By Thomas Erdbrink of The New York Times
Iran, one of the few countries involved in the Syria conflict not to have been affected by relentless terrorist attacks, woke up to a new reality on Wednesday, when armed men and perhaps one woman simultaneously staged attacks on the Parliament and on the landmark mausoleum of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
At least two people were killed and 35 others wounded in the assaults, according to the state-sponsored Iranian Students’ News Agency. While the Islamic State immediately issued a claim of responsibility, suspicions in Tehran were also directed at Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional nemesis, newly emboldened by a supportive visit from President Trump last month.
Saudi Arabia recently raised the volume of criticism against Iran, and the country led a regional effort on Monday to isolate Qatar, the one Persian Gulf country that maintains relations with Tehran.
The attacks on Wednesday followed a familiar pattern, with assailants armed with Kalashnikovs and suicide vests striking multiple locations. Three to four men armed with assault rifles entered the Parliament building in central Tehran on Wednesday morning, killing at least one security guard, wounding other people, and kidnapping several more, the semiofficial news agency Fars reported.
The Parliament building has been undergoing renovations intended to enhance security, particularly at the entrance, but that has yet to be completed.
In a sign that elite security forces had encountered trouble containing the situation, one attacker left the Parliament an hour into the siege, then ran around shooting on Tehran’s streets, only to return to the building, where at least one of the assailants blew himself up on the fourth floor as others continued shooting from the windows.
About the same time, around 10 miles to the south, two attackers entered the west wing of the sprawling Khomeini shrine, a main destination for tourists. According to local news agencies, at least one assailant detonated explosives in the western entrance. Another was reported to have committed suicide by swallowing a cyanide pill.
Iranian state television read out the news of the attack on the Parliament after a regular report on a session in the building, followed by an item on the increasing prices of kindergartens.
The first terrorist attacks in more than a decade in Tehran come just over two weeks after Mr. Trump, with Saudi Arabia and its allies, vowed to isolate Iran. Iran has dismissed those remarks, made at the summit meeting in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, as a scheme by Mr. Trump to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia. The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, has even suggested that Mr. Trump was “milking” Saudi Arabia.
Iran has long accused Saudi Arabia of supporting terrorists in the region, saying the kingdom had facilitated the rise of Sunni extremist groups such as the Islamic State and others in Iraq and Syria.
After Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other states cut ties with the gas-rich kingdom of Qatar, citing its support for Iran, Tehran has rushed to fill the void, offering to ship food and medicine to Qatar.
“The Saudis feel empowered now,” said Hamidreza Taraghi, a hard-line analyst who is close to Iran’s leaders. “They are now taking revenge in Tehran,’’ he said, adding that Iran’s policy was to drive a wedge between those in the Saudi alliance. “We are now helping Qatar,” he said. “This Saudi alliance means nothing.”
One Iranian security official said the attacks had been a message from Saudi Arabia to Iran. The official said the assaults were meant to teach Iran a lesson. He also said they were intended to test Iran’s reaction.