Iran’s Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi said today that his agency had foiled plots by several groups that wanted to disrupt the country’s security during the presidential elections. Speaking to reporters in Tehran, Alavi claimed that there were fewer security threats during this election season compared to previous ones. “Several small and medium-size groups were targeted. There were no successful action against security.” He added that the Intelligence Ministry did not inform the public about the threats so as not to cause concern in the run-up to the vote.
Comment: In recent months, Iranian security and intelligence officials had been warning that terrorist groups linked with foreign intelligence agencies were plotting attacks in Iran to disrupt the country’s election. No security incidents were reported during today’s elections.
Last Saturday, the Iranian Intelligence Ministry claimed that the country’s security forces had thwarted plans by a terrorist group to carry out attacks in Iran and seized the group’s explosives – without providing specific details. And earlier this month, Alavi announced Iranian security and intelligence agents had identified and disbanded about 30 terrorist cells over the past Iranian calendar year, which ended on March 20, 2017. “The Intelligence Ministry seized many items of equipment and ammunition from these (terrorist) teams,” he said, adding that 108 magnetic bombs and 15 suicide jackets were among the items confiscated. According to the intelligence minister, these groups intended to carry out terrorist attacks in crowded places inside Iran. But he praised the country’s intelligence and security forces for their efforts to keep Iran as the “island of stability” in a region rocked by terrorism and chaos.
Iran’s leaders often try to justify its military involvement in neighboring countries by telling the Iranian people that it has to fight Iran’s enemies abroad to maintain security and stability inside the country. But the latest spike in attacks against the Iranian security and law enforcement forces may undermine the regime narrative.
Security situation in Iran’s southwestern and northwestern regions is particularly tense and volatile. Recently, a Pakistan-based militant group called Jaish al-Adl killed 10 Iranian border guards in the restive Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchestan – prompting Tehran to send a high-level, 12-member delegation led by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to Islamabad to discuss cross-border security issues. Hundreds of Iranian security forces have been killed in the fight against insurgents and drug smugglers in the province over the past decade. And the emergence of the so-called Islamic State in neighboring Afghanistan and Pakistan and its potential spillover into Iran’s Sunni-majority southeast has forced the Iranian government to pay more attention to the once-neglected region. Both the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.)'s ground forces and Basij units have conducted large-scale military exercises in the southeastern region in the past one year. Last month, two separate attacks killed three I.R.G.C. officers in the area.
In the northeast, the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (P.D.K.I.) has resumed armed resistance against the Iranian regime. Mustafa Hijri, P.D.K.I.’s secretary general, said in January that their resistance was not “just for the Kurds in Iran’s Kurdistan, but it is a struggle against the Islamic Republic for all of Iran.” PDKI militants based in the Iraqi Kurdistan have repeatedly crossed the border and clashed with the I.R.G.C. in the Iranian province of Kurdistan.