Abstract: The Islamic State’s coordinated assault on Iran’s Parliament and the mausoleum of the late Ayatollah Khomeini on June 7 was its first-ever attack in Iran. At a time of deep anger against Iran in the Sunni Arab world because of its intervention in Syria, the Islamic State likely saw the attack as a way to help its fundraising and recruitment efforts, as well as one-upping al-Qa`ida, as it transitions to trying to survive and regenerate through a campaign of local and international terrorism. The use of Iranian recruits in the attack demonstrated the resilient external operations capability of the group, and was likely designed to sow sectarian discord in Iran and win the backing of Sunni jihadi groups present on Iranian soil.  

The Islamic State’s June 7 coordinated assault on Iran’s Majles-e Shoraye Eslami (Islamic Consultative Assembly), also referred to as Iran’s Parliament, and the mausoleum of the Ayatollah Rohollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic’s founder, in Tehran, which left at least 17 dead and over 50 others injured, was the Islamic State’s first-ever attack on Iranian soil.1 It came on the heels of its widely touted video release, “Persia, Between Yesterday and Today,” which was published in March by the media wing of its Iraq-based Wilayat Diyala (Diyala Province) faction. The 36-minute-long production was the Islamic State’s first-ever Persian-language feature.2 The video, which is subtitled in Arabic, featured the testimonies of alleged Iranian members of the Islamic State and appealed to Iran’s Sunni religious minority to rise up and topple the Islamic Republic.

The attacks seem to have signaled a natural outgrowth of the Islamic State’s increasingly threatening rhetoric toward Iran. They also appear to be a culmination of determined efforts by the Islamic State to attack Iran on its soil. Iran has claimed to have detected plots hatched by the Islamic State in Syria and thwarted plots by groups sympathetic to it within its borders in recent years.3 For example, Iran’s Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi claimed in May 2015 that Iranian intelligence had foiled separate plots involving potential bombings in the northeastern city of Mashhad, the central city of Qom, and another plot involving a possible use of an undisclosed poison in Tehran.4 Iranian authorities claimed in June 2016 to have disrupted what they called one of the “biggest” terrorist plots ever planned to target Tehran.5

The attacks occurred amid Iran’s increasingly expansive role in Syria in support of the Assad regime, which has enflamed regional tensions, particularly between the Sunni Arab monarchies led by Saudi Arabia on the one side and Iran on the other. Iran’s entry into the Syrian conflict has also enflamed hardline salafi and other strains of Sunni Islamist opinion toward Iran. Amid this backdrop, and at a time when its control of territory in Syria and Iraq has diminished considerably, the Islamic State leadership will see its successful strike against Iran as a propaganda coup. It may prove useful in its fundraising and recruitment efforts as the group transitions toward a strategy of survival and regeneration and intensifies its campaign of local and international terrorism.

The Islamic State’s loathing of Iran and the community of Shi`a believers worldwide is a central tenet of its extremist worldview and a frequent theme of its sectarian-tinged discourse. Its brazen targeting of the Iranian capital signaled a notable escalation in its campaign of global terrorism, even as it continues to endure battlefield setbacks in Syria and Iraq as a result of the efforts of competing enemy forces that include Iran, Iranian allies such as Syria and Iraq, and Iranian-backed Shi`a militias. The Islamic State’s recruitment of Iranians—the purported assailants are reported to have been native Iranian Sunnis of Kurdish extraction who are said to have fought with the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq—and its ability to evade Iran’s pervasive domestic security apparatus is likewise reflective of its operational resilience.6

This article looks at the impetus behind the Islamic State’s targeting of Iranian territory. It outlines what is known about the June 7, 2017, attacks and considers the ideological, operational, and geopolitical factors underlying the Islamic State’s strategy. It also examines the timing of its decision to direct its sights and attention toward Iran as well as the social, political, and cultural disposition of Iran’s Sunni minority community and the extent of its receptiveness to the Islamic State’s narrative.

