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Why Iran is becoming more vulnerable to foreign and domestic attacks

Mustafa Caner
04 Feb 2023 00:01:30 | Update: 04 Feb 2023 00:01:30
Why Iran is becoming more vulnerable to foreign and domestic attacks

On January 27, an armed individual entered the Azerbaijani embassy in Tehran, shot the security chief dead and injured two security officials. The attacker, 53-year-old Yasin Hosseinzadeh, is an Iranian from the city of Urmia and married to an Azerbaijani citizen. Hosseinzadeh, who was detained and questioned after the attack, claimed that his wife was being held hostage in the embassy for months and that he had organized the attack to save her. Iranian officials confirmed the suspect’s statement about the motive behind the attack and claimed that the issue is a family one and has no political dimension; however, the attack has already acquired a political character in terms of its consequences.

The Iranian government and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian expressed their discomfort regarding the incident. Abdollahian spoke with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan Jeyhun Bayramov and visited the injured embassy staff at the hospital. The Tehran police chief was dismissed after the incident. The Revolutionary Guards made a statement, saying that they would take the necessary steps to prevent the attack from harming Azerbaijani-Iranian relations.

This incident marks a new stage in the Iran-Azerbaijan tension, which has been increasing in recent years, and threatens to derail the already strained relations even further.

After Azerbaijan liberated occupied Karabakh in 2020, tension emerged between Baku and Tehran. Against the possibility of the opening of the Zangezur corridor, which will cut off Iran’s land connection to Armenia, Iran sent harsh messages and stated that it would not consent to any border change. In this direction, the Baku administration hardened its tone against Iran, which carried out military exercises on its Azerbaijani border. In addition, the joint military drill by the Turkish Armed Forces and the Azerbaijani army in December 2022 was also considered as a message to Iran.

Mutual harsh messages have been going back and forth between the two governments. Iran has been making various accusations based on Azerbaijan’s close relationship with Israel among which the accusation of Zionism draws attention. The Azerbaijani administration, on the other hand, states that the Turks in Iran are deprived of basic rights. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has drawn criticism from the Iranian administration for his claims that the Turkish population living in Iran comes from the same lineage as the Turks living in Azerbaijan.

The embassy attack reveals huge security flaws

The diplomatic police did not intervene when the attacker entered, and the attack lasted about 20 minutes, exposing shocking security flaws. At a time when the two countries’ relations are extremely sensitive, such flaws drew harsh criticism from Azerbaijani authorities. Furthermore, they raised the possibility that various intelligence elements may have been involved in the attack.

Statements made by the attacker to the press after the attack revealed an unstable emotional state. In this case, it is possible that the attacker may have been used by some groups. The attacker’s use of a Kalashnikov weapon and Molotov cocktail brought to mind scenarios in the same direction.

The Recent Drone Attacks in Western Iran

The day after the attack, a similar vulnerability resurfaced. A drone attack was carried out on a Ministry of Defense ammunition facility in Isfahan. While the attack caused damage to the building, almost all experts agree that Israel was responsible.

To avoid appearing weak and being forced to respond, Iranian officials have not filed formal charges against Israel and have claimed that the damage caused by the attack was minor.

The attacks on Iran, however, did not stop there. A day after the drone attack, an attack on an Iranian convoy on the move was carried out, this time near the Syrian-Iraq border town of Abu Kamal. Six of the 25 trucks allegedly used by Iran to deliver weapons to Hezbollah were hit as a result of the attack with conflicting claims regarding the casualties. Given similar attacks in the past, it is possible that the attack was planned by the United States or Israel.

These attacks came at a time when U.S. special envoy for Iran Robert Malley and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said they would increase the pressure on Iran’s nuclear activities. One can safely conclude that all forms of pressure on Iran will increase in the coming period, and that Iran will be the target of similar attacks exploiting security flaws.

Is iran not safe for foreign diplomats?

Who is behind the embassy attack will be revealed by the investigation. However, how the event was framed is important for the Iran-Azerbaijan tension. The Azerbaijani side described the incident as a “terrorist act” and President Erdoğan expressed solidarity with Azerbaijan.

It has been announced that the Azerbaijan Embassy will be evacuated and the embassy staff will leave Iran. In addition, Iranian Ambassador to Baku Seyed Abbas Mousavi was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and warned that Iran should put an end to its anti-Azerbaijani policy. Iran has a history of attacks on diplomatic missions dating back to the 1970s. The U.S. embassy in Tehran was taken over by Iranian militants in 1979, and 52 American hostages were held captive for 444 days. Meanwhile several attacks on embassies and diplomatic personnel have occurred in Iran in recent years.

The British embassy in Tehran was attacked in November 2011. A group of Iranian protesters stormed the embassy compound and vandalized the building. It was reported in the news that the protesters were enraged by Britain’s role in imposing economic sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. In response, the British government expelled all Iranian diplomats from the country and closed its embassy in Tehran. The attack strained relations between Iran and the United Kingdom, as well as other Western

A mob of Iranian protesters attacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran in 2016. The protests were in response to the Saudi government’s execution of the prominent Shiite cleric Ayatollah Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr. As a result of the embassy being set on fire and vandalized, the Saudi government severed diplomatic ties with Iran. Both the international community and the Iranian government strongly condemned the attack on the Saudi embassy.

Following the recent Azerbaijani embassy attack, Iran’s poor record of protecting foreign diplomats was brought to light once more. Many countries, including the United States, Israel, France, and the Gulf countries, condemned the attack. This attack sends a message to the international community that Iranian soil is not safe for diplomats. No doubt, such a message undermines Iran’s integration into the international system.