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Viewing cable 09BAKU478, IRAN VIEW FROM BAKU: VIOLENCE IN BALUCHISTAN

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09BAKU478 2009-06-12 12:12 2010-11-28 18:06 SECRET Embassy Baku
VZCZCXRO7600
RR RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHKUK RUEHTRO
DE RUEHKB #0478/01 1631211
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 121211Z JUN 09
FM AMEMBASSY BAKU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1358
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 0087
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 0043
RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI 0013
RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE 0001
RUSBPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR 0001
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHMFISS/CDR USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 BAKU 000478

SIPDIS

EO 12958 DECL: 06/03/2019
TAGS PREL, PTER, SNAR, ENRG, ELTN, AJ, PK, TU, TX, IR
BAKU 00000478 001.2 OF 003
SUBJECT: IRAN VIEW FROM BAKU: VIOLENCE IN BALUCHISTAN
REDUCING BORDER SECURITY; GOAJ OFFICIAL WARNS AGAINST MANIPULATION OF IRAN’S MINORITIES; IRAN TRANSIT-ORIGIN HEROIN SEIZURES RISE; ALLEGED PROBLEMS WITH IRANIAN GAS EXPORT DEALS
REF: A) KARACHI 145 B) 2008 BAKU 917

Classified By: POL/ECON COUNSELOR ROBERT GARVERICK, FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D) 

Summary
--------

1. (C) "Iran view from Baku" is the first in an occasional
series from Embassy Baku Iran Watcher that will report on
short and/or partially documented items of interest to Iran
information consumers, but not necessarily warranting
separate cables. This cable includes information on reported
increasing security problems in Iranian Baluchistan,
including alleged disruption of Iran-Pakistan railroad links;
a message from a senior GOAJ military offical about the
dangers of stirring up Iranian minorities; the apparent
quadrupling in first quarter 2009 (compared to first quarter
2008) seizures in Azerbaijan of Iranian- transited heroin;
and skepticism about Iranian gas export contracts, related by
industry participants at the recently-completed Baku Oil and
Gas show. End Summary.

Baluchi Violence Obstructing Iran-Pakistan Rail Link?
--------------------------------------------- -------

2. (C) Several Iranian contacts, including apolitical
businessmen, have told Baku Iran watcher that the recent
suicide bombing of a Sh'ia mosque, and subsequent attack on a
campaign center in Zahedan, reflect a surge in Baluchi
violence in the border area and inside Pakistan that has been
building steadily over several years. According to one
source, the Iranian security forces may be losing effective
control over growing areas in the countryside. All noted
that the rising violence in Iranian Baluchistan is mirrored
and influenced by similar events on the Pakistani side of the
border (recently described in ref(a)).

3. (C) One alleged result is the apparent postponement of
completion of the long-planned improved rail link between
Pakistan and Iran, designed to run through or near Baluchi
territory on both sides of the border. The current rail
connection, running between Quetta, Pakistan and Zahedan,
Iran is in poor condition and has low freight-carrying
capacity. Moreover, according to reports it has recently
been repeatedly subject to rocket attacks and other
disruption by Baluchi tribes. An improved link also
traversing Iranian and Pakistani Baluchi areas was originally
supposed to have been inaugurated in March, 2009, with
container train service beginning in August. According to
Iranian sources in Baku, this deadline is unlikely to be
achieved, and regular use of the Iran-Pakistan railway for
significant cargo shipment is unlikely in the foreseeable
future.

4. (S) xxxxxxxxxxxx quoted the Ministry source as saying that in
2008 Iran asked Pakistan to establish a new, "more secure and
modern" route, but that Pakistan has so far refused. The
source added that Tehran is rife with rumors about the
increasing lack of safety in Baluchi areas, and claimed that
many guard and police posts in Sistan-Baluchistan areas are
no longer occupied at night due to the increased danger of
attack.

5. (C) Another source, xxxxxxxxxxxx blamed the Ahmadinejad
administration for pursuing provocative anti-Sunni practices
(including harassment of Sunni clergy and congregations and
raids on Sunni mosques) and other "arrogant" crackdowns over
the last few years. He claimed that these practices,
combined with high unemployment, perceived discrimination,

Baku 00000478 002.2 of 003

SUBJECT: IRAN VIEW FROM BAKU: VIOLENCE IN BALUCHISTAN REDUCING BORDER SECURITY; GOAJ OFFICIAL WARNS AGAINST MANIPULATION OF IRAN’S MINORITIES; IRAN TRANSIT-ORIGIN HEROIN SEIZURES RISE; ALLEGED PROBLEMS WITH IRANIAN GAS EXPORT DEALS 

and few government services, has increased anger among
Baluchis, and identification of the central government as an
"enemy." He cited the appointment of Ahmadinejad ally
Habibullah Dehmordah as a Governor of Sistan-Baluchistan as a
typical insensitive blunder, calling him a "stupid, brutal,
Sunni-hater." (Note: Dehmordah was replaced as Governor in
2008 by Ali-Mohammed Azad. End Note).

