A military parade was attacked in Iran's southwestern city of Ahvaz on Saturday, killing nearly 30 people.
It is interesting that many countries still feel the need to organize military parades to commemorate national days. This is a very old practice, and the fact that it still continues in the 21st century tells us that little has changed since the 19th century with regard to relations between states.
For countries like China and Russia, military parades are particularly important, as they offer an occasion to display how powerful and disciplined their armed forces are. France's Bastille Day parade is well-known, even though it is harder in their case to understand why and to whom the French still need to show their military power. These are not the only examples of course, as many other countries preserve this martial tradition. We have to admit that military parades do not only help to dissuade foreign powers, but they are a domestic political instrument as well. Thanks to military parades, the governments show their people how tough and effective their security forces are.
Iran's Khuzestan region, where the attack occurred, is mainly populated by Iran's Arabic speaking minority. The province is home to Abadan, which is the country's main oil field. The very same region played a crucial role in the beginning and during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. As a matter of fact, the military parade was commemorating the start of that bloody war, which, in a way, proves that Iran's perception on regional relations and national interests has not changed much since those days.
An anti-government Arab group claimed responsibility for the attack, along with Daesh. Yet the Iranian government blamed Saudi Arabia and the U.S. directly, without paying much attention to the claims. We know that proxy wars led by terrorist organizations are coming to an end in the Middle East, so the countries that are using this instrument will have to change their methods in the near future.
At first sight, this may seem as though it is good news; letting us think that terrorism will lose ground, after all. However, this is not as good as it seems, because it means that states are getting ready to confront one another directly.
That's why Iran announced that no matter which terrorist organization had carried out the attack, it considers it was attacked directly by Saudi Arabia and the U.S. This is not shocking, as we know terrorist groups in the Middle East have always been used by third players. It is enough to recall how al-Qaida was created back in the day.
Iran is insinuating that the current tension in the Gulf region may result in a direct war between the Iranians and the Saudis. If that happens, Israel, too, may be dragged into the conflict. This may seem like the Iran-Iraq war scenario all over again. The difference is, during the 1980s, every single development in the Middle East was subjected to the influence of the Cold War. In other words, we were able to identify which Middle Eastern country was fighting in the name of the U.S., or in the name of the USSR. Although, European countries were often playing a double game in those days.
Should a classical interstate war erupt in the Middle East, there is no doubt that the Europeans will play a double game again. The problem is, there is uncertainty on whether or not Russia and the U.S. currently desire such a confrontation. In other words, Washington and Moscow have probably no intention to wage a war against one another through Iran and Saudi Arabia right now.
They may not want it right now; but there are a few countries who would like to see these two major powers fighting against each other. If one looks at Europe and East Asia carefully, one may easily see which countries would hope for such a confrontation.