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domenica 11 giugno 2017

IRAN AND THE JIHADIST VIRUS, by Pier Francesco Zarcone

IN DUE LINGUE (Inglese, Italiano)
IN TWO LANGUAGES (English, Italian)

© US Central Intelligence Agency
The Jihadist (that is, Sunni) terrorist acts of June 7 in Tehran have provoked a degree of anxiety in those Western media which considered Iran a kind of impenetrable fortress for Sunni terrorism. This was an impenetrability that could only seem real because of the lack of attention paid in the West to news diffused in Iran, where the activities of ISIS precede that of the attacks.
ISIS is a source of problems for Iran due to its capacity to cope with unrest among the Sunni minorities existing in the country. Saudi Arabia could also take action in these matters, and in this regard, it is worth recalling that in May Saudi Defence Minister Mohammad bin Salman had formulated explicit threats to Iran, warning: “We will not wait until the battle is in Saudi Arabia, but we will work so the battle is there in Iran”.
So, if the United States has been the great enemy of Iran since the Islamic Revolution, there are now two more in the field: ISIS and Riyadh.
Iran – Shiite heart and stronghold in the Muslim world – is not homogeneous from the ethnic or religious point of view. There are no official estimates, so we have to rely on data provided by the CIA (!): Persians are said to account for 61-65% of the population, followed by Azerbaijanis at 16%, Kurds at 10%, Lurs at 6%, Arabs, Baluchs and Turks at 2%, plus a remaining 1% divided among other minorities.
Two aspects should be mentioned about this composition: on the one hand, the level of integration among these ethnic groups is sufficiently high and, in fact, not all political and social leaders are Persians; on the other hand, there have been conflicts with independence movements in Khuzestan, Kurdistan and Baluchestan (regions with a strong Sunni presence), where fire smoulders under the ashes or is actually burning.
Integration affects religious differences less. The official religion in Iran is Twelver Shiism, accounting for about 90% of the population belong, 8% are Sunni (mostly Khuzestani, Kurds, Baluchs and Turkmens) and the remaining 2% are divided among non-Muslim minorities (Zoroastrians, Bahá’ís, Jews, Eastern Christians, Yazidis, Hinduists, etc.).
For Iran, the Sunni jihadist threat began to materialise with the taking of Mosul by ISIS, which the Iranians responded to with a sort of “blocking” of the border with Iraq.
At the beginning of summer of 2014, Tehran’s Interior Ministry spokesman announced that there were no “voids of security” at that frontier, and the commander of the army ground forces, General Kiumars Heidari, reaffirmed the concept and denied that terrorists operating in Iraq were a threat to Iran. In July of that year, Iran’s Police Chief, General Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam, announced that no ISIS armed group had crossed the border.
However, in May 2016, Iran established a 40 km-wide “zone of deterrence” in Iraqi territory, next to the border between the two countries: any violation would have resulted in an Iranian military response. Between 2014 and 2015, ISIS came within 12 km of that band, and five Iranian army brigades were alerted. However, at that time, there was no massive violation of the security zone.
Nonetheless, ISIS groups subsequently penetrated into Iran, and local cells tried to carry out terrorist actions in Tehran.
In May 2015, the Iranian authorities announced the arrest of ISIS cells before they could act, but in the meantime their adherents had been able to kill several teachers in the south-east of the country. Intelligence Minister Seyed Mahmoud Alavi announced: “Not a single week goes by without an operation against internal security being discovered and neutralised”.
Before this episode, the security forces had eliminated Hesham Azizi, head of the Ansar al-Furqan group, along with several militants. In April, terrorist cells had been destroyed, again in the south-east, in Sistan and Baluchestan Province.
In November, just before Putin visited the country, other terrorists were arrested in the western region of Kermanshah, some ISIS cells were dismantled in Sistan and Baluchestan – with the seizure of explosives – and a cell was discovered in Iranian Azerbaijan.
In close proximity to Iran’s parliamentary elections in February 2016, even a training centre for the manufacture and use of explosive devices was discovered, and on February 26 (the day of the elections), terrorists preparing for attacks in Tehran the following month of May were arrested.
Successes against Sunni terrorists led the Iranian authorities to diffuse tranquilising communiques; thus, in April 2016, General Ahmad Reza Pourdastan claimed that ISIS had numerically insufficient forces to pose a threat to Iran, and that there was “no reason to worry because intelligence has complete control over jihadist forces in the region”.
It is however a fact that, despite the continued reassurance of the authorities, in 2016 more than twenty terrorist groups were dismantled – with several dozens of terrorists imprisoned.
At this point, the problem for an external observer is whether the Tehran government can do anything to counteract the jihadist virus among its Sunnis, besides resorting to prevention and repression.
The most plausible answer seems to be negative, especially as many in the Iranian leadership (at least until yesterday) appear convinced that the solution to the ISIS problem lies in its military defeat in Iraq and Syria. There is no self-criticism (and perhaps there can be none) about discriminatory policies towards Sunni minorities.
It takes just a glance at the map to understand immediately that sources of instability are located in the interior areas of Iran close to the borders. To the east, Iran borders with Afghanistan and hosts small Pashtun communities; to the south-east is Baluchestan; to the south-west is the province of Khuzestan, with a strong Arab minority that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq tried encourage to rise up during the war against Iran in the 1980s.
Khuzestan (or Arabistan). This is the region of allocation of Iran’s Arab minority, positioned on the border with Iraq and overlooking the Persian Gulf. It is a territory rich in natural resources, but the Arab population is poor.
Here the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (Harakat al-Nazal al-Arabi li-Tahrir al-Ahwaz, ASMLA) was formed, which in 2013 – with the financial and logistical support of the Arab petromonarchies – has carried out attacks on local oil installations. In January 2017, in addition to the destruction of some major oil pipelines, the group attacked an important military base in the Ghizaniya region.
Iranian Kurdistan. An autonomous party, the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (Hîzbî Dêmukratî Kurdistanî Êran, HDKA), is active here. In January 1946, it had formed an ephemeral independent Kurdish Republic, which was stamped out in December of the same year by the Iranian army. Repressed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, it now has its headquarters in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, with whose government it has committed itself to not carrying out armed actions in Iran.
The Kurdistan Free Life Party (Partiya Jiyana Azad a Kurdistanê‎, PJAK) – an active combat group since April 2004 – also operates here. It has bases in the mountains of northern Iraq for launching military action. Its goal is to establish an autonomous Kurdish entity in Iran – on the basis of the Iraqi model. It is a branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê, PKK) in Turkey. Fighting continues between this organisation (about 3,000 units of men and women) and the Tehran army.
A third group is the extreme-left Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan (Komełey Şorrişgêrrî Zehmetkêşanî Kurdistan, KŞZK), which is also militarily very active.
Baluchestan. Here, a radical guerrilla group of the Sunni Jaish al-Adl (JAA, “Army of Justice”) – with bases in Pakistan – operates, which has intensified its operations against Iranian soldiers and military installations since 2013, with a certain degree of effectiveness it must be admitted. This organisation has now become more radical Islamist than nationalist, opposing both Persian domination and the Shiism of Tehran.

