A great deal of mystery surrounds the April 12 explosion at the Hosseynieh Seyed al-Shohada mosque in the city of Shiraz, in Iran’s southwestern Fars province. The bombing came during a sermon by Mohammad Enjavinejad, the head cleric of the Rahpouyan Vesal Cultural Association (Followers of the Road to Join Up With God) . Approximately 800 worshippers were in attendance to hear the cleric, known for his critiques of Bahais and Wahhabis, when a blast ripped through the mosque, killing 12 and wounding over 200. Authorities in Tehran initially dismissed reports of sabotage and instead attributed the explosion to an accident caused by live munitions leftover from an exhibition in the area commemorating the Iran-Iraq War (Rooz, May 12). In a curious twist, Iranian authorities later announced that the attack was in fact an act of terrorism and that they had arrested six men belonging to an unidentified monarchist opposition group. After further arrests, over a dozen suspects linked to the attack are in custody. The detainees are also alleged to have confessed to receiving support from the United States and the United Kingdom (Fars, May 14).
Tehran has yet to release the names of the detainees or their affiliation. A group calling itself Soldiers of the Kingdom Assembly of Iran (Anjoman-e Padeshahi-e Iran, or API), however, did issue a statement on its website claiming responsibility for the attack: “On Saturday 24th Farvardin 6372 (April 12, 2008), the brave Soldiers of Anjoman-e Padeshahi-e Iran attacked a terrorist organization center…of the Islamic regime in Shiraz… The Kingdom Assembly of Iran is determined to free Iran from the ruthless Islamic rulers. For more than one year we were warning the terrorist organizations like Pasdaran [Revolutionary Guards] and Basijis [an Iranian paramilitary] to stop supporting the ruthless Islamic regime and stop suppressing Iranians. Tondar [see below] is starting the second round of operations… To those standing in the way of [the] Freedom, Prosperity and Liberation of Iran, we are warning you, stop putting your lives or the lives of your family members at risk by supporting those corrupt mullahs. Join the Soldiers of Cyrus the Great and Dariush [Darius]” .
API uses the term tondar (thunder) as a code for what it describes as a series of attacks it plans against the regime. According to other API sources, however, tondar activities entail a range of ongoing actions, including public demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience by Iranians in the diaspora opposed to clerical rule. API seeks to overthrow the Islamist regime and to restore the monarchy. It is also staunchly anti-Islam, instead emphasizing Iran’s pre-Islamic Persian heritage in what it labels as its struggle to inspire a Persian Renaissance ; the region where the attack took place is a significant center of Persian civilization. The late Dr. Frood Fouladvand founded API abroad before disappearing on January 17, 2007 along the Turkish-Iranian border, during what his supporters described as a mission to “liberate” Iran . Fouladvand operated his anti-regime activities from London. These included radio and television broadcasts from the satellite television station Your TV .
API also appears to count on support from segments of the Iranian-American diaspora in the United States. A member of an online chat forum hosted by DC Persian.com—a website catering to the Washington, DC-area Iranian-American community—who goes by the screen name Liberator04 describes tondar as a series of “five separate strikes against the Islamic regime and executed by members of Anjoman Padeshahi Iran” since May 2005, continuing by noting that “Operation Tondar” will take place both within Iran and outside of the country .
Iran’s latest allegations of foreign interference in its internal affairs mirror previous allegations accusing the intelligence services of the United States—and to a lesser extent Great Britain and Israel—of supporting opposition elements operating on Iranian soil. Tehran worries that any potential U.S. attack against its nuclear infrastructure or other targets will be preceded by a marked increase in domestic dissent and violence abetted from abroad. Such an effort would aim to undermine Iranian unity and stability from within. In this context, Iran sees the bombing in Shiraz and any acts of violence and terrorism perpetrated by ethnic Baloch, Ahvazi Arab and Kurdish militants, coupled with signs of unrest within ethnic Azeri and Turkmen communities, as part of a larger U.S. strategy to exploit Iran’s complex ethno-sectarian composition.
Tehran has yet to release any details proving foreign complicity in the Shiraz mosque bombing and there are no indications that it ever will. Iran will, however, remain wary; U.S. strategists will likely use the threat of support for active insurgencies and other pockets of dissent within Iran and abroad as a means to pressure the Islamic Republic on a host of issues, most notably claims that Iran is supporting insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iranian opposition elements may also be emboldened to act in the coming months amid the ongoing tensions between Washington and Tehran, with or without the help of a foreign sponsor.
2. www.tondar.org; The reference is to Cyrus the Great and Darius 1 the Great, 6th – 5th century BCE rulers of the ancient Persian Empire.
4. http://www.iransara.info/API.htm; http://iranesasani.multiply.com/