(Photo Credit: Vahid Salemi / AP)
Iranian security forces have dismantled two militant cells affiliated with ISIS in the southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan, according to a 20 January report by Iran’s semi-official Tasnim News Agency.
The two cells were dismantled in a coordinated operation by Iran’s Intelligence Ministry, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and the police. Members of the cells and several accomplices were detained and referred to the judiciary.
According to the report, one of the objectives of these ISIS cells “was to take foreign nationals and business persons in Chabahar as hostages.”
The report added further that “Confessions by the groups’ members, including Afghan and Tajik nationals, show that they have had extensive plans to foment insecurity in southeast Iran.”
Identifying and eliminating militant cells seeking to carry out violent attacks against Iranian civilians and security forces have intensified in recent months.
A gunman killed at least 15 people and injured dozens more after opening fire on worshipers at the Shah Cheragh shrine, a pilgrimage site in Iran’s city of Shiraz, on 26 October.
On 7 November, Iranian security and intelligence forces arrested 26 ISIS members involved in the shooting attack.
Iran has been rocked by anti-government protests since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on 16 September – many of which have turned into violent riots, paving the way for armed attacks against security and police personnel.
Amini’s official autopsy report indicates that she died of cerebral hypoxia, which, if accurate, dispels the claim that she was brutally beaten into a coma.
Tehran has accused foreign players of funding and fueling violent riots in a bid to destabilize the nation. Attempts by the US and allied foreign powers to destabilize and even topple Iran’s Islamic government have emerged intermittently in recent decades.
Such attempts often follow the strategies detailed in a 2009 strategy paper, “The Road to Persia,” written by the Brookings Institution, a US-based think tank with close ties to the US and Israeli governments. The paper discusses various options to foment unrest and so-called revolution in Iran, including providing weapons and support to disaffected elements within Iran’s minority ethnic groups, as well as to external opposition groups.
The strategy paper notes that “One of the hardest tasks in fomenting a revolution, or even just unrest, is finding the right local partners,” but that “even if U.S. support for an insurgency failed to produce the overthrow of the regime, it could still place Tehran under considerable pressure, which might either prevent the regime from making mischief abroad or persuade it to make concessions on issues of importance to the United States.”