A FUTURE FULL OF DIFFICULTIES

Such a situation is not at all reassuring; this does not mean that there are dangers capable of bringing down the Iranian regime, but they will affect the people in their daily lives.
The military defeat of ISIS will come sooner or later (in the meantime, Syrian troops have reached the border with Iraq), and among its architects – more than the “inconclusive” US-led coalition – there will be Hezbollāh, Syrian and Iraqi Shiite militias and the Kurds. And this is exactly what will call the survivors of ISIS and sympathisers to revenge, especially if the Moscow-Tehran-Damascus-Baghdad axis manages to maintain Shiite hegemony over the region – or over much of it.
This means that the defeat of ISIS will lead to an increase in terrorism across the region, including Iran, and that – in parallel or in league with the political, economic and military initiatives of the Arab petromonarchies – the territories of action of the aforementioned separatist movements would become even more a hunting ground for jihadists.
Indeed, they are already a hunting ground: on June 9 came the news that, as a result of the confessions “obtained” from the female terrorist captured in Tehran, 48 people were arrested. The arrests took place in Tehran and in the provinces of Kermanshah, Kurdistan and West Azerbaijan. They concerned almost all Sunni Kurds who had sworn allegiance to ISIS.
The future will be full of difficulties, but on the other hand, during the last thirty years Pandora’s box in the Near East has been opened by the United States, and it will be a long and arduous task to destroy its content – which will continue to spread.

