MILITARY MIGHT AND BUSINESS INTERESTS
The assault in impoverished Sistan-Baluchistan province — among the worst ever on the Guards — illustrated that Iran’s elite force, which answers directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, can be vulnerable to guerrilla-style operations.
The Guards have an estimated 125,000-strong military with army, navy and air units — the sword and shield of Shi’ite clerical rule in Iran since its 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The force also operates outside of Iran’s borders in countries such as Iraq and Syria where it works with proxies to promote Tehran’s interest. It runs a business empire in Iran worth billions of dollars.
“The self-sacrificing military and intelligence children of the people of Iran will take revenge for the blood of the martyrs of this incident,” Fars quoted Foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi as saying.
Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said Iran would wage an “unrelenting battle against terrorism” in response to the attack.
The violence comes during a month in which Iran has been commemorating the 1979 Islamic Revolution which swept the U.S.-backed Shah from power. Tehran showed off ballistic missiles in defiance of U.S. efforts to curb its military power.
Iran had enjoyed relative stability compared to Arab neighbors who have grappled with political and economic upheaval touched off by popular uprisings in 2011.
But economic hardships fueled by U.S. sanctions have triggered waves of protests that sometimes call for Iran’s clerical leaders to step down.
Twelve members of the Guards were among 25 people killed last autumn by gunmen on a military parade in the city of Ahvaz in the southwest. The Sunni Islamic State and an Arab separatist group both claimed responsibility.
Jaish al-Adl emerged as the main armed opposition movement in the southeast after members of another Sunni group, Jundullah, joined it, after their leader was captured on a plane in 2010. He was tried and executed.[mr/reuters]