(CNSNews.com) – President Trump said Wednesday he prayed for the victims of a deadly terrorist attack in Tehran, but added that “states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.”
Iran has for decades topped the State Department’s list of terror-sponsoring states, and its agents and proxies have been implicated in atrocities around the world.
Wednesday’s suicide bombing and shooting attack at the Iranian parliament and at Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s mausoleum left at least 12 people dead.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the U.S. condemned the attacks.
“We express our condolences to the victims and their families, and send our thoughts and prayers to the people of Iran,” she said. “The depravity of terrorism has no place in a peaceful, civilized world.”
According to Iran’s Interior Ministry, two terrorists entered the Khomeini mausoleum mid-morning local time. One detonated a bomb and the second was killed in a firefight with security forces.
About 15 miles away, a second group of four terrorists confronted security forces as they tried to enter a building at the parliament complex. Again, one terrorist detonated a suicide vest and the other three were killed during clashes with security forces as they attempted to reach the upper floors of the parliament building, it said. Officials put the death toll at 12 civilians, with 42 people injured.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack – the deadliest of its kind in the Iranian capital for decades – but Iranian politicians and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) also pointed a finger at Saudi Arabia.
The Shi’ite regime and Saudi Arabia’s Sunni monarchy are bitter regional rivals. Trump during a visit to Riyadh last month sided unequivocally with the Saudis and their Sunni allies against Iran. The current diplomatic row between Qatar and its neighbors and other Arab states is due in part to Qatar’s move to break Sunni ranks and engage with Tehran.
On his Twitter account, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif implicitly accused Saudi Arabia and its “proxies” of responsibility for the attack.
“Terror-sponsoring despots threaten to bring the fight to our homeland,” he said. “Proxies attack what their masters despise most: the seat of democracy.”
The tweet apparently alluded to provocative remarks early last month by Saudi defense minister Mohammed bin Salman – King Salman’s son – to the effect that the kingdom would work to ensure that the fight for regional influence takes place “inside Iran, not in Saudi Arabia.”
Iran at the time called the remarks a direct threat.
Zarif’s tweet also referenced the fact Iran recently held its form of presidential elections. During Trump’s Riyadh visit Iran was stung by criticism directed its way from a meeting in an autocracy that does not allow its people to choose their leaders.
In a new tweet early Thursday, Zarif called Trump’s statement “repugnant” and charged that Iran is countering “terror backed by U.S. clients.”
The IRGC also pointed a finger at Saudi Arabia and threatened revenge.
The powerful militia said in a statement the fact the terror attacks were carried out by ISIS just days after Trump’s meeting with “the rulers of a regional reactionary regime” which it said has been supporting “Takfiri” terrorists, indicated that “they have a hand in the bestial attacks.”
(“Takfiri” is an epithet used mostly by Shi’ites to describe radical Sunnis who view Muslims not sharing their ideology as infidels.)
The IRGC said it would retaliate for the innocent blood shed in the Tehran attacks and pledged to safeguard the country’s national security.
“We will remain steadfast in fighting terrorists and we will surely take revenge on terrorists, their affiliates and their supporters for the blood of the martyrs of today’s two terrorist attacks,” Iranian news agencies quoted IRGC second-in-command Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami as saying.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir denied any involvement in the attacks and said he had no knowledge of who was behind them.
“We condemn terrorist attacks anywhere they occur and we condemn the killing of the innocent anywhere it occurs,” he said during a visit to Berlin.
Al-Jubeir also reiterated his country’s position that Iran is the world’s foremost terror-sponsor.
The U.S. government first designated Iran as a state-sponsor of terrorism in 1984, and continues to this day to characterize is as the world’s leading terror-sponsor.
A year before the designation, suicide bombings targeting the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut killed more than 300 people, including 241 U.S. Marines, soldiers and sailors. The IRGC Qods Force and its Hezbollah proxy were blamed.
Much of the terror activity has involved Iran’s Lebanese proxy Hezbollah, a group which before al-Qaeda’s attack on 9/11 was held responsible by the U.S. government for the deaths of more Americans than any other terrorist organization in history.
Iran’s support for anti-coalition Shi’ite militia in Iraq also had a lethal impact. Senior U.S. commanders have testified that some 500 U.S. soldiers and Marines had been killed in Iraq as a result of “Iranian activities.”
In a Thursday editorial Saudi Arabia’s Arab News expressed sympathy for the attack but said Tehran should “rethink its philosophy of exporting terror.”
“For a state that is the biggest supporter of terrorist groups worldwide – whether Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Al-Hashd Al-Shabi [militia in Iraq], the Houthis [in Yemen] or the Assad regime – these attacks on Iranian soil should come as a wake-up call,” it said.
“As Tehran picks up the pieces from the attack in Parliament and on the Khomeini mausoleum, it would do well to understand the pain that terror causes, as well as the misery and heartache that it inflicts upon the innocent.”