Tag: Iran

China Defies Trump on Iran Big time with 0 bn Belt-and-Road InChina Defies Trump on Iran Big time with 0 bn Belt-and-Road Investment, 5000 Security Personnelvestment, 5000 Security Personnel


via China Defies Trump on Iran Big time with 0 bn Belt-and-Road InChina Defies Trump on Iran Big time with 0 bn Belt-and-Road Investment, 5000 Security Personnelvestment, 5000 Security Personnel

Israeli PM Netanyahu’s Himalayan Miscalculation on Iran: Bringing China into the Mideast


The Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu is one of the world players who pushed Trump to breach the 2015 treaty with Iran. Trump then slapped the severest economic sanctions on Iran ever imposed on any country in the absence of war. Trump went around the world menacing other countries into ceasing to buy Iranian petroleum and threatening billions in fines against any company anywhere in the world that invested in or traded with Iran.

Instead, Netanyahu and Trump have pushed Iran straight into the arms of China which is investing $400 billion in the country and which is now taking most of Iran’s oil exports. China seems intent on integrating Iran into its economy even more robustly than it had proposed with Pakistan.

via Israeli PM Netanyahu’s Himalayan Miscalculation on Iran: Bringing China into the Mideast

Old Dog Thoughts- Bolt relies on our ignorance to say anything but the truth about China and revealing his Goebellian self in the process

Image result for Andrew Bolt images and caricatures

Fighting Fake News with REAL,22/8/19; Australia is becoming more Chinese and China more Australian; A vigilante opinionates on a single judge;

Scott Morrison confirms Australia to join US protection of oil tankers in Straits of Hormuz

Australia will join a US-led coalition to protect shipping in the Straits of Hormuz.

The Banner is wrong it should be Morrison confirms America is to send Australian Troops Planes and Warships to Iran (ODT)

via Scott Morrison confirms Australia to join US protection of oil tankers in Straits of Hormuz

Australia is likely to be drawn into U.S. hostilities with Iran

Conservatives take us to Wars the ALP takes us out of them. SOS Save OUR SONS (ODT)

Australia must think through its interests and principles with the U.S. before taking part in an attack in Iran, writes former executive chairman of UNSCOM, the UN Special Commission to disarm Iraq, Richard Butler.

Australia is likely to be drawn into U.S. hostilities with Iran

Acting on Iran has painful shades of joining the US in Iraq


Here’s a word of advice to Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Unless he wants to risk a smudge on his reputation of the sort that accompanies John Howard to this day: don’t get involved in conflict with Iran beyond limited naval engagement in a Gulf peace-keeping role.

via Acting on Iran has painful shades of joining the US in Iraq

The unwritten history of Israel’s alliance with the Shah’s dictatorship | +972 Magazine

Shah Mohammad Reza with his consort and crown prince after the coronation, 1967.

For years, Israel maintained close political, economic, and security relations with the Shah of Iran. Newly-declassified documents reveal that Israeli leaders were well aware of his murderous suppression of political opponents.

via The unwritten history of Israel’s alliance with the Shah’s dictatorship | +972 Magazine

Donald Trump, Iran, and the Gulf of Tonkin Redux

Trump administration appear intent on war against Iran. This week on Intercepted: As the U.S. accuses Iran of attacking civilian ships while offering scant evidence, grave historical parallels are emerging with the Gulf of Tonkin incidents in 1964 that were manipulated to justify Lyndon Johnson’s dramatic escalation of the war in Vietnam. California Democrat Rep. Ro Khanna is preparing legislation aimed at stopping an attack on Iran, and he says he would not put it past national security adviser John Bolton to manipulate evidence. Journalist Negar Mortazavi of The Independent analyzes what war with Iran would look like and exposes the State Department’s funding of propaganda operations against Iran. Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman talks about the parallels with the build up to the Iraq invasion of 2003 and shares stories from her early life as a journalist.

