Iran's Revolutionary Guards threaten to avenge military parade attack
* Iran's elite force warns of "unforgettable" retribution
* Fusillade into parade's viewing stand killed 25
* Attack in southwest Iran stokes regional tensions
* Iranian president says Tehran will respond
* Rouhani condemns Gulf Arabs and their U.S. ally
(Adds Haley quote, context)
By Michael Georgy
DUBAI, Sept 23 (Reuters) - Iran's Revolutionary Guards vowed
on Sunday to exact "deadly and unforgettable" vengeance for a
shooting attack on a military parade that killed 25 people,
including 12 of their comrades, and Tehran accused Gulf Arab
states of backing the gunmen.
Saturday's assault, one of the worst ever against the elite
force of the Islamic Republic, struck a blow at its security
establishment at a time when the United States and its Gulf
allies are working to isolate Tehran.
"Considering (the Guards') full knowledge about the centres
of deployment of the criminal terrorists' leaders..., they will
face a deadly and unforgettable vengeance in the near future,"
the Guards said in a statement carried by state media.
Four assailants fired on a viewing stand in the southwestern
city of Ahvaz where Iranian officials had gathered to watch an
annual event marking the start of the Islamic Republic's 1980-88
war with Iraq. Soldiers crawled about as gunfire crackled. Women
and children fled for their lives.
Ahvaz National Resistance, an Iranian ethnic Arab
opposition movement which seeks a separate state in oil-rich
Khuzestan province, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Islamic State militants also claimed responsibility. Neither
claim provided evidence. All four attackers were killed.
There has been a blizzard of furious statements from top
Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rouhani, accusing
Iran's adversaries the United States and Gulf kingdoms of
provoking the bloodshed and threatening a tough response.
"LOOK IN THE MIRROR"
Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, rejected
Rouhani's accusations as rhetoric. "He's got the Iranian
people...protesting, every ounce of money that goes into Iran
goes into his military, he has oppressed his people for a long
time and he needs to look at his own base to figure out where
that's coming from," Haley told CNN.
"He can blame us all he wants. The thing he's got to do is
look in the mirror," she said.
Senior commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps
(IRGC) have said the Ahvaz attack was carried out by militants
trained by Gulf states and Israel and backed by America. But it
is unlikely the IRGC will strike any of these foes directly.
The Guards could put on a show of strength by firing
missiles at opposition groups operating in Iraq or Syria that
may be linked to the militants who staged the
They are also likely to enforce a tight security policy in
Khuzestan province, arresting any perceived domestic opponents
including civil rights activists.
Three Arab activists told Reuters that security forces,
especially the intelligence branch of the Revolutionary Guards,
had detained more activists in Ahvaz.
“There are many checkpoints on the streets of Ahvaz, and the
security forces are searching cars,” said Hossein Bouazar, a
member of Ahwazi Centre for Human Rights. “Many people are
scared.” Reuters could not immediately verify this account.
Iran has also been hit by sporadic street protests over
economic hardship that have taken on anti-government overtones.
Rouhani engineered Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world
powers that ushered in a cautious detente with Washington before
tensions flared anew with President Donald Trump's decision in
May to pull out of the accord and reimpose sanctions on Tehran.
The attack on the military parade is likely to give security
hardliners like the Guards more political ammunition because
they did not endorse the pragmatist Rouhani's pursuit of the
nuclear deal with the West, analysts say.
In New York, Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani said on
Saturday that U.S. sanctions were inflicting economic pain on
Iran that could lead to a "successful revolution".
The Trump administration has said that changing Iran's
system of government is not U.S. policy.
Shi’ite Iran is at odds with Western-allied Sunni Muslim
Saudi Arabia for predominance in the Middle East. The regional
superpowers support opposing sides in the civil wars in Yemen
and Syria as well as rival political groups in Iraq and Lebanon.
Iran's Foreign Ministry summoned the United Arab Emirates'
charge d'affaires on Sunday over comments made about the bloody
fusillade at the military parade, state-run PressTV said.
There was no immediate comment from Saudi Arabia on
Iran denies Gulf Arab accusations that it seeks to extend
its sway via proxies around the Middle East, calling for states
in the oil-producing region to guarantee its security without
the interference of the United States and other Western powers.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom, Bozorg Sharafedin in London and
Babak Dehghanpisheh in Geneva, Doina Chiacu in Washington;
Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman
and Mark Heinrich)
First Published: 2018-09-23 08:07:25
Updated 2018-09-23 17:01:11
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