In the aftermath of the bloody terrorist attack in the southern Iranian city of Ahvaz, Iranian authorities have pointed the blame at Saudi Arabia, UAE and their “American masters.” The attack, which killed and injured dozens of civilians and soldiers at a military parade, has been swiftly condemned by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, as well as by Iran’s neighbors such as Oman, Qatar, and Kuwait.
Yet, a clue to the bitter divisions in Persian Gulf, while Saudi Arabia has remained ominously quiet, its allies in UAE have been barely able to hide their joy and an adviser to the crown prince has even backed the attackers in his tweets, without receiving any official backlash, as a result of which the UAE ambassador to Iran has been summoned to the foreign ministry for questioning. Clearly, UAE leaders, whose hands are bloodied in Yemen and are frustrated about the quagmire there, which they blame on Iran’s support for the Houthis, have now crossed the line and, chances are, Iran’s promised revenge will target them.
Coinciding with the attack was a high-profile meeting of the Iran opposition group known as the MEK, which sided with Iran’s enemies during the Iran-Iraq war and is therefore discredited in Iran, featuring President Trump’s personal lawyer, former New York mayor Rudi Giuliani, who gave an incendiary talk and promised “we will overthrow” the Iranian government, this at a time when the other Trump officials including ambassador Nikki Haley in her latest TV interviews have repeatedly claimed (falsely of course) that their intention in Iran is not regime change.
The US Department of State has issued a terse response to the Ahvaz terrorist attack and lectured Tehran to focus on safeguarding the citizens at home! Naturally, Iran has been fuming at the bullying and arrogant Americans who nowadays openly boast of “suffocating” Iranians and “busting up” their economy, and have the audacity to call for a Security Council meeting on Iran’s “violation of international law” while trashing the UN Security Council resolution on Iran’s nuclear accord by unilaterally exiting the Iran deal and re-imposing the Iran sanctions, despite the opposition of other signatories to the deal.
Notwithstanding the above-said, the timing of the Ahvaz attack on the eve of the UN gathering in New York deserves close scrutiny. The attack came a day after the publication in Washington Post of an article by President Rouhani stating Iran’s readiness for dialogue, asking if Trump is ready? This article was the clearest indication that Iran was on the verge of accepting an offer to meet the US president on the sideline of the UN summit, in light of Trump’s earlier offer of talk without preconditions.
As this author has stated in a recent oped article in the New York Times, the US and Iran share a number of interests in the region warranting a dialogue. Apparently, the Washington hawks and their Israeli and Saudi allies thirsting for war with Iran have been disquieted by the possibility of a Trump-Rouhani talk and the Ahvaz attack may be timed to torpedo this possibility. As a direct result of the bloodshed in Ahvaz, President Rouhani would be taking huge political risks at home now if he dares to meet Trump. The public mood in Iran is now very angry and revengeful and not in sink with the dictates of persuasive diplomacy.
On the other hand, Iran should not allow the sinister objectives of Iran’s enemies to prevail, which in turn raises the question of what direction Iran’s diplomacy will take next week at the UN? We shall soon find out the answer. For sure, the stage is set for a US-Iran showdown at the UN and next week’s developments at the UN can actually contribute to the US-Iran tensions just as the opposite possibility of a minor dent in the bilateral tensions is also possible, depending on the choices of leadership on both sides.