[translation from Italian by Phil Harris (for IDN-InDepthNews)]

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RED UTOPIA ROJA - Principles / Principios / Princìpi / Principes / Princípios

a) The end does not justify the means, but the means which we use must reflect the essence of the end.

b) Support for the struggle of all peoples against imperialism and/or for their self determination, independently of their political leaderships.

c) For the autonomy and total independence from the political projects of capitalism.

d) The unity of the workers of the world - intellectual and physical workers, without ideological discrimination of any kind (apart from the basics of anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism and of socialism).

e) Fight against political bureaucracies, for direct and councils democracy.

f) Save all life on the Planet, save humanity.

(January 2010)

* * *

a) El fin no justifica los medios, y en los medios que empleamos debe estar reflejada la esencia del fin.

b) Apoyo a las luchas de todos los pueblos contra el imperialismo y/o por su autodeterminación, independientemente de sus direcciones políticas.

c) Por la autonomía y la independencia total respecto a los proyectos políticos del capitalismo.

d) Unidad del mundo del trabajo intelectual y físico, sin discriminaciones ideológicas de ningún tipo, fuera de la identidad “anticapitalista, antiimperialista y por el socialismo”.

e) Lucha contra las burocracias políticas, por la democracia directa y consejista.

f) Salvar la vida sobre la Tierra, salvar a la humanidad

(Enero de 2010)

* * *

a) Il fine non giustifica i mezzi, ma nei mezzi che impieghiamo dev’essere riflessa l’essenza del fine.

b) Sostegno alle lotte di tutti i popoli contro l’imperialismo e/o per la loro autodeterminazione, indipendentemente dalle loro direzioni politiche.

c) Per l’autonomia e l’indipendenza totale dai progetti politici del capitalismo.

d) Unità del mondo del lavoro mentale e materiale, senza discriminazioni ideologiche di alcun tipo (a parte le «basi anticapitaliste, antimperialiste e per il socialismo.

e) Lotta contro le burocrazie politiche, per la democrazia diretta e consigliare.

f) Salvare la vita sulla Terra, salvare l’umanità.

(Gennaio 2010)

* * *

a) La fin ne justifie pas les moyens, et dans les moyens que nous utilisons doit apparaître l'essence de la fin projetée.

b) Appui aux luttes de tous les peuples menées contre l'impérialisme et/ou pour leur autodétermination, indépendamment de leurs directions politiques.

c) Pour l'autonomie et la totale indépendance par rapport aux projets politiques du capitalisme.

d) Unité du monde du travail intellectuel et manuel, sans discriminations idéologiques d'aucun type, en dehors de l'identité "anticapitaliste, anti-impérialiste et pour le socialisme".

e) Lutte contre les bureaucraties politiques, et pour la démocratie directe et conseilliste.

f) Sauver la vie sur Terre, sauver l'Humanité.

(Janvier 2010)

* * *

a) O fim não justifica os médios, e os médios utilizados devem reflectir a essência do fim.

b) Apoio às lutas de todos os povos contra o imperialismo e/ou pela auto-determinação, independentemente das direcções políticas deles.

c) Pela autonomia e a independência respeito total para com os projectos políticos do capitalismo.

d) Unidade do mundo do trabalho intelectual e físico, sem discriminações ideológicas de nenhum tipo, fora da identidade “anti-capitalista, anti-imperialista e pelo socialismo”.

e) Luta contra as burocracias políticas, pela democracia directa e dos conselhos.

f) Salvar a vida na Terra, salvar a humanidade.

(Janeiro de 2010)