Targeting Tehran
On June 7, five militants launched a coordinated assault against Iran’s Parliament and the tomb of the Ayatollah Rohollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic. Armed with AK-47s, grenades, and suicide vests, three of the assailants stormed the Iranian Parliament and opened fire indiscriminately at staff and security forces as they made their way through the building. The assailants managed to reach the fourth floor where they proceeded to shoot at fleeing staff on the street before eventually being shot and killed by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) forces.7 The assailants involved in the attack against the Parliament were dressed in women’s clothing in an apparent attempt to increase their chances of infiltrating the facility. Two militants targeted Khomeini’s mausoleum, which is located approximately 10 miles south of the Parliament. One of them is reported to have successfully detonated a suicide vest while the other was shot and killed by security forces.8

Police take security measures after gunmen open fire at Iran’s Parliament on June 7, 2017, in Tehran. (Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Multiple contradictory accounts claimed that up to seven assailants may have been involved in the attack, including at least one woman, although video footage captured at the respective scenes of the incidents show a total of five militants.a According to other accounts, an alleged female cell member was captured alive while some reports suggested that a female cell member had ingested a cyanide pill prior to being apprehended by Iranian security forces.9 Most accounts also emphasize that the attackers were Iranian Kurds, although some reports claim that some of the assailants were heard speaking in Iranian-accented Arabic, a likely reference to Iran’s minority ethnic Arab community.10 No further details have surfaced from Iranian authorities or the Islamic State subsequent to the events to corroborate these claims. A number of announcements issued by both the Islamic State and Iranian authorities following the attacks seem to suggest that a total of five militants were responsible for the operation.11 Iranian authorities released graphic photographs of the deceased corpses of four of the alleged perpetrators who were killed during the attacks along with only their first names.12 Iranian officials reported that a third Islamic State cell’s plans to launch a separate attack to coincide with the operations executed against the Parliament and Khomeini’s tomb were thwarted by security forces, although no additional information regarding their identities or their targets has been released.13

The symbolism of the two locations targeted by the assailants is worthy of note. According to the Islamic State’s worldview, Iran’s Parliament represents a symbol of political and religious depravity. The late Islamic Republic’s revolutionary founder is a despised figure among hardline salafis.b

The Islamic State’s multiple propaganda arms moved quickly to exploit the attack for maximum effect. The Islamic State-affiliated Amaq News Agency released a 24-second video clip on its official Telegram channel and other platforms on June 7 shortly after the attack, which showed graphic scenes of the carnage captured by one of the militants with his smartphone from inside the parliament building.14 A subsequent video was released by Amaq News Agency on June 8 containing footage of five of the purported attackers involved in the June 7 attacks. The footage, which is subtitled in Arabic, features a statement by a Kurdish-speaking militant who is joined by four other militants. The speaker reiterated the Islamic State’s calls for Sunnis in Iran to take up arms and suggested the attacks were the first salvo in a sustained campaign: “This is a message from the soldiers of Islamic State in Iran, soldiers of the first brigade of Islamic State in Iran which, God willing, won’t be the last. This brigade will mark the start of jihad in Iran … and we call on our Muslim brothers to join us.” The speaker concluded by threatening future attacks against Saudi Arabia.15 The June 8 release of the Islamic State’s weekly al-Naba newspaper included multiple features about the Tehran attacks, including a one-page infographic summarizing the events. It also identified five of the alleged assailants by their kunyas: Abdelrahman al-Irani, Abu Jihad al-Irani, and Abu Warda al-Irani were, it was claimed, the gunmen behind the assault against the Iranian Parliament while Abu Abdullah al-Irani and Abu Muhammed al-Irani were involved in the suicide bombings at the Khomeini shrine.16

