LONDON: The head of the Israel Defense Forces’ Military Intelligence Directorate has claimed Iran could attack the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar in which its national team is currently participating.
Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva said the regime in Tehran was “considering” the move in a bid to destabilize the region and distract from its domestic unrest following widespread protests against the government that have left hundreds dead and as many as 14,000 people in jail.
In an address at the Institute for National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv, Haliva said: “I am telling you that the Iranians are now considering attacking the World Cup in Qatar as well.
“Iran is seeking to preserve instability as a constant thing. At a time when the world around it is stable and thriving — this is the opposite of what is happening inside Iran.
“The World Cup is likely to be one of those events at which it tries to cause instability,” The Times of Israel reported him as saying.
The nationwide protests in Iran against the regime erupted after the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini while in the custody of the country’s morality police, who had detained her for improperly wearing her hijab.
“At this stage, I do not see a risk to the regime, but as the pressure on Iran increases, including internal pressure, the Iranian response is much more aggressive, so we should expect much more aggressive responses in the region and in the world,” Haliva added.
Iran lost its opening match on Monday 6-2 to England, in a game mired in controversy after its players refused to sing the Iranian national anthem in a silent protest against the situation in their country.
Iranian fans booed the anthem in the stadium and held up signs condemning Amini’s death and the regime, and calling for women’s rights to be protected, while in Iran, footage emerged overnight of people celebrating England’s victory.
One video showed a man riding on the back of a moped while flying the Union flag, and others were seen cheering and dancing after the final result.
One man, identified only as a linguistics professor from northern Iran called Kamran, told MailOnline: “The protest movement has overshadowed the football. I want Iran to lose these games.”
Anusha, a 17-year-old girl from Tehran, said: “A few months ago I would have said of course I want Iran to win against England and America. Now, it’s strange. I really don’t care.”
Catherine Perez-Shakdam, an Iran specialist at the Henry Jackson Society in London, told the website: “The refusal by Iran’s football team … to sing the Islamic Republic’s national anthem will be a decision the players will pay for dearly.
“Similarly, any Iranian fan identified by the regime for booing the anthem will also face being severely punished. This is the brutal reality of modern-day Iran.
“Iran’s players may have forfeited more than just their freedom today; and their lives may not be the only ones on the line.
“Indeed, the regime has demonstrated a particular propensity to target dissidents’ family members and in doing so deter others from voicing their opinions.
“Given Iran’s horrendous track record, it stands to note that the players and fans who today shunned the regime knew full well about the risks they faced.
“Such courage and dignity in the face of absolutism most certainly deserves our full recognition,” she added.