Assault on Iranian military parade: False flag to divert attention?

Tony Duheaume
Tony Duheaume - Special to Al Arabiya English
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Those wanting to bring down the Iranian regime would naturally strike at the belly of the beast, and as far as Iran is concerned, its soft underbelly is that of the Arab province of al-Ahwaz, which its Persian conquerors refer to as Khuzestan.

Since al-Ahwaz was annexed by Shah Reza Pahlavi in 1925, its people have suffered terrible oppression and hardship at the hands of its occupier. With the province having been plagued with more unrest than any other Iranian province, due to the dismal conditions that Ahwazi Arabs have been forced to live in, the region has suffered countless crackdowns by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), and the security in the region is suffocating.

Over recent months, the province has been at the center of anti-government protests, as its people have taken to the streets, angry over water shortages, and pollution of local rivers, caused by industrial chemicals being released into the waterway by government owned factories.

But what has exasperated the problem to breaking point, is that they are now being hit hard by rising prices, in a province where Ahwazi Arabs suffer from the highest unemployment, and the most abominable housing imaginable.

But what angers the people more than anything is that they live in a region supporting the largest concentration of the country’s oil fields, making al-Ahwaz the richest province in Iran. But its Arab population see none of the benefits, causing anger to increase, and all indications are that ongoing street protests will soon escalate into something far more serious.

One such escalation took place on 15 April 2005, coming about as the result of documents being leaked into the public domain, which detailed plans for the ethnic restructuring of al-Ahwaz. The plan was to thin out the Arab population through forced removal from their land, followed by a mass building program of new homes, and through shipping in Persians from other provinces, to expand the population in their favour, making al-Ahwaz easier to govern.

This leaked memo triggered an unprecedented uprising in al-Ahwaz, which became known as the “April Intifada”, and as the year went on, violence on the streets increased, as enraged protestors set light to banks and public buildings. With the uprising escalating, scores of Ahwazi Arabs were killed, many dying as the result of extra-judicial executions by government forces, while hundreds were injured in street clashes, and hundreds more arrested.

Then later that year, in September and October, a series of armed attacks that differed from other violence taking place, was carried out against oil installations, accompanied by two powerful bomb attacks in Ahwaz city itself.

From evidence gathered at the scene of the bombings, these powerful devices were of a military nature, and had been professionally produced, which would have made it impossible for any local dissident to construct in a backroom bomb-making factory in al-Ahwaz.

Needing a scapegoat to accompany this “suspicious” bombing, the Iranian regime immediately came up with an obscure insurgent group by the name of the Mohi-eldain - Martyrs Guerrillas, and despite the group having been disbanded decades earlier, the regime pinned the bombing on its operatives.

ALSO READ: Mattis: It is ‘ridiculous’ for Tehran to allege US involvement in Ahwaz attack

But Ahwazi separatist groups were having none of this, their belief was that the bombings were carried out by agents of the government’s own IRGC, in the form of “false flag” operations, and that they were carried out as “justification” for the violent crackdown that was swift to follow.

False flags have been carried out for many years with the aid of proxy forces, frequently used on a given government’s own territory, to further its political agenda in areas of security, or to rally its people behind it in times of strife, when the said government is facing upheaval on the streets, and is in fear of being overthrown, or being voted out.

When manufactured terrorism strikes, obscuring or embellishing the truth with misleading evidence (smoke and mirrors), is also brought into play to ratchet up a “strategy of tension”, which can be successfully launched after a series of terror attacks have taken place. When creating such a strategy, governments play on the fact that their borders are at risk from a foreign enemy or an enemy within.

By spreading psychological fear and emotional distress among the population, the endgame of the government is to manipulate the general public into rallying behind it, accepting stringent security measures for their protection, or to agree to waging war against an “enemy” nation, which their government claims is controlling the “perpetrators” of these bogus terrorist acts, when in fact the government itself has been carrying them out through proxy, giving them the ability to claim “plausible deniability”.

During ongoing terror campaigns, whether genuine or government-produced, a strategy of tension can be very effective, especially at times when the population is rebelling against the said government.

This strategy can be launched through the release of government statements concerning intel of future terrorist operations, or that of information (genuine or false) from so-called trusted sources, suggesting a foreign nation is bringing disorder to the streets of the targeted country, in readiness to invade, and in order to minimize such threats, the said government urges the need for draconian security crackdowns to prevent further attacks.