The assailants reportedly traveled to Iraq and Syria and fought on behalf of the Islamic State in Mosul and Raqqa, respectively, before eventually returning to Iran during the summer of 2016 to lay the groundwork for their plot.17 Four of the assailants allegedly hailed from the same village in Iran’s northwestern Kermanshah Province.18 Home to a significant ethnic Kurdish population, Kermanshah Province is part of a wider region often referred to as Iranian Kurdistan. One of the alleged attackers has been identified as Serias Sadeghi, a resident of Paveh. Sadeghi was named along with others in a 2014 report by the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KDPI)—a longtime opposition and insurgent movement that announced in 2016 that it would resume its campaign of armed resistance against Iran—as a recruiter for the Islamic State.19 Iranian authorities have linked the attackers to the late Abu Aisha al-Kurdi, an Islamic State commander centered in Mosul.20 Al-Kurdi is reported to have directed efforts to expand the Islamic State’s influence in Iran. Iranian authorities have linked al-Kurdi, who was reportedly about to be announced as the Islamic State’s emir (commander) for Iran prior to his death, to multiple foiled terrorist plots targeting Iran. Al-Kurdi was killed along with at least nine other militants by IRGC forces in September 2016 in Kermanshah Province.21

Iranian authorities reacted to the June 7 attack by announcing a large number of counterterrorism operations and arrests. The lack of detail provided makes it difficult to independently verify all the claims, including how many of the arrests were truly directly linked to the June 7 conspiracy, but it is likely the country’s security services significantly intensified their efforts given the widespread shock and anger among Iranians that an attack had been executed in Tehran. They announced a number of arrests of suspected militants linked to the Islamic State cells implicated in the June 7 attacks and additional counterterrorist operations targeting active extremist cells. Iran’s Intelligence Ministry announced on June 9 that the alleged plot ringleader responsible for the attacks in Tehran had been located and killed by Iranian security forces working in cooperation with the intelligence services of a friendly nation after he had fled the country. To date, no further details regarding his identity or the location where he was killed have been publicized.22 An operation led by the IRGC and Iranian police is reported to have resulted in the arrests of multiple individuals linked directly to the attacks in Tehran.23

The ministry also announced a series of counterterrorism operations that resulted in the arrest of dozens of individuals it claims are connected to the Islamic State, including some allegedly linked to the June 7 attacks, in the northwestern provinces of Kermanshah, Kurdistan, West Azerbaijan, and Tehran. Iranian authorities claimed the arrests also yielded the location of militant safehouses, as well as an assortment of weapons, explosives components, communications equipment, and forged documents. One operation executed in Iran’s southern Fars province allegedly led to the arrests of another group of Islamist militants purportedly linked to the Islamic State.24 Iranian authorities announced the arrest of an additional eight militants in Iran’s northwestern Albroz Province who they alleged had provided undisclosed assistance to the cell that perpetrated the June 7 attacks.25 Iranian security forces also announced that they had dismantled a terrorist cell in Sistan-Balochistan Province associated with the Baluchi Sunni jihadi group Ansar al-Furqan (Partisans of the Criterion).26 The IRGC later announced that it had killed Ansar al-Furqan’s leader Jalil Qanbar-Zahi and four other members of the organization during ensuing operations.27

Declaration of War
The Islamic State’s much-touted release of its first Persian-language video production in March helps to shed light on its motivations and objectives in relation to Iran.28 It should be noted the Islamic State has devoted ample attention toward broadcasting its hatred of Iran in particular and Shi`a believers in general throughout its panoply of official publications and other messaging platforms, including Dabiq and Rumiyah magazines, in multiple languages. For example, since the release of its inaugural Persian-language video release, the Islamic State has issued Persian-language translations of Rumiyah magazine.

The discourse and symbology featured in the video is replete with historical narratives shaped by anti-Shi`a and anti-Iranian invective that has become synonymous with extreme-salafi polemics. The video’s emphasis on Iran’s Zoroastrian heritage and references to the legacy of the Safavid Dynasty—Iran’s adoption of Shi`a Islam occurred under Safavid rule—are also recognizable themes. The labeling of Iran as a rafidi (rejectionist) society, a pejorative used to chastise Shi`a believers, along with its portrayals of Shi`a Muslims as heretics and apostates are similarly familiar descriptors used by extreme salafis. The portrayal of Iran as a covert ally of Israel and the United States and its criticism of the tolerance Iran affords to its Jewish minority are other accusations that have been repeatedly directed toward the Islamic Republic.