GOAJ Military Figure Opposes Promoting Unrest in Iran
--------------------------------------------- --------

6. (S) At a 12 May meeting with a visiting group of 16 U.S.
military general officers, the GOAJ's Special Assistant to
the President for Defense, General Vahid Aliyev, related that
he had recently met in Iranian Azerbaijan with (unnamed)
high-ranking &Iranian General.8 Although he did not
provide details, Aliyev strongly implied that the Iranian
General raised alleged "foreign-sponsored" efforts to foment
unrest among Iranian ethnic groups, including Iranian
Azerbaijanis (who make up nearly thirty percent of the
Iranian population). Commenting on this issue, Aliyev
asserted that "there have been four attempts by Iranian
Azerbaijanis to assert autonomy in the last hundred years,
all of which were crushed" by the Iranian state. As an
example, Aliyev cited the Soviet effort during World War II
to establish a breakaway "Republic of South Azerbaijan." The
Soviets forces pulled back in 1946, after a "Truman-Stalin
Agreement," which Aliyev depicted as a cynical "betrayal" of
collaborating Iranian Azerbaijanis. He recounted that the
resulting repression by Tehran resulted in the deaths of
60,000 Azeris, and the flight of many more into Soviet
Azerbaijan.

7. (S) U.S. military participants agreed that Aliyev
appeared to be implicitly signaling that outside fomenting of
unrest in Iranian Azerbaijan is opposed by the GOAJ. Aliyev
similarly told the U.S. officers that any foreign war with
Iran will be bad for Azerbaijan, and result in a flood of
refugees entering the country. (Note: The three other
"failed Azerbaijani autonomy struggles" cited by Aliyev
presumably refer to the early 20th century Constitutional
Revolution, Azerbaijani resistance to Reza Shah's
centralization policies in the 1920's, and efforts by senior
Azerbaijani clerics and activists to obtain local autonomy in
the wake of the Islamic Revolution in 1979. End note).

GOAJ Iran-Origin Heroin Seizures Continue Rise
--------------------------------------------- -

8. (C) According to xxxxxxxxxxxx, export of narcotics from Iran
into Azerbaijan continue to skyrocket (see ref b). According
to statistics provided to Baku Iran watcher xxxxxxxxxxxx, Iran-origin heroin seizures (i.e.,
heroin derived from Afghani and Pakistani opium that entered
Azerbaijan from Iran) in Azerbaijan nearly quadrupled during
the first quarter of 2009, as compared to the first quarter
of 2008. According to the GOAJ, virtually all of this heroin
had been fully processed in labs and was "ready for market."
Total heroin seizures in Azerbaijan during the first quarter
of 2008 reflected a sharp increase over the first quarter of
2007; while in 2006 only twenty kilograms of such heroin was
officially reported seized in Azerbaijan during the entire
year. In contrast, reported GOAJ seizures of Iran-origin
heroin during the first quarter of 2009 amounted to nearly
59,000 kilos, as compared to approximately 15,000 kilos of
heroin seized in the first quarter of 2008.

Projected Problems in Iranian Gas Links
---------------------------------------

9. (C) The annual Baku Oil and Gas Show, held June 2-5,
brought a variety of energy company executives and pundits to
Baku, though no senior officials from Iran. An American

Baku 00000478 003.2 of 003

SUBJECT: IRAN VIEW FROM BAKU: VIOLENCE IN BALUCHISTAN REDUCING BORDER SECURITY; GOAJ OFFICIAL WARNS AGAINST MANIPULATION OF IRAN’S MINORITIES; IRAN TRANSIT-ORIGIN HEROIN SEIZURES RISE; ALLEGED PROBLEMS WITH IRANIAN GAS EXPORT DEALS 

interlocutor told Baku Iran Watcher on the side of the show
that xxxxxxxxxxxx had confided to him in a private conversation xxxxxxxxxxxx that he viewed near-term implementation of the
Iranian-Pakistani gas link project as "very unlikely." The
downbeat comment by the xxxxxxxxxxxx was
made despite the recent signing in Istanbul by President
Ahmadinejad and President Zardari of an Iranian-Pakistani MOU
committing to the gas project. According to this source, xxxxxxxxxxxx 
indicated that he had several reasons for this
opinion, but the only one he elaborated was that "the
Pakistanis don't have the money to pay for either the
pipeline, or the gas."

10. (C) Meanwhile, during a panel discussion at the
conference on the future prospects of Caspian gas, several
commentators noted the difficulty of doing business in
"unpredictable, overly bureaucratic" Iran, and the alleged
historical "unreliability" of Iranian gas supply contracts
previously reached with Turkey and Turkmenistan. For
example, panelists recounted that, after long negotiations,
Iran has four times failed to sign separate Liquid national
Gas contracts at the last minute. Two panelists claimed that
Iran has repeatedly diverted gas supplies to meet domestic
needs, thereby interrupting its contractual gas exports - and
has not paid contractual penalties for these violations.

11. (C)  xxxxxxxxxxxx  asserted bluntly that Iranian
political leaders are totally focused on domestic needs and
personal jockeying, and are simply not interested in hearing
about the value of optimizing foreign gas exports. The only
exception, he claimed, is their interest in the notional
prospect of annually exporting ten billion cubic meters
(bcms) of gas to Europe. He attributed this interest to a
conviction that such a deal will significantly increase
Iran's political leverage in Europe and substantially
insulate it from future European pressure - a perception he
characterized as revealing, and "typically" unrealistic.

Derse