As It Happens

Tehran attack has Iranians 'waking up to the realization' they are a target, journalist says

Despite being involved in numerous regional conflicts, Iran has been largely untouched by attacks at home, says journalist Azadeh Moaveni — until now.
Women are seen inside the parliament during an attack in central Tehran on Wednesday. (Tima via Reuters)

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After ISIS claimed responsibility for a pair of deadly attacks in Tehran on Wednesday, Iranians are dealing with the shocking revelation they are not immune to attacks at home, says Iranian-American journalist Azadeh Moaveni.

The attacks on Iran's parliament and the tomb of its revolutionary leader killed at least 12 people and wounded more than 40. The bloodshed shocked the country and came as emboldened Sunni Arab states — backed by U.S. President Donald Trump — are hardening their stance against Shia-ruled Iran.

As citizens recover, world leaders are pointing fingers — with Iran blaming Saudi Arabia, and Trump partially blaming Iran itself

As It Happens host Carol Off spoke with Moaveni, currently based in London, to get a better understanding of the situation. Here is part of their conversation.

Carol Off: This is a shocking attack in Iran. What affect is it having on people?

Azadeh Moaveni: Iranians are every shocked. They're reeling from it. They've been quite exceptionally buffered, really, from all of the violence in their region, really for much of the last 10 or 15 years. Even though we have Afghanistan on one side, Iraq on the other. Even though Iran is involved in, you know, many of these conflicts in Iraq, in proxies through Syria.

So, I think, Iranians, for the first time, are kind of waking up to the realization some of the things that their government is doing in the region might have some blowback back home. And I think that's really a shock for most people.

A boy escapes during an attack on the Iranian parliament in central Tehran. (Tima via Reuters)

CO: How vulnerable are people feeling, then, do you think?

AM: I think they're jarred. The country's leading officials are really trying to downplay it. 

Although it's quite a shock — you know, it's the first attack really for a lot of young people ever that they have witnessed.

Azadeh Moaveni says Iranians are reeling in the aftermath of Wednesday's attack, which came as a shock to many. (Isabella de Madallana/

CO: ISIS has claimed responsibility, but Iran is pointing the finger at Saudi Arabia. What evidence does Tehran have that Saudi Arabia is behind this?

AM: There's no evidence that's been put forth yet, and there may never be. It's simply a causal identification ... in the eyes of Tehran.

It was only a month or two ago that Mohammed bin Salman, the [deputy] crown prince of Saudi Arabia, said very clearly: We don't want to engage with Iranians diplomatically. We have nothing to say to the Iranians. We're gonna take the fight to Iran.

These are kind of unprecedented hostilities coming out of Saudi Arabia, and just short weeks later we have this. So the Iranians are surely going to see this in light of these Saudi threats.

CO: Iran is saying today that this terrorist attack has to be seen in light of the fact that the U.S. president held a meeting with the head of the region's "reactionary government." Did Donald Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia change the facts on the ground? Has it emboldened Saudi Arabia to some extent, do you think?

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MA: Absolutely, it has. I think, unequivocally. I mean, what we're seeing with Qatar is a direct outgrowth of that meeting in Riyadh, and the Trump visit.

I think we're in a very strange and different moment in the region where essentially Donald Trump has said that Saudi hegemony will be the reality of the Middle East in terms of what America will do.

This part of the world that's been so bloody, and to see it turning more so, lurching towards more violence, simply because of President Trump's embracing one hegemon in the region, as opposed to [former] president [Barack] Obama, who said to the Saudis: Look, you and Iran are both important countries. You have to share. 

With files from Associated Press. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Fo more, listen to our interview with Azadeh Moaveni.