At the same time, the video’s direct appeal to Iran’s minority Sunni community and its presentation of three alleged Iranian members of the Islamic State identified by their kunyas as Abu Mujahid al-Balochi, Abu Saad al-Ahwazi, and Abul Farouq al-Farisi represents a notable shift in the Islamic State’s approach toward Iran. The aforementioned militants represent Iran’s ethnic Baloch, ethnic Arab (Ahwazi), and ethnic Persian Sunni minority, respectively. The video also introduced the previously unknown Salman-e-Farsi (Salman the Persian) Battalion, the Islamic State’s apparent cadre of Iranian militants.c The video features footage of its alleged members engaging in target practice and other forms of military training in Iraq’s Diyala Province located along the Iraq-Iran border. The symbolism behind the group’s namesake is noteworthy; Salman the Persian was a companion of the Prophet Muhammed and the first Persian to convert to Islam.

The timing of the Islamic State’s focus on Iran raises a number of questions. Given its deteriorating prospects in Iraq and Syria, its decision to divert precious resources toward opening another front meant the group saw the attack as highly important. The Islamic State’s ambitious foray into Iran appears to be part of its existing strategy to incubate and develop an organic militant infrastructure among Iranian Sunnis, many of who feel disenfranchised or harbor other forms of grievances toward the Islamic Republic. It may also reflect an attempt to co-opt the existing terrorist and insurgent movements led by Iranian Sunnis. Furthermore, the group’s blatant targeting of the symbols of Iran’s political legitimacy and religious identity may also have been an attempt to provoke Iran to crackdown harshly on its Sunni population, exacerbating sectarian tensions between Shi`a and Sunni inside Iran and the wider Islamic world in the process. A heavy-handed response by Iranian security forces against its Sunni population may serve to swell the Islamic State’s ranks with additional Iranian recruits. Incidentally, this is the strategy employed by the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of the Islamic State’s predecessor al-Qa`ida in Iraq.29

The attack may also have been calculated to draw Iran even further into Syria, Iraq, and potentially other combat zones influenced by sectarianism, worsening tensions. Iran’s targeting of Islamic State forces in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor Province, where the Islamic State maintains its self-declared capital Raqqa, with a barrage of medium-range missiles in retaliation for the Tehran attacks is a case in point.30 The audaciousness of the attacks may also help to divert attention from the Islamic State’s losses in Iraq and Syria and demonstrate that it remains a relevant and viable force. This may serve to raise the spirits of its support base in Syria and Iraq and enlarge its pool of recruits and sympathizers worldwide. Given the state of geopolitical tensions involving Iran and the Gulf states, the Islamic State’s targeting of Iran may help to increase its coffers through private donations provided by contributors in the Gulf motivated by anti-Shi`a sentiments.

The attacks may also have been designed to bolster the Islamic State’s position in relation to its rival al-Qa`ida. The Islamic State’s approach toward Iran differs strikingly from the one applied by its parent organization. Despite their ideological differences, al-Qa`ida has not targeted Iran because it has seen the utility of occasional cooperation in some contexts with the Islamic Republic.31 Al-Qa`ida also tended to downplay or disregard outright sectarian divisions between Sunni and Shi`a. The group applied a pragmatic strategy toward the Islamic Republic that was at least partially influenced by its goal of avoiding a direct and potentially destructive confrontation with Iran. In contrast, goading Iran into a broader regional struggle and provoking further sectarian enmity between Sunni and Shi`a in the Middle East serves to advance the Islamic State’s declared objectives. It also helps to further distinguish it from al-Qa`ida, as the two organizations compete for recruits in the post-caliphate era.

Fortress Iran
The threat to Iran from the Islamic State needs to be put in perspective. Notwithstanding its contentious international predicament, Iran is one of the most stable and secure countries in the Middle East. This is in part a consequence of its robust security and intelligence apparatus. It also stems from the nature of its political landscape, where a synergy between Islamist clerical rule and a dynamic participatory form of democratic politics has evolved alongside an embedded authoritarianism. Ethno-nationalist resistance and violent uprisings driven by social, cultural, political, and economic grievances toward the established ruling order present Iran with more pressing threats than Islamist terrorist groups.

