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Before Attacks In Iran, ISIS Publications Had Increased There


In Tehran, there are reports of fatalities following two attacks this morning - one on the Iranian Parliament and another on the shrine of the light - of the late Ayatollah Khomeini. ISIS is claiming responsibility for the attacks.


MARTIN: The sound of first responders at those attacks. Joining us now is Golnaz Esfandiari. She covers Iran for Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. Thanks so much for being with us.

GOLNAZ ESFANDIARI: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: Amazingly, you just wrote a piece predicting an attack like this. Explain what made you think this was likely.

ESFANDIARI: I wrote a piece not predicting an attack, but I just noticed a growing trend. I noticed an increase in IS (ph) publications in Persian. IS published also a video that was addressed to Iranians to - to Persian speakers in March. Late March, we noticed the video. And then later, there were at least four issues of its Rumiyah publication - its magazine - in Persian. And I did a piece about what does it mean and why now - you know, this increase in propaganda targeting Iranians, especially the Sunnis inside the country.

MARTIN: So let's answer that question. I mean, you - you note that this is exceptional, that ISIS would be targeting Iran and pulling off an attack like this. But what does it mean that it is happening now?

ESFANDIARI: Well, it seems that IS has increased its propaganda in order to recruit among Iranians - Sunnis speakers. IS sees Iran, and Shiites in general, as a - as an enemy. And, you know, observers have pointed that IS always wanted to attack Iran. And in past months, especially during the last year, we heard from Iranian officials, you know, saying that we've foiled several attacks.

But the details were sketchy, and we weren't sure exactly what was happening, you know. But this seems to show that, you know, IS has been serious about launching an attack on Iran. And it's interesting. They've - they've targeted a core institution - the Parliament - and also a very symbolic building, the shrine of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini.

MARTIN: So these were, as you note, symbolic targets that get to the heart - strike the heart of the Iranian Republic. Iranian moderates just celebrated a victory in this recent election that happened in Iran. What does it mean for the current government? Is this a setback for them?

ESFANDIARI: I believe this is a setback for the government. They've been boasting. They've been saying, you know, Iran is very safe, and we have security inside the country. And they had also been reaching out to the Sunnis. Now, we don't know who are these attackers, whether they are - they're Sunnis or Shia - but, anyway, it is definitely a setback for - for the moderates in Iran.

MARTIN: Golnaz Esfandiari, she covers Iran from - for Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. She's been talking with us this morning about the terrorist attacks that took place in Tehran. Thanks so much for your time.

ESFANDIARI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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