Iranian officials minimized the significance of the assassination of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by U.S. Special Forces. A government spokesman, Ali Rabiei, said that al-Baghdadi’s assassination does not mark the end of the Islamic State: “Just as bin Laden’s death didn’t root out terror,” and didn’t end Al-Qaeda, “Baghdadi’s death won’t be the end of the Islamic State either.”
Rabiei took the opportunity to criticize Iran’s regional and international rivals (Saudi Arabia and the United States), saying that the Islamic State grew thanks to the funding by regional petrodollars and Sunni heretical teachings. The roots of these sources of terror must be dried up, he added, and that Iran is on the front line in the fight against terrorism and even joined in the ideological struggle against the Islamic State “diplomatically, strategically, and ideologically.” Meanwhile, the United States, he claimed, “tries to portray its militarism and aggression as part of its fight against terrorism; however, terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa is a product of U.S. militaristic policies, its hunger for oil, and its oppressive policies.”2
Iran’s Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Seyyed Abbas Salehi, also played down the importance of the assassination by the United States and its allies. “They are waving al-Baghdadi’s body like a flag of victory … For generations, this region has been stained with blood” by al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the Islamic State. … “From time to time, the United States presents one unidentified body or another, Muhammad Omar (the Afghan commander of Mujahideen and who founded Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan), Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and now al-Baghdadi, and they blow the victory horn. These bodies are not flags of victory. These are stinking bodies.”3
Iran’s Information Minister, Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi, tweeted in response to President Trump’s tweet “something big was happening.” The minister replied, “Not a big deal. You just killed your creature.”4 Iranian propaganda has always claimed that the Islamic State was a creature of the United States and Saudi Arabia’s making, and the Islamic State even received assistance from Israel.
The Islamic State and its supporters from the Sunni (Jundallah) groups, operating mainly in the east of the country, carried out several attacks against Iran. The most prominent attack was on June 7, 2017, when Kurdish terrorists of the Islamic State in Iraq (ISIL) conducted a simultaneous attack in Tehran against the Iranian parliament building and the mausoleum of the Islamic Revolution Leader Khomeini. During the attack, 17 civilians were killed and dozens injured. Iran accused Israel and Saudi Arabia of being behind the attacks.
On September 22, 2018, terrorists attacked an Iranian military parade in Ahvas, a southwestern province, in which 25 people were killed, including Revolutionary Guards and onlookers. The Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz (ASMLA) claimed responsibility for the attack. Meanwhile, Amaq News Agency reported that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) was behind the attack.
As far as Iran is concerned, the elimination of al-Baghdadi is a victory in the struggle against Sunni organizations that challenge Iranian hegemony in the region. The latest joins the list of assassinations and terrorism perpetrated by the United States on behalf of the Sunnis, who are opponents to the Iranian state and non-state opponents, like Saddam Hussein and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
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