The Iranian government is stepping up accusations against "outside" forces in Thursday's twin-suicide bombings in the southeastern part of the country which killed at least 27 people and wounded about 270 others. Several officials are accusing the U.S. and Israel of masterminding the bloody explosions at a Shi'ite mosque.
Iranian government TV showed what appeared to be large crowds of Shi'ite Muslims marching in the streets of the city of Zahedan behind a funeral cortege. Women wailed to mourn loved ones killed in Thursday's twin suicide bombings at a Shi'ite mosque in Zahedan.
Police officials claimed to have detained 40 people involved in the bombings. Parliament speaker Ali Larijani insisted that the U.S. was responsible for the explosions, demanding that it "be held accountable." President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, however, condemned the blasts, with Clinton calling them "acts of terrorism."
Iran's deputy police chief, Ahmad Reza Radan, cast a wide swath of blame, including Israel, the United Kingdom, and the U.S..
He says that the region is a sensitive one, and that Iran's enemies have invested heavily in creating rifts and division inside the country, and that this isn't anything new. He insists that the security situation in neighboring Afghanistan and Pakistan is bad, and complains that wherever the U.S. is present there are bombings and insecurity. The United States, the United Kingdom and Israel, he argues, all have a hand in this.
Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najar also pointed the finger at Israel, Iran's arch-foe, claiming that it was "trying to sow division between Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims." Jundallah, the Sunni Muslim group which claimed responsibility for the bombings, says that it is defending the rights of Sunnis inside Shi'ite Iran.
Iranian-born analyst Alex Vatanka of the Middle East Institute in Washington notes that Iranian officials have been pointing accusatory fingers at just about all their enemies, each time something goes wrong inside their country.
"[Jundallah] has been operating since 2004, and if you look back at the last six years, it's impossible to think of someone that the Iranians haven't accused to be behind Jundallah, right from al-Qaida, to Taliban, to [Pakistani Intelligence], to Arab Gulf states, to the U.S., Israel, or the UK. If we wanted to take the Iranians at face value, Jundallah has this formidable, diverse coalition behind it that includes al-Qaida, the U.S., and Israel. The Iranians have done themselves no favors in accusing all their enemies at all times to be behind it," he said.
Vatanka argues that Shi'ite-Sunni animosity isn't as strong in Iran as it is in neighboring states such as Pakistan, due to Iran's long history as an empire, with diverse populations. The real problem in southeast Iran, he insists, is poverty.
"In many ways, this goes beyond the Sunni-Shi'ite issue, here, which isn't really that deep-seated in Iran," said Vatanka. "The suicide-bombings-everybody, across the spectrum-they are horrified. It's a fact of life that the Belouch [residents of Sistan-Baluchestan province in Iran's southeast] get the raw end of the deal when it comes to access to wealth. It's the most impoverished part of Iran. So, there are genuine grievances."
Vatanka goes on to conclude that the violent nature of Jundallah and the large number of bloody terrorist attacks it has committed in recent years, will prevent it - in his opinion - from gaining a strong, popular following. Iran executed Jundallah's leader, Abdolmalek Rigi, last month.