A terrorist attack on a military parade in Iran appears to be part of a larger escalation to provoke it to retaliate and then use its reaction to spark a larger war. Experts say the terrorist attack could also aim to trap the United States into a war of choice.
In retaliation to at least 29 killings in the southwestern city of Ahvaz by gunmen, who opened fire on a crowd watching a military parade, Iran launched several surface-to-surface ballistic missiles in an area east of the Euphrates in Syria. It blamed Saud Arabia and its strongest regional ally, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), for the attack, which was simultaneously claimed by Saudi Arabia-linked Al-Ahvaziya or Ahvaz National Resistance and Daesh. Shortly after the attack, Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a political adviser to Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, said the bloodbath was justified and that “attacking a military target is not a terrorist act. Moving the battle deeper inside Iran is a declared option and will increase during the next phase,” he added. Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Deputy Commander Brigadier General Hossein Salami warned, “We will take revenge for every drop of the Ahvaz martyrs’ blood from the domestic and foreign elements. We warn the Saudi and Emirati regimes that you cannot sustain the blade of our vengeance.”
Experts fear the Ahvaz attack may spark a much larger regional conflagration, involving not just regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, but also the US. According to Trita Parsi, President Emeritus of the National Iranian American Council, Iran’s regional rivals, particularly Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have increasingly taken their decades-long behind-the-scenes pressure on the US to bomb Iran into the open. “What used to be said in private is now increasingly declared in public. Moreover, these monarchies are no longer limiting themselves to pushing the US to take military action, but are announcing their own readiness to attack Iran,” he wrote. Only a year ago, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman explained in an interview that Saudi Arabia would take the fight “inside Iran”. “We won’t wait for the battle to be in Saudi Arabia. Instead, we will work so that the battle is for them in Iran.” His statement was widely interpreted as a sign that Riyadh would dramatically escalate tensions with Iran and intensify its support for various armed groups opposing the government in Tehran.
There are also apprehensions that Riyadh and Abu Dhabi cannot take on Iran militarily alone and the terrorist attack in Iran is as much about trapping Iran into war as it is to trap the US into a war of choice. As former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates said in 2010, the Saudis “want to fight the Iranians to the last American”. But the Trump administration may not be innocent bystanders to such a scheme. Trump’s own actions and close coordination with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Israel on Iran raises the prospects of the US itself actively pushing its allies and being pushed by its allies towards war with Iran. Experts warn the US has started action on a 2017 memo of National Security Adviser John Bolton, who has a history of manipulating intelligence in order to drag the US into war. The memo details how the US should coordinate with Israel and Saudi Arabia to build support, domestically and internationally, for a withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and a much more aggressive policy on Iran. It specifically mentions “providing assistance” to Khuzestan Arabs, the minority group in Iran that the Ahvazi attack perpetrators claim to represent. Bolton also argues that the Trump administration should demand payment from Iran for its non-existing role in the 9/11 September attacks while disingenuously offering Iran dialogue amid a policy of confrontation. The Trump administration’s Iran policy is following the Bolton memo almost point by point. The plea to provide assistance to Khuzestani separatists is particularly damning. It raises legitimate suspicions that if the terror attack has Saudi and UAE fingerprints on it, it may not be so much an attempt by them to drag the US into war as Trump operating in the driver’s seat. For Saudi Arabia and the UAE, it makes strategic sense. Their ability to compete with the much larger and more cohesive Iranian state in the long run is highly questionable. If they can trap the US into doubling down on its military presence in the Middle East, however, then they can use American power to balance Iran. For America, which is already overextended in the Middle East at the expense of its strategic interest in Asia as well as at home, this makes little to no sense, experts say.
In a collective outpouring of anger, Iranian leaders threatened to avenge the attack. Many observers concluded that Iran would retaliate against Saudi Arabia, which stood at the top of the blame list. But Iran, despite rhetoric targeting the Saudis “from every corner of the country,” is unlikely to take retaliatory action against Saudi Arabia or the UAE. Experts have noted that Iran’s reactions to hostile moves by its adversaries have been calculated, cautious and patient. In each instance, when the government decides what should be done, the central concern is that retaliation should not lead to an all-out war. In August 1998, during the rule of the Taliban, the sworn enemies of Iranian Shia in Afghanistan, armed men stormed the Iranian consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif and killed 10 diplomats. Tens of thousands of Iranian troops amassed at the border with Afghanistan, prepared for a full-scale attack on the Taliban, but Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei opposed the plan and it was called off.
Experts say Iran has avoided a direct conflict with Israel that could have led to full-blown war on many occasions in the past and it will continue with the policy. However, it is feared it will have to face more terrorist attacks on its soil as international forces want to weaken it. US President Trump has openly announced the policy of regime change in Iran as part of his agenda. Experts say the Al-Ahvaziya group has an office in the UK, London. It operates with highly questionable funds but the British government has turned a blind eye to it. All forces inimical to Iran have joined hands to help terrorist groups in the country. It may not only destabilize the Islamic State but also the region. The US created the Taliban and Daesh to obtain its objectives but it jeopardized the world peace. The US-backed Taliban perpetrated the 9/11 attack on its own soil and they are still a serous threat to the world peace but it refuses to learn a lesson from its mistakes.