Suicide bombings targeting the Revolutionary Guards may signal a gathering storm in Iran.
By Potkin Azarmehr
July 24, 2010
Late last week, two suicide bombings in southeastern Iran reduced a mosque to rubble, leaving 27 dead and nearly 300 injured. The explosions were the work of Jundollah—”Soldiers of Allah”—a rebel Sunni group opposed to the Shiite-controlled regime in Tehran.
The Islamic Republic has always accused the United States of being Jundollah’s paymaster. The leader of Tehran’s government-controlled Friday Prayer even charged the U.S. with masterminding the attacks: “Since the U.S. has lost face in the case of Shahram Amiri [the Iranian nuclear scientist who allegedly spied for the U.S. against Iran] and the reputation of its intelligence has also become questionable, they wanted to divert attention from their defeat and disgrace through this crime.”
The bombs sent a powerful message that Jundollah survived a major setback earlier this year when its leader, Abdolmalek Rigi, was arrested and subsequently hanged on June 20. When the regime apprehended Rigi, the state media went out of their way to showcase the operation. Security teams surrounded a beaten Rigi with large, muscled balaclava-clad agents known as the “unknown soldiers of the Messianic Imam Mehdi” in an attempt to demonstrate the strength of the state against a feeble rebel on national television.
The twin explosions presented the opposite picture. Jundollah struck Iran’s leadership on a highly symbolic day, as it was both the birthday of the prophet Mohammad’s grandson (revered by Shiites as the ultimate martyr) and Revolutionary Guards Day on the official calendar. Jundollah claims that the victims were mostly high-ranking Revolutionary Guards busy celebrating the holiday at the mosque. The mosque was also located in the center of Zahedan, where there is maximum security. Now, it’s Jundollah’s turn to boast.
Unreported in the Western press is Jundollah’s claim that, in addition to the bombings, it trapped and murdered a top Iranian regime informant in a separate operation. Collaborators and informants understood the warning: Cease cooperation with the Iranian government, or suffer the same fate.
Meanwhile, in the wake of the bombings, three members of Iran’s parliament from the Southeast resigned. Their official justification was that the central government has been unable to provide security in the region. More likely, they are attempting to escape Jundollah’s bloody campaign of revenge.
Only one day before the Jundollah attacks, Iran’s Interior Minister and Revolutionary Guard member Mostafa Najjar had declared peace in the Southeast thanks to Rigi’s June execution. “The eastern regions of the country are absolutely calm,” he said.
Mr. Azarmehr is an Iranian writer living in London.
“…eastern regions of the country are absolutely calm.” Famous last words.