On January 25th two bombs exploded outside a bank and a government office in the city of Ahvaz, in Khuzestan Province, in southwestern Iran, a short time before Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was scheduled to give a speech nearby. Eight people were killed and nearly 50 injured. On the 28th another bomb went off in the city, causing panic but no casualties (reportedly the bomb, which was thrown from a passing car, was deliberately designed to make a lot of noise but have relatively little blast effect).
Although the "Ahvaz Resistance Squad" claimed responsibility, a spokesman for the Iranian government said "The blasts in Ahwaz are always perpetrated by counter-revolutionary elements, those who engage in activities against Iran from beyond our borders and Britain," and this remains the official line, with accusations against the U.S. tossed in for extra credit.
Oil-rich Khuzestan is largely populated by Shia Arabs who have long complained of discrimination by the dominant Iranian majority. During 2005 there was considerable unrest and sporadic anti-government bombings in June and October, followed by widespread public protests.
Arab resistance groups in Khuzestan are rather shadowy. The "Ahvaz Resistance Squad" may be a new group, or perhaps a cover name for one of the older groups that have claimed responsibility for incidents in the province in the past - the Arbav Martyrs of Khuzestan, the Arab People's Democratic Front, the Arab Struggle Movement for Liberating Ahvaz, and Afwaj al-Nahdah al-Musallahah Al-Ahwaz. Indeed, it is possible that all of these "groups" are just cover names for the same organization.
The Iran-Iraq War during the 1980sbegan when Saddam Hussein invaded Khuzestan with the intention of annexing it to Iraq. The Iranian Arabs largely remained loyal, perhaps more because they knew Sunni Arab dominated Iraq was not nice to Shia Arabs. But after the war, the ethnic Iranians resumed their long term disdain and domination of Iranian Arabs (and Arabs in general). The Iranians can't believe their Arabs are smart, or organized, enough to get an effective terrorist organization going. Thus, it must all be a CIA or MI-6 backed plot.
On a related front, the latest wrinkle in the Iranian hard-liner government's propaganda war against the Britain and the U.S. includes blaming them for the crashes of two military aircraft during the last two months, one of which killed a number of senior defense officials. Iranian Interior Minister Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi says that agents of the two countries - and Israel (naturally) - used "electronic jamming equipment to disable the planes," and went on to say "Given all intelligence information that we have gathered, we can say that agents of the United States, Britain and Israel are seeking to destabilize Iran through a coordinated plan," and that "We knew that enemies had launched fresh efforts to make the country insecure."