By Russ Read, The Daily Caller
Monday, 20 June 2016
Dozens of major news outlets reported Monday that Iran claimed to have stopped a massive terrorist plot against its capital of Tehran and other cities, but some experts are skeptical.
The reports were based entirely on reporting from Iran’s own state media, which more often than not acts as the government’s propaganda outlet. State media sources quoted the Iranian intelligence ministry which claimed that “takfiri” terrorist groups were plotting bombings across the country. Shia Muslim Iran often refers to Sunni Islamic State members as “takfiris” due to the terrorist group’s belief in denouncing fellow Muslims from the faith, thus allowing them to be killed.
While ISIS might like to take a shot at Iran, some experts on Iranian politics and security are not buying the claim.
“Iranian intelligence services have a long history of using fake terrorist plots. In some cases they have actually planted bombs themselves to blame other groups,” Saeed Ghasseminejad, a fellow with the Foundation for the Defense who specializes on Iran, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Based on the information available, Ghasseminejad believes Monday’s report may be nothing more than a fabrication, though Iranian media has come up with quite the story to sell it.
“The terrorists have been apprehended and a number of ready-to-explode bombs and a large amount of explosive materials has been discovered and seized from them,” said intelligence officials, according to Iran’s Fars News.
Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), said security forces have arrested several suspects in connection with the alleged plot. He noted that the attacks were “planned” for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Historically, ISIS has engaged in offensives during Ramadan, and called for attacks during the period earlier this year.
Ghasseminejad admitted ISIS would certainly like to hit Iran, but still doubts reports coming from Iranian intelligence. Iran’s claim that the attack was supposed to occur on the anniversary of Muhammad’s first wife particularly raised his suspicions.
“Khadija is respected by all Muslims, she died long before the rise of the Shia-Sunni split,” he explained.
Dr. Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute shares doubts, but thinks there still could be a kernel of truth to Iran’s bold claim. He told The DCNF that Iran has a small Sunni minority that is institutionally discriminated against. He believes it is possible that ISIS could have some interest in leveraging that discrimination.
“The Islamic State has long sought to cultivate supporters inside Iran for that reason,” he told The DCNF.
But like Ghasseminejad, Rubin isn’t buying what Iran is selling.
“Not only is [Iran] very subjective about the concept of terrorism, but it also cries wolf constantly,” said Rubin. “Supreme Leader Khamenei’s chelo kabob is overcooked? It’s the result of Zionism and the Global Arrogance’s terrorism.”
Rubin thinks that it is more likely that Iranian officials are using the alleged plot as an excuse to crack down on the country’s Sunni minority.
While this case may be a farce, he cautioned that ISIS should not be written off as a potential threat to Iran.
“[I] don’t think they’d be able to set up a formal branch [in Iran], but terrorism can go both ways and ISIS might try a “hail Mahdi pass” to get lucky.”