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'Iran cannot portray itself as victim of terrorism'



by Shamil Shams

DW: The attacks on Iran's parliament and Ayatollah Khomeini's mausoleum have been claimed by Islamic State (IS) - a Wahhabi-Sunni militant group. The attackers, however, were Iranian nationals, as claimed by officials in Tehran. Does it show that IS influence is increasing in the Shiite-majority Iran?

Paulo Casaca: Iran has a long tradition of supporting terrorist groups not necessarily aligned with the Shiite sect of Islam, for instance al Qaeda, Hamas or the Taliban. Still, as it happens with other states that support jihadi groups, Iran cannot stop its own creations from turning against it. Pakistan is a good example in this case.

The non-Shiite jihadi groups have already increased their activities in Iran, particularly in its Sistan-Baluchestan province. IS had repeatedly announced its intentions to start operations in Iran, and now we saw the group attacking two important sites in the country.

Iranian authorities have condemned the Wednesday assaults, but it appears from their statements they are also downplaying the severity of the incident. Should Iranians be alarmed that such an attack could be perpetrated on its soil by an organization that is extremely anti-Shiite?

The Iranian propaganda machinery is pretty active in the wake of the attacks. The authorities are trying to confuse the situation. They want to make sure the Iranians don't get alarmed by the state support for terrorism but rather that people look at them as the ones who are opposing terrorist activities.

Iran rejected US President Donald Trump's statement on the attack as "repugnant" as he once again blamed Tehran for supporting terror outfits in the region. How valid is Trump's criticism of Iran and its alleged support for militant groups in the Middle East?

Donald Trump is the first US president since - and including - Jimmy Carter who has the courage to break with the policy of appeasement toward Tehran. Iranian authorities are very concerned by the formation of an anti-jihadi alliance in the Middle East. They have engaged in an active diplomacy against this alliance in countries like Qatar and Turkey. Regardless of the operational details of the IS attack, it is clear that Tehran is involved in a major propaganda campaign to spread confusion and portray itself as a victim of terrorism.

Do the attacks prove that the region is entering a new era of proxy jihadism on the lines of Saudi-Iranian rivalry?

In the past few years, IS has perpetrated a number of terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia. Riyadh has been engaged in a proxy war with Tehran long before Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979. The recent anti-terrorism summit in Riyadh seems to confirm that the Saudi establishment understands it has lost to Iran in this proxy war. I don't think that Riyadh wants to compete with Iran in this "game" any longer.

Saudi Arabia's reformation is, however, a long and difficult process, and its success is far from guaranteed. But the reports claiming that an alliance of Saudi Arabia, the US and Israel could be linked with the attacks on Iranian parliament and Khomeini's tomb cannot be taken seriously.

Can IS recruit fighters from Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan to perpetrate more attacks in Iran?

I think there are enough potential recruits in Iran that this will not be necessary. On the contrary, the Iranian recruitment of Shiite jihadis from countries like Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan has been crucial in its war efforts in Syria.

Read more: http://www.dw.com/en/iran-cannot-portray-itself-as-victim-of-terrorism/a-39162161