The Islamic State (IS) on Thursday claimed responsibility for deadly bombings at the memorial service of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani on Wednesday. The explosions near Soleimani’s grave killed nearly 100 people and spurred fears of the Israel-Hamas war spreading in the Middle East.
According to reports, the group posted a statement on its affiliated Telegram channels and a pro-IS website.
U.S. officials earlier said that preliminary intelligence also pointed to IS as behind the attack.
War in Gaza is unlikely to be reviving IS
American officials said it is unlikely IS wanted to “frame” Israel for the bombings or set off a wider war, the New York Times reported. Since the onset of the war in Gaza, analysts have also predicted that Israel’s conflict with Hamas would not revive IS because the two factions “are deeply at odds ideologically.” While IS supports the elimination of Israel, it condemns Hamas’s political wing for participating in what it describes as “the polytheism of democracy” – i.e., at odds with its purist Salafi ideology. IS also disagrees with Hamas’s ambition for a Palestinian state, seeing it as incompatible with its goals of worldwide Islamic dominance led by religious rather than political leaders, according to Cole Bunzel, a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution.
“Worst time” for weak IS to strike Iran for propaganda purposes
“ISIS now is a shell of its former self,” wrote New Lines Magazine editor-in-chief Hassan Hassan, adding that the political and sectarian climate is vastly different in the Middle East compared with in 2017, when IS killed 17 in twin attacks on the Iranian parliament building and Ayatollah Khomeini’s mausoleum in Tehran. With the region on edge over the Gaza war, now is “the worst time” for the group to attack Iran simply for propaganda purposes, Hassan wrote. Meanwhile, journalist Alison Tahmizian Meuse said IS is “taking a cheap shot” against Iran by attacking now, adding that the group look “like stooges”.
Iran sends mixed signals on success of defeating IS
Tehran has repeatedly taken credit for the “full elimination” of IS and the collapse of its self-described caliphate , according to Al-Monitor. But that rhetoric has been walked back in recent weeks, with at least one Iranian general acknowledging the continued presence of IS in Iraq. The Iranian military in December held a large-scale drill near the border with Iraq, a sign that its intelligence services were worried the group may seek to attack again. Iran’s Shiite government has declared its intent to stop the spread of Sunni terrorist organizations such as IS, with one Iranian general last month saying the Revolutionary Guard “will nip in the bud any move by Sunni extremist groups.”