Military Review

Fighting Iran with internal threats


Despite the conflicts raging around it, Iran is one of the most stable states in the Near and Middle East. But if the situation in the main part of the country remains calm, in some border areas the central authorities face security threats from various factions and criminal elements who are trying to destabilize the situation there.

Restless Eastern Frontier: Drugs and Extremism

The eastern regions bordering on Afghanistan and Pakistan have been among the most problematic parts of the country for many years. The total length of the Iranian border with these two countries is more than 1800 km. It mainly passes through mountainous, desert and semi-desert areas, some of which are habitats of various tribes.

The largest tribes are the Baluchi-speaking people who live on the territory of the present-day southeastern Iran, southwestern Pakistan and the most southern part of Afghanistan. The southeastern province of Iran bears the name of Sistan and Baluchistan and is the largest province in the country.

Unlike the state religion of Iran - the Shiite trend of Islam, which is practiced by the majority of the population of the country, the majority of Baluchis follow the Sunni trend of Islam. Many Balochi still lead a nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyle, like their ancestors. In total, Iran lives on various estimates from 1,5 to 2 million Baloch.

One of the traditional ways of earning tribes in the border areas is smuggling, which the authorities of the bordering countries have not paid much attention to for a long time due to the remoteness and underdevelopment of the territories. Tight control over such a complex and lengthy border requires large expenditures, while Sistan and Baluchistan have been and remain one of the poorest Iranian provinces with high unemployment rates among the local population.

The situation has seriously changed over the past three decades, and this is directly related to the smuggling of drugs. In itself, the culture of using opium is not a new phenomenon and has a long-standing history in the Middle East. In the 19th century, during the Qajar dynasty, the cultivation of the opium poppy and the use of its products were widely spread among different layers of the Iranian population against the background of the decline of the country and the disasters of the population. Thus, according to some estimates, by the middle of the 20th century, up to 11% of the adult population of Iran used drugs [1].

The spread of drug addiction could not be combined with the dreams of the last Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, to restore the greatness of the ancient Persian empire. In 1955, the cultivation and trafficking of opium was banned in Iran, which led to a drop in drug use in the country, but did not lead to the elimination of drug addiction. Therefore, after the victory of the Islamic revolution in 1979 in Iran, they continued to intensify the fight against the production, sale and use of drugs.

The new revolutionary government of Iran in the fight against drug trafficking has involved tough measures, including the active use of the death penalty. They were enshrined in the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, adopted in 1988 and still in force amended. Most of the 530 executed in Iran in 2016 were sentenced to death for drug related cases, [2] and similar statistics have been characteristic of Iran for many years.

The law provides for the death penalty for the production, trade, storage and transportation of more than 30 grams of hard drugs (such as heroin, cocaine, etc.), for the production and distribution of more than 5 kg of lighter drugs (opium, hashish, etc.), for growing opium poppy and hemp in case of multiple relapses, etc. [3]

The severity of drug-related crimes is also indicated by the fact that these cases are not considered by ordinary courts, but by Islamic revolutionary courts.

The revolutionary courts in Iran are a special part of the judicial system, whose competence, in addition to drug trafficking, also includes all crimes against state security, attempted murder of state and political figures, theft of state property [4].

A bill is currently being considered in the Iranian parliament, which, in some cases, is supposed to soften the punishment for possession and transportation of drugs if the crime was committed for the first time, replacing the death penalty with long prison sentences. But the bill has not yet been adopted, and even if it is adopted, the death penalty for the most serious crimes in the sphere of drug trafficking, as in the case of relapses, is still supposed to be retained.

The merciless war on drug production made it possible to practically crush the cultivation of opium poppy for the production of drugs inside Iran, but the problem of drug smuggling from abroad came to the fore.

The first laws on the fight against drug smuggling were adopted by the Shah [5], at the same time measures were taken to curb the supply of drugs from Afghanistan and Pakistan, which continued after the revolution. However, the uncontrolled increase in the production of opium drugs against the backdrop of the endless civil war in neighboring Afghanistan led to the fact that Iran, starting with the 1990-s. began to overwhelm the flow of drugs from there.

