Iran’s Role in the Murder of Two Americans in Tajikistan

Aug. 10 2018

On July 29, terrorists attacked a group of tourists in Tajikistan, killing four (including two Americans) and wounding three others. While Islamic State took responsibility for the attack, the attackers themselves seemed to have received training in Iran and were possibly working with a pro-Tehran group within Tajikistan. The former Soviet republic has a population that, unlike Shiite Iran, is 85-percent Sunni Muslim; but Tajik, the dominant language, is closely related to Persian. The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs documents the Islamic Republic’s recent attempts to sow discord there:

[S]enior Tajik interior-ministry officials told the BBC that Islamic State was not connected to this incident, but rather that an affiliated Islamic movement, the Tajik Islamic Renaissance Party (IRPT) whose activities were legally banned three years ago, planned and carried out the attack. . . . IRPT, which was founded in 1990, has strong ties with Iran. It was first outlawed in Tajikistan in 1993 [but after 1997] its activities took place openly . . . In 2015, . . . two of its representatives [were] elected to the 63-seat parliament. However, Tajikistan declared again in 2015 that the party was a terror organization. . . . Yet the ties between the party and Iran strengthened.

In December 2015, Iran not only invited Muhiddin Kabiri, chairman of the IRPT, to a conference that took place in Tehran, entitled “Islamic Movements around the World,” but there was also a meeting between Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Kabiri that aroused the anger of Tajikistan. . . . Relations between Tehran and Dushanbe continued to deteriorate [thereafter]. . . .

[T]he official news agency of Tajikistan published an article in the spring of 2017 emphasizing that Iran is gathering militias [affiliated with] IRPT that fought in the Syrian civil war on the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan. According to the news agency, the movement’s militias . . . are located in training camps along that border with the purpose of carrying out further attacks in the area. . . .

The Iranian [state-controlled] media . . . interview Kabiri often. In an interview with the Tasnim agency in June 2018, Kabiri refers to “the natural right” of his party as an Islamic party to have strong ties to Iran “as every Islamic organization or movement needs to have connections with Iran, which is an Islamic country with an Islamic leadership.” According to him, his movement also maintains “strong ties with the Muslim Brotherhood.”

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Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Central Asia, Iran, ISIS, Islamism, Politics & Current Affairs, Terrorism

In Gaza, Israel Must Try to Restore Deterrence While Avoiding War

Oct. 22 2018

Early Wednesday morning, a rocket fired from Gaza landed in the city of Beersheba, striking the courtyard of a home. (The woman who lived there, and her three children, barely escaped.) Israel responded swiftly with airstrikes, and the IDF reported that this weekend was the quietest along the Gaza separation fence since March 30, when the weekly riots there began. Yet some 10,000 Palestinians still gathered at the border, burning tires and throwing stones, grenades, and makeshift explosives at Israeli soldiers on the other side. Meanwhile, writes Eran Lerman, Jerusalem faces a difficult decision about how to proceed:

The smaller terrorist organizations in Gaza—Islamic Jihad, which operates as a satellite of Iran, and radical Sunni groups inspired by Islamic State—are the primary ones that want to ratchet up the violence into a full-scale war. For them, a major war in Gaza could be an opportunity to build themselves up on the ruins of Hamas. It also looks as if Iran, too, has an interest in escalating the situation in Gaza and pulling Israel into a war that will detract from its ability to focus on its main defense activity right now: keeping Iran from digging down in Syria.

The third player consistently working to worsen the situation in Gaza and torpedo Egypt’s efforts to broker a cease-fire is the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas, for whom—as he once said in Jenin— “the worse things are, the better.” . . .

All of these considerations are counterbalanced, paradoxically, by Hamas’s interest in continuing to dictate the terms of any cease-fire with Israel while refraining from a war, which the Hamas leadership knows would be self-destructive. Its moves to escalate the conflict—arson balloons, breaches of the border fence—have been intentionally selected as ways of taking things to the brink without toppling over into the abyss. . . .

And Israel? A harsh, well-defined blow is vital for it to maintain its mechanism of deterrence. A missile hitting Beersheba is not a trivial occurrence. However, as far as possible, and given the broader considerations of the regional balance of power as well as Israel’s fundamental interest in avoiding a ground war, it would be best to make the most of Egypt’s mediation.

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Palestinian Authority