via Donald Trump, Iran, and the Gulf of Tonkin Redux

Trump and Fox are currently a world threat


  • The Trump-Fox feedback loop could cause a war with Iran

    blog June 17, 2019 4:57 PM EDT

  • Fox both serves as Trump’s personal propaganda outlet and shapes his worldview. The president regularly watches hours of Fox coverage and often tweets about segments that catch his eye. He has stocked his administration with former Fox personalities, the network’s most prominent figures serve as his outside advisers, and guests openly appeal to him during their on-air appearances. Fox segments have an immense influence over this White House, with the president acting based on what he sees on the network on everything from political strategy to pardons.
  • It remains unclear how the conflict between the U.S. and Iran will play out. But with the stakes this high, it’s unnerving that the president is wallowing in Fox’s spin.
  • Trump tweeted about this Fox News segment that encouraged a US military strike on Iran

    video June 17, 2019 1:00 PM EDT


Media Wrongfully Blame Iran for Likely US-Staged False Flag Attacks – Stephen Lendman

Screenshot_2019-06-17 False Flag Images, Stock Photos Vectors Shutterstock.pngDespite no credible evidence suggesting Iranian responsibility for Thursday’s Gulf of Oman attacks or earlier regional ones in May, US establishment side with the Trump regime’s Big Lies against the country — what they always do against its adversaries.

They vilified Julian Assange, supporting his prosecution if handed over to Trump regime hardliners for the “crime” of truth-telling journalism the way it should be, ignoring their war on speech, media and academic freedoms, eroding en route to disappearing altogether along with other fundamental rights if strong action isn’t taken to halt Washington’s tyrannical agenda.

via Media Wrongfully Blame Iran for Likely US-Staged False Flag Attacks – Stephen Lendman

Can Congress Steer The U.S. Away From War With Iran? | HuffPost Australia

National security adviser John Bolton has embraced a role in the administration pushing the U.S. toward...

The Trump administration’s sudden march toward an armed conflict with Iran has a number of top Democrats and even some Republicans attempting to rein in the president’s hawkish senior officials before potentially tens of thousands of U.S. troops are once again engaged in a bloody conflict in the Middle East.

Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have renewed a push for a 2018 bill that would prohibit the U.S. from using funds for a war against Iran without first getting congressional approval. On Tuesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) joined the bill as a co-sponsor.

“We cannot let the Trump Admin drag us into yet another war in the Middle East,” Warren tweeted.

via Can Congress Steer The U.S. Away From War With Iran? | HuffPost Australia

Old Dog Thoughts -Israel’s Colonisation the 3-way Plan

Israel Gets all the Goodies, Palestinians Screwed: First-ever Reveal of ‘Deal of the Century’ Details

Andrew Bolt’s Blog 9/5/19; America and Israel plan for WAR ; 1)To prevent any Pan Arabic Union of armed state resistence. 2)To control oil and its wealth creation for that purpose 3) Israel’s politicians are pursuing their expansionist colonisation of Palestinian territories as if John Bolton’s plan was in order.4)The Bolton Plan rid the ME of any Palestinian State.

Trump sidelined as UN Security Council plus Germany Meet Iran’s Rouhani in Vienna

I’m of a generation where the idea of the UN Security Council meeting without the US is hard to imagine. The conference is eloquent about how isolated and increasingly irrelevant Trump has made America. The rest of the world now sees Washington as an annoying problem to get around.

Moreover, think of it. This meeting involves three of America’s closest military and economic allies–Britain, France and Germany– having been pushed by Trump into the same corner with Russia and China in seeking to have better relations with Iran. I guess Trump has taught *them* a lesson.

Trump is ordering the US Department of the Treasury to slap third party sanctions on non-US firms who do business with Iran. Companies like Total, S.A., the French oil giant, who do business with the US, cannot afford to buck the Treasury Department and so are pulling out of planned Iran investments.

via Trump sidelined as UN Security Council plus Germany Meet Iran’s Rouhani in Vienna

Scapegoating Iran


Mr. Fish / Truthdig

NEW YORK—Seventeen years of war in the Middle East and what do we have to show for it? Iraq after our 2003 invasion and occupation is no longer a unified country. Its once modern infrastructure is largely destroyed, and the nation has fractured into warring enclaves. We have lost the war in Afghanistan. The Taliban is resurgent and has a presence in over 70 percent of the country. Libya is a failed state. Yemen after three years of relentless airstrikes and a blockade is enduring one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. The 500 “moderate” rebels we funded and armed in Syria at a cost of $500 million are in retreat after instigating a lawless reign of terror. The military adventurism has cost a staggering $5.6 trillion as our infrastructure crumbles, austerity guts basic services and half the population of the United States lives at or near poverty levels. The endless wars in the Middle East are the biggest strategic blunder in American history and herald the death of the empire.

