When the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) suddenly emerged in Iraq, it declared as one of its first targets the Shiites and what it called the Safavids. The Safavid dynasty
(1501-1736) was one of the most powerful Iranian dynasties after the Islamic conquest.
When Ibrahim al-Badri al-Samarrai adopted the name of Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi al-Husseini al-Quraishi and revealed himself to the world as the Amir al-Mu’minin (the Commander of the Faithful) Caliph Ibrahim of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, the whole world had to sit up and take notice of him.
When, all of a sudden, ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) emerged on the scene and in a matter of days occupied large swathes of mainly Sunni-inhabited parts of Iraq and Syria, including Iraq’s second city Mosul and Tikrit, birthplace of Saddam Hussein, and called itself the Islamic State, many people, not least Western politicians and intelligence services, were taken by surprise.
In a radio broadcast in October 1939, Winston Churchill described communist Russia as "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” Many people in the West today have the same feeling about Iran under the ayatollahs. One hears many pundits refer to Iranian politics as mysterious, inscrutable, baffling and unpredictable.