Yes, Iran can be a victim of terrorism too

Word association test time!   Quick, what is the first thing that comes into mind when I give you the word…..Iran.  Rogue state?  Terrorist sponsor?  Religious fanaticism?  How about terrorist victim?

Wait, what?  Iran as a victim and not a sponsor of terrorism? No, that can’t be!  You must have your facts wrong or you must be reading ‘fake news’.  Or you are an apologist for the Khomeinist regime (am I the only one who does not like it when Iran is described as ‘Khomeinist’?)?  Anyhow, stop trying to suggest that Iran is on the receiving end of terrorism: it clearly dishes it out.

But if we want to be intellectually honest we have to be consistent with what we call terrorism and what happened in western Iran on September 22 is most definitely terrorism.  Gunmen opened fire on a military parade in Iran on Saturday, killing 24 people including elite Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) troops, in one of the deadliest attacks in the country in recent years (there were also two attacks claimed by Islamic State (IS) in Tehran in June 2017)  These were terrorist in nature, of that there should be no doubt.

Now I know what some of you are saying: haven’t I always  maintained that for an act to be terrorism the victims have to be civilian? Is the IRGC not by definition military?  Ergo, is this therefore not terrorism?  No, it still is.  IRGC members on parade are not the same as soldiers on deployment.  Marching men should be seen through the same lens as marching civilians in my book.

And yet this is the IRGC we are talking about, a group that is listed by many nations as a terrorist entity, including Canada (or at least its Quds Force is listed here). How can a listed terrorist organisation be hit by a terrorist attack?  Because of the way it happened and who was behind it, that’s why. As much as I and many others are against what the IRGC is and what it does we can still see this incident as a terrorist attack.

So, who was behind it? Good question.  As the attack took place in Ahvaz, an Arabic-speaking area of Iran, suspicion soon fell on an Ahvazi terrorist group, the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA) – at least Tehran considers them terrorists (and I do NOT want to get into the ‘one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’ argument here).  Alternatively, IS has also claimed this attack.  Whoever it was it is safe to say that both actors are terrorists.

What then has the Iranian government’s response been?  In some ways justified and in some not helpful at all.  Iran has rightfully demanded that both the Netherlands and Denmark crack down on Ahvazi separatists living in their countries.  If we accuse Iran of harbouring terrorists they can turn around and accuse us of the same (for years the Marxo-cult People’s Muhajedin of Iran or MEK had a robust presence in Canada although we did list them as a terrorist entity).  On the other hand we heard the same tired Iranian rhetoric about the US being responsible for the carnage and vows of revenge.  It is sad to see the regime revert to old stereotypes when they have a valid reason to seek sympathy and assistance.

It is hard to countenance feeling bad for Iran, even in the wake of this heinous act.  Many want to see regime change in the country and some are willing to sponsor some unsavoury (or pathetic – see the MEK) actors to make that change happen.  You would think that overtly or covertly helping regime change in a Middle Eastern country would have lost some of its lustre after Iraq and Libya but….

I too hope that one day Iran will rejoin the group of ‘normal’ nations.  Iranians deserve this and Iran has a lot to offer.  But whatever occurs on that front, we must denounce the terrorist attack of last Friday and offer any assistance possible.  Anything else would be hypocritical.



By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

Leave a Reply