via Scapegoating Iran

India stands with Iran against Trump Sanctions


India’s External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj, on Monday did not mince words in delivering a sharp rebuke to US plans for sanctions on trade with Iran, including National Security Adviser John Bolton’s threats against third parties like India. She said, according to The Hindu,

“Our foreign policy is not made under pressure from other countries . . . We recognise UN sanctions and not country-specific sanctions. We didn’t follow U.S. sanctions on previous occasions either.”

via India stands with Iran against Trump Sanctions

By ending the Iran deal, Trump has put America on the path to war | Bernie Sanders | Opinion | The Guardian


It’s important to understand that the JCPOA is not just an agreement between the US and Iran, but one negotiated alongside our partners in the P5+1 – the UK, France, China, Russia and Germany – and endorsed by the United Nations security council. Trump’s withdrawal further deepens tensions with our most important democratic allies, France, the UK and Germany, who all continue to support the agreement and have consistently said that it is in their own national security interests to see it upheld.

Trump also rejected the advice of his own top national security officials like the joint chiefs chairman, Gen Joseph Dunford, and defense secretary, James Mattis, both of whom have repeatedly stated that staying in the agreement is in the national security interests of the US. Nuclear non-proliferation and national security professionals around the world share that assessment. Just as he has done on the issue of climate change with his withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, Trump has chosen to ignore the overwhelming expert consensus and sided instead with a small ideological faction, with disastrous consequences for our global security.

via By ending the Iran deal, Trump has put America on the path to war | Bernie Sanders | Opinion | The Guardian

Who is the Vassal? Israel, the US and Iran

If you are living in Israel, these days, you get the impression that the huge State of Israel is dictating to its American vassal what to do about Iran.

President Donald Trump listens and complies. Bibi the Great tells him to tear up the Iranian deal for no obvious reason, and he obeys. He has no choice, poor man

via Who is the Vassal? Israel, the US and Iran

A downed F-16 and an Iranian drone: The other side always started it +972 Magazine

View of the remains of an F-16 plane downed Saturday morning by Syrian forces (Anat Hermony/Flash90)

According to the Israeli narrative, the timeline of violence that resulted in Syria shooting down an Israeli fighter jet began just a few hours earlier. But Israel has been bombing inside Syria for months.

via A downed F-16 and an Iranian drone: The other side always started it +972 Magazine

Jews feel safer in Iran than in US & EU despite Tel Aviv-Tehran tensions (VIDEO) — RT World News

Jews feel safer in Iran than in US & EU despite Tel Aviv-Tehran tensions (VIDEO)

What Israel and the West don’t want you to know

Iran boasts the largest Jewish community in the Middle East outside Israel with a population of more than 8,700. Despite tensions between Israel and Iran, Jews claim to feel safer there than they would in the US or EU.

“The Jews of Iran can freely worship and perform the traditional rights. They face no kind of pressure. Our synagogues here are safer than in the US or in Europe. The Iranian government supports us,” Homayoun Sameyehead of the Iran Jewish Association told RT.

READ MORE: Iran FM accuses Netanyahu of ‘fake history’ over ‘Persians tried to destroy Jews’ comments

Decades after the exodus which followed the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran’s is the only growing Jewish community in any predominantly Muslim country. The country boasts 65 synagogues, a 100-bed Jewish hospital and a Jewish cemetery established in 1933, while Tehran has a Jewish library with 20,000 texts, and an abundance of kosher restaurants.

via Jews feel safer in Iran than in US & EU despite Tel Aviv-Tehran tensions (VIDEO) — RT World News

The tricky triangle of Iran, Russia and Israel | World news | The Guardian

On the complex regional chess board, Iran wants better relations with Moscow even as the Russians have extended their intelligence co-operation with Israel in Syria

Source: The tricky triangle of Iran, Russia and Israel | World news | The Guardian

Israel frets about “Iran as Neighbor” if Aleppo falls & al-Assad Regime Wins | Informed Comment

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – – An Arabic site that aggregates Facebook and other social media postings …

Source: Israel frets about “Iran as Neighbor” if Aleppo falls & al-Assad Regime Wins | Informed Comment

A zone of frenemies: untangling Middle East relations

The bitter rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran can be seen played out across the Middle East, from the rise of Islamic State to the assault against the Houthis in Yemen. Amin Saikal writes about what this means for the US as it attempts to find a coherent policy.

