Iran: Pakistani, Saudi and American terrorism

On December 15th Iran was the victim of yet another terrorist attack by the US-backed “Jundallah” terror group (or “Soldiers of God”), which is also thought to receive support from Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI).

The role of US, Saudi and Pakistani cooperation in nurturing terrorist groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan is ‘legendary’ by now. But their cooperation against Iran is less well known.

According to Brezinski: “it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.

It is more than a little twisted, but ISI and CIA have the distinction of having raised the Islamists in their own bosoms. The Saudis too have acted as nursing maids, ensuring that Wahhabi extremism is alive and kicking. Real hard too.

The latest civilian victims of US-backed terror were 39 Iranian worshippers blown to high heavens courtesy of Jundallah’s targeting of the Imam Hussain mosque in Chabahar. The same US-backed terrorist group had attacked another Iranian mosque on July 15th this year with two deadly blasts in Zahedan killing 27 civilians who were celebrating the birthday of Imam Hussain . Around a year earlier, on 28 May, the same group had killed around 20 people at a mosque in Zahedan just days before the vote in the contentious Presidential elections last year. Iran’s security forces found and defused another bomb near the blast site.

But the US-backed terror group’s biggest hit was in October 2009 when at least 42 were killed in a mosque in Pisheen, including 7 commanders of the Revolutionary Guards. That attack led to the arrest, trial and execution of Jundallah’s leaders, the Rigi brothers. Interestingly, Iran was able to arrest the Rigi brothers without any known bloodshed in a show of cunning and strategy that put the American intelligence services to shame. Regardless, the terrorist group’s leader was quickly replaced, and their terror attacks against Iranian civilians resumed.

The Sistan and Baluchistan province bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan is the least developed region of Iran with a long and violent history of drug smuggling and human trafficking. This is also a major source of funding support for the Taleban and other Wahhabi terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda. This close political and military connection between the Saudis, regional Wahhabi terrorists, Pakistan’s ISI and the CIA was initiated by USA’s president Carter back in the 1970s, but it was properly consummated by Reagan. The difficult marriage of convenience among such international terrorists continues to date with much marital conflict and numerous extra-marital affairs….

The situation in the border region between Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan has deteriorated through a combination of neglect by Tehran and the provincial authorities; similar neglect by Islamabad; terrorist funding and training by CIA and ISI as well as the Saudis. Tens if not hundreds of Iranian security personnel are murdered or maimed by heavily armed traffickers and terrorists every year. Security is poor and lawlessness abounds. Women are regularly kidnapped and taken across the border, and few people dare venture out after dark even by car. On September 16th this year, a bank employee and five soldiers were kidnapped by the group. They were taken from a bus headed to Zahedan from Chabahar.

But the US-backed terrorists’ reach goes further than the border region alone. In October this year, the group apparently kidnapped Amir Hussein Sherani Bin Mohammad Sherani whom they described as a senior nuclear official. But Iran’s authorities said he was a private contractor.

Jundallah is thought to have been formed around year 2003. Balochis certainly have many legitimate grievances against central government in Iran. However, along with a portion of Iran’s Arabs and Kurds as well as the Mujahedin (MEK), Jundallah constitutes a useful pawn in the American game of regional dominance. Rigi’s confidence grew so much over the years of terrorist activities that on April Fool’s day in 2007 he gave a live interview to that quintessential mouthpiece of American propaganda, Voice of America. VoA’s misinformation sank to the level of introducing Rigi as “Leader of the Iranian people’s resistance movement” during the said interview. April Fool’s day certainly has a mysterious effect on some.

Just a couple of days later, ABC News reported the following on Rigi:

“He used to fight with the Taliban. He’s part drug smuggler, part Taliban, part Sunni activist,” said Alexis Debat, a senior fellow on counterterrorism at the Nixon Center and an ABC News consultant who recently met with Pakistani officials and tribal members.

“Regi is essentially commanding a force of several hundred guerrilla fighters that stage attacks across the border into Iran on Iranian military officers, Iranian intelligence officers, kidnapping them, executing them on camera,” Debat said.

Interestingly, USA recently placed Jundallah on its terror list, and even condemned the latest terrorist attacks by the same group that they have nurtured. This was seen by some as a gesture of goodwill toward Iran in the lead up to the current nuclear negotiations.

However, this change in American posturing is more likely to be connected to deals made over the Maleki government in Iraq after a long period of dispute. It is also indicative of America’s need for Iranian support in Afghanistan.

Having basically lost Iraq to Iran, USA is now more focussed on maximising its gains (or minimising its losses) in Afghanistan. For this purpose, USA appears to be signalling a willingness to ‘sacrifice’ Jundallah as a pawn.

Iran’s unusually stern warning to Pakistan in reaction to the latest Judallah terror attacks can also be interpreted in this light. Iran’s bargaining position against USA, Israel and Saudi Arabia has been strengthened in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. And Iran has successfully brought Turkey into nuclear negotiations. This gives the President added confidence in demanding concrete action from the Pakistanis against Jundallah terrorists operating on her soil.