The next step in this strategy comes into play through the manipulation of the nation’s media, which is also a useful tool when it comes to instilling fear into the minds of the populace. This comes into play through portraying in lurid detail photographs of the aftermath of such attacks, showing severely wounded bystanders, often children who have been caught up in the attack, implying that there could be much worse to come should future terror attacks take place.

A general view during military parade attack in Ahwaz on September 22, 2018. (ISNA, Reuters)
A general view during military parade attack in Ahwaz on September 22, 2018. (ISNA, Reuters)

Such was the scenario acted out in the recent attack on the IRGC military parade in Ahwaz, where film footage and photographs had shown the actual attack taking place, as well as the violent aftermath, which portrayed a scene of utter chaos, displaying various wounded and dead victims, including children, as well as a hero commander of the IRGC rushing forward cradling a bloodied child in his arms, leaving the regime with a favourable outcome. But even with this terror attack having said to have been claimed by a home-grown separatist group known as the Ahwazi Democratic Popular Front, certain aspects of the attack didn’t add up.

One thing that has to be taken into consideration, is the fact that the security at the parade was abysmal, as according to a senior Iranian military spokesman, it was the regular army, and not the IRGC that had been in charge of organising the parade, which seems very odd considering the vast amount of recent turmoil in the region.

There was also the fact that those carrying out the attack were wearing uniforms of the IRGC and Basij militia, which had allowed the perpetrators, not only to enter the area unchallenged, but also get close enough to shoot as many people as they did without interference.

There is also the question of how a weapons cache had been conveniently hidden close to the parade route by the perpetrators, weapons which should have been discovered by detailed security sweeps of the area, and why did the so-called elite Revolutionary Guards Corps fall to pieces under fire, crawling around on the ground while the gunmen did their worst, when their commanders should have been taking control to prevent the carnage, and there was also the question of why none of the VIPs on the viewing stand itself had been targeted.

ALSO READ: Ahead of UN General Assembly, Ahwaz attack underscores Iran’s domestic fissures

If it was the Ahwazi Democratic Popular Front that carried out the attack, it could point to the regime having pre-knowledge of the assault, but had allowed it to take place for the sympathy it would produce both inside and outside the country, or on the other hand, it could have been a carefully coordinated “false flag”, using members of one of the IRGC’s many suicide squads, who during the Iran/Iraq war had sacrificed their lives to save the regime from annihilation.

Whichever case it might have been, the regime was fast to apportion blame on that of neighbouring Arab countries and the US, with an accusation stating that the “terrorists” had been armed and trained by an outside force.

But when you take into consideration how the Iranian regime has its back to the wall, over Donald Trump imposing extra economic sanctions, as well as chairing a United Nations Security Council meeting on the subject of Iran’s “violations of international law”, Iran would have plenty to gain from such an attack.

Because as far as the Iranian regime is concerned, no sooner does it suffer a severe crisis, it turns to a strategy of tension to keep from being overthrown, concentrating its efforts on pointing a finger towards outside forces wanting to overthrow its administration, and take over the country.

When condemnation from abroad is aimed its way, which rightfully comes when its elite IRGC, Qods Force, has used proxies to carry out terror attacks on foreign soil, or are interfering in its neighbours’ affairs, which it always denies time and again, using falsehoods and lies put out through its obedient government-controlled media network, the regime is able to act out the part of the injured party.

Then whenever acts of terror are carried out by guerrilla groups, fighting for their rights on Iranian soil, the regime immediately points toward outside involvement, using it as an excuse to arrest innocent dissenters on trumped up charges, accusing them of spying or conducting acts of terror for foreign nations, giving the regime an excuse to eradicate dissent, and hang any political opponents causing a problem.

But as far as saving the regime’s neck is concerned, with Donald Trump’s chairing of the UN Security Council meeting to bringing Iran to book over terror it has supported across the globe, the attack on the military parade works out quite well for Rouhani.

With part of his defence being to point out that Iran has been the victim of a terror attack itself, caused by a so-called foreign-backed terrorist group intent on regime change, he will then point to his IRGC troops fighting various “terrorist” entities within Syria, to save Assad from a similar fate.

But the world as a whole views Iran’s action in Syria quite differently, seeing it as the mass slaughter of innocent people, through the use of an unchallengeable mechanized force.

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