The Middle East continues to be a zone of frenemies. The latest development is the collective military assault by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and a number of its Arab allies against the Houthis as an allegedly Iranian-backed terrorist group in Yemen.

This comes hot on the heels of these countries’ refusal to assist the US-led air campaign with ground forces against ‘Islamic State’ (IS) in Iraq.

Why against the Houthis, but not IS?

The answer lies in the Saudi-Iranian geopolitical driven sectarian rivalries, and America’s attempts to maintain its de facto alliance with Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies, negotiate a nuclear agreement with Iran, and fight IS with as much regional support as possible.

The Houthis are followers of Shi’a Islam and claim representation on behalf of 45 per cent of the Yemeni population. As such, they have a sectarian affiliation with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Tehran has been accused of materially supporting the Houthis rebellion, which since last September has taken over the capital Sana. The Houthis have successfully fought the Saudi-backed government of president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, who has fled the capital, as well as the Sunni Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The Saudis and their partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Egypt want to get rid of the Houthis and reinstall Hadi’s leadership. The Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has condemned the Saudi-led assault as a “genocide” and called for its end. However, the United States has backed the Saudi-led military campaign to Tehran’s annoyance.

In contrast, Saudi Arabia and its allies have only made a symbolic contribution to the US-led Western air campaign against IS. Yet, clearly what could help this campaign to roll back IS is a regional ground force to assist the Iraqi military.

Two reasons account for why this has not occurred. First, IS is an extremist Sunni, anti-Shia entity, whose ideology is rooted in the Saudi brand of Wahabi/Salafi Islam. IS, which established itself over large swathes of Iraqi and Syrian territories last June, was initially a beneficiary of funds coming from Saudi Arabia and some of its oil-rich GCC partners. These countries were motivated by the consideration that Iran had gained too much influence in Iraq, which had traditionally been identified with the Arab world, and Syria, where Iranian aid has sustained Bashar al-Assad’s government as Iran’s only Arab strategic partner, and Lebanon, in which the Iranian-backed Hezbollah has reigned supreme in support of Iran’s wider regional interests.

This means that whilst Saudi Arabia and its allies would like to see IS contained, they do not find it in their strategic interests to see it eliminated as an anti-Iranian and anti-Syrian government force. The second reason is that the Iraqi government is dominated by the Shi’as, who form a majority of the Iraqi population, and cannot afford to offend Tehran by being receptive to an Arab force to fight IS on its soil.

Paradoxically, whilst opposed to IS and helping the Iraqi and Kurdish forces, as well as cooperating informally with the US and its Western allies in combating IS, Tehran shares the Arab countries’ step-back approach to IS, although for different reasons.

Iran views IS as an extension of Saudi Salafism, and does not mind to see its continuation in a symbolic form for a while to discredit the Saudi brand of Islam and thus counter the Saudi opposition to Iran. Meanwhile, to shore up its domestic and regional position, the Iranian regime, with moderate/reformist Hassan Rouhani in the presidency, wants a breakthrough in its long-standing hostilities with the United States.

In response, US president Barack Obama has found diplomacy as the best means to settle the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program and to come to terms with Tehran. Yet, like the Iranian leadership, Obama faces his internal and regional detractors, who do not view a possible normalisation of US-Iranian relations to be in their strategic interests. Israel has campaigned viciously against it, and Saudi Arabia and its regional allies have voiced serious apprehension about it. For Obama to overcome this opposition, he has engaged in a regional balancing act. He has supported the Saudi-led military action against the Houthis and has blamed Iran for Yemen’s woes (although Yemen’s strife stems largely from internal factors) and assured Israel of America’s unwavering commitment to it.

What may emerge from all this is unpredictable. But one thing is sure. Irrespective of whether or not there will be a US-Iranian rapprochement, the Saudi-Iranian rivalry may continue to be a main cause of regional volatility, unless the two sides agree to a summit to settle their differences peacefully through dialogue and understanding.

As for the United States, it presently lacks a clear and coherent policy in dealing with a region riven by contradictions and paradoxes. It appears to be shuttling between various forces to find a niche of determining influence in the region. However, if there is a major improvement in its relations with Iran, that could help it to play a meaningful role in resolving some of the regional issues, ranging from Iraqi to Yemeni conflicts, that at least partly underpin the Saudi-Iranian rivalry.