Iranian leaders swiftly downplayed the significance of the attacks. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei referred to the attacks as “firecrackers” and a sign that Iran’s regional strategy in Syria and Iraq was valid and justified.32 In an attempt to make the attacks fit the narrative of regime propaganda, the IRGC implicated its archrivals Saudi Arabia and the United States in the attacks. Some Iranian officials went as far as to blame the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK, Peoples Mujahideen of Iran), an exiled, cult-like opposition movement with a history of violence and terrorism in Iran.33 Given the security protocols in place at the targeted locations, a report issued by a Saudi-based think-tank suggested the possibility that Iran had manufactured the attacks as a false flag operation to rationalize a harsher, more comprehensive crackdown against ethnic and religious minority-led opposition movements agitating in Iran’s peripheral border regions.34

However, the tactical, operational, and logistical elements associated with the attacks are suggestive of the presence of a relatively sophisticated militant network in Iran. Much has been said of the symbolism behind the targeted locations. The fact that both locations constituted hardened targets in the capital are further evidence that the threat of Islamic State-style militancy in Iran may exceed previous earlier assessments. In light of the spread of Islamic State-style Sunni militancy within Iran’s neighbors, there are indications that Iranian authorities have grown increasingly wary of that threat metastasizing to include elements of its own Sunni minority. Iran has aired its anxieties about the apparent spread of extreme versions of salafism and affinities for the Islamic State among its ethnic Kurdish Sunni minority.35 Here it should be noted that Iran’s apprehension toward its ethnic Kurdish minority has usually stemmed from its experience with a number of largely secular-minded political activists and insurgent campaigns that have agitated on behalf of ethnic Kurdish political and cultural rights and other Kurdish-centric causes analogous to the struggles waged by their kin in Turkey and Syria.36 But there is strong evidence to suggest that the Islamic State has enjoyed great success luring ethnic Kurds from Turkey and Iraq into its fold, and this is likely to have given it openings with Iranian Kurds.37 The northern Iraq-based Ansar al-Islam (Partisans of Islam), which was previously affiliated with al-Qa`ida in Iraq, boasts a sizeable contingent of Iraqi Kurds. Some of its members have been known to seek sanctuary on the Iranian side of the Iraq-Iran frontier. A series of organizational splits have prompted much of its rank-and-file to align themselves with the Islamic State.38 The significant presence of ethnic Kurds of various national origins in Islamic State ranks is likely to have facilitated contacts with Iranian Kurds and acted as a recruiting tool.

Much attention has been paid to the fact that the June 7 attacks marked the Islamic State’s first successful operation inside Iran. Yet Iran is no stranger to domestic-borne radical salafi-inspired militancy. A simmering insurgency in Iran’s southeastern Sistan-Balochistan Province that originated as an ethno-nationalist struggle on behalf of the ethnic Baloch Sunni community has since evolved into salafi- and sectarian-inspired campaigns.

Co-opting Resistance
The Islamic State’s professed objectives of toppling Iran’s Shi`a leadership and compelling Iran’s majority population of Shi`a believers to adopt its interpretation of the Sunni faith is an exercise in futility. At the same time, Iran is not immune to domestic insurrection and unrest stemming from disaffected religious and ethnic minority populations, including among its small yet diverse Sunni religious minority. Approximately 10 percent of Iran’s population is Sunni, with sizeable concentrations among its ethnic Baloch and ethnic Kurdish populations. Smaller communities of Sunnis are counted among Iran’s ethnic Arab, ethnic Persian, and other populations. Many Iranian Sunnis complain of discrimination and harbor grievances toward Iran. This includes displays of radical salafi-inspired Sunni militancy. The Islamic State’s reliance on native Iranian militants in the June 7 attack may help it incite other extremist-leaning Sunni Iranians to adopt its violent program.

