Iran’s Revolutionary Guard vowed “deadly and unforgettable” vengeance yesterday (Sunday) for the mass shooting at a military parade as Iran’s president blamed U.S.-backed insurgents for killing 25 people in a hail of bullets.
President Hassan Rouhani accused the U.S. of inciting an unnamed ally in the Persian Gulf to carry out the attack Saturday in the south-western city of Ahvaz, in which four gunmen disguised in military garb opened fire and kill 12 Revolutionary Guardsmen as well as a number of spectators.
“America is acting like a bully towards the rest of the world… and thinks it can act based on brute force,” said Mr Rouhani, whose country is in the grips of a desperate economic situation brought on by sweeping U.S. sanctions.
“But our people will resist and the government is ready to confront America. We will overcome this situation and America will regret choosing the wrong path.”
Mr Rouhani is on a collision course with Donald Trump, whose decision to quit the 2015 nuclear deal is, to Mr Rouhani’s mind, directly to blame for Iran’s financial crisis. The two leaders will attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week, where each will address the world.
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, brushed off the accusations from Tehran, saying of Mr Rouhani: “The thing he has to do is look in the mirror.
“He’s got the Iranian people protesting. Every ounce of money goes into his military. He has oppressed his people for a long time. I think the Iranian people have had enough.”
Yesterday morning, Iran summoned diplomats from the UK, the Netherlands and Denmark, accusing them of harbouring Iranian opposition groups. Mr Rouhani then took to state television, declaring it “absolutely clear to us who has done this, which group it is and to whom they are affiliated”, without naming the suspect.
“One of the countries in the south of the Persian Gulf took care of their financial, weaponry and political needs.
“All these little mercenary countries we see in this region are backed by America. It is the Americans who incite them,” he said.
Within the hour, Iran’s foreign ministry summoned the United Arab Emirates charge d’affaires to rebuke him for comments made by an unnamed Emirati official about the bloody fusillade at the parade. The outcome of the meeting was last night unknown.
Shia Iran has long been locked in a struggle for regional dominance with U.S.-allied, majority Sunni, Saudi Arabia. The U.A.E is a Saudi ally, and hosts a significant US military presence.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph today, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf Al Saud, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, underscored the vitriol between the two regional powers in a reference to the “destabilising and malign influence of Iran”.
“There is still time for a determined international response that stops Iran from spreading its malignant influence to every corner of the region,” he writes.
Tehran has made no secret of its mounting fury at the US over tightening sanctions, with Javad Zarif, the foreign minister, taking to Twitter on Friday to denounce “the Trump administration’s sense of entitlement to destabilise the world along with rogue accomplices in our region”.
The four dead gunmen are understood to have been part of a group affiliated with the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz, a separatist group that typically carries out night-time attacks on oil infrastructure in Iran’s Ahvaz province.
But for Tehran, the key issue appears not to be who pulled the trigger. Rather, the focus is on who provided the money, guns and support to infiltrate Iran’s Republican Guard.
For years, Iran has held up the elite force, which answers directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as an impenetrable bulwark against external threats. Saturday’s attack dealt a blow not just to a security institution, but to the core of Iran’s identity.
The attack on the military parade is likely to give security hardliners such as the Guards more political ammunition because they did not endorse the pragmatist Rouhani’s pursuit of the nuclear deal with the West, analysts say.
In New York, Rudy Giuliani, Mr Trump’s personal lawyer, said on Saturday that US sanctions were inflicting economic pain on Iran that could lead to a “successful revolution”. The Trump administration has said that changing Iran’s system of government is not US policy. A senior UAE official yesterday denied Iranian allegations alluding to the involvement of the UAE in training the gunmen who attacked the parade.
Islamic State’s Amaq agency has posted a video of three men in a vehicle who it said were on their way to carry out an attack on an Iranian military parade. Two of the men spoke in Arabic about jihad, while the third spoke in Farsi suggesting they were targeting Iranian Revolutionary Guards, according to the recording.