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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Iran's ethnic conflict

In light of Sunday's suicide bombing that killed five senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards Council members, Time Magazine looks at the problem that really keeps the Mullahs up at night: Ethnic conflict.
For Iran, the hard truth is that ethnic Persians make up only 51% of the population. The rest of the country is a mishmash of ethnic minorities, various religions, Muslim sects and semi-nomadic tribes. None has been entirely happy living under the mullahs' Shi'ite theocracy, especially Iran's Sunni citizens, which make up 9% of the population and include most of the Baluch. Iran's minorities have been susceptible to outside influences, but rarely have they felt strong enough to take on Tehran — which fears that that could change with the chaos at its borders. If, for instance, the U.S. were to suddenly pick up and leave Afghanistan, would the new Taliban government resist backing Jundallah? Or if Pakistan fails to subdue the tribal areas and its own Taliban, would this encourage Jundallah?

Tehran is obviously worried that it has a problem with or without a failure in Pakistan or Afghanistan. The five senior Revolutionary Guards officers killed on Sunday were on their way to a meeting with local tribal chiefs to talk about containing Shi'ite-Sunni violence in their province, and the agenda no doubt included what to do about Jundallah.

In that sense, ironically, Tehran is right that its security really does rest with Pakistan and the U.S. A catastrophic failure on their parts would create a threat that would take Iran many years to overcome.
Hmmm. If only we had people in Washington who were clever enough to parlay Iran's need for American protection in Afghanistan into some concessions on the nuclear program and a stop to terrorism.


At 1:23 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Washington could take advantage of Iran's weaknesses if it wanted to do so. Either by fomenting internal unrest in Iran or by offering to trade security guarantees in eastern Iran in exchange for Iranian concessions on its nuclear program. Its the one form of pressure that might have results.

The problem is Obama wants to be seen as a nice guy. And the mullahs don't take him very seriously.

What could go wrong indeed


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