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Iran attacks
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 22 - 06 - 2017

Late in the evening of 18 June, Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) reported that Iranian missile attacks had been carried out against an Islamic State (IS) group holding area inside Syria in a revenge attack for the terrorist attacks that had taken place in the Iranian capital Tehran a week earlier.
According to the IRGC, six middle-range Cruise missiles were fired from the border city of Kermanshah in Iran to hit an IS depot and command centre in Deir Al-Zor in eastern Syria.
There was an immediate response to the announcement of the attack on Iranian social media, especially Twitter, with many speculating about the consequences and aftermath of the attack and some worried about the reaction of the US and regional countries.
While some speculated that the attack was designed to send a signal to regional countries and Israel to back off from threatening Iran, others wanted to know more about the Saudi Arabian and Israeli reactions.
While the verbal war between Iran and Saudi Arabia has now reached a peak in their power struggle in the region, the rift between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and Qatar has fueled the bitterness further.
Was the Iranian attack on Deir Al-Zor designed as a punishment, as the IRGC said on its website, or was it in reaction to the new sanctions approved by the US Senate against Iran on 15 June?
The Senate bill includes new sanctions against Iran over its ballistic missile programme and other activities not related to the international nuclear agreement reached between Iran and the United States and other world powers under the former Obama administration.
In the earlier terrorist attacks in Tehran, 17 civilians were killed by IS when group operatives attacked the parliament and the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.
Previously unworried about their safety and security, Iranians suddenly faced the reality of a terrorist attack and the fact that IS had managed to carry out a terror plot in the heart of Tehran.
Now many Iranians are worried about the retaliation IS may carry out as a result of the missile attack and the rise in tensions between Tehran and Washington while the new administration in the US says it is “still working on policy towards the region and Iran”.
While the IRGC claimed that it had detailed information about the IS logistics and command centre in Deir Al-Zor, the statement undermines the Iranian government's official narrative that it is only fighting in Iraq and Syria to prevent terrorist attacks at home.
Some politicians say that Iranian operations in the region have not prevented IS attacks on Tehran and may in fact be provoking them.
Some moderate Arab politicians have also said that they have offered to work with Iran and the international community to strengthen counter-terrorism operations against IS, but that the IRGC has refused such cooperation even though it may be in line with the priorities of the government of Iranian president Hassan Rouhani.
As no foreign involvement has been securely identified in the attacks in Tehran, repeated accusations in the Iranian press of Saudi and US involvement have increased the war of words in regional countries.
IS attacks are indiscriminate, and they are focused on taking down western, Sunni, and Shia governments alike, and Iran is not excluded. Even as IS seems to be on the way to defeat in Iraq and Syria, “in order to wrap up the bloody civil war and defeat the terrorists, deescalating the situation and avoiding provoking other countries out of fears of further inflaming the tensions in the region are important”, comments one Afghan politician.
The IRGC warned the terrorists and their regional and non-regional supporters in its statement against carrying out any further attacks in Iran.
IS has taken responsibility for recent attacks in Paris, London, and now Tehran. Now that Iran has been attacked like several European countries and the US, the time may have come for greater solidarity and cooperation as the UN plans a new session of the Syria talks in Geneva after Ramadan on 10 July.
The parties to the talks will meet first in the Kazakh capital Astana on 4-5 July.
Iran's bold reaction to the terrorist attacks in Tehran has made many argue that now is the right time for the country to reexamine its priorities and reevaluate its goals by participating in the talks on Syria and working further with the international community to defeat terrorism in the region.

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