June 8, 2017 at 9:56 AM
by Paul Schemm
Iran's foreign minister on Thursday derided as "repugnant" a statement from President Trump that linked twin attacks in Tehran to what he called Iran's support for terrorism.
Meanwhile, Iran's Intelligence Ministry identified five of the attackers — all killed during Wednesday's bloodshed — as Iranians who had left the country to join the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria. The ministry published photos of their bodies. A sixth attacker was arrested, officials said.
At least 17 people were killed at Iran's parliament in Tehran and at the sprawling mausoleum complex for Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran's Islamic revolution.
The State Department and White House joined other nations with statements condemning the attacks. But Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, fired back at the White House and the U.S. Senate.
Zarif, who is on a visit to Turkey, tweeted criticism of a vote by the Senate soon after the attack to extend sanctions on Iran.
"Iranian people reject such U.S. claims of friendship," he said, hinting in the tweet that the terrorist attacks were "backed by U.S. clients" — an apparent reference to Iran's regional rival, Saudi Arabia.
In a White House statement, Trump expressed grief for the victims but concluded by saying that "states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote." Other countries such as Russia, Britain and France just expressed condolences for the attack.
The Trump administration has taken a much harder line toward Iran than its predecessor, describing the country as the top state sponsor of terrorism in the world and backing the view of allies Israel and Saudi Arabia that Iran is the chief threat to stability in the region.
The attacks were claimed by the Islamic State — an avowed enemy of the United States and Iran. The United States and Iranian-backed fighters are battling the Islamic State in neighboring Iraq and Syria.
Iranians awoke Thursday to find increased security on the streets of the capital and an announcement that the death toll from the attack had risen by five to 17, according to the coroner's office. Emergency medical services said 52 were injured, with 31 people still in the hospital.
Iran's police chief, Brig. Gen. Hossein Ashtari, said Thursday that one of the attackers was in custody and being interrogated.
According to the Interior Ministry, four people attacked the parliament building Wednesday with automatic weapons. One attacker detonated an explosive vest, and the others eventually were gunned down by security. The men entered the building disguised as women, who in Iran often wear billowing robes that would have allowed them to conceal weapons.
A two-person team, including one woman, launched a nearly simultaneous attack at Khomeini's enormous tomb complex in the south of the city. The woman blew herself up with an explosive vest, according to the ministry statement.
Both sites are revered symbols for Iran. The tomb commemorates the founder of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, and the Majlis, or parliament, represents what the country describes as its participatory government — in contrast with the hereditary monarchies of its main regional rivals across the Persian Gulf.
The attack appeared to be inflaming the enmity between Iran and the Arab gulf states.
In another tweet, Zarif, the foreign minister, referred to the parliament as "the seat of democracy," attacked by the proxies of "terror-sponsoring despots."
Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps issued a statement vowing to avenge the attacks. The Guard said it was "very meaningful" that the assault occurred just a week after Trump met with the "heads of one of the reactionary regional states that has constantly been supporting Takfiri terrorists."
Iran and its allies use "takfiri," an Arabic word, to describe its extremist Sunni Muslim enemies, including al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. The militant factions, in turn, consider Shiites — the dominant Muslim sect in Iran — as heretics.
Iranian officials did not say whether the attackers were from Iran's Sunni minority. Sunni-led factions have carried out previous attacks in Iran's border region with Pakistan.
The attackers launched the rare assault in the heart of Tehran at a time when the whole Persian Gulf region is on edge because of a feud between the Arab monarchies and gas-rich Qatar over its alleged support for extremist groups and its ties to Iran.
On Thursday, Bahrain's foreign minister, Khalid bin Ahmad al-Khalifa, put renewed pressure on Qatar "to distance itself from our number one enemy, Iran," in remarks to the Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.