Amid vows of revenge and “Death to Israel, US” chants, Iranians on Monday attended a mass funeral for victims of a weekend attack on a military parade that killed at least 25 people.
By: AP and World Israel News Staff
The dead from Saturday’s attack in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, Iran, blamed on Arab separatists, ranged from a disabled war hero to a four-year-old boy. The assault killed members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, and wounded over 60 others and further ratcheted up tensions across the Persian Gulf ahead of this week’s United Nations General Assembly.
Of the 25 killed, 12 were from Ahvaz and the rest from elsewhere in Khuzestan.
Speaking at the funeral, the Guard’s acting commander, Gen. Hossein Salami, vowed revenge against the perpetrators and what he called the “triangle” of Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States.
“You are responsible for these actions; you will face the repercussions,” the general said. “We warn all of those behind the story, we will take revenge.”
As crowds flowed down Ahvaz’s streets, cries of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” rose from the mourners. While a traditional chant in the years since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, they have taken on a new meaning as Iranian officials have blamed the U.S. and its regional allies for backing Arab separatists, who allegedly carried out the assault while disguised in military uniforms
Iran blames ‘enemies’ Israel, US, Saudis and UAE
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the attack showed Iran has “a lot of enemies,” according to remarks posted on his website, in which he accused the U.S., Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of being behind the attacks.
“Definitely, we will harshly punish the operatives” behind the terror attack, he added.
Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavai told the mourners that his agency had identified many suspects involved in the attack and “a majority of them were detained.” He did not elaborate.
“We will punish the terrorists, one by one,” he promised the crowd.
Saturday’s attack targeted one of many parades in Iran marking the start of the country’s long 1980s war with Iraq, part of a commemoration known as “Sacred Defense Week.” The attacks in Ahvaz sent women and children fleeing alongside the soldiers once marching in the parade.
Arab separatists in the region claimed the attack and Iranian officials have blamed them for the assault. The separatists accuse Iran’s Persian-dominated government of discriminating against its ethnic Arab minority. Khuzestan province also has seen recent protests over Iran’s nationwide drought, as well as economic protests.
President Hassan Rouhani has accused an unnamed U.S.-allied regional country of supporting the attackers. Iran’s Foreign Ministry also summoned Western diplomats and an envoy from the UAE, accusing them of allegedly providing havens for the Arab separatists.
Rouhani’s remarks could refer to Saudi Arabia, the UAE or Bahrain — close U.S. military allies that view Iran as a regional menace, in part because of its support for terror proxies across the Middle East. Saudi-linked media immediately carried claims of responsibility by the separatists after the attack and have widely covered their previous attacks on oil pipelines.
The Islamic State group also claimed Saturday’s attack, initially offering incorrect information about it and later publishing a video of three men it identified as the attackers. The men in the video did not resemble images of two dead attackers published by Iranian media in the aftermath of the attack. Iranian officials say four men carried out the assault. Iranian state media has not acknowledged the IS claims.
The attack comes as Iran’s economy reels in the wake of the U.S. re-imposing sanctions lifted by Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers. While Iran still complies with the accord, President Donald Trump withdrew America over the deal in part due to Tehran’s ballistic missile program, its “malign behavior” in the Mideast and its support of terror groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas, which attacks Israeli civilians with rockets, airborne incendiary devices, and conventional stabbing and car-ramming attacks.
Iran’s national currency has gone from trading at 62,000 rials to one U.S. dollar to as much as 150,000. Economic protests and other demonstrations have spiked across Iran, putting new pressure on Rouhani’s government.