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Terror in Tehran: On IS attacks in Iran (hindu )

Heightened Iran-Saudi Arabia tensions put regional security in West Asia at further risk

Wednesday’s attacks in Tehran targeted the two most significant symbols of the 1979 Revolution — the Parliament and the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic. The terrorists clearly wanted to send a message to the Iranian state, and they retained the element of surprise. Though it is involved in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Iran has so far largely remained insulated from the regional crises. The attack, the first major terror incident in Iran in many years, suggests that even the formidable security cover put in place by the elite Revolutionary Guards can be breached by terrorists. The IS immediately claimed responsibility for the attack that killed 12 people. For the IS, Iran is the main adversary in West Asia, for both ideological and strategic reasons. The IS has thrived on anti-Shia sectarianism and persistently attacked Shia Muslims, mainly in Iraq and Syria. For it, Iran is the embodiment of Shia power in the region. Further, Iran is directly involved in the anti-IS fight — in Iraq, Iran-trained Shia militia groups are in the forefront of the battle for Mosul which has almost liberated the second largest city from the IS; and in Syria, Iran is propping up the regime of Bashar al-Assad which the IS wants to overthrow.

But the attacks and the Iranian reaction must also be seen in the context of heightened Saudi Arabia-Iran rivalry. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards has said in a statement that Saudi Arabia and the U.S. are involved in the attack. This is a serious allegation to make, and risks escalating tensions between Riyadh and Tehran. The attack is yet another reminder that no country in West Asia is free from the threat posed by terrorists, and that the region has a collective responsibility to fight them. Unfortunately, what is happening is just the opposite. There is a coordinated attempt under way in West Asia, led by Saudi Arabia, to isolate Iran. Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud, had said last month that Riyadh would take the battle into Iran. This anti-Iran approach was endorsed by U.S. President Donald Trump during his visit to Riyadh in late May. The Trump administration has repeatedly called Iran a state sponsor of terrorism, and has openly aligned itself with the Saudis against Iran. Such increasingly hostile rhetoric that is perceived to be playing on a Sunni-Shia face-off is an opportunity for terrorists to exploit. And the Tehran bombing suggests they are at it. Unless such crises are handled with extreme caution, they could ignite regional tensions on sectarian lines. The last thing West Asia needs today is a Shia-Sunni sectarian conflict. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia should stand down from this mutual hostility and join hands in the cause of regional security if they are serious about the public claims they make.

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