By Natasha Phillips
7 Dec – The Iranian government has convened its first ever national conference on emerging military threats, and it has also carried out more military exercises. Iranian officials are telling the international community that the measures are defensive, but their display of arms could be interpreted as a call to arms in what is already a highly volatile political environment. Over in Brussels, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a new liberal world order, which would see Washington block what it called ‘bad actors’, including Russia, China and Iran from taking part in international agreement. The news is likely to place more pressure on Iran’s government.
Meanwhile, a sharp influx of Iranian migrants trying to reach the UK on makeshift boats took the British government by surprise at the end of November. Perhaps the most chilling revelation to come from British media reports this week is that a significant number of Iranian migrants trying to make their way to the UK, are children. European politicians and charities believe that Iranians undertaking these dangerous journeys are doing so out of pure desperation.
• Iran’s national conference on new security threats, entitled, “Assessing New Military Defense Threats” was held on 12 November, at the AJA University of Command and Staff in Tehran, the staff college for the Islamic Republic of Iran Army (DAFOOS). The conference looked at modern military threats including cyber crime, information technology-related threats as well as social, political, cultural and environmental warfare. The event seemed to have a dual purpose. Iran’s military commanders also used the conference to counter US government-criticism of Iran’s policies, and to challenge America’s dominant role