by Eldad Beck
Sunni governments want to make it clear to the regime in Tehran that its intervention on behalf of the "Alawite butcher in Damascus" comes with a painful price tag at home.
The tendency to view Iran as a homogeneous national-religious-social entity is mistaken. Similar to other countries in the Middle East, Iran is a colorful tapestry of ethnic groups. Although the majority group within the population of around 82 million is Persian (61%), there are also Azerbaijanis in the northף Kurds in the West; Lurs, Turkmen and the Baloch tribe on the eastern border with Pakistan; and the Arabs – mostly Sunnis –situated in the Khuzestan Province in the southwest, adjacent to the border with Iraq, whose capital Ahvaz was the scene of Saturday's large-scale, deadly shooting attack at a military parade marking the 38th anniversary of the onset of the Iran-Iraq War.
In September 1980, while Iran was still coping with the fallout from its bloody Islamic revolution, then-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein tried seizing oil-rich Khuzestan. He had hoped the local Arab population would stand with him and help him realize his expansionist aspirations, but the terrorist regime in Tehran – at an exceedingly high human cost – was able to repel Iraq's recurrent attacks. The Khuzestan Province was one of the worst-suffering areas throughout the eight-year war between the countries, and the Iranian regime, which viewed the Arab population there as a fifth column, has worked ever since to oppress and discriminate against this minority.
The Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz was established in 1999 with the aim of creating an independent Arab state in Khuzestan. In 2013 the group inaugurated an armed wing named the "Mohiuddin Al Nasser Martyrs Brigade." Over the past 20 years, the group has carried out numerous terrorist attacks against the regime and Revolutionary Guards and claims to have bombed oil pipelines.
The regime in Tehran labels the ASMLA a terrorist organization and says it is funded and armed by Saudi Arabia. The Saudis, unsurprisingly, deny the allegation. One year ago, one of the founders of the ASMLA, Ahmad Mola Nissi, was murdered in Holland, almost certainly by Iranian regime agents. The fact that no one has yet been charged for the murder clearly points to the killers' identities: members of the Quds Force, the clandestine unit within the Revolutionary Guards responsible for political assassinations outside of Iran. Other Arab separatist groups are active in Khuzestan as well, which they refer to as "Arabistan."
The attack on the military parade in Ahvaz shouldn't only be seen as a "tribute" to the Iran-Iraq War, but as Sunni vengeance for Iran's murderous intervention in Syria on behalf of the "Alawite butcher from Damascus," Bashar Assad. Sunni governments want to make it clear to Tehran that its desire to take control of Syria comes with a painful price tag at home. Not as painful as the price Sunnis paid in Syria, but considering Iran's current situation, with a faltering economy, the regime is struggling to contend with American sanctions and the suffering population is beginning to rebel – the threat to Iran's social and territorial unity could become existential.
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