Iran's Rouhani fumes at United States after Ahvaz parade attack

Remigio Civitarese
Settembre 23, 2018

Iran summoned diplomats from Denmark, the Netherlands, and Britain over an attack on an army parade which killed at least 29 people near the Iraqi border, state-run media said on Sunday, September 23. At least eight of those killed were members of the elite Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Islamic State's Amaq agency also said it carried out the attack, but provided no evidence to back the claim.

Iranian women and soldiers taking cover next to bushes at the scene of an attack on a military parade that was marking the anniversary of the outbreak of its 1980-1988 war with Iraq.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had earlier blamed regional countries and their "U.S. masters" for funding and arming the separatists, issuing a stark warning as regional tensions remain high in the wake of the USA withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal.

However, under the Trump administration, these relations have deteriorated further as the American leader pulled the United States out of a nuclear agreement that had been agreed to with Iran and other nations under his predecessor, President Barack Obama, and moved to reimpose sanctions on Tehran.

"Iran will respond swiftly and decisively in defence of Iranian lives", Zarif wrote on Twitter.

Within hours of this statement, the Islamic State also claimed to be behind the attack and pledged more violence to avenge Sunnis.

Rouhani ordered Iranian intelligence agencies to arrest the perpetrators behind the attack.

"The individuals who fired at the people and the armed forces during the parade are connected to the Al-Ahvazia group, which is fed by Saudi Arabia", IRGC spokesman Ramezan Sharif was quoted as saying by state media.

"It is absolutely clear to us who committed this crime. and whom they are linked to", he said.

Iranian leaders accused the United States of complicity in the attacks in Ahvaz.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivers a speech during the annual military parade marking in Tehran Iran Sept 22 2018. Tasnim News Agency via Reuters
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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah, two of Iran's closest allies, issued statements condemning the attack, with Assad referencing outside involvement and Hezbollah echoing allegations of U.S. blame.

There has been a blizzard of furious statements from top Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rouhani, accusing Iran's adversaries the United States and Gulf states of provoking the bloodshed and threatening a tough response.

"I think Ahvaz -- inevitably, and not at all diminishing the scale of the killing of innocents -- was going to be situated by regime officials within the narrative of a U.S. -Saudi campaign to undermine the Islamic republic", Lucas says.

Civilians, including women and children, were among those killed, while at least 53 people have been transferred to local hospitals, according to the source.

Officials and an eyewitness said the gunmen were dressed in Iranian military uniforms and sprayed the crowd with gunfire using weapons they had stashed in a nearby park.

Mostafa Koshcheshm, a Tehran-based political commentator and journalist, told Al Jazeera that the al-Ahvaziya movement had been "nurtured, supported, and trained by Saudi Arabia".

"America is acting like a bully toward the rest of the world.and thinks it can act based on brute force", Rouhani told reporters just before leaving Iran for the United Nations meeting in NY.

An adviser to the UAE crown prince had tweeted that "attacking a military target is not a terrorist act" and "moving the battle deeper inside in Iran is a declared option".

They are divided over whether they want independence or devolution of power within a democratic, federal Iran, but at their most ambitious, some Ahvazi groups want an independent state stretching beyond the borders of Khuzestan, which sits at the head of the strategic Gulf waterway and shares a border with Iraq.

Iran has also been hit by sporadic street protests over economic hardship that have taken on anti-government overtones.

The Revolutionary Guards accused Shiite-dominated Iran's Sunni arch-rival Saudi Arabia of funding the attackers.

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