Iranian clerics look at a Shahab-1 missile during a military exercise in the Iranian desert. Photo: AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan - Ansar al-Islam, an umbrella group for Sunni Iraqi and Arab jihadists, has called for Iranian Sunnis to unite in a jihad against their Shiite clerical government.
In a message on its official website and Facebook page, the jihadist organization said all Sunnis in Iran must “collect under a single banner that is right, and use Jihad,” to make Iran “one nation, a nation of the Quran and the sword.”
AI said that the justification for jihad against the Tehran government was the growing Shiite influence in the country.
AI’s call comes as Iran’s newly-elected President Hassan Rohani – a moderate Shiite cleric -- was inaugurated into office recently and vowed to bring more rights to Iran.
AI leaders said that Shiites in Iran were after money, power, the removal of Islam, and that they wanted to “switch religions.” It said Shiite leaders do not represent the Islamic nation.
“Shiites today are in decision-making positions around the world and their areas of control are rising,” the group said. Their goal is the “dispersion of the identity of Sunni nationalism,” it warned.
The threat comes amid the rising sectarian violence throughout the Middle East, mainly in Iraq and Syria.
Sunnis in Iraq have begun to attack Shiite districts and areas, hoping to ratchet enough pressure to topple the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
The attacks came after a peaceful Sunni protest turned bloody as Iraqi Security forces fired upon the crowd in Hawija.
The killings in Iraq have left more than 3,000 dead since the start of April, fearing another bloody sectarian struggle in the country that followed the US.-led invasion of 2003.
Many of the attacks in Kirkuk and Mosul have been claimed by the Ansar aI-Islam.
Links between extremist Islamic organizations in Iraq and Syria have been established in recent months. What was once thought to be a bid for freedom against Bashar al-Assad’s forces, has now turned into what some analyst are calling a holy crusade of Shiites against Sunnis.
The Al Nusra front, which sided with the Free Syrian Army to oust Assad, has admitted links to Al Qaeda’s Iraqi branch.
Both groups want to make Syria an independent Islamic state, and the links have made Western officials fear the intentions of militant Islamic groups both in Iraq and Syria.
Iran has also played a role in the Syrian struggle through the Lebanese Hezbollah, which has admitted to sending fighters to Syria where they have clashed against the Free Syrian Army and the Sunni Al Nusra front.