U.S.-Iran Relations in Further Decline after Attack on Iranian Military Parade
Four gunmen opened fire on armed forces and spectators during a military parade on Saturday in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, Iran. The attack killed 29 and wounded 70 during the parade that was part of larger celebrations marking the 30th anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif were quick to blame the attack on “a foreign regime” backed by the United States, and further said that the attackers were affiliated with a terrorist group supported by Saudi Arabia. The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, countered the Iranian government’s claims and said that “The United States is not looking to do regime change in Iran. We're not looking to do regime change anywhere. What we are looking to do is protect Americans, protect our allies.”
Rather than “tarnish the prestige of the [Iranian Revolutionary Guard],” Ali Alfoneh, a senior fellow at the Gulf Arab States Institute in Washington, said that “the terrorist incidents will strengthen the IRGC’s standing and even mobilize some public support.” Since President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the 2015 international nuclear deal with Tehran, Iran’s leadership has seen an uptick in hardliner views; President Rouhani promised to “counter any action by the U.S.,” and further noted that “the Americans will regret this.”
While there is currently little to no evidence as to who conducted the attacks, the Iranian government’s belief that it was a country backed by the U.S. reflects mutual distrust and animosity between the U.S. and Iran that was escalated by Trump’s presidency. President Trump’s former strategic advisor Steve Bannon, in November 2015, called Islam the “most radical” religion in the world and claimed that “we’re clearly going into … a major shooting war in the Middle East again.” The projection of Islam as a radical religion promotes a narrative of violence that justifies conflict with the U.S.’s “enemies” in the Middle East.
Karim Sadjadpour, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment, wrote in an article in the Atlantic that the Trump administration’s strategy towards Iran is “missing two essential ingredients: multilateralism and U.S. engagement.” Furthermore, Trump’s inaugural promise to “eradicate radical Islamic terrorism completely from the face of the Earth” reflects a lack of strategic patience which makes conflict increasingly possible.