Questions are being asked about the veracity of the claim that ISIS was behind the twin bombings in Kerman, Iran, which killed between 84-94 people on Wednesday.
The bombing took place at an event commemorating Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the IRGC’s Quds force and Iran’s most powerful military figure, who was killed by a US drone strike in January 2020.
No one claimed responsibility for almost 30 hours, when reports appeared that ISIS (or Daesh) had issued a statement posted on the chat app Telegram.
Immediately, many Iranians began to express doubt about the ISIS claim, convinced that the Islamic Republic itself was somehow responsible for one of the worst acts of violence against civilians.
“How lovely of ISIS. They always come to the regime’s rescue at crucial moments,” wrote one dissident activist on social media. “The same thing happened last year [in Shiraz] during the protests, just as the regime was losing control.” This was a reference to a terror attack on Shahcheragh shrine at the height of anti-regime protests in 2022.
This sentiment is very common among Iranians. It is expressed in various forms and on various grounds, such as the fact that no official or figure of note, not even Soleimani’s family, were present at the ceremony. All such assertions arrive at the same conclusion that “it was the regime itself.”
So far there’s no evidence to validate such suspicion.
Curiously enough, the regime’s ultras (for once) seem to share the public’s view that it wasn’t ISIS, but they’re pointing in another direction.
“The ISIS statement has been issued with Zionists’ supervision,” the IRGC-affiliated Tasnim proclaimed on its official X account. It then pointed out what it believed were inconsistencies and irregularities that proved the ISIS statement was not authentic.
But that post was deleted shortly after, creating more confusion and fueling speculations about the potential perpetrators and their motivation.
The question was then duly taken to US officials.
“We don’t have any more detail in terms of how it happened or who might be responsible for it,” said John Kirby, the spokesperson for the US National Security Council, in a press conference Thursday. “We have no indication at this time at all that Israel was involved in any way whatsoever.”
The State Department’s spokesperson Matthew Miller seconded Kirby’s statement.
“It’s too early, at least, for us to be able to say what might have caused it,” he said in the department’s briefing. “The United States was not involved in any way, and any suggestion to the contrary is ridiculous… and we have no reason to believe that Israel was involved in this explosion.”
The US and Israel have not yet been officially blamed by the Iranian government – possibly because doing so would put the IRGC in a difficult position: do nothing and look weak or retaliate and risk a costly confrontation that it seems to want to avoid. But a host of officials, and government media have blamed Israel and some have also named the US.
Fears of a full-blown regional war are growing by the day.
Over the weekend, Yemen Houthis attacked yet another commercial vessel. Americans responded by sinking three Houthi boats. On Tuesday, Israel killed a senior Hamas official by a drone attack in Beirut. Then came the bombing in Kerman. And Thursday, the US military killed an Iraqi militia leader in Baghdad.
Politico reported Thursday evening that US officials “are drawing up plans… to respond to what they’re increasingly concerned could expand from a war in Gaza to a wider, protracted regional conflict.”
Inside Iran, activists are concerned that the bombing in Kerman –whoever the perpetrator– could be used as an excuse to further suppress dissidents and regime critics.
“These circumstances empower the government to justify and implement actions that would be unjustifiable under normal circumstances.” posted the human rights organization Hengaw on X. “This situation may lead to a reduction in government transparency and accountability, resulting in widespread human rights violations.”