Rather than putting down the rumors sweeping the country of approaching Israeli bombers and American cruise missiles homing in to strike national nuclear installations, Iran’s rulers are fanning the hysteria in the hope that a patriotic surge will quell the rising unrest.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s fiery speech at the Bushehr atomic reactor Wednesday, Feb. 1, was an attempt to whip up pride in the national nuclear program and hysteria against international persecution and threats.
According to the scenario painted by the rumor-mongers, at precisely 5 am on February 11, the 27th anniversary of the proclamation of the Islamic republican regime, Israel warplanes will fly over Isfahan and drop missiles capable of penetrating the underground nuclear installations. They will set off pinpoint explosions that leave the population living around the plant unharmed.
American cruise missiles will then zoom in to blow up the uranium enrichment installations at Natanz and the heavy water reactor going up at Arak.
These rumors are settling like a black cloud over a country beset by domestic ills grave enough to weaken the government.
A partial strike of municipal bus drivers which broke out in Tehran two weeks ago, seriously handicapping its 12 million inhabitants, threatens to spread to the rest of the country. Labor unions all over the world and the International Confederation of Trades Unions have sent protests to the Tehran government over the way the drivers are treated. The Tehran bus system is operated by 17,000 drivers and personnel, of whom 8,000 are members of an independent union. Its leader Mansour Osanlou was arrested on Dec. 22 and not been seen since.
This week, the union idled several Tehran bus lines, but the government was ready with thousands of replacement-drivers drafted from the Revolutionary Guards and the volunteer Bassi militia.
The secret police bore down savagely on the striking drivers, arresting more than a thousand. They were freed on January 31, but then security forces stormed the homes of the union leaders and arrested their wives and children.
The women and children when released bore marks of abuse and torture. Their mistreatment has unleashed a wave of fury against the government and the threat of the bus drivers’ stoppage spreading to all the main cities.
The provinces are also troubled. In Ahwaz, capital of oil-rich ethnic Arab Khuzestan, where last month two bombs killed 9 people, continuing anti-government restiveness has forced the president to call off a visit.
A month ago, he was the target of a failed assassination attempt on his way to Zahedan province in the Sistan-Balochistan province. His bodyguards and driver were killed. Since then, security measure have become so harsh that three Baluchi boys aged, 15, 16 and 18 riding motorbikes were killed for failing to halt when hailed by security forces. The entire region is up in arms over this incident.
Affecting the country is the protracted imprisonment of the journalist and thinker Akbar Ganju, who has languished for more than a year in prison despite appeals from human rights organizations the world over.
The mystery-crashes of two military jets last month are another source of disquieting rumors. Following the DEBKA-Net-Weekly report, Iran’s interior minister Hojjat-ol Eslam Mohammadi accused the United States, Britain and Israel of engineering the air disasters to wipe out senior Revolutionary Guards commanders and the group of pro-government journalists aboard one of the aircraft. This charge amazed members of the majlis. Some inferred from the allegation, if true, that all three enemies had achieved deep penetration of Iran’s ruling bodies. The parliament’s national security committee will be holding a closed session in a few days time to hear a report on the investigation into the causes of the crashes.
Iranian military deployed to fight domestic terror attacks
This week, Iran deployed six combat units of the crack Revolutionary Guards in the southern oil center of Arab-speaking Khuzestan, plus an Iranian army armored brigade along the Shatt al-Arb waterway that is divided between Iran and Iraq.
The brigade is positioned opposite the southern Iraqi port of Basra in a region for which the British army is responsible.
This is reported by DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources.
The RC units have been placed around Khuzestan’s main towns including Ahwaz, the capital, and also near the regions inhabited by the Bakhtiar tribes. According to our sources, Iranian intelligence has discovered that Bakhtiar nationalist groups are conspiring against the government with Arab underground groups in Khuzestan, stirring up fears of the terrorist attacks spreading.
The way the contingents are deployed indicates Iranian strategic thinking for combating the terrorist offensive in the country. The RC units are assigned to fight internal terror while the regular army has been placed on the border to sever routes used for the smuggling of fighters, weapons and explosives from British-controlled Iraq. The lining up on the Shatt al Arb border of armored forces broadcasts a warning to the British and Americans that Iran will not tolerate any more incursions into Khuzestan or other parts of Iran and are poised ready to strike back against shipping in that waterway.