On Wednesday, the Financial Times of London reported that "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president, on Wednesday accused the U.S. and its allies of trying to destabilize Iran through ethnic unrest."[1]  --  "Ethnic unrest has been growing in recent months in Iran's peripheral and poorest areas," Gareth Smyth noted.  --  "The Kurdish west, Arab southwest and Baluchi southeast have all seen violence against officials and buildings."  --  What the Financial Times does not report is that there have been long reports of U.S. covert action in Iran.  --  It is worth recalling that in an article entitled "The Coming Wars," published in the Jan. 24-31, 2005, issue of the New Yorker, Seymour Hersh reported:  "The next strategic target [is] Iran. . . . The Administration has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran at least since last summer [i.e. Summer 2004]. . . . An American commando task force has been set up in South Asia and . . . has been penetrating eastern Iran from Afghanistan. . . . Strategists at the headquarters of the U.S. Central Command, in Tampa, Florida, have been asked to revise the military’s war plan, providing for a maximum ground and air invasion of Iran. . . . The hawks in the Administration believe that it will soon become clear that the Europeans’ negotiated approach [to Iran] cannot succeed, and that at that time the Administration will act. . . . The legal questions about the Pentagon’s right to conduct covert operations without informing Congress have not been resolved. . . . The new rules will enable the Special Forces community to set up what it calls 'action teams' in the target countries overseas. . . . [A] former high-level intelligence official . . . said. “The objective now is to recruit locals in any area we want. And we aren’t going to tell Congress about it." ...

1.

Middle East & Africa

Iran

AHMADINEJAD ACCUSES U.S. OF FOMENTING ETHNIC UNREST
By Gareth Smyth

Financial Times (UK)
May 23, 2006

http://news.ft.com/cms/s/0cad0aee-eb49-11da-823e-0000779e2340.html

TEHRAN -- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president, on Wednesday accused the U.S. and its allies of trying to destabilize Iran through ethnic unrest.

His remarks followed large demonstrations in the mainly Azeri northwest against publication of an offensive cartoon, and as Iranian security forces carried out exercises in the mainly Baluchi south east.

Iranian officials have expressed concern in recent months at reports of U.S. support for separatist groups among Iran's ethnic minorities, who account for about half of the country's 68m population.

Many separatist groups have offices in the U.S. or Europe, and U.S. government agencies have been researching Iran's ethnic make-up.

"They [the U.S. and its allies] must know they will not be able to provoke divisions . . . among the dear Iranian nation," Mr. Ahmadinejad said, in a speech in the mainly Arab southwestern city of Khoramshah.

Ethnic unrest has been growing in recent months in Iran's peripheral and poorest areas. The Kurdish west, Arab southwest and Baluchi southeast have all seen violence against officials and buildings.

A reported 3,000 troops took part this week in operation "Authority" in Sistan-Baluchestan province following the deaths of 12 civilians this month in violence officials blamed on Jundallah, a militant Baluchi group.

In a rare example of unrest among the Azeris, Iran's largest minority, large demonstrations in Tabriz and other northwestern cities followed last Friday's publication in Tehran of a cartoon of a cockroach speaking Azeri.

On Tuesday, the judiciary jailed the cartoonist and editor of the children's supplement of the state-owned Iran newspaper. Such swift action probably reflected the Azeris' central role in Iranian life.

The business-minded Azeris do not -- unlike the Kurds or Baluchi -- allege discrimination in jobs or development. They make up a large part of Tehran's 12m population and share the Shia faith with about 85 per cent of Iranians.

Akbar Alami, a Tabriz deputy, yesterday said Azeris, who speak a Turkish dialect, were frustrated at being the butt of jokes. "As long as . . . stupid and naive people are shown in films speaking with a Turkish accent . . . there are hidden wounds that suddenly open and burst in flames," he said.

Underlining concern among the political élite, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president, yesterday said "national solidarity" was "very important for Iran when we are more than ever faced with threats."