Amin Saikal is Distinguished Professor of Political Science, public policy fellow and director of the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies (the Middle East and Central Asia) at the Australian National University, and author of Iran at the Crossroads (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2015, forthcoming).

Today’s Republican Dilemma: Who Do They Hate More, Barack Obama or Vladimir Putin? Bolt seems to be on Putin’s side.

Here’s the latest from our pal in Russia:

President Vladimir V. Putin on Monday approved the delivery of a sophisticated air defense missile system to Iran, potentially complicating negotiations on Tehran’s nuclear program and further straining ties with Washington.

The sale could also undermine the Obama administration’s efforts to sell Congress and foreign allies on the nuclear deal, which Iran and the United States are still struggling to complete. It might also reduce the United States’ leverage in the talks by making it much harder for the United States or Israel to mount airstrikes against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure if the country ignored such an agreement.

Well, there you have it: Putin is eager to undermine any possibility of a US nuclear deal with Iran. This gives Republicans a choice: they can side with Putin or they can side with Barack Obama.

Decisions, decisions. I wonder what they’ll choose?

Iranian air force bombs Isis targets in Iraq, says Pentagon : When my enemy is your enemy

Washington and Tehran deny coordination as part of US-led coalition against Islamic State

Iran’s air force has attacked targets of Islamic State (Isis) in eastern Iraq, the Pentagon has said.

Tehran has denied carrying out raids and acting in coordination with the US, which is leading a western-Arab coalition to defeat the jihadi group.

The Pentagon said air strikes in Iraq’s Diyala province were the first since Isis captured the Iraqi city of Mosul in June.

Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, insisted that the US has not coordinated military activities with Iran. He said the US continued to fly its own missions over Iraq and that it was up to the Iraqi government to avoid conflicts in its own airspace.

“Nothing has changed about our policy of not coordinating military activity with the Iranians,” Kirby told reporters in Washington.

A senior Iranian official said no raids had been carried out and Tehran had no intention of cooperating with Washington.

“Iran has never been involved in any air strikes against Daesh [Isis] targets in Iraq. Any cooperation in such strikes with America is also out of question for Iran,” the senior official told Reuters.

In Tehran, the deputy chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, Brigadier-General Massoud Jazayeri also denied any collaboration. Iran considered the US responsible for Iraq’s “unrest and problems”, he said, adding that the US would “definitely not have a place in the future of that country”.

Kirby’s comments followed reports that American-made F4 Phantom jets from the Iranian air force had been targeting Isis positions in Diyala. Jane’s Defence Weekly identified al-Jazeera footage of a jet flying over Iraq as an Iranian Phantom.

It had earlier been reported that Iran sent three Su-25 fighter jets to Iraq designed for close support of ground troops and that Iranian pilots flew Iraqi aircraft on combat missions.

The anti-Isis campaign has raised the intriguing possibility that the US and Iran, enemies since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, might work together against a common foe. The model has been seen as their brief cooperation against al-Qaida in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks. Talks about Iraq have taken place in the margins of the so-far inconclusive international negotiations about Iran’s nuclear programme.

But the US has repeatedly denied coordinating with Iran. Last month, following a personal letter sent by President Barack Obama to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, the US national security adviser, Susan Rice, said that “we are in no way engaged in any coordination – military coordination – with Iran on countering Isil [another name for Isis]”.
Iranian F-4 fighter jets fly during a military parade in April. Iranian F-4 fighter jets fly during a military parade in April 2014. Photograph: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

The two countries remain at odds over the crisis in Syria, with the US calling for the removal of Bashar al-Assad and backing rebel forces. Iran, displaying far greater commitment, provides military and financial support for his regime. Tacit cooperation between Washington and Tehran over Iraq is seen as a classic example of the notion of “my enemy’s enemy becoming my friend”. Key US allies in the Middle East, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia, fear any kind of US-Iranian rapprochement.

The US has not invited Iran to join the coalition fighting Isis, and Iran has said it would not join in any case. The grouping includes the UK, France and Australia as well as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the UAE and Bahrain – Sunni Arab states which are deeply suspicious of Iran’s regional ambitions.

