In the hours after a suspected terrorist attack on a military parade in the Iranian city of Ahvaz on Saturday left more than two dozen dead, countries around the world offered their sympathies to the victims. Some analysts wondered, however, why there wasn’t a stronger response from the United States.
Neither the White House nor the State Department released statements within the first few hours after the attack. When WorldViews contacted National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis on Saturday afternoon to ask whether the White House would be issuing a statement, Marquis offered his own brief response.
“The United States stands with the Iranian people and encourages the regime in Tehran to focus on keeping them safe at home,” Marquis said in an email.
The State Department later offered a statement from spokeswoman Heather Nauert, who said that the U.S. government was aware of the reports of an attack. “We stand with the Iranian people against the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism and express our sympathy to them at this terrible time,” Nauert said.
This muted stance was in contrast to that of other nations, which offered their sympathies to the victims and condemnation of the attack, with several ambassadors in Tehran writing personal messages, while leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin released official statements.
The United States was not the only country to delay its messages of condolence to Iran — notably, unlike many other nations, it does not have an ambassador in Tehran. However, some analysts suggested that the scale of the attack merited a response from a senior U.S. figure.
Trump himself often offers quick responses on Twitter to suspected terrorist attacks, especially those that appear to have been perpetrated by the Islamic State extremist group. The Islamic State released a statement that asserted responsibility for Saturday’s attack shortly after it occurred, though a separatist Arab militant group also said it was behind the attack. It was not immediately clear whether either group had organized the violence.
Last year, after two attacks linked to the Islamic State left 23 dead in Tehran, the White House released an official statement from the president that offered sympathy for the victims of the attack but added that “states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif later called that message “repugnant."
Tehran and Washington have for many years had tense relations over a wide variety of issues, including Iran’s nuclear program and American influence in the Middle East. The two nations have not had formal diplomatic relations since 1980.
However, under the Trump administration, these relations have deteriorated further as the American leader pulled the United States out of a nuclear agreement that had been agreed to with Iran and other nations under his predecessor, President Barack Obama, and moved to reimpose sanctions on Tehran.
Iranian leaders accused the United States of complicity in the attacks in Ahvaz. On Twitter, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, blamed the attack on allies of the United States in the region, calling it “a continuation of conspiracies by US-backed regimes in [the] region which have aimed at creating insecurity in our dear country.”
A number of Iranian officials, including Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani, are expected to travel to Trump’s hometown of New York City next week for high-level meetings at the United Nations General Assembly. Though many are expecting a tense reception from the American leader, Trump has suggested he would be open to meeting Rouhani on the sidelines of the U.N. events.
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