Iran: An attack loaded with symbolism in the midst of a regional crisis | International

The terrorist attack this Wednesday in Kerman (Iran) not only caused an unjustifiable massacre, but it was a blow of great symbolism. First, this comes amid growing tension in the Middle East due to the war in Gaza, in which Israel accuses Iran of supporting Hamas. Moreover, the chosen location and date, the grave of General Qasem Soleimani on the anniversary of his assassination, sends a clear message to Tehran: someone wants to pay him back.

As head of the Revolutionary Guards expeditionary force, Qasem Soleimani was, until his assassination by the United States in Baghdad in 2020, responsible for Iranian operations abroad. He is credited with developing and coordinating the network of militias linked to the Islamic Republic in neighboring countries, the backbone of the so-called Axis of Resistance (against the United States and the West in general). His tomb has therefore become a place of pilgrimage for those who support this axis.

No organization claimed responsibility for this attack, the deadliest the Islamic Republic has ever known (the previous one was a double suicide attack against a procession in Chabahar in 2010 which left 39 dead). The Iranian government immediately described the two explosions which left around a hundred dead and dozens injured as “terrorist”, without immediately accusing any group or country.

Later, however, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisí warned of retaliation against Israel, Iran’s archenemy and which has been implicated in several assassinations against scientists and soldiers linked to its nuclear program. But even if the two countries are in conflict through the Shiite militias that Iran supports in the region, the operating mode The Kerman attack does not correspond to Israel’s usual behavior. Until now, their actions within the Islamic Republic have focused on targets selected for their high military value; There is no precedent for a widespread attack on civilians.

Several people surround a body lying on the ground at the site of an explosion in the city of Kerman, Wednesday January 3.WANA NEWS AGENCY (via REUTERS)

Indeed, although Israel rarely comments on its operations, it is suspected of being at the origin of the attack which killed Tuesday in Beirut the number two of the Hamas political bureau, Saleh al Aruri, with a limited number of victims despite a dense context. populated neighborhood.

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In the past, dissident Mujahidin-e Khalq (People’s Fighters) have also carried out attacks inside Iran, whose animosity against the Islamic regime has drawn them closer to Israel.

Furthermore, although Iran has always prided itself on its security, it has suffered for years from a low-intensity insurgency in the Kurdish, Baloch and Arab regions. These minorities, who complain of discrimination in education, access to public functions and infrastructure, are mainly of Sunni faith as opposed to Shiite Islam which 90% of Iranians profess and which is the state religion. Many attacks target law enforcement (like Rask last December) and/or Shiite sanctuaries (like Shiraz in August).

Such disaffection seems to have served as breeding ground for the jihadists of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS), who carried out a double attack in June 2017 against the Parliament and the Khomeini mausoleum, which left 17 dead. The following year, the same group claimed responsibility for the shooting at a military parade in Ahvaz, which killed dozens of people, including members of the Revolutionary Guards.

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