Monday, 20 December 2010

New Yoek Times: Iran's Ethnic Tensions

Terrorism along Iran’s borders

Regarding the news article “Tehran blames U.S. for deadly suicide attack,” (Dec. 16): From Tehran’s perspective, Western aggression has already started. Its best-known expression is the sanctions adopted in response to Iran’s nuclear program.

The growing number of terrorist attacks such as the recent one in Chabahar constitutes a second front of the conflict. This front spreads through three border regions of Iran inhabited by ethnic and religious minorities: Kurdistan, Sistan-Baluchistan, where Chabahar lies, and oil-rich Khuzestan on the border with Iraq.

Admittedly, there are precedents of occasional unrest in these areas. Over the past couple of years, however, there has been a dramatic and almost simultaneous surge of violence in all three regions. Casualties, among government officials and civilians, are in the hundreds.

Ethnic and religious fires stoked in pursuit of short-term political objectives can easily rage out of control, with unpredictable consequences. Examples abound, from the Western support for the Taliban against the Soviets in Afghanistan to the encouragement given to extremist groups opposing India in Kashmir that have turned into a major destructive force in Pakistan. Any covert assistance to irredentist movements as a means to destabilize the current regime in Tehran may carry grave consequences for Iran and its neighbors long after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s departs.

Francesco Bastagli, Milan United Nations resident coordinator in Iran, 1999 to 2002.

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