Strike Sought to Shore Up Internal Security, Says Iran

Strike Sought to Shore Up Internal Security, Says Iran

ISLAMABAD - Iran launched a missile strike into southwest Pakistan, targeting what it claimed were hardline Sunni Muslim militants linked to the Jaish al-Adl group. The strike was met with a swift retaliation from Pakistan, marking the first air strike on Iranian soil by Pakistan since the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

Contrary to initial speculations about broader regional ambitions, three Iranian officials, an insider, and an analyst now assert that Iran's primary motivation was to bolster internal security. The move is seen as a response to rising concerns about domestic militant violence, particularly in the aftermath of a deadly bombing on January 3 in Kerman that claimed nearly 100 lives. The bombing targeted a ceremony commemorating Qassem Soleimani, a revered Iranian commander killed by a U.S. drone in 2020.

Gregory Brew, an analyst at Eurasia Group, suggests that Iran faced domestic pressure to take action against perceived threats, leading to the cross-border assault. He emphasizes that the Iranian leadership is reacting to the need to demonstrate its capabilities in the face of heightened internal security concerns.

The targeted group, Jaish al-Adl, is known for its ultra-hardline Sunni Islamist militancy, posing a perceived threat to Shiite-majority Iran. An Iranian security official revealed that Iran had provided Pakistan with evidence linking Jaish al-Adl to the Kerman bombing and had urged Pakistan to act against the group. The official, speaking anonymously due to sensitivity, warned that actions against Iran's national security would not go unanswered.

The tensions between Iran and Pakistan have been longstanding, with Iran repeatedly urging Pakistan to address the presence of militants near their shared border. The recent missile strikes are seen as a manifestation of Tehran's dwindling patience on this matter.

Despite the heated exchange, both countries have publicly indicated a desire to avoid further escalation. Pakistan recalled its ambassador from Iran, and Tehran condemned Pakistan's strikes while emphasizing the importance of preventing armed militant bases on Pakistani soil.

Analysts suggest that de-escalation in the short term may prove challenging, given the high tensions. However, both nations, not appearing poised for a full-scale conflict, might consider diplomatic dialogue, potentially with third-party mediation. China, with its amicable relations and leverage with both countries, could play a crucial role in facilitating diplomatic efforts to ease the situation on the Iranian-Pakistani border.

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