There’s a certain irony on today’s suicide-bomb attack on Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as, in the Middle East, it was the IRGC which a quarter century ago, developed and promoted the tactic for use by its various proxies.
We shouldn’t read too much into the latest attack, however, and assume that the attack represents a new chapter in internal unrest that remains unresolved from this summer. In this case, the problem is local: The suspects are Jundullah — an ethnic Baluchi group which has been operating in southeastern Iran and across the Pakistani frontier. The tensions there are as much sectarian as ethnic. While the Baluchis are nominally fighting for autonomy, much of the tension in the region is sectarian. Reading the State Department’s annual human-rights reports going back into the mid-1990s, there are many accounts of the Iranian government razing Sunni mosques or Iranian security forces disappearing or assassinating Sunni religious leaders or the family members of Sunni leaders.
The Jundullah have supported themselves with drug money and, apparently, with money from the wealthy emirates of the Persian Gulf — the same donors who, in the past, have supported al-Qaeda. In recent years, they have abducted inside Iranian territory and subsequently executed (often by beheading) Iranian paramilitary police.
Whenever the Iranian government experiences internal unrest, they blame it on external enemies and the struggle with Baluchi separatism is no exception. Traditionally, the British are suspects number one but, in the last couple years, the Iranians have voiced suspicions that the CIA is behind Jundullah. Indeed, if memory serves correctly, after President Obama’s initial outreach to Iran, the Supreme Leader said that the United States would need to apologize for its support of Jundullah.
For some more background, a brief history of the Baluchistan region from an encyclopedia article I authored a few years ago, and a little background about Baluchi separatism from a 2005 article, here.