Did Iran foil a “major terrorist attack” last week?

Last Monday the Iranian Intelligence Ministry announced that it had “thwarted” a planned terrorist attack on Tehran that would have been one of the “biggest” the country has ever experienced. They claimed that the attack, which was supposed to happen on the anniversary of the death of Khadijah, Muhammad’s first wife (which is a minor holiday for Muslims), was planned by “Wahhabi takfiris.” This is obviously, maybe intentionally, imprecise, but Tehran generally uses takfiri to refer to Sunni terrorists (ISIS would be the logical example here) and “Wahhabi” to refer to anything emanating from Saudi Arabia. So they could have been pointing a finger at ISIS while also taking a shot at Riyadh, or they could have been suggesting, without really suggesting, that Saudi agents were behind the plot. There is an acknowledged (including by the US) Sunni terror group, based in Iran’s portion of Balochistan, called Jundallah, or the “People’s Resistance Movement of Iran” (not to be confused with Pakistan’s Jundallah, an offshoot of the Pakistani Taliban that targets tourists, Christians, and Shiʿa and that reportedly pledged allegiance to ISIS in 2014), which may have financial and ideological ties to Saudi Arabia (at least the Iranians say it does). So it’s possible that they may have been behind the plot.

Iran’s Sistan and Balochistan Province, for those who are curious; Balochistan is more the southern part, and historic Balochistan extends east into Pakistan (Wikimedia | Uwe Dering)

Assuming, of course, that there really was a plot. There’s no independent reporting on this story and probably never will be; all the information that made it into Western media about the supposed plot came courtesy of the ministry and Iranian state media. The Daily Caller trawled through the right-wing DC think tank world and found a bunch of Iran experts ready to claim that this story was either entirely or mostly made up. And they may very well be right, in fact I’m inclined to think they are, but let’s not pretend they’re not also serving an ideological agenda just as the Iranian government is. Certainly, though, the Iranians have plenty of motive to invent, or at least greatly exaggerate the scope of, a Sunni terror plot aimed at Tehran, particularly if they can throw in some innuendo linking it to the Saudis. That’s some nice red meat for domestic consumption, if nothing else.

In general, the only terror attacks you can be sure were really terror attacks are, unfortunately, the successful ones. It’s too easy, and too potentially beneficial, for countries and agencies to claim that they’ve foiled this or that grand terror plot to take reports like that without a whole shaker of salt. Even our own FBI doesn’t seem to be above that sort of thing. It’s not a well you can dip into very often, you don’t want to be the government that cried “wolf” after all, but it is a well.


Author: DWD

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