Iran has been actively involved in supporting the Shia-led Baghdad government and in recent weeks has gradually raised the profile of its semi-covert presence in Iraq, especially the activities of General Qasim Suleimani, commander of the al-Quds force of the Revolutionary Guards Corps. Suleimani has coordinated the defence of Baghdad and worked with Shia miltias and Kurdish troops.

The US-led air campaign against Isis began on 8 August in Iraq and was extended into Syria in September. But several countries, including the UK, which operate in Iraq, refuse to do so in Syria – highlighting confusion about overall strategy.

News of Iran’s apparently widening role emerged as minsters from the coalition met at the Nato HQ in Brussels for a summit chaired by the US secretary of state, John Kerry.

Speaking at the summit, Kerry said the US-led coalition had inflicted serious damage on Isis, but that the fight against the militants could take years.

“We recognise the hard work that remains to be done,” Kerry said. “Our commitment will be measured most likely in years, but our efforts are already having a significant impact.”

“We will engage in this campaign for as long as it takes to prevail,” he added.

Talks are focusing on military strategy as well as ways to stem the flow of foreign fighters joining Isis and how to counter its slick propaganda, disseminated on social media. The meeting will discuss ways to send “counter-messages” to de-legitimise Isis, a senior US state department official told AFP.

Iran fears Isis militants are part of wider Sunni backlash

Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei has called several times in recent months for Muslim unity. Pictured here at a Revolutionary Guard military manoeuvre in a western province near the border with Iraq in 2004.

With Islamic State militants just kilometres from the country’s western border, and increasingly radical anti-Shia militants to the east in Pakistan, Gareth Smyth examines Iran’s Sunni problem

Nearly ten years ago, a story circulating in Tehran had Mohammad Khatami say of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, his successor as president, “No matter how extreme you are, you will always be in a queue behind Ousama [bin Laden].”

This may well have been an urban folk tale, but it highlighted a fear that Ahmadinejad’s assertive Shi’ism was not in Iran’s best interests. Rather than spread Iranian influence, unleash a revolution of the world’s dispossessed, or liberate Jerusalem from the Israelis, Iranian radicalism carried the danger of a backlash from Sunnis Muslims, who are around 80% of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, while Shia are 10-15% and a majority in only Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan and Bahrain.

Is that nightmare now becoming real? Today the Islamic State (Isis), which regards Shia as infidels and has killed thousands, is barely kilometres from the Iranian border in Iraq’s Diyala province. But if the rapid rise of Isis to the west has alarmed the Iranian public, there are also developments to its east.

Several Pakistan Taliban commanders have declared their loyalty to Isis, including former spokesman Shahidullah Shahid. There are reports of Isis establishing an affiliate, Ansar-ul Daulat-e Islamia fil Pakistan, and luring recruits from two Sunni militant groups, Lashkar-e Jhangvi and Ahl-e Sunnat Wai Jamat.

For 30 years, Pakistan has been a centre of a brand of Sunni extremism, related to Saudi Wahhabism, that considers Shia apostates. Violence against Shia has killed thousands in recent years. In Baluchistan, neighbouring Iran, eight Shia were taken from a bus in October and gunned down in Quetta, the provincial capital.

A Human Rights Watch report in June highlighted a litany of atrocities against Shia, especially against ethnic Hazara in Baluchistan province, that have killed many hundreds in recent years, including two bombings in Quetta in 2013 in which at least 180 died.
Pakistani Baluch army recruits take part in a training exercise in Quetta in 2010.
Pakistani Baluch army recruits take part in a training exercise in Quetta in 2010. Photograph: Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

It is not easy for Iran to isolate its own territory. Around 10 million Baluchis straddle Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan and Pakistan’s Baluchistan, both poor provinces with widespread drug smuggling.

Last year Iran executed 16 members of Jundallah, which had carried attacks on Iranian security forces, mixing Baluchi nationalism with al-Qaeda style practices including beheadings, and declared its insurrection over.

But a new group, Jaish al-Adl, appeared and in February captured five border guards, provoking a drawn-out crisis that provoked major social media activity among alarmed Iranians before mediation by the main Sunni leader in Sistan-Baluchistan, Abdul-Hamid Esmaeel-Zehi, secured the release of four.

