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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 15 October 2018

Iran lashes out at 'bully' US over deadly parade attack

Gunmen killed 29 people at the military march in the Iranian city of Ahvaz

Iranian soldiers jump over a hedge as they run for cover during a terror attack that occurred during a military parade in the city of Ahvaz. EPA
Iranian soldiers jump over a hedge as they run for cover during a terror attack that occurred during a military parade in the city of Ahvaz. EPA

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday blamed the United States for the attack on a military parade that killed at least 29 people a day earlier, including 12 members of the Revolutionary Guards, and wounded 60 more.

An Iranian ethnic Arab opposition movement called the Ahvaz National Resistance, which seeks a separate state in oil-rich Khuzestan province, claimed responsibility for the attack, as did ISIS militants. Neither provided evidence. All four attackers were killed.

Speaking before leaving Tehran to attend the annual UN General Assembly in New York, Mr Rouhani said: "America is acting like a bully towards the rest of the world and thinks it can act based on brute force.

"But our people will resist and the government is ready to confront America. We will overcome this situation [sanctions] and America will regret choosing the wrong path."

Tensions have flared between Iran and the US since President Donald Trump came to office vowing to quit the landmark nuclear deal – which he then did earlier this year.

Mr Rouhani struck the agreement in 2015 after years of talks with the administration of president Barack Obama, ushering in a cautious detente with Washington which ended when Mr Trump took office in January 2017.

The Iranian president also accused Arabian Gulf states of providing financial and military support for anti-government ethnic Arab groups in Iran.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash responded to Iran’s allegations on Sunday, tweeting that there was no truth to them.

“The UAE’s historic stance against terrorism and violence is clear and Tehran’s accusations are baseless,” he wrote in Arabic.

Iran's semi-official Fars news agency blamed Saudi Arabia and Israel for aiding the attack. It said the shooting was carried out by an anti-government group that had received "unlimited support from a Saudi-Israel stream".

Iran's foreign ministry on Sunday also summoned the UAE's charge d'affaires over comments made about a military parade attack. State media said the action was taken over comments by an unnamed UAE official, without giving details.

Gunmen fired on an observation stand where Iranian officials had gathered to watch an annual event marking the start of the Islamic Republic's 1980-88 war with Iraq. Soldiers crawled as gunfire crackled. Women and children fled for their lives.

It was one of the worst ever attacks against the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the military branch most identified with Shiite clerical rule in Iran since its 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The IRGC answers not to Mr Rouhani but Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose authority vastly outweighs the president and all other Iranian politicians and officials.

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The Trump administration has targeted Iran with several measures since taking office in January 2017. It has placed sanctions on Iranian individuals with links to the regime, it has withdrawn from the landmark nuclear deal and it is reimposing two rounds of sanctions on the Iranian economy, as well as threatening to penalise other countries for doing business with Tehran.

"America wants to cause chaos and unrest in our country so that it can return to this country, but these are unreal fantasies and they will never achieve their goals," said Mr Rouhani.

Shiite Iran is at odds with Western-allied Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia for predominance in the Middle East.

The US and Gulf allies have railed against Tehran for its funding of proxy groups across the Middle East. It backs the Houthi rebels in Yemen where they have overrun population centres, and it supports Shiite militia Hezbollah in Lebanon, where it has now moved into Syria in support of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.

There was no immediate comment from Saudi Arabia about Mr Rouhani's allegations. Saudi Arabia and the UAE say that Iran poses a security threat to the Middle East and tries to dominate the region.