The ISIS attack on Iran’s parliament and Ayatollah Khomenii’s mausoleum today will only complicate the Gulf-Middle East’s current ferment.
If we disaggregate the attack and its drivers, certain interesting trends become clear:
– this is the first direct ISIS attack in the heart of Iran. The nature of the attack, with ISIS, virtually live streaming videos of the action shows the attackers were directly in touch with their ISIS handlers. There are chilling similarities with the Holy Artisan Bakery attack in Dhaka July 2016, especially the handling of the attackers.
– Iran has been the biggest enemy of ISIS over the past few years, yet this is the first time ISIS has attacked Iran. This could mean a couple of things: Iran’s ISIS intelligence has been breached, or ISIS is now so desperate as they lose ground in Syria and Iraq that this kind of suicide attack will be the norm in different countries now.
– Saudi Arabia, now sharpening its talons against Iran is looking for any opportunity to complete a final conflict that is simultaneously a sectarian war, as well as a war for influence in the region.
Trump has, characteristically, been the fuel in this fire – in his recent visit to Saudi Arabia, he openly called for a regional coalition against Iran. On terrorism, he ignored the Saudi export of Wahhabi extremism and their support for many terror groups but singled out Iran. That was a signal to the Saudis that Iran and Qatar were fair game. In addition, his defence secretary, Mattis, and NSA McMaster are all resolutely opposed to Iran, as is Israel. Hence the actions against Qatar earlier this week.
But Iran is different. It’s a revolutionary society and its politics is consumed with fighting wars to keep the revolution going. They have been fighting the Saudi alliance in Yemen for months now, resulting in a stalemate, not to speak of fighting the ISIS in Syria and Iraq, supporting the Assad regime. After the IRGC announced that Saudi Arabia was behind today’s attacks on the parliament and Imam Khomeini’s mausoleum, we can expect a retaliation within days.
There have been numerous reports that Iran has secretly thrown funds at ISIS to keep them away. This is the same Iranian tactic with the Taliban in Afghanistan, for years Iran has played footsie with the Taliban to prod them to attack a common enemy, US. In recent months, Iran has been propping up the Taliban against ISIS, causing heartburn in Kabul.
The coming conflagration will draw in Pakistan too – as it is, Iran was convinced the murder of its border guards in the Sistan-Balochistan region was by the Pakistanis at the behest of the Saudis. In addition, Gen Raheel Sharif, former Pakistan army chief now heads the Saudi coalition against terror. None of this looks good.
Brace for a lot of violence in the coming days.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.