According to a report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime from 2003, opium production in Afghanistan in 2002 compared to 1979 increased more than 15 times, from about 200 to 3422 tons. At the same time, a rapid increase in the amount of drugs confiscated in Iran (opium, heroin and other narcotic substances) from tens of tons in the 1980-s was noted. up to hundreds of tons from the second half of 1990's [6]

To our time, Iran has been holding world leadership in the number of opium drugs seized for many years. In 2014, Iran accounted for 75% of opium seized worldwide, 61% morphine and 17% heroin [7]. But the flow of drugs from Afghanistan is so great that this is not enough.

Iran has become not only a major consumer, but also a transit country for opium drugs from Afghanistan on their future route to Europe. The main drug supply routes to Iran went directly through certain areas on the border with Afghanistan, and through Pakistan. Some representatives of the Baloch tribes are actively involved in the drug trade, using tribal connections in three neighboring states at once and knowledge of the terrain.

In addition to drugs, into Iran from Afghanistan and Pakistan penetrates weapon and other goods that are prohibited for importation into Iran or the circulation of which is limited. In turn, gasoline and diesel fuel are smuggled out of Iran.

Well-armed smuggler gangs are not afraid to even clash with the patrols of Iran’s law enforcement forces (the country's police forces), which include anti-drug police and border guards.

The Iranian police is suffering serious losses in the fight against drug traffickers. In 2015, the Deputy Permanent Representative of Iran to the UN, Gholamhosein Dehgani, in his speech at the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly, said that in the war with drug dealers about 4000 anti-drug police officers were killed and another 12 thousand were injured [8].

Fighting Iran with internal threats

Iranian police during the celebration of Novruz

The smuggling of drugs and weapons, the underdevelopment of the territory and perennial conflicts and wars in neighboring countries in the border south-eastern regions of Iran support the conditions for the existence of religious extremism and separatism among local Baluchi Sunnis. And extremists receive additional financial and informational support from Iran’s opponents in the region.

It is worth noting that separatism among the Baloch tribes was fought under Shah Reza Pahlavi in ​​the 1920s, when he regained control of the center over the rebellious provinces. Then, already in 1960 – 1970's. the problem of Baluch separatism also had to be faced by his son, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Under the rule of the last Shah, Iran became involved in a protracted confrontation with Iraq, and the latter began to actively support various anti-government movements in the national outskirts of Iran. Among other things, Baluch separatists began to receive support from finance and weapons, which in those years acted in the border areas of Iran and Pakistan against both states.

The most dangerous situation was in 1970's. in Pakistan Baluchistan, and the Shah provided direct military assistance to Pakistani troops in their operations against the forces of the Balochistan Liberation Front and other groups. Initially, in 1973, six Iranian multipurpose Bell UH-1H helicopters and a military transport helicopter BoeingCH-47 provided support to Pakistani troops, and in 1974, the Shah donated ten AgustaBellABXNNX [205] helicopters to Pakistanis.

After the signing of the Algiers Agreement in 1975 between Iran and Iraq, the parties ceased mutual support of anti-government groups. But four years later, a revolution occurred in Iran, and in the fall of 1980, Iraq launched a war against Iran.

In those years, Baghdad again began to play the support card for the separatist movements in Iran, especially after the revolution in the national outskirts of Iran was restless, and in Iranian Balochistan, there were speeches of supporters of the formation of autonomy. However, this time the Baluchi didn’t succeed in starting a serious uprising, only individual militant attacks took place, which, after the cessation of Iraqi support after the war, also almost disappeared.

A new increase in armed activity in Iranian Balochistan occurred in the 2000s. and was associated with the emergence of the radical Sunni group “Jundallah”, the name of which is translated as “Warriors of Allah”. Already by name it was clear that the group put not religious identity, but religious identity.

Under the slogans of the struggle for the rights of the Sunnis against the Shiite government, they became known in the second half of the 2000s. a series of attacks and attacks on Shiite mosques, Iranian security forces and officials. Jundalla actively used suicide bombers, which also distinguished them from previous Baloch movements, bringing them closer to Al-Qaida and other extremist Islamist groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan, with which they maintained (according to some) [10].

