The commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has warned the Pakistani government over the recent deadly attack in southeast Iran, saying it needs to “change its behavior.”
The initial early Saturday reporting from Iran, including the Fars news agency video report embedded in a Twitter post by a well-known conservative journalist, includes "serious warnings" issued by General Mohammad Aki Jafari to both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan as well as the United Arab Emirates. However, during the day Iranian agencies tried to tone down the story and limited foreign players in the incident to Pakistan.
On Sunday, Iran’s foreign ministry summoned the Pakistani ambassador to voice protest and the speaker of Iran’s parliament also issues a warning to Islamabad that if attacks continue against Iran, bilateral relations will suffer.
On February 13, a busload of IRGC forces, traveling between the cities of Zahedan and Khash in Sistan and Baluchestan Province, was attacked with a car bomb.
The IRGC’s Quds Force said in a statement that an explosives-laden car crashed into the bus, which was taking personnel back to their homes, local news outlets reported.
The attack left at least 27 IRGC members dead and 13 others wounded.
An hour after the attack, an armed Iranian militant Sunni group, Jaish al-Adl, reportedly claimed responsibility for the deadly suicide assault. It is believed that the Sunni Baluch group uses Pakistan as a safe haven from where it can cross the border and conduct attacks in Iran.
But in his speech on Saturday February 16, promising that the IRGC would avenge the attack, Jafari also targeted Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which later was mostly taken out of local reports. “The Saudi and UAE governments, which have secretly supported these anti-revolutionary and dangerous anti-Islam elements should know that Iran's patience is not without limits”, the IRGC commander retorted.
He also lashed out at Pakistan saying that it is accountable for the support its military intelligence, ISI gives the anti-Islamic Republic groups. Jafari added that if Pakistan ignores its responsibility to rein in terrorists, Iran will be left with no option other than punishing mercenaries on the payroll of foreign intelligence agencies.
“From now on, the patience that the (Iranian) establishment has exercised in the face of such conspiracies and reactionary governments of the region, especially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which are acting at the behest of the United States and the Zionist regime, will be different,” IRGC-run Tasnim news agency cited the commander as saying.
Jaish al-Adl has carried out several attacks on Iranian forces with the aim of highlighting what they say is discrimination against Iranian Sunni Muslims and the Baluch ethnic group in the province.
Jafari asserted that the attack was the outcome of conspiracies by regional countries ordered by the United States and Israel. He asked the political leadership for wide freedom of action to avenge the attack on IRGC.
In another development, chairman of the Iranian Parliament's national security and foreign policy committee Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh was reported to have said on Sunday that "hundreds of terrorists are deployed just outside Iranian borders ready for further attacks."
Mainly Sunni-populated southeast Iran is a volatile and porous region that has repeatedly witnessed bloody clashes in recent months between IRGC forces and insurgents.
On February 14, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claimed there were "clear links between the terror attack and spy agencies of some countries in the region and beyond," urging Iranian security organizations to investigate.
Joining voices with Khamenei and Jafari, Yahya Rahim Safavi, a top military aide to the supreme leader, said the Pakistani government and its intelligence agencies should be held accountable for the latest terrorist attack in southeast Iran, adding that the Iranian armed forces have the "right to crack down" on the perpetrators of the assault.
Safavi said the perpetrators of the terrorist attack had been trained in Pakistan, adding the Pakistani government and its intelligence service (ISI) must explain "how the terrorists crossed the border and why the neighboring country has become a safe haven for terrorist groups," the state-run Mehr News Agency (MNA) reported on February 16.
“The powerful Iranian armed forces and IRGC ground forces have the right to crack down on the perpetrators of the terrorist attack based on their revolutionary duty to defend the country’s borders,” Safavi added.