While the attacks in Tehran appeared to have been executed by Iranian Kurds associated with the Islamic State, the most organized and sustained display of violent salafi militancy reminiscent of the Islamic State and its al-Qa`ida progenitor in Iran to date has been borne out of Iran’s southeastern Sistan-Balochistan Province and a collection of ethnic Baloch-led insurgent organizations. An insurgency in Iran’s southeastern Sistan-Balochistan Province led by myriad of ethnic Baloch militant factions has increasingly come to reflect the salafi jihadi dogma typical of al-Qa`ida and its ideological progeny the Islamic State. The since-defunct Jundallah (Soldiers of God), an ethnic Baloch-led militant organization implicated in an array of attacks targeting Iranian security forces and other symbols of state authority in Sistan-Balochistan, eventually adopted an ideology and discourse that reflected the anti-Shi`a sectarianism embodied by salafi extremists. Formed to defend Iran’s disaffected ethnic Baloch minority on issues of human rights, religious freedom, and social and economic justice from what was widely portrayed as a hostile campaign by Iran to suppress Baloch culture and religious identity, Jundallah abandoned its emphasis on targeting military and security targets to include attacking civilian locations such as Shi`a mosques with suicide bombings.39

Jundallah’s destruction following the capture and execution of its founder and leader Abdolmalek Rigi in 2010 spawned an assortment of other militant organizations led by ethnic Baloch, including factions that likely count surviving members of Jundallah within their ranks. Unlike Jundallah during its initial phase when it endeavored to downplay allegations that it was driven by radical Islamist and sectarian impulses,40 the array of factions that emerged in Jundallah’s wake, including Ansar al-Furqan, Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice), and Harakat Ansar Iran (Movement of the Partisans of Iran), along with other splinter factions, are explicitly sectarian in their orientation and broadcast their affinity for hardline salafi ideology.41 Despite sharing much in common in terms of ideology, the nature of the Islamic State’s relationship with these organizations at this time is uncertain. Nevertheless, their shared ideological affinities may help pave the way for future cooperation.

The Islamic State’s inclusion of the testimony of a member of Iran’s ethnic Arab minority (known as Ahwazis) in its inaugural Persian-language video is likely a sign that it considers the Iranian Arab minority as another potential opportunity to spread its influence in Iran. Khuzestan Province remains a hotbed of popular unrest and insurgency driven by cultural, ethnic, political, economic, and environmental grievances.42 It must be noted the majority of Iranian Arabs are Shi`a, although a sizeable Sunni community does exist. The state of animosity toward Iran is reported to have inspired a movement toward Shi`a Ahwazis converting to Sunnism.43

There are indications that the Islamic State has made inroads into the Iranian Sunni community that extend beyond the circumstances involving the June attacks. While there is more clarity regarding the diverse ethnic and national origins of the foreign fighters that comprise the Islamic State and other Sunni jihadi organizations in Iraq and Syria, there has been scant attention paid to the modest Iranian Sunni cadres that have departed Iran to join their ranks. The death of an ethnic Arab Iranian Sunni from Khuzestan Province known as Abu Obadah al-Ahwazi in June 2016 has been recognized as the first publicized death of an Iranian Sunni extremist in Syria. Al-Ahwazi is reported to have perished while fighting with the since rebranded Jabhat al-Nusra (Support Front), al-Qa`ida’s former Syria-based affiliate, in Aleppo.44 Ethnic Arab Iranian members of the Syria-based Ajnad al-Sham (Soldiers of the Levant) have issued public video statements.45 An obscure detachment of purported Iranian Sunnis that includes ethnic Baloch, Persians, and others known as the Defenders of the Nation has also reported to be fighting in Aleppo.46

The Bigger Picture
An assessment of the implications of the Tehran attacks is not complete without a consideration of their broader geopolitical implications, especially as they relate to the state of heightened tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia and its regional allies. Iran has accused Saudi Arabia of both encouraging and actively facilitating salafi extremist currents across the Middle East. It is no surprise that Iranian authorities implicated Saudi Arabia in the latest attacks.47

The Islamic State is likely keen to seek to aggravate and exploit these geopolitical faultlines to advance its aims. Even as it continues to endure heavy losses, the Islamic State likely considers the climate of sectarian tensions as an opportunity to reinvigorate its standing and bolster its narrative. While the extent of the Islamic State’s reach in Iran is difficult to pinpoint, the persistence of multiple, hardline salafi-inspired insurgencies may provide it with additional opportunities to establish a lasting presence within Iran’s borders.     CTC

Chris Zambelis is an independent analyst who specializes in Middle East affairs. His analysis of politics, international security, and geopolitical currents supports a wide range of clients in the public and private sectors.