Iran fears both that the United States and Saudi Arabia have encouraged Jundallah, alleging when it captured and hanged its 27-year-old leader Abdul-Malik Rigi in 2010 that he had visited the US air base in Bagram, Afghanistan, shortly before his capture. The New York Times has recently offered new evidence of US intelligence involvement with the group.

Iran is also aware of collusion between sections of Pakistani security – especially Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) – with militant Sunni groups, which goes back at least to both Saudi and Pakistani intelligence fuelling jihad against Russia in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Hence the limits of last year’s bilateral agreement with Pakistan to co-operate against crime and security threats were exposed by several weeks of recent border tensions. In October, Tehran warned Pakistan after militants killed at least four Iranian soldiers or border guards, and then reportedly crossed the border (17 October) and, according to Pakistan, killed one and wounded three border guards. This culminated, a few days later, with the two sides’ armed forces exchanging mortar fire and the dispatch of a deputy Iranian foreign minister for urgent talks.

Pakistani officials have denied Iran’s claims that insurgents use Pakistan as a base, with some arguing unrest has its origins in legitimate Baluchi resentment. With support growing for Isis, this is no time to be “soft” on Shia Iran.

But for Iran, the Baluchi make a Sunni-Shia conflict domestic. Inside Iran, Sunnis are around 10% of the country’s 78 million people and are mainly ethnic Baluchi or Kurds. Extreme Sunni militancy has made far less headway among the Kurds than among the Baluchi, partly due to the influence of Sufism and the strength of pre-Islamic Kurdish culture, but a growth in Kurdish nationalism caused by both Syrian and Iraqi Kurds fighting Isis has its own implications for Iran’s 8 million Kurds.

But in any case, all Iran’s Sunnis allege discrimination in government employment and investment, and begrudge the absence of a Sunni mosque in Tehran and the common naming of buildings and streets in Sunni provinces after Shia leaders.

President Hassan Rouhani has promised to address the grievances of both ethnic and religious minorities. In last year’s presidential election, he did better in Kordistan province (which is not all of the mainly Kurdish region) with 71% and Sistan-Baluchestan (of which Sistan is mainly Shia) with 73% compared to 51% nationally. But delivery is far from easy, as Mohammad Khatami found when he made similar promises.

While there is political opposition to reform both among Shia clerics and the political class, Iranian security favours “strategic depth”, whereby border provinces are heavily militarised to create a buffer, an approach that can fuel resentment as much as improve security.

In terms of politics, Iranian leaders have been at pains to deny there is a regional battle between Shia and Sunnis and to argue that Sunni militants should be distinguished from the wider Sunni community. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, has called several times in recent months for Muslim unity. He told Iranian hajj officials in late October that the “ummah shouldn’t practise hostility towards each other, but should support each other over important global issues”.

But does at least some hostility towards Shia – and therefore rise of militant Sunni groups – stem from the behaviour of Iran and its allies?
An Iranian Revolutionary Guard covers his chest with a portrait of Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
An Iranian Revolutionary Guard covers his chest with a portrait of Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. Photograph: Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images

The 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq unnerved the Sunni-led states, especially Saudi Arabia, by creating a new, Shia-led order in Baghdad that Iran welcomed. In 2008, Hezbollah’s military assertion in west Beirut, in response to a Sunni-led government challenging its security role at the airport, alienated “moderate Sunnis”. Above all, by 2012 the Syrian war appeared clearly sectarian as an Iranian-backed, Allawi-led regime confronted mainly Sunni rebels.

Since Isis took Mosul in June, Iran’s approach in Iraq has been rooted in Shia solidarity. Nouri al-Maliki, Iraqi vice-president and as former prime minister widely blamed for alienating Iraq’s Sunnis, was recently in Iran to improve what he called “mutual co-operation” against “Takfiri terrorists”. Shia militia leaders in Iraq have been quoted extolling the role of Qassem Soleimani, the head of the al-Quds section of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, to the extent of leading a front-line operation in the recapture of Jurf al-Sakher from Isis, shunning a flak jacket in the process.

Human Rights Watch has documented abuses both by mainly Iraqi Shia government forces and by Shia militias (it has described the two as “indistinguishable”). After the killing of 34 civilians in a mosque in Diyala province in August, Joe Stork, HRW regional director noted: “Iraqi authorities and Iraq’s allies alike have ignored this horrific attack and then they wonder why the militant group Islamic State has had such appeal among Sunni communities.”