 241 U.S. service members in Beirut in 1983, to the Iranian-made improvised explosive devices that wreaked havoc on American forces in Iraq after 2003, to fatwas issued against blasphemous novelists and cartoonists.

After years of waiting and wanting to strike Iran, the Islamic State claims to have finally done so. According to recent news reports, four militants went on a shooting spree in Iran's parliament, while other operatives detonated a bomb inside the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, killing 12 people. If the Islamic State indeed ordered the attacks, it has struck at the temporal and spiritual heart of the Iranian revolutionary government The Islamic State has aimed to strike Iran since at least 2007, when it openly threatened to attack the country for supporting the Shiite-dominated government in Iraq. It regards Persian Shiites as apostate traitors who have sold out the Sunni Arabs to Israel and the United States. This determination to strike Iran marked a key difference with al Qaeda, which long held off attacking the Islamic Republic in order to use it as a rear base and financial hub.

Earlier today, gunmen attacked the Iranian Parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran, Iran, killing at least 12 people and wounding many others. Don't be deceived by the relatively low casualty figures -- this attack is a big deal. The Iranian Parliament is Iran's valued pretense to Islamic democracy. And Khomeini is the father of the Iranian revolution. He made Iran what it is today. This is was a strike at the heart of the Shia-rooted Islamic Republic. A familiar organization appears to be responsible. The Islamic State has published videos online which show its operatives running around the Parliament, so its claim to responsibility appears genuine. The nature of the assault also lends credibility to ISIS responsibility. After all, ISIS detests Shiites as heretics, specifically the sect's veneration of martyrs and religious leaders. They believe that visual homage to these individuals is an affront to Allah's singular glory. And this action serves two further purposes for ISIS.

There is only one acceptable response to Wednesday's deadly terrorist attacks in Iran: swift and unequivocal condemnation of the perpetrators, and condolences to the victims. By joining the other world leaders who have offered their sympathy, U.S. President Donald Trump can reaffirm both America's standing in the community of nations and its determination to defeat terrorism, whatever and wherever its source. Yes, there is an obvious irony here: The U.S. has rightly condemned Iran's long history of support for violence and funding of groups such as Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas. Washington's sanctions on the Tehran government for this, as well as human-rights abuses and violations of United Nations' strictures on missile defense, will remain in place. But this is not the moment to talk of just deserts.

Eye on Iran is a periodic news summary from United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) a program of the American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, Inc., a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Eye on Iran is not intended as a comprehensive media clips summary but rather a selection of media elements with discreet analysis in a PDA friendly format. For more information please email

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is a non-partisan, broad-based coalition that is united in a commitment to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to become a regional super-power possessing nuclear weapons.  UANI is an issue-based coalition in which each coalition member will have its own interests as well as the collective goal of advancing an Iran free of nuclear weapons.

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