Iran is often blamed, at times accurately, for sponsoring terrorism: it cannot be denied that it is a victim too.
SHIRAZ, IRAN — You would be hard pressed to come up with another country more associated in the public’s mind with terrorism than Iran. Ever since the 1979 revolution that overthrew the despotic Shah, Iran has exported, often proudly, its forces and ideas throughout the region it inhabits so that other countries can ‘benefit’ from what it has accomplished. And, as far as terrorism itself goes, who can forget President George W. Bush’s infamous ‘Axis of Evil’ speech shortly after 9/11? Why infamous? Because he was 0-for-three on who had any role in the attacks on New York and Washington.
So just how responsible is Iran for terrorism worldwide? It depends. The government certainly sponsors real violent extremists such as Hizballah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine, and funnels money to groups in Iraq and Yemen. But, and this is coming from someone who worked as a strategic analyst on Iran in the Canadian intelligence community for two decades, I have to tell you Iran was not what kept me awake at nights when it came to thinking about terrorism.
THAT honour went to Sunni Islamist jihadis. Those guys are responsible for the lion’s share of attacks, deaths, injuries and destruction over the past two generations – by far. If you don’t believe me look at good data such as that produced by the START Institute at the University of Maryland or the annual Global Terrorism Index put out by the Institute for Economics and Peace.
Jihadis are very indiscriminate when it comes to whom they target – just about anyone will do. And, as I am certain I have mentioned on several occasions, Iran and, more widely, Shia Muslims, are often at the top of their list.
And then there are the ‘others’ who equally hate Iran for what it is.
On this day in 2008 a bomb tore through a Shia mosque in the southern city of Shiraz, killing 13 worshipers and wounding more than 200. Not surprisingly, the government blamed the US and the UK, two of its favourite enemies, for the incident. Twelve people were arrested less than a month later and accused of having a role in the attack.
An Iranian monarchist group calling itself Anjoman-e-Padeshahi-Iran (Soldiers of the Kingdom Assembly of Iran) claimed responsibility for the bombing. Three men were sentenced to death for the bombing,
The fall of the Pahlavi regime in 1979 led to a lot of angry monarchists. The Shah’s son fled to the US where he lobbied that country’s government to support groups seeking to put him on his father’s throne. Given the humiliation of the 1979 hostage taking at the US Embassy in Tehran he got a lot of attention – and yet Iran remains an Islamic Republic to this day.
We may not like Iran and what it stands for. This does not, however, condone the killing of people at prayer. And yes, it was a terrorist attack.
What happened on this day in the past?
Terrorism has been around for a long time. Check out my blog Today in Terrorism and have a look at what happened on this day in the past and what it means for today.