Terrorism & Insurgency

Islamic State video threatening Iran unlikely to result in sustained terrorism campaign in one-year outlook

19 April 2017

Key Points

  • In this video, the Islamic State threatened to "destroy" Iran and called on the Iranian Sunni community to take up arms and "liberate" Iran.
  • The video comes within the context of the Islamic State's continuing territorial losses in recent months and the associated significant ideological challenge to the credibility of its governance project.
  • Although Iran's hostile operational environment mitigates the risk of a sustained terrorism campaign, there is an elevated risk of isolated attacks on Shia religious or soft targets.


In late-March 2017, the Islamic State's media office of Diyala Wilaya (province) in eastern Iraq released a video focused exclusively on Iran.

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani delivers a speech in Tehran after registering his candidacy for the presidential race on 14 April 2017. (PA)Iranian president Hassan Rouhani delivers a speech in Tehran after registering his candidacy for the presidential race on 14 April 2017. (PA)

The Islamic State's video, entitled 'Land of Persia: From yesterday to today', is the group's first Farsi/Persian video and directly threatened the Islamic Republic, demanding that it stop the killing of Sunnis. The video's primary audience is likely intended to be Iran's Arab, Baluchi, and Kurdish ethnic minorities who form the majority of Iran's Sunni community (5-10% of the population). This indicates that the Islamic State's intention is to use the same anti-Shia sectarian narrative it has used elsewhere, in this case urging Sunni followers in Iran to attack the "infidel" Shia majority "unlawfully ruling" them.

The video featured several Farsi-speaking native Iranians, as well as a Baluchi-speaking and an Arab-speaking Islamic State fighter, calling on Iranian Sunnis to target "corridors" and "gatherings" in Tehran, Qom, Isfahan and Mashhad, likely referring to commercial, religious, and Persian cultural targets.

IHS Markit analysis of the video showed that it is of lower quality compared with the group's other media productions, indicating that limited media resources were allocated by the group to produce the video or that the team working on its production had limited time to refine it, probably due to security concerns. The video reiterated the idea that the Islamic Republic is a legitimate target for the Islamic State due to its governance under Shia jurisprudence, rather than what the Islamic State would consider the correct Sharia law, citing "its persecution of Sunnis", "its protection of Jews", and "its alleged co-operation with Israel and the US".

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