Substantive Notes
[a] Iranian authorities announced that they had detained at least one female suspect along with a host of others on the grounds of Khomeini’s tomb, although no further details have since been released regarding her alleged connection to the attacks. See “Five Suspects Detained Over Tehran Attacks,” Radio Farda, June 8, 2017.

[b] For ultraconservative salafis, participatory and democratic systems of governance of even the Iranian variety elevate mankind to a position where it can challenge or otherwise usurp what is, in essence, God’s sovereign domain. In this context, salafis tend to view man-made institutions, including political parties, elections, constitutions, and legislation, as anathema because they supersede the brand of sharia (Islamic law) they promulgate and their concept of monotheism or tawhid (oneness [of God]).

[c] Some sources have implicated the Salman-e-Farsi Battalion in the Tehran attacks. For example, see “We Reveal the Truth: The Salman al-Farsi Brigades are Responsible for Targeting Iran,” Al-Bawaba News, June 8, 2017.

[1] Bozorgmehr Sharafedin, “Islamist Militants Strike Heart of Tehran, Iran Blames Saudis,” Reuters, June 7, 2017.

[2] See “Persia, Between Yesterday and Today,” Wilayat Diyala, March 2017.

[3] “Iran Thwarts Attacks in Tehran, Other Cities: Intelligence Ministry,” Reuters, June 20, 2016.

[4 “Enemy Plots Thwarted Almost Everyday,” Kayhan, May 29, 2015.

[5] “Iran Says It’s Foiled One of the ‘Biggest Terrorist’ Plots Ever Against the Country,” Associated Press, June 20, 2016.

[6] Thomas Erdbrink, “Iranian Kurds Are Implicated in Terrorist Attacks in Tehran,” New York Times, June 9, 2017.

[7] Amir Vahdat and Aya Batrawy, “Islamic State Claims Stunning Attack in Heart of Tehran,” Associated Press, June 7, 2017.

[8] Kareem Shaheen and Nadia Khomami, “Iranian Military Blames Saudis After 12 Killed in Tehran Terrorist Attack,” Guardian, June 7, 2017.

[9] Thomas Erdbrink and Mujib Mashal, “At Least 12 Killed in Pair of Terrorist Attacks in Iran,” New York Times, June 7, 2017.

[10] Thomas Erdbrink, “Iran Says Tehran Assailants Were Recruited Inside Country,” New York Times, June 8, 2017.

[11] “New Footage Shows How Terrorists Entered the Iran Parliament and Shot People,” Press TV, June 10, 2017. See also “LUCKY ESCAPE: This lucky Iranian Man Escapes Death as Daesh Terrorists Point Their Guns at Him and Imam Khomeini’s Mausoleum,” Press TV, June 10, 2017.

[12] “Tehran Terrorist Attacks Identified, Photos Released,” Tehran Times, June 8, 2017.

[13] “Intelligence Ministry: Terrorist Plot Foiled in Tehran,” Fars News Agency, June 7, 2017.

[14] Amaq News Agency, June 7, 2017.

[15] Amaq News Agency, June 8, 2017.

[16] Al-Naba, June 8, 2017.

[17] “Iran Releases Information On, Photos of Terrorists in Tehran Attack,” Press TV, June 8, 2017. See also Fazel Hawramy, “Iran Wakes Up to Salafist Recruitment in Kurdish Regions,” Al-Monitor, June 9, 2017.

[18] Hawramy.

[19] “A Report on the General Security Situation in Paveh and Oramanat,” Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, December 3, 2014.

