Iran’s pres­i­dent blames U.S. af­ter at­tack on pa­rade

Austin American-Statesman - - NATION & WORLD - By Nasser Karimi and Jon Gam­brell

Iran’s pres­i­dent on Sun­day ac­cused an un­named U.S.-al­lied coun­try in the Per­sian Gulf of be­ing be­hind a ter­ror at­tack on a mil­i­tary pa­rade that killed 25 peo­ple and wounded 60, fur­ther rais­ing re­gional ten­sions.

Has­san Rouhani’s com­ments came as Iran’s For­eign Min­istry also sum­moned West­ern diplo­mats over them al­legedly pro­vid­ing havens for the Arab separatists who claimed Sat­ur­day’s at­tacks in the south­west­ern city of Ah­vaz.

The Ira­nian moves, as well as prom­ises of re­venge by Iran’s elite Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard, come as the coun­try al­ready faces tur­moil in the wake of the Amer­i­can with­draw from Tehran’s nu­clear deal with world pow­ers. The at­tack in Ah­vaz, which saw women and chil­dren flee with uni­formed soldiers blood­ied, has fur­ther shaken the coun­try.

Rouhani’s re­marks could re­fer to Saudi Ara­bia, the United Arab Emi­rates or Bahrain — close U.S. mil­i­tary al­lies that view Iran as a re­gional men­ace over its sup­port for mil­i­tant groups across the Mid­dle East.

“All of those small mer­ce­nary coun­tries that we see in this re­gion are backed by Amer­ica. It is Amer­i­cans who in­sti­gate them and pro­vide them with nec­es­sary means to com­mit th­ese crimes,” Rouhani said be­fore leav­ing for the U.N. Gen­eral As­sem­bly in New York.

Iran mean­while sum­moned diplo­mats from Bri­tain, Den­mark and the Nether­lands early Sun­day for al­legedly har­bor­ing “mem­bers of the ter­ror­ist group” that launched the at­tack. Dan­ish For­eign Min­is­ter An­ders Sa­muelsen con­demned the at­tack and stressed that there would be “con­se­quences” if it turns out that those re­spon­si­ble have con­nec­tions to Den­mark.

The min­istry later sum­moned the UAE’s en­voy as well over what it called the “ir­re­spon­si­ble and in­sult­ing state­ments” of an Emi­rati ad­viser, ac­cord­ing to the semi-of­fi­cial ISNA news agency. The UAE did not im­me­di­ately ac­knowl­edge the sum­mons.

Sat­ur­day’s at­tack, in which mil­i­tants dis­guised as soldiers opened fire on an an­nual Ira­nian mil­i­tary pa­rade in Ah­vaz, was the dead­li­est at­tack in the coun­try in nearly a decade. Women and chil­dren scat­tered along with once-march­ing Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard soldiers as heavy gun­fire rang out, the chaos cap­tured live on state tele­vi­sion.

The re­gion’s Arab separatists, once only known for night­time at­tacks on un­guarded oil pipe­lines, claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the as­sault, and Ira­nian of­fi­cials ap­peared to be­lieve the claim. 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.

The at­tack killed at least 25 peo­ple and wounded 60, ac­cord­ing to the state-run IRNA news agency. It said gun­men wore mil­i­tary uni­forms and tar­geted a riser where mil­i­tary and po­lice com­man­ders were sit­ting. State TV hours later re­ported that all four gun­men had been killed.

At least eight of the dead served in the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard, an elite para­mil­i­tary unit that an­swers only to Iran’s supreme leader, ac­cord­ing to the semi-of­fi­cial Tas­nim news agency. The Guard re­sponded to the at­tack on Sun­day, warn­ing it would seek “deadly and un­for­giv­ing re­venge in the near fu­ture.”

Ten­sions have been on the rise in Iran since the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion pulled out of the 2015 nu­clear ac­cord with Iran in May and be­gan restor­ing sanc­tions that were eased un­der the deal.

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“All of those small mer­ce­nary coun­tries that we see in this re­gion are backed by Amer­ica. It is Amer­i­cans who in­sti­gate them and pro­vide them with nec­es­sary means to com­mit th­ese crimes,” Has­san Rouhani said.

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