Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps personnel who traveled to the town of Sarbaz, district Pishin in the southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchistan fell victim Sunday morning to two bombing attacks carried out by the dissident Baluchi group Jundullah. Altogether the death toll in the attacks is about 29 as I write and it is expected to rise.
Iran, a country of 70 million, has 30 provinces. Some 90 percent of Iranians are thought to be Shiite Muslims, and some 51 percent speak Persian as their mother tongue. Baluchis are Sunnis and speak another Iranian language, Baluch, and there are substantial discontents in that province with the rule of the Persian Shiites. The province is vast geographically, but small with regard to population– a little over 2 million. It is among the poorest provinces in Iran and the most neglected by Iran’s authorities. It has been harmed by the spill-over of ethnic violence from Pakistan and Afghanistan, by the drug trade, and by religious radicalization. The mastermind of 9/11, Khalid Shaikh Muhammad, is a Baluch from Pakistan brought up in Kuwait, and he is alleged to have had ties to radical Sunni Baluch groups, some of which later congealed into Jundullah.
The Iranian state is aware of the unhappiness of the Baluch and was attempting to stage a reconciliation meeting with tribal leaders, perhaps influenced by the way the US military dealt with Dulaim tribal chieftains in al-Anbar, Iraq. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards, having come out on top in the recent political turmoil in Iran, spear-headed the reconciliation drive, and thus were targeted by Jundullah, who do not want reconciliation. Presumably they were tipped off by tribal allies in Sarbaz.
Iran charges that US intelligence supports Jundullah’s terrorist efforts as a way of destabilizing Iran. Rep. Jane Harman in Congress once seemed to call for breaking up Iran along ethnic lines, apparently in a bid to marshall pro-Israeli lobbying money, but later recanted.
Here is an official Iranian television documentary in English or with subtitles on Jundullah from last summer. I’m not endorsing the point of view, simply diversifying information sources. Caution: some graphic scenes.
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