Postscript: a couple of days after writing this piece, news of arrest of the Jundallah leader was (rather quietly) published:

“Jundullah terror group leader Abdul Rauf Rigi, wanted by Iranian authorities, has been arrested by Pakistan’s army intelligence, according to a media report.”

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Iran: Why the petrol subsidies had to go

Iran announced a four-fold increase in the price of petrol as of 20 December . Many hope that this finally will bring the end of the Islamic regime. The timing of this announcement is certainly peculiar. The ongoing sanctions against Iran have been the worst since the era of Mossadegh when Iran’s oil exports were effectively blockaded by British forces and her allies.

Today, just as yesterday, Western media spare no effort to demonize Iran or her President, Ahmadinejad. The Israelis tirelessly dance to their own constant war tune, and Wikileaks has revealed that Iran has some work to do with some of her Arab neighbours too, though this latter claim is rather exaggerated by the way the leaks were reported – see point about Western media above.

Economically too, Iran’s growth has decidedly slowed down since last year, and inflation has only just been brought under control. So why risk inflation with such a huge increase in fuel costs? All in all, one would have thought that Ahmadinejad would be treading lightly for now.

Not so! What is behind the move to remove subsidies? No doubt, several factors are involved. However, it is the economic imperative that has nearly everyone convinced. This includes both domestic and foreign friends and foes alike. Here’s a list of the reasons involved:

– Iran’s main source of foreign currency is oil. Selling it at prices way below the market price is not sensible. The price before the cuts was around 9 cents a litre. In Europe, petrol sells for around $1.70 a litre. When oil was much cheaper, it did not matter that so much of it was given away at production level prices. But when the price rose from $20 a barrel for the longest time to peak at $150 by 2008, it became clear that the situation with the subsidies was untenable.

– add to the above price hike, the reality of a population hike too (from 30 million in the 1970s to 75 million today), and the burden on the treasury is apparent.

– This kind of burden has its most negative impact on investment opportunities that are lost due to recurrent (consumption) costs. In order to safeguard the wealth of the nation, a greater portion of oil income should be spent on productive investments with profitable returns rather than on petrol consumption alone. High subsidies compromise a nation’s future development.

– ‘Until recently, a household of four in Iran gets on average about $4,000 a year in various subsidies on oil and natural gas alone’. It should be remembered that this is merely a calculation based on gross figures. In reality, the bulk of this subsidy would go to rich families that consume far more energy than the average family. Blanket subsidies benefit the rich more than the poor. And they foster a culture of dependence.

– Iran has one of the highest per capita consumptions of fuel in the world, and constitutes the tenth largest polluter among all countries. This results in excessive waste and pollution, and renders the country’s industrial production inefficient, expensive and uncompetitive. Moreover, Iran’s ecology suffers from this pollution, and the health of its citizens is at serious risk from the emissions. “The air pollution in Irans’s capital, Tehran, is said to be so dangerous that one Iranian official described it as a ‘collective suicide‘.”

So the case is clear, and has been for the longest time. But why is this being done now?

After all, Iran is in the midst of grappling with the toughest set of UN sanctions against her, and she does not need any more economic or political trouble. Inflation is barely under control, and many are feeling the pinch of sanctions.

The last time petrol prices rose there was rioting. The BBC reported that ‘At least 12 petrol stations have been torched’. ‘“[President] Ahmadinejad should be killed,” chanted angry youths, throwing stones at police.’

So how is it that in the midst of all this theatre, Ahmadinejad has risked this move? Here are some suggestions for the reasons behind this surprising move:

– Ahmadinejad has the confidence and enough backing to attempt such a steep rise in prices. Although it is early days yet, it appears that a long period of public debate since the announcement of the intention to remove the subsidies some years ago has increased public support for the measure.

–  The abuse of power by the West in imposing sanctions on Iran through the UN route has created a political scapegoat for Iran’s leaders. A worsening economic situation is easily blamed on the sanctions.

– Similarly, the sanctions have cut Iran’s imports, and reduced her investments abroad. This in turn has helped improve Iran’s balance of payments. At $100 billion, Iran’s reserve of foreign currencies is said to be at its highest level ever.

– As part of compensating ordinary citizens for the expected price hikes, Ahmadinejad has promised cash transfers to the tune of $20 to $100 a month. This is likely to be translated into political support in return.

Ahmadinejad’s calculation seems to be risky, but at the same time quite clever. If he manages to pull through this first stage of economic restructuring intact, he will be in a much stronger position to confront both his internal and external opposition more strongly.

Unless the economic situation in Iran leads to an implosion, the most likely future scenario is for recent trends to continue in tandem with a change in the global economic order, namely: further weakening of the West and a strengthening of Ian’s bargaining position.