During the attacks and attacks of militants of the Jundall group over the years, hundreds of people died. The bloodiest of the attacks was the 18 explosion of October 2009 in Pishin during a meeting of leaders and elders of local tribes in the presence of high-ranking officers of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps. The suicide bomber then killed a 57 man and 150 injured [11]. Among those killed in that terrorist attack were General Nur Ali Shushtari, commander of ground forces of the IRGC, and General Rajab Ali Mohammadzade [12], commander of the IRGC in the provinces of Sistan and Balochistan.

Other major terrorist attacks by militants of this group include explosions in Shiite mosques in Zahedan, the administrative center of the provinces of Sistan and Baluchistan in May 2009 and July 2010, in which tens of people were killed and hundreds were injured [13]. Another major terrorist attack against Shiites was the bombings of two suicide bombers near a mosque in Chehbekhar in December 2010, when 39 people died and about a hundred more were injured [14].

There were other explosions, murders, and also attacks on border patrols, etc. Iran has repeatedly accused the United States of supporting this group, but in Washington these accusations were constantly denied [15].

In 2010, Iranian intelligence received information that the leader of the Jundalla group, Abdulmalik Riga, was flying aboard the passenger Boeing 737 from the United Arab Emirates to Kyrgyzstan. The F-4E fighter jets of the Iranian air force were taken into the sky and intercepted the plane in the sky and forced to land in Iran, where the leader of the militants was taken into custody [16] and subsequently executed by the verdict of the revolutionary court.

The execution of the militant leader, as well as the active actions of the IRGC and law enforcement forces in the border areas, after 2010, have improved the security situation in the provinces of Sistan and Baluchistan.

It is likely that Jundalla could not recover from the losses in 2011 – 2012. actually fell apart, because instead of it, small terrorist groups unknown until then began to take responsibility for new attacks.

The first of these was Harakat Ansar Iran, which took responsibility for the suicide bombing in Chehbekhar in October 2012, which killed two and injured several others [17]. In 2013, this group or part of it merged with another small group of militants, Hizbul Furqan, and the creation of Ansar al-Furqan [18] was announced. In 2015, Iran reported the liquidation of the leader of this united group. According to Iranian data, militants received support from a number of Arab countries [19].

But the most well-known grouping is now Jaish al-Adl, or in the translation Army of Justice, which appeared in 2012 from a part of the militants of the former Jundall group. They are known primarily for attacks on Iranian border patrols from Pakistan. Their first known attack occurred in October 2013, when 14 of Iranian border guards [20] died.

The “Jaish al-Adl” raids from Pakistani territory continue and now, the last of them occurred already in April 2017, the Iranian border patrol was ambushed again by militants, resulting in the death of ten border guards [21]. Iran accuses Saudi Arabia of supporting and financing the militants of this group [22].

The main problem in the fight against militants and drug traffickers for Iran is that their main bases are in neighboring Afghanistan and Pakistan, whose authorities do not control or poorly control part of their territories. At the same time, light border patrols on unarmored pickups and light equipment are highly vulnerable to ambushes by well-armed militants on the other side of the border.

Iran’s ability to fight militant and drug trafficker camps in adjacent territories is limited. Although Tehran regularly accuses Islamabad of inaction and demands to improve control over the Pakistani part of Balochistan, Iran does not want to greatly aggravate relations with Pakistan.

Therefore, despite tough statements and threats sounding from time to time, Tehran has so far refrained from abrupt unilateral measures of a military nature. An exception to this is the occasional shelling of alleged militant positions in Pakistan with mortars and the like.

Therefore, the main Iranian response to the increase in terrorist activity and drug trafficking was the intensification of the second half of the 2000-s. construction of fortifications along the eastern border. The large-scale program includes the creation of hundreds of kilometers of moats, numerous watchtowers and border fortifications resembling small fortresses, as well as a reinforced concrete wall along the border, which is being built from 2007 [23]

Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles, including the Shahed-129 shock guards of the Revolutionary Guards [24], are now involved in controlling the border. The ground forces of the IRGC and the helicopters of the Iranian army, which are based at the 11 tactical airbase in Zahedan, including the BellAH-1J attack helicopters, support the border guards and the anti-drug police of the Security Forces.

Shahed-129 UAV

Thus, despite the difficult situation on the border, Iranian security forces still manage to keep the situation under control and prevent infiltration into Iran of militias and large new terrorist attacks with a large number of victims. The total number of active militants operating from the territory of Pakistan’s Balochistan is now probably within a few hundred people.

