The Washington Post reports that gunmen stormed two major sites in Tehran today. They killed at least 12 people and wounded another 42 in gunfire and suicide blasts in parliament and at the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini (the Post calls this a “revered shrine”). ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks.
According to the Post, this is the first serious terrorist attack in Iran. Past attacks have been confined to minor incidents near the border with Pakistan.
Given the enmity between Sunni and Shiite radicals, it’s not surprising that ISIS would want to attack key symbolic locations in Tehran. Such an attack is all the more enticing given that ISIS, which is being defeated in Mosul and in the outskirts of Raqqa, needs to pull off something big.
What seems surprising is that ISIS (or some other terrorist group) was able to carry out successful attacks in the heart of the ayatollahs’ police state. As the Post notes, security forces are deployed at prominent sites, and Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps maintains a vast network of informants and allies around the country.
The security forces apparently weren’t up to the job. The attackers reportedly entered the parliament building through the main entrance. Their siege lasted more than an hour. Moreover, according to the New York Times, one attacker left the building an hour into the siege, “ran around shooting on Tehran’s streets,” and then returned.
Perhaps the regime has become complacent given its success in taming the population. Perhaps it’s just extremely difficult to prevent these kinds of attacks even in a police state.
The regime, which must be hugely embarrassed, has responded, predictably, by blaming the U.S. and the Saudis. The Revolutionary Guard stated:
The public opinion of the world, especially Iran, recognizes this terrorist attack — which took place a week after a joint meeting of the U.S. president and the head of one of the region’s backward governments, which constantly supports fundamentalist terrorists — as very significant.
Taking a rather different line, and displaying characteristic indifference to human life, Ayatollah Khamenei characterized the attack as the setting off of “firecrackers.”
The U.S. State Department issued a statement condemning the attacks. It extended condolences to the victims, their families, and the Iranian people, stating that “the depravity of terrorism has no place in a peaceful, civilized world.” Nor, the State Department might have added, does it have a place even in a brutal, uncivilized, terror-supporting regime like Iran’s.