January 23, 2014
Like others around the world, Iranians have watched the evening news' bloody scenes of civilians targeted by terrorists in places like Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. But now, the BBC's Persian-language channel is reporting on growing concerns among Iranian officials about the threat of Al-Qaeda-type terrorism on their own territory.
Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani recently mentioned the threat of "Salafist infiltration," adding that Iran's security agencies had to focus on trying to prevent this from spreading, the BBC reported. The broadcaster notes that the statements come amidst Iran's current rivalry with Saudi Arabia and their bitter opposition over the fate of Syria.
Observers were divided on whether such terrorism could be "imported" as Ayatollah Larijani seemed to imply, or could emerge out of discontent from Iran's Sunni minority, which accounts for 4 to 8% of the population, and has often faced discrimination despite the state's official non-discriminatory policy towards religious and ethnic minorities.
The Government of President Hassan Rouhani has in any case sought to reach out to such minorities. His appointment of the former reformist intelligence minister Ali Yunesi as a vice-president for minority affairs was interpreted as a desire to reduce discrimination.
Separately, in a recent incident of terrorism outside its borders, Iran held funeral services for the diplomat recently shot in Yemen as he sought to resist a kidnapping. Iran's Intelligence Minister Mahmud Alavi compared the incident to the November 2013 bomb attack against the Iranian embassy in Beirut and observed that such attacks were expressions of "rage" against Iran's regional power, the reformist daily Arman reported.
One of Iran's senior clerics Grand Ayatollah Hossein Nuri-Hamedani was also cited as accusing the United States and Saudi Arabia of "giving financial backing and arms" to terrorist groups. He said "if the international community wants the Syrian problem to be solved, instead of holding conferences like the current Geneva 2, it would do better to prevent states backing terrorism from helping" them, Jomhuri-e Eslami reported.
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