The Kurdish question

Border with Turkey and northern Iraq, the northwestern and western regions of Iran are home to several million Iranian Kurds. First of all, this is the province of Kurdistan, as well as parts of the neighboring provinces of Western Azerbaijan, Ilam and Kermanshah.

The problem of the struggle of the Kurds for self-determination for more than a decade has been confronting all four countries where the indigenous Kurdish population lives - Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Politics is greatly influenced by the influence of different Kurdish tribes in many areas, as well as their differences in language and religion.

The Iranian language Kurdish is divided into several dialects, which are seriously different from each other. In addition, there are disputes over some of them, what to consider as a dialect, and what is already a separate language. In addition, although the majority of Sunnis are among Iranian Kurds, there are also a significant part of those who adhere to Shi'ism.

The result of such differences is well noticeable if you look at the newest history of Iranian Kurdistan. Many Kurds, especially Shiite Kurds, had closer ties with the center and rejected the idea of ​​independence or autonomy, speaking in support of the central authorities. And now the Basij militia among the Kurds [25] is helping to ensure the security of the border areas of the north-western and western regions.

The main centers of anti-government speeches throughout the XX century were the northern and central areas of settlement of Kurds in Iran, in the present provinces of West Azerbaijan and Kurdistan. These are poor mountainous areas, and Sunni Kurds predominantly live there, which speak dialects of Kurmanji and Sorani.

It was in those places after the end of World War I that rebellious Kurdish tribes led by leader Simko Shikak created a virtually independent territory until they were defeated by the Persian army in 1922. In 1926, Simko Shikak attempted to raise a new uprising, but was again defeated and fled from countries [26].

At the beginning of 1946, the autonomous Kurdish People’s Republic was proclaimed on the part occupied by Soviet troops (introduced in August 1941) of the territories of Iran with the support of the USSR without the consent of Tehran. Its capital became Mehabad in the south of the current province of Western Azerbaijan. Shortly before, another self-proclaimed autonomy was proclaimed in the neighboring provinces of northwestern Iran - the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan with its capital in Tabriz.

The ruling party of the Makhabad Republic was the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan formed in 1945. The republic was unable to create a strong army; the backbone of its military forces was not a very numerous tribal militia of Barzan Kurds that moved from neighboring Iraq, led by Mustafa Barzani [27].

As a result: after the withdrawal of the Soviet troops by the end of 1946, the Iranian troops, without much resistance, regained full control over the two uncontrolled territories. As the Iranian division approached, leaders of a number of Kurdish tribes rushed to assure the center of their loyalty, and in December 1946 the government forces occupied Mekhabad. By the verdict of the military court, Kazi Mohammed - the head of the Kurdish People’s Republic was executed in March 1947, and Mustafa Barzani with his people went to the USSR [28].

In the following decades, the Shah's special services and the army harshly suppressed and suppressed the attempts of new speeches and uprisings that were taking place, preventing them from growing. During these years, another significant Kurdish political force emerged - the left-wing Komal party, which also operated underground. The situation changed dramatically in 1979, when, during the revolution, the old vertical of power was destroyed.

The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (hereinafter referred to as the Democratic Party of China), as well as the left-wing Komala party, led anti-government demonstrations in Kurdish areas, despite a long-term underground stay. Having seized weapons from police stations and military units, they tried to take advantage of the situation that arose in Iran after the overthrow of the shah, and demanded the broadest autonomy.

Among other things, the Kurdish parties demanded full control over all state authorities in the autonomy, self-determination of the autonomy boundaries, etc. This was completely unacceptable to Tehran, and the leader of the revolution, Ayatollah Ruhallah Khomeini, rejected these demands [29].

After the negotiations reached a complete deadlock and clashes between supporters of Kurdish parties and their opponents from among the Shiite Kurds and other groups loyal to the government intensified in the north-west of the country, the revolutionary authorities decided to regain control over the situation.

Additional forces of the IRGC and the army were deployed to Kurdish areas, while the KPRC and Komal were eventually banned again. The detachments of the Kurdish parties after the heavy fighting were forced to retreat to the mountains on the border of Iran and Iraq, where the KPRT received military assistance from neighboring Iraq.

