Violence. On September 22, 2018, “unknown” terrorists opened fire on a military parade in Ahvaz, Iran, near the Iraqi frontier. The march past marked the 30th anniversary of the end of the Iran-Iraq war, in which the U.S. was deeply involved. The supposed terrorists, some say from the “Patriotic Arab Democratic Movement in Ahwaz”, shot at the soldiers from behind reviewing stands, killing at least 25 and wounding at least 53. The perpetrators were disguised as Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and Basiji (volunteer) forces.
This savage attack did not spring, like Venus, from the sea foam.
Where Did It Come From? It built on regional discontent. The Arab minority there, submerged in a dominant Persian state, has long been unhappy with its lot. They’ve compared themselves to the Palestinians but claiming their situation is worse. Additionally, the British have been promoting “semi-independence” for the area. And, the Ahwazis have, in the past, appealed to the U.S. for help.
Mostafa Koshcheshm, a Tehran-based political commentator and journalist, told Al Jazeera… [the]Ahwazi separatist movement, …has been “nurtured, supported, and trained by Saudi Arabia”.
“It’s been operating for the past several years, they are looking to cut off and separate Iran’s energy-rich province of Khuzestan from Iran, which is exactly what Saddam Hussein wanted to do,” [he said]. “They call themselves Arab nationalists but we know they have very intimate ties to the Mujahedin-e-Khalq,” he said, referring to an Iranian exiled dissident group accused of killing thousands of Iranian civilians and officials.
The assault came at a time of renewed American, Israeli, and Saudi hostility towards the Islamic Republic of Iran. Besides the war of words against Iran for having non-existent nuclear weapons and short-range “inter-continental ballistic missiles”, there is the war of sanctions.
Is Something Different? In May 2018, U.S. President Donald J. Trump unilaterally withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and announced the unilateral imposition of new and extensive restrictions on Iran’s economy. In Trump’s view, Iran was not in observance of the JCPOA. The multilateral agreement, following years of negotiations, had imposed rigid controls on Iranian enrichment of uranium. It also subjected the country to intrusive international inspection. All the other participants in the JCPOA, as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency, agreed that Iran is and has been in full compliance with all the terms of the accord. (Apartheid Israel, of course, has uncounted chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, but is not subject to anything like the JCPOA.)
Responding to Trump’s attacks on its economy, Iran took the United States to the International Criminal Court in August 2018, alleging “the sanctions were in breach of a bilateral accord struck in 1955.” This set off “The Donald’s” national security advisor John Bolton. He fumed: “The International Criminal Court unacceptably threatens American sovereignty and U.S. national security interests.”
Who Dunnit? Now, suddenly, just a month later, in September, mirabile dictu, there is an armed attack on Iranian government forces. Without specifying which group, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif correctly laid the blame on outsiders, saying “Terrorists recruited, trained, armed and paid by a foreign regime have attacked Ahvaz.” Zarif further noted that Saudi Arabia had been funding the group which seemingly carried out the attack.
Outsiders were certainly involved. The Saudis have been stoking tensions in the area, alleging that Iran, its rival for regional dominance, has been supporting “terrorists” here, there, and everywhere. (But, it’s been the Saudis who have been waging a savage war of aggression against Yemen, the neighbor to the south. And the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been financing extremist groups in Syria while cozying up to Israel which has been using that benighted country as a shooting gallery.)
Who else might be involved? Certainly the United States of America, constantly touting the evils of Iran, while demanding “regime change” there. And just as assuredly Israel, a loud voice raving about the alleged dangers of Iran (which hasn’t invaded another country in the last two centuries). What of the United Kingdom? Didn’t its Secret Intelligence Service help the U.S. overthrow the legitimate government of Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953? Wouldn’t Merrie Olde Englande like another bite of the apple–and aid its “ally” Donald J. Trump and all the Zionists opposing Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the opposition Labour Party?
Right now, only the “usual suspects” know for sure. And they will likely be silent unless and until they manage to overthrow another Iranian government.
Will That Work? Maybe not.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says that he and his countrymen will not submit to economic and psychological pressure from abroad. Iran, he asserted, will never abandon its missile and defense capabilities in the face of U.S. coercion. Blasting the U.S. for trashing the JCPOA, Rouhani went on to emphasize that his country is not interfering in other nations in the region. Continuing, the Iranian president noted that, instead, his state is protecting other lands in the area from aggression. Ultimately, Rouhani said, Donald Trump will fail in his efforts just as Saddam Hussein failed in his eight years of warfare against the Islamic Republic.
Can We Understand Anything? What are we to make of all this? Is the Ahvaz attack a one-off event or a continuation of past grievances the Arab community there has sometimes violently expressed? Is this a new stage in American/Israeli/British efforts at “regime change” in Iran, one complementary to sanctions? Or is it what President Rouhani called it, psychological pressure? That is, is it a demonstration of outside power, an explicit display of “we can reach anywhere into your country and do anything we want” unless you give in to us?
In this author’s view, Rouhani is right. It is emotional stress, to be added to the sanctions’ economic strain, in the hope that Iran will give in to U.S., Israeli, and Saudi demands.