It looks like ISIS has expanded its field of operations if the terrorist army is telling the truth about attacks that have occurred in Tehran, the capital of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Suicide attackers launched assaults on the Iranian Parliament and the tomb of the founder of the Islamic Republic, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. At least one person and as many as 12 died and 35 others wounded according to the New York Times.

Why is ISIS attacking a Muslim country?

Besides the fact that ISIS regards anyone besides itself insufficiently Muslim to be allowed to live, the terrorist organization belongs to a branch of Islam called Sunni.

Iran adheres to the Shia branch of the Muslim religion. The divide goes back to the death of the Muslim prophet Mohammed and who should have been his successor. Sunnis claim that the proper successor to the prophet was Abu Bakr, the father of one of Mohammed’s wives named Aisha. Shias counter that Ali, Mohammed’s cousin and son-in-law is the real successor. The majority of Muslims are Sunni, but Iran is a predominately Shia country.

Iran’s reaction

While ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks, Iran has pointed the finger at Saudi Arabia. Iran has noted, much to its dismay, that American policy toward the Islamic Republic has changed. President Barack Obama followed a policy of appeasement toward Iran, the theory being that it could be coaxed into rejoining the community of nations.

President Donald Trump, on the other hand, has taken a decidedly harder line against Iran, even going so far as to propose an “Arab NATO” that would oppose both ISIS and Iran. The Arab Gulf states are frightened to death by Iran’s pursuit of as nuclear arsenal and missile technology with which to deliver it. So an anti-Iran alliance, sponsored and supported by the United States, is a very attractive concept in the Middle East.

How will Iran respond?

Iran is seeing its position deteriorate since Donald Trump became president. The Gulf States have moved to isolate Qatar, which they accuse of being an ally of Iran and a supporter of terrorism. Paradoxically, that country also has two American naval bases on its territory. In response, Iran could step up provocative actions in the Persian Gulf against American naval units.

However, in a break with the Obama-era policy that imposed passivity, the Trump administration has ordered more forthright responses to such provocations. The possibility of a naval clash in the Persian Gulf, which Iran would almost certainly lose, exists. Where such a crisis will lead to is anyone’s guess at the current time.