In the course of the Iran-Iraq war, which began in September 1980, a picture emerged that could look confusing to an inexperienced outsider. Iraq supported the DPRT militants who fought against Iran, and in turn, Iran supported and conducted joint operations with the Iraqi Kurds of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, who fought against the central Iraqi authorities [30].

The alliance with Saddam Hussein turned out to be a failure for the DPKI. Iran with the support of the allied Iraqi Kurds to 1982 – 1983 he was able to establish control over the border mountain areas soon, and the KPRT and “Komals” detachments lost the bases located there.

After the end of the war with Iraq, the DPRT attempted to revitalize its activities in northwestern Iran again. In response to the unrest and frequent attacks, Iranian intelligence began to liquidate the leadership of the Kurdish party, which lived in Western countries.

In 1989 in Vienna, the Secretary General of the KDPIC was killed, and in 1992 in one of the restaurants in Berlin, his successor in this post [31] was also shot. Supposedly, these actions were carried out by agents of the Iranian Ministry of Information (Intelligence), although Iran officially denied it.

The death of leaders and losses among the rank and file in the 1990-ies. forced the old Kurdish parties to permanently cease their armed activity. They started with internal problems, right up to the splits. Replaced them in the middle of 2000's. as the leading Kurdish armed anti-government group came the Free Life Party of Kurdistan.

The Kurdistan Free Life Party (hereinafter PSLC) is considered an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, which has been fighting against Turkey for many years. The main bases of PSGK are located in the mountains of Kandil in the territory of neighboring Iraqi Kurdistan, which are in fact not controlled by the central authorities of Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan itself.

For several years from there, the PSGC militants launched forays into neighboring Iranian territory and carried out terrorist attacks and attacks on border guards, military and police. In turn, Iranian artillery and aviation from time to time they attacked the positions of militants in Iraq [32].

PSGK attacks on 2010 – 2011, including a terrorist attack in a crowd of spectators during a military parade in September 2010 in Mehabad [33], pushed Iran’s leadership to take decisive action. It was decided to carry out a counter-terrorist operation against militant bases in the mountains on the border and border areas of Iraq. Thanks to strong ties and influence in Baghdad, Iran could not fear diplomatic complications.

In the summer of 2011, 5000 of the IRGC [34] servicemen were deployed to the area of ​​the operation, including special forces of the IRGC ground forces - the Saberin rapid reaction force. In July, the 2011 units arrived, along with units of the IRGC, stationed there, the Basij militia, and the border guards of the security forces began the active phase of the operation.

The Orlov Zagros Detachment of Iranian Kurds

In the course of the operation, carried out with the support of artillery and aviation, in July-September 2011, the mountain base of PJWK at the border was cleaned. The PSGK leadership in September 2011 was forced to accept the demands of Tehran, retreating into the depths of Iraqi Kurdistan not less than a kilometer from the border with Iran and declaring a unilateral truce. According to Iranian data, 180 militants of the PJAK were killed during the fighting and 300 were injured [35].

Despite some clashes, which after the end of the operation continued to occur between PSZhK and Iranian patrols at the border, the activity of this party after 2011 was noticeably reduced. But the relative respite was short-lived.

Since 2016, a new escalation of tensions has started, due to the fact that two decades later the oldest Kurdish party, 36, resumed the armed struggle. In the same year, another small group was activated - the Kurdistan Freedom Party [37].

Another Kurdish party, with which the central authorities fought stubbornly under the Shah, Komala also announced the resumption of armed struggle after a long break. More precisely, the part of it that remained under this name after the transformations and splits [38] that have passed over the past decades.

Such activity of prohibited parties that have been in the shadow for many years is hardly accidental. After the liquidation of the next armed groups of the Democratic Party of China and Komal, which crossed the Iranian border, in November 2016, the head of the IRGC department of Iran’s Generals, General Ramezan Sharif, directly accused Saudi Arabia of supporting these groups. A similar accusation was also expressed by the Secretary of the Council for determining the appropriateness of Iran, General Mohsen Rezai [39].

Indeed, Saudi Arabia’s interest in supporting Iran’s enemies seems obvious. In a recent interview, the Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense of the Kingdom, Prince Muhammad Ibn Salman al-Saud, explicitly stated his relations with Iran: “We will not wait for the battle in Saudi Arabia. Instead, we will work to make the battle for them in Iran ”[40].