[20] “Identity of Terrorists Behind Iran Attacks Revealed,” Iran Front Page, June 8, 2017.

[21] Ali Hashem, “Iran’s New Challenge: The Islamic State in Persia?” Al-Monitor, October 24, 2016.

[22] “Mastermind Behind Tehran Twin Attacks Killed: Intelligence Ministry,” Press TV, June 10, 2017.

[23] “Iran Says Arrested 48 Daesh Wahhabi Terrorists,” Press TV, June 9, 2017.

[24] Ibid.

[25] “Iran Arrests 8 More Terrorists Over Tehran Attacks,” Press TV, June 10, 2017.

[26] “Explosives Seized from Terrorist Cell in Chabahar,” Mehr News Agency, June 15, 2017.

[27] “Leader of the ‘Ansar al-Furqan’ Terrorists Killed by the Hands of the Revolutionary Guards,” Al-Alam, June 19, 2017.

[28] See “Persia, Between Yesterday and Today,” Wilayat Diyala, March 2017.

[29] Hassan Hassan, “The Sectarianism of the Islamic State: Ideological Roots and Political Context,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, June 13, 2016.

[30] “Iran Fires Missiles at ISIL Positions in Eastern Syria,” Al Jazeera, June 19, 2017.

[31] Assaf Moghadam, “Marriage of Convenience: The Evolution of Iran and Al-Qaida’s Tactical Cooperation,” CTC Sentinel 10:4 (2017).

[32] “Leader Plays Down Tehran Attacks as Fireworks, Says Incident Proves Preciseness of Iran’s Strategy,” Fars News Agency, June 7, 2017.

[33] Monavar Khalaj and Erika Solomon, “Revolutionary Guards Blame Saudi Arabia for Tehran Terror Attack,” Financial Times, June 7, 2017.

[34] Mohammed Alslulami, “Seven Notes on Tehran’s Armed Operation,” Arab Gulf Centre for Iranian Studies, June 17, 2017.

[35] Fatemeh Aman and Alex Vatanka, “Iran’s Other ISIS Problem,” National Interest, May 5, 2016.

[36] Franc Milburn, “Iranian Kurdish Militias: Terrorist-Insurgents, Ethno Freedom Fighters, or Knights on the Regional Chessboard?” CTC Sentinel 10:5 (2017).

[37] Metin Gurcan, “The Ankara Bombings and the Islamic State’s Turkey Strategy,” CTC Sentinel 8:10 (2015).

[38] Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, “A Complete History of Jamaat Ansar al-Islam,” aymennjawad.org, December 15, 2015.

[39] Ian Black, “Iran Bombing: Profile of Sunni Group Jundallah,” Guardian, December 15, 2010.

[40] Chris Zambelis, “A New Phase of Resistance and Insurgency in Iranian Baluchistan,” CTC Sentinel 2:7 (2009).

[41] Chris Zambelis, “The Evolution of the Baluch Insurgency in Iran,” CTC Sentinel 7:3 (2014).

[42] Chris Zambelis, “Nuclear Agreement Overshadows Unrest in Iranian Khuzestan,” Terrorism Monitor 13:6 (2015).

[43] “Ex-Shia Phenomenon in Iran: Mass Conversion Among Arab Ahwazis,” SonsofSunnahIran.com, March 20, 2014.

[44] Sama Massoud, “First Jihadist from Among Iran’s Sunnis is Killed Among Jabhat al-Nusra’s Ranks in Syria,” Al-Quds Al-Arabi, June 29, 2016.

[45] “Ahwazi Mujahideen within the Army of Conquest’s Ranks,” YouTube, October 29, 2016.

[46] “Iranian (Baloch, Persians etc.) Sunni Fighters in Syria,” SonsofSunnah.com, November 6, 2016. For alleged video footage of the Defenders of the Nation faction in Syria, see “Defenders of the Nation in Aleppo,” YouTube, March 27, 2017.

[47] “Iran Accuses Saudi Arabia of Tehran Attacks,” Al Jazeera, June 7, 2017.


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