The Third Large-Scale Incident Against Iran In A Row

Two explosions killing at least 200 and wounding hundreds have been reported around 700 meters from the grave of Qasem Soleimani in Kerman, Iran during a ceremony commemorating the 2020 assassination of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps top commander killed four years ago in a US drone attack. Kerman provincial governor has called the events a terror attack, but has not attributed responsibility to any particular group. The Iranian law enforcement agencies continue to investigate the incident.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed “a harsh response” against the “the evil and criminal enemies of the Iranian nation” after the terror attacks. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres followed soon condemning the attacks and expressing “his deep condolences to the bereaved families and the people and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran”. Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, also condemned “terrorism in all its forms and manifestations” in a letter to Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei and President of Iran Ebrahim Raisi. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey, also expressed his condolences to the victims of the terror attack in Kerman and their families.

General Soleimani was one of the key figures in Iran’s confrontation with the United States. He commanded the al-Quds special unit of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is responsible for Iran’s overseas operations, and was killed in the US missile attack on Baghdad airport on January 2nd, 2020. The Pentagon said the attack was carried out on the order of Donald Trump, US President at the time, who called the deceased general “the number one terrorist in the world”. The White House reported that Soleimani had been “planning imminent attack” on American forces.

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Iranian emergency services arrive at the site where two explosions in quick succession struck a crowd marking the anniversary of the 2020 killing of Guards general Qasem Soleimani, near the Saheb al-Zaman Mosque in the southern Iranian city of Kerman

In December, 2023, a court in Iran has ordered the US authorities, as well as other individuals and legal entities acting as co-defendants in the case of the death of General Qasem Soleimani, to pay more than $49 billion as compensation. This decision was made against the backdrop of escalating tensions in the Middle East while the United States remained the only state that openly supported Israel in the UN Security Council.

The terror attack in Kerman is the third large-scale incident against Iran or Iran-backed groups in the region within a week. In late December last year Iran and several of its allies in the region accused Israel of assassinating Razi Mousavi, a senior al-Quds commander in Syria, and vowed retaliation. Later, an explosion reportedly caused by an Israeli drone strike in Beirut, Lebanon, killed Saleh al-Arouri, one of the founders of Hamas’ military wing and deputy head of Hamas Politburo. Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson condemned Israel’s “despicable” killing of al-Arouri, but other government agencies have largely stayed silent on the issue.

There is no direct evidence of Israel’s responsibility for the terror attack in Kerman, but popular opinion in most nations in the Middle East may be swayed to believe that Israeli forces are indeed responsible for the attack. Israel accuses Iran of arming and funding Hamas, as Israeli officials believe they are fighting a “multi-arena war”, including against Iran. Still, Ahmad Vahidi, Iran’s Minister of Interior, has not attributed responsibility for the deadliest terror attack in the history of the Islamic Republic to any group or country.

The White House national security spokesman John Kirby said that “the US has seen no indication Israel was behind the blasts”. The United States itself has stepped up its military involvement in the Middle East, as it conducted military operations and airstrikes against Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah and Houthi rebels. Additionally, the US and the UK have sent warnings to Iran to end its support for the Houthi rebel group’s attacks in the Bab-al-Mandeb strait, which have paralyzed commercial shipping through the Red Sea.

Yet another escalation of tensions contributes to deteriorating security in the region and the internationalization of the conflict. Israel’s reported recent attack in Beirut has been the first since 2006. The terror attack on Iranian soil may lead to the regional powerhouse’s direct involvement in the ongoing conflict, as Iranian officials toughen up their rhetoric as a result of the killing of Iranian civilians.

The security situation in the region remains complicated amid Israel’s continuing military operation in the Gaza Strip, which has already left more than 23,000 people dead, Houthi rebels continuing blockade of the Bab-al-Mandeb strait, and Hamas’ decision to suspend talks with Israel on hostage deal after the Beirut attack.

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