The number of all these anti-government Kurdish armed groups is small and probably amounts to no more than 2000 – 3000 people. Although they do not pose a great threat to Iran, they are keeping all Iranian security forces in that region in suspense. The costs of ensuring security at the border and border areas are also increasing.

Within the framework of the Cold War, which is currently being waged between Saudi Arabia and Iran, this is already a positive result for Riyadh.

Separatism and terrorism in Khuzestan

The southwestern province of Khuzestan, bordering southern Iraq, is the main oil producing region in Iran, more than 80% of Iranian oil is produced in this province [41]. The province itself is multinational, there can not be allocated absolutely prevailing majority. The largest ethnic groups there are Persians, Arabs, Lurs and Bakhtiars.

Historically, the Arabs live mainly in the southern and western parts of the province, and the nomadic Iranian Luri and Bakhtiar tribes live in the northern and eastern parts of the province. In turn, the Persians for the most part live in major cities of the province. At the same time, the overwhelming majority of the population are Shiites, only a part of the Arabs adheres to Sunnism.

As a result of the decline of the Persian state at the beginning of the 20th century, caused by the first Iranian revolution, foreign interventions and the First World War, the government practically lost control over the national borderlands. It happened in part of the territory of modern Khuzestan, known at the time as Arabistan, where the Arab sheikh Khazal al-Kaabi ruled.

The ruler of Mohammers (modern Iranian Khorramshahr) took advantage of the catastrophic weakening of the central government and support from the UK, whose companies produced oil in those places. He became a virtually independent ruler of Arabistan, sending only a small part of the collected taxes and fees to Tehran. He had his own small army, armed, among other things, with the help of the British, who had given him 1919 rifles, ammunition and a steamship [3000] in 42.

It should be said that Sheikh Hazal did not achieve complete independence from Persia, he was completely satisfied with the situation. But the existence of such semi-independent territories, which only formally recognized the authority of the center, did not suit the new Prime Minister of Persia.

The future Shah Reza Pahlavi, then simply Prime Minister Reza Khan, decided to end the current state of affairs in 1924 and sent troops to the south-west of the country. The government army occupied uncontrolled territories, and Sheikh Khazal himself was actually placed under house arrest in Tehran, where he died in 1936.

As a result of these events, the autonomous authorities of the local feudal rulers and tribes came to an end, their territories were incorporated into the province, which was named Khuzestan and ruled by the governor appointed from the capital. The riots and riots among several Arab tribes were severely suppressed at times in subsequent decades.

In the middle of the 20th century, against the background of the spread of pan-Arab ideology among the Arab minority of Iran in the Arab world, underground political movements began to emerge that favored secession. The first of these in 1956 was the “Arabistan Liberation Front”. This and other similar organizations soon began to receive all possible support from the government of neighboring Iraq [43].

But even with the support of Iraq, none of the separatist movements could gain enough popularity and strength to seriously challenge the central government in 1960 – 1970's.

This was confirmed during the 1979 revolution, which swept Khuzestan and other provinces of Iran. Arab movements that advocated secession or autonomy could not take advantage of situations of weakening central power. Arranged by them after the revolution, the performances were very quickly suppressed in the spring and summer of 1979. And this was during the period when all the old power structures were in a deplorable state after the revolution, and the IRGC was just beginning to be created.

In the current situation, the attacks and attacks that the militants of the separatist groups were organizing looked like gestures of despair. The most famous of these was the capture by militants of the Democratic Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Arabistan in 1980 of the Iranian embassy in London. As a result of a special operation by the British SAS, five out of six terrorists were killed and another was detained and then convicted [44].

He strongly overestimated anti-government sentiment among Arabs in Khuzestan and Saddam Hussein. It was this province that was the main objective of the Iraqi army during the invasion of 1980 in the fall, and in Baghdad they hoped to raise the local Arabs to fight against the Islamic Republic. But the Shiite Arabs of Khuzestan were not going to meet the Iraqi army as liberators. Moreover, Sunni Arabs were in power in Iraq itself because they fought against the anti-government demonstrations of their own Shiites. It is not surprising that instead of the cooperation expected by Saddam Hussein with the Iraqis, the Arabs of Khuzestan en masse joined the ranks of the Iranian militia, the IRGC and the army and fought against the aggressor.

