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Attacks On Iran Strike At The Heart Of Its Establishment


The Parliament building in Iran's capital, Tehran, is a huge, modern structure shaped a bit like, if you can imagine it, half a pyramid. It's part of a vast and highly secured complex which gunmen stormed today. And that was 1 of 2 attacks for which ISIS is claiming responsibility.

NPR's Peter Kenyon covers Iran for us. And Peter, what happened after the gunmen arrived at that facility?

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Well, at the Parliament, there was a long-running shootout. The police arrived and eventually Revolutionary Guard members. And this was a very dramatic siege for quite a while. And there's video of a body lying and apparently an ISIS fighter shouting at him that, we will never leave.

It was a very dramatic scene, as was the explosion and the gunfire at the Ayatollah Khomeini shrine. He's the founding father of the Islamic Republic. So symbolically, these were very big attacks at the heart of Iran's establishment.

INSKEEP: At very, very large and well-known structures inside Tehran. How significant an escalation is this for ISIS, which has been targeted by Iran in recent years?

KENYON: Well, if this is confirmed - and ISIS is claiming it in their own video...


KENYON: If the Iranian investigation confirms that, this would be I think a first - an overt ISIS attack inside Iran. Now, ISIS had been calling for such attacks, but Iranian officials had been praising their security apparatus, saying, basically this isn't going to happen. They claim to be an island of safety in a deadly region, and now it seems that's not the case.

INSKEEP: Isn't this a country that's under pressure from multiple sides at this moment?

KENYON: It is. It's engaged in a - kind of a proxy war against a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. It's part of the battle in Syria. It's on the side of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, but it also says it's fighting ISIS. And it's possible now that the government will take an even harder line. I think inside Iran, this is bound to be a boost for hardliners who will now want to expand the security state as much as they can.

INSKEEP: Peter, thanks very much as always.

KENYON: You're welcome, Steve.

INSKEEP: NPR's Peter Kenyon with some perspective on today's attacks inside Iran where ISIS is claiming responsibility for striking the Parliament building as well as a major shrine. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.