Iran to expand its regional ambitions after terrorist attacks, expert says

MERVE AYDOĞAN @mgulaydogan
Published 08.06.2017 00:00

Experts have claimed that Iran will intensify efforts for regional dominance amid the deadly terrorist attacks yesterday on the Iranian parliament building and the mausoleum of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The head of Ankara-based Center for Iranian Studies (IRAM) think tank, Ahmet Uysal, told Daily Sabah that both Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and President Hassan Rouhani will display a common stance as "they are likely to maintain tensions [both verbally and physically]." On a similar note, prominent expert on Iran Merve Çalhan said that the country will enhance its security measures as Rouhani and Khamenei implement "an aggressive foreign policy" in the near future.

Although Daesh claimed responsibility for yesterday's deadly attacks in Tehran, Uysal said the attacks were not likely by Daesh, noting that Daesh militants tend to conduct attacks against easier targets. "The Iranian government would also prefer to conclude that the attacks were conducted by Daesh, but I do not think that the terrorist organization is capable of carrying out such an attack, as they tend to target easier victims. In such a highly secured area, the attack, in my opinion, was likely conducted by other terrorist groups or even intelligence organizations," Uysal postulated. With the continuing diplomatic crisis between Gulf countries, Uysal said that the attacks must be assessed in accordance with the Qatar row and U.S. President Donald Trump's recent visit to the Gulf.

"There is an attempt to establish a new status quo in the Middle East," Uysal said, adding that Iran is going through a serious operation. Foreseeing that Tehran could implement "an attack against an attack" policy, Uysal said: "The most important matter right now is how Iran interprets these attacks and who they deem responsible. Only then will we be able to gauge their response and actions to be taken in the near future." He also said that Iran's president and the country's supreme leader may increase efforts to maintain tensions.

Echoing Uysal, Iran expert Çalhan similarly said she expects the country to enhance its security measures while conducting a more aggressive foreign policy handed down by Iranian officials: "Iran generally protects its borders very well, but this is the very first time that attacks in the Middle East have crossed [the Iranian] border. From now on, we will see enhanced security measures and an even more aggressive foreign policy implemented by Iranian officials moving forward. In fact, cooperation could be seen between the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Khamenei and strong responses are possible. These responses will not only be verbal, but will also be evident through Iran's proxy wars in the region and Tehran's actions will be more aggressive in their efforts to dominate the region," Çalhan said.

She insisted the attacks must be considered in the context of two dimensions, one of which she described as apparent while explaining that the attack was a cautionary Daesh attempt to eliminate Iran's regional dominance. "Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, they have been conducting a 'Shiite-card' policy in the region and try to dominate the region using this card. However, we can say that such efforts have returned to Iran like a boomerang with the recent attacks.

"The attack can be viewed as an attack on Iran's national and religious identity," she said, and predicted that Daesh is testing "an artificial sectarian war" in the Middle East.

She also that there is obscure reasoning behind the attack, which comes from Iran and Qatar's energy cooperation. "Iran and Qatar share natural gas reserves in the South Pars field, which allows Iran to open up to the world. This partnership will not only enhance Iran politically, it will also give Tehran the upper hand in the international field economically," Çalhan said.

The South Pars Gas Field is considered the world's largest gas field, located on the border between Iran and Qatar. The gas reserves there make up roughly 19 percent of the world's total gas reserves. On that note, Çalhan reiterated that sectarian wars in the region are usually camouflage, saying the recent attack is a cover for the significant Iranian-Qatari energy partnership.

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