Who is using who? Is it regimes that use extremists for their political ends, or is it extremists that exploit political differences to achieve their objectives? Let us examine the recent suicide attack in south eastern Iran. An extremist Sunni organization has claimed responsibility for the attack in which a number of senior Revolutionary Guard officers were killed. The manner in which this attack was conducted and announced resembles the numerous suicide operations that were carried out in Iraq against political forces, military sites, and innocent mass gatherings.
Also, what we saw in Iran resembles what happened and is still happening in Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and elsewhere: complicated terrorist operations bearing the hallmarks of highly organized groups. Besides, despite their resemblance, these attacks cannot possibly have the same source, however, terrorism has become one of the means of political action. It is no longer what it was in the nineties: a purely ideological suicide action. Because somebody used Al-Qaeda or sought the help of one of the jihadist groups that have proliferated in the region like microbes, perhaps others have had to think about the same means: using terrorism to impose specific policies or deter others.
This is not new in our region where, regrettably, violence and terrorism have been used as a tool for bargaining since the seventies. The new development is the use of religion in the political game. I do not know who is behind the Jundallah group that carried out the suicide operation in Iran, but this group is known as an extremist Sunni organization with a political message against the Iranian regime. Nonetheless, it appears to be the missing link in the regional fights under way. Belligerents exchange claims to be fighting in the name of Sunnis or Shias and to be combating infidels. They issue other statements, which no one versed in political affairs believes are innocent. It may be that these organizations are real, that they indeed uphold their ideas and that their members are believers who kill and fight under the brandished slogans, but it remains that in fact they are used in the settlement of accounts at higher levels.
Everybody must be aware now that no one is safe from religious wars. The Americans used Islamic fundamentalists to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, and five years after the departure of the Russians the fundamentalists turned to fight the Americans. Iran sought their help to confront the Americans, and here it is today on the receiving end of their fire.
The Iranians should not commit the same mistake as the Americans by believing that this extremist group can be fought by arms only. In fact, it will not be able to do so, and it will find that hundreds of extremists are joining these armed groups, which will be helped by Iran’s opponents. Iran will then find itself in a more serious and narrower situation. Common interests are now dictating to even enemies to agree on the type of weapons with which to fight each other. As a result, it is possible to stay away from the terrorism weapon that has covered everybody in blood, specifically religion-based terrorism and the stirring up of sectarian quarrels.
It is not in the interest of Iran to support the Huthists or the Arab extremists, be they Sunni or Shia. Likewise, it is not in the interest of the other states to enter into the game of splitting the Iranian ranks, from a sectarian point of view. The region has had enough of 10 years of blood letting wars in the name of religion.