US officials confirmed to Iran International that they warned Iran of the impending double bombing which killed 95 civilians in Kerman earlier this month.
Separately, Iran International has learned that the US passed the warning to Iran more than one week before the Kerman attack.
Speaking to Iran International, a US official said, “Prior to ISIS’ terrorist attack on January 3, 2024, in Kerman, Iran, the U.S. Government provided Iran with a private warning that there was a terrorist threat within Iranian borders. The U.S. Government followed a longstanding “duty to warn” policy that has been implemented across administrations to warn governments against potential lethal threats. We provide these warnings in part because we do not want to see innocent lives lost in terror attacks.”
In spite of the warning that Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan, ISIS-Khorasan, known as ISIS-K, planned to commit the attacks at the commemoration ceremony of slain Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani, Iran failed to prevent the attacks, the Wall Street Journal first broke the news.
According to the US newspaper, American officials said the information passed to Iran was specific enough about the location and sufficiently timely that it could have prevented the mass killings on January 3.
The attack was the deadliest since the birth of the Islamic Republic in 1979. Many Iranians questioned why Soleimani’s family members and top officials were absent from the memorial at his gravesite in Kerman on January 3. The US warning could explain their absence.
The duty to warn will raise questions for many, when Iran’s proxies have been directly targeting US facilities and troops in more than 150 attacks since October 7 alone, following the Hamas invasion of Israel.
Proxies in Syria, Iraq and Yemen have said the US support for Israel’s right to defend itself in the wake of the Iran-backed Hamas massacre has made it a target alongside the Jewish state.
While Iran continues to develop its nuclear program and contravenes international laws, as well as arming Russia in its war against Ukraine, many will question the motives of the Biden administration in forewarning a global enemy.
Moreover, Iranian officials blamed the United States and Israel for the ISIS attacks, reiterating their long-standing position that the US has created ISIS.
Last year, the US cut a deal with Tehran to release five US-Iranian citizens unlawfully detained in Iran in return for the unfreezing of $6bn in Iranian money held in South Korea.
Former CIA officer Douglas London told the Wall Street Journal that the decision to tip off Iran was likely made by senior officials at the White House and CIA. Such intelligence sharing may well be part of the Biden administration’s policy to bring its adversary closer rather than imposing heavy penalties such as designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.
It is unknown if the tip-off was through direct or indirect channels, but is likely to have involved a third party, like the negotiations for last year’s hostage release.
The revelations of the tip-off will be hard to hear for the regime’s hard-liners who see the US as an adversary alongside Israel, its archenemy.
Speaking to WSJ, Alex Vatanka, director of the Iran program at the Middle East Institute, said that the ISIS-K attack was a humiliating setback for Tehran, whose mighty proxies reign terror across the Middle East and take billions of dollars of funding from Tehran annually, at the cost of its own people.
“ISIS operatives were able to come in and attack in the birthplace of Soleimani,” Vatanka said, a symbolic location commemorating the death of the man who oversaw all Iran’s proxy operations abroad.
Since the US withdrawal of 2021, Afghanistan-based ISIS-K has grown in strength. US officials say it is one of the most dangerous groups in the region, eclipsing al Qaeda, with ambitions to strike targets in the West.
Vatanka added: “The headlines wrote themselves: the Islamic Republic cannot protect the Iranian homeland.”