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IRAN: Tehran accuses West of waging war on its turf

May 16, 2008 |  8:39 am

Shirazmosqueblast4

Washington's and Tehran’s allegations against each other have a curious symmetry.

Each side blames the other for causing unrest in the region. Both huff and puff through the media. They make arrests. They claim confessions. They point to unspecified evidence, which they never make public.

After weeks of facing escalating allegations that it was arming and training insurgents in Iraq to fight U.S. military forces, Iran is now stepping up its own allegations that the U.S. and Britain were behind a recent attack on a mosque in southern Iran.

This week judiciary spokesman Ali-Reza Jamshidi announced that Iran planned to file international lawsuits against the U.S. and Britain for backing insurgents allegedly involved in the bombing of the mosque that killed 13 people during a religious ceremony.

So far authorities have arrested 15 people allegedly involved in the plot. Iranians allege that the suspects had detonated bombs at dams and were planning to attack a recent book fair in Tehran in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars.

Jamshidi said Iranians have proof to back up their claims, though they have publicly provided none.

Here's Jamshidi:

The relationship of those who planted the bombs in Shiraz with the U.S. and Britain was identified and they were being financially supported and in fact they acted as foreign agents in Iran. In view of the documents obtained the judiciary in cooperation with the government and the Foreign Ministry will file lawsuits with international authorities against their supporters, who on the one hand claim to fight terrorists and on the other hand provide them with equipment.

And here's Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who raised the subject during a press conference this week:

The U.S., U.K. and Zionist regimes are behind the bomb blasts in Shiraz. They have encouraged and plotted to provide means for their ... terrorists to assassinate Iranian officials and people. In Shiraz , the U.S. ,U.K. and Zionist regimes ... mercenaries killed innocent, pious young men and women while they were praying, lamenting and worshiping, so their pious spirits and God have helped us to detect and arrest the suspects.

Iranian officials have also pointed to a recent decision by a British court to remove the Iranian opposition Mujahedin Khalq Organization from the official list of terrorist organizations as evidence of stepped-up interference in Iran. Iranian TV announced last week that the British ambassador in Tehran has been summoned to the Iranian foreign ministry to receive a written protest.

(The British government, by the way, strongly opposed the judiciary's decision.)

Like Washington's, Tehran's leadership also tries to use the accusations of foreign meddling to its own domestic political advantage.

Whether or not Washington's charges have merit, the Bush administration uses them to bolster its argument that Iraq would fall to Iran if U.S. troops were brought home.

And whether Iran's charges against the West have any merit, look for Iranian authorities to use the incident to further crack down on civil society advocates, peaceful or not.

Indeed, the rhetoric coming from Tehran about the blast is foreshadowing just that. The website of Iran's English-language Press TV reported that six of the suspects were connected to a German-based pro-democracy blog. And Interior Minister Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi told reporters this week that "monarchists" aided by Western countries "which claim to be supporters of human rights" were responsible for the attack.

Borzou Daragahi in Beirut

Photo: The aftermath of the April 12 bombing in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz. Credit: Iranian Students News Agency

P.S. The Los Angeles Times issues a free daily newsletter with the latest headlines from the Middle East, the war in Iraq and the frictions between the West and Islam. You can subscribe by registering at the website here, logging in here and clicking on the World: Mideast newsletter box here.

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