Iran Plays with ISIS Card to Scare Its People

Iranian media is reporting that the security forces in the country have arrested members of the Islamic State just outside Tehran. According to Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, Iran’s Attorney General, the apprehended “ISIS” cell had “planned to bring about destruction and anarchy” on the eve of the anniversary of the birth of the Islamic Republic which this year fell on February 10.

In his statement, Montazeri said that the people of Iran should know “if you don’t slap the enemy outside the house and [Iran’s] borders then you will have to confront them in your houses.” Montazeri also once again expressed the Iranian official line that had Tehran not militarily intervened in Syria and Iraq the militants from the anti-Shia ISIS movement would by now have been staging attacks on Iranian territory.

Comment: The timing of the reported arrests, on Iran's "Revolution Day," is certainly opportune for the Iranian regime that likes to project an image of invincibility in its ability to deal with its adversary, including the potential threat posed by the Islamic State. While there is no doubt that the Shia-centric Islamic Republic and the radical Sunni Islamic State are ideologically opposed to each other, there is a strong a tendency in Tehran to exaggerate the threat posed by ISIS to the Iranian population as a way of justifying Tehran’s controversial and costly military interventions in Syria and in Iraq. The mantra of “if we don’t fight them there then we have to fight them here,” is forcefully propagated by Iranian officials, which in itself is an admission to severe misgivings among ordinary Iranians about what the regime is conducting in the region in the name of national security.

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