In fact, the Iran-Iraq war put an end to the activity of the former separatist movements. Especially since the end of the war, Iraq has stopped the former large-scale financing of subversive activities in Iran.

A new separatist group appeared in 1999 [45], it took the name of the “Arab movement for the liberation of Ahvaz”. At first, she did not show any noticeable activity, their first known terrorist attacks followed only after the unrest in the administrative center of Khuzestan, Ahvaz, in the spring of 2005.

From June 2005 to March 2006, a wave of terrorist attacks swept through Ahwaz and some other Iranian cities. Terrorists put improvised explosive devices in garbage cans and other places where they would not be so noticeable. In total, dozens of people died during these attacks. Responsibility for the bombings began to take on the military wing of the “Arab Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz” - the Brigade of the Martyr Mohiaddin al-Nasser [46].

Iranian law enforcement forces then carried out extensive work and carried out a series of arrests of suspected terrorists and their support. After consideration of cases by revolutionary courts, at least one and a half dozen people were found guilty and executed [47].

It is worth saying that although human rights activists accused the Iranian authorities of insufficient evidence against those executed, but after they were caught, the wave of terrorist attacks ceased. This testifies in favor of the fact that the Iranian secret services then opened and eliminated the real cells of the militants responsible for the terrorist attacks.

After 2006, the Arab movement for the liberation of Ahwaz again again for several years virtually disappeared from News. The separatists began to return to activity after the start of the so-called “Arab Spring” in 2011, one of the consequences of which was a sharp aggravation of the contradictions between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

In April, 2011 in Khuzestan occurred new unrest of Sunni Arabs and clashes with the police. Thus, in Ahvaz, up to several hundred protesters participated in them, according to some information, as a result of clashes with the forces of law and order there were dead [48].

Following this in 2012 – 2013. Attempts were made to arrange explosions on oil and gas pipelines in Khuzestan, some of which were successful. Responsibility for sabotage again took over the military wing of the Arab movement for the liberation of Ahvaz, and they devoted a similar attack in August 2013 to the Syrian "brothers in arms", that is, the militants who are fighting against the Syrian government [49].

Attempts at new attacks and sabotage continued. In April 2014, the IRGC forces liquidated new terrorist cells, in April 2015, a gunman shot three policemen at a temporary post in Hemidiye [50], and in May of the same year, at night, the militants threw several petrol bombs at a government building Susgentgerd [51]. In addition, in 2015 – 2016. Attempts to sabotage the oil and gas infrastructure facilities continued, although some Iranian authorities officially refuted some of such claims by terrorists [52].

Nevertheless, in general, the situation in Khuzestan is characterized by a significantly higher level of security than in the areas bordering on Pakistan and northern Iraq, which were considered above.

It is obvious that the separatist groups in Khuzestan are now extremely small, as evidenced by the nature of their actions. They try to avoid clashes with security forces and attacks on well-guarded objects, so they adhere to purely terrorist tactics, mainly in the form of exploding small improvised explosive devices, arson, etc.

With all the socio-economic problems that exist in the region, the factor of confessional community of the majority of the population of this multiethnic province affects. Shiite Arabs remained loyal to the Islamic Republic of Iran, just like 30 years ago, during the war with Iraq, so Sunni Arabs are actually a base for separatism, which are not enough to seriously destabilize the situation in the province.

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[52] Web page:

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    APASUS 20 August 2017 12: 20
    Iran is a serious force and an attempt to put pressure on all fronts is a confirmation. Here from here is an attempt to smuggle drugs, weapons, attempts to finance internal opposition and national minorities. An attempt at “soft power” in fashion, music, jeans, clothes, everything was as we had. Like only in Iran the course changes, then the country will be kirdyk
  2. Des10
    Des10 20 August 2017 12: 31
    Thanks for the article, the sample is just as it should be on VO.
    DOCTOR ZLO 21 August 2017 23: 26
    Internal conflicts should be resolved by forces of the Allies, following the pattern of how they were resolved in the police department, just that in Iran, contingents from Pakistan, China, the Russian Federation come to the aid of the national army, then each member of the SCO and CSTO will feel calm ...