The Islamic State Threatened the Shi’a Community in the Islamic Republic of Iran

Islamic State_Shiraz Attack_Shi'a community
2023 Shah Cheragh attack against Iran’s Shi’a community (Credits:, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Persian Files ISSN 2975-0598 Volume 16 Issue 5
Author: Silvia Boltuc

The recent arrest of individuals implicated in orchestrating a series of violent assaults within the borders of the Islamic Republic of Iran underscores the profound and persistent terrorist menace facing the national Shi’a community.

This threat, predominantly emanating from the Islamic State, has showed a consistent pattern of aggression, particularly targeting the Shi’a community across the Middle East and Afghanistan.

The apprehension of these alleged perpetrators serves as a stark reminder of the critical imperative to maintain vigilant security measures and robust counterterrorism efforts within the region. It further underscores the necessity for collaborative regional initiatives and international cooperation aimed at mitigating the potential repercussions of such acts of terror, not only within Iran but across the broader geopolitical landscape.

Terrorists’ Arrest in Iran: Background Information

The Islamic Republic of Iran finds itself once again subjected to a direct assault on its core. The Iranian government reported that national security forces thwarted a meticulously planned attack involving 30 simultaneous explosions in Tehran.

While the exact perpetrators remain unconfirmed, preliminary data released by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence points to the involvement of the Islamic State in this plot. The overarching aim of these attacks bears resemblance to prior incidents in various European cities, aiming to instigate widespread panic within densely populated urban centres.

The Iranian Ministry of Intelligence underscores that these explosions aimed at undermining the nation’s security apparatus, fostering an image of instability, instilling societal despair and fear, and fomenting chaos and protests on the anniversary of last year’s uprisings.

The disclosed documentation alludes to the technically sophisticated nature of the operation, bearing hallmark characteristics akin to Israel’s established modus operandi. This accusation is framed within a larger investigation, alleging that foreign agents are exploiting authentic grievances of specific domestic protests to incite a regime change in Tehran.

Intelligence operations culminated in the arrest of 28 individuals spanning Tehran, Alborz, and the provinces of West Azerbaijan. Based on Iranian official reports, these detainees display clear connections to both the Islamic State and radical groups functioning in Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Kurdish region of Iraq. The Islamic Republic categorises such combatants as apostates or infidels.

Furthermore, Iranian authorities reported that by analysing video testimonies they discovered that the terrorists owned Western-manufactured weaponry, most notably of US origin. According to the Iranian point of view, this revelation casts a sobering light on the intricate web of international entanglements underlying the geopolitical landscape in which Iran finds itself embroiled.

Iranian Security Situation, Terrorist Threat and the Shi’a community

In recent years, Iran has repeatedly been a target of terrorist groups, with a notable increase in attacks, particularly since the emergence of the Islamic State, which frequently directed its violence towards the Shi’a community, particularly after the group seized control of Mosul in 2014.

Despite a notable reduction in Islamic State activities after the fall of the group’s stronghold in Mosul and Raqqa and the elimination of several leaders, pockets of insurgency persist across the Middle East, causing the Islamic Republic’s perpetual state of vigilance and comprehensive internal security measures.

Looking at the security situation in Iran, it is noteworthy to mention that in August 2023, Yadollah Bouali, the commander of the provincial Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), communicated to state media that an assailant penetrated the Shah Cheragh shrine via its southern entrance to conduct a terrorist attack, which caused the death of one person.

Shiraz witnessed also another attack in October 2022, when an assailant, entering the Shah Cheragh shrine, set it ablaze, claiming the lives of thirteen individuals while inflicting injuries upon forty others. The Islamic State asserted responsibility for this terrorist act, deliberately targeting a site of profound symbolic significance for the Shi’a community and the Iranian population.

The Shah Cheragh Mausoleum enshrines the remains of the brothers Ahmad and Muhammad, progeny of the Shiite Imam Musa al-Kaẓim, who sought sanctuary in Shiraz during the Abbasid persecution of Shiite Muslims. These attacks remain emblematic of the Islamic State’s persisting campaign against the Shi’a community that makes up a minority within the broader Islamic umma (community), set against the backdrop of Iran’s formal establishment of Shi’a Islam as the state religion.

Iran: Shi'a community and ethnic groups
The map shows the distribution of religious and ethnic groups in Iran and confirm the prominence of the Shi’a community in the country (Credits: Claude Zygiel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)


Iran’s geopolitical significance in the Middle East is underscored by its strategic positioning, allowing Tehran to exert influence over neighbouring countries, focusing notably on Iraq. The ascension of the Islamic State since 2014 has presented a profound challenge to regional stability, as it established a caliphate and directly menaced nearby states.

While concerted efforts have substantially weakened the Islamic State by neutralising its leadership and reclaiming territory, the group endures as a persistent threat in the Middle East.

This threat is further exacerbated by the consequential developments following the US troop’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021, which not only facilitated the resurgence of the Taliban but also emboldened the activities of the Islamic State in the region.

Given the proximity of Afghan and Iraqi territories to the Islamic Republic of Iran, Tehran finds itself compelled to heighten territorial control to safeguard the Shi’a community from potential violent attacks.

The developing regional dynamics necessitate a nuanced approach from Tehran. As the aftershocks of geopolitical shifts reverberate across the Middle East, Iran’s foreign policy must adapt to mitigate emerging threats.

Strengthening internal security measures becomes essential, reflecting a broader imperative for Tehran to uphold regional stability. This strategic recalibration is pivotal in safeguarding not only Iran’s national interests but also in fostering a climate of security for its neighbouring states, particularly Iraq and Afghanistan, which have been susceptible to the Islamic State’s malevolent influence.

Moreover, the situation underscores the interconnectedness of regional security concerns. Iran’s proactive stance in bolstering control over its national territory is intertwined with broader efforts to suppress terrorist threats that have emanated from the wider Middle East.

The necessity for Tehran to prioritise the protection of its Shi’a community against potential acts of violence is emblematic of a broader commitment to religious and national security imperatives and reflects Iranian domestic and foreign policies.

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