ORDER IN THE EAST.
October events in northeastern Khorasan Province --
bombings, kidnappings, and assorted mayhem - and in
southeastern Sistan va Baluchistan Province - bombings
with a possible sectarian linkage - call into question the
Iranian government's frequent claims about stability and
unity across the country. But Iranian officials have been
quick to point out that they have restored order and
justice swiftly and that, in any case, foreigners are
behind the security problems.
Khorasan Law Enforcement Forces commander Brigadier-
General Nowruzi said that 21 bandits were killed in
firefights around Birjand, Qayen, Torbat-i Heidarieh, and
Sarakhs, "Jam-i Jam" reported on 28 October and state radio
reported the next day. Although weapons, cash, gold, and
drugs were seized, according to Nowruzi, the bodies were
left in the mountains. Islamic Revolution Guards Corps
Colonel Kargar, who leads the Kashmar LEF, announced that
bandit leader Sattar had been killed in the region's
Kuhsorkh Heights, state television reported on 29 October.
Also, 62 kidnapping victims were rescued.
The IRGC is ready to step in if the situation in the
northeast gets any worse. IRGC commander Major-General
Yahya Rahim-Safavi, in a 30 October interview with state
television, said that "until recently, we had a mission in
the northeast which has now been transferred to the Law
Enforcement Force...However, in some regions in the
northeastern region where there are crises we can enter
General Nowruzi also said that a search of the
bandits' corpses revealed that they all had firearms
licenses and safe-passage permits issued by Afghanistan's
Taliban. This points to "direct cooperation between these
bandits and elements within the Taliban forces," he said.
As for the problems in Sistan va Baluchistan, senior
IRGC Commander-General Abdul Mohammad Raufinejad said these
"mischievous moves" were linked with the (unidentified)
enemy's cultural offensive. Raufinejad told Basijis in
Zahedan, the province's capital, that "the enemy has opened
a new front against the Islamic revolution," IRNA reported
on 29 October.
Some observers believe that instability in the east
has been exaggerated by hardline media. Hojatoleslam
Kashmiri, the Friday prayer leader of Kashmar, said during
a recent sermon that the problems are real. He added that
arming the local Basij Resistance Forces has improved the
situation and the local LEF should have more resources. And
Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Meshkini-Qomi, the Friday prayer leader
in Qom, which also is facing increasing criminality and
rising drug addiction rates, said that "our people expect
our officials to work harder to make them feel secure."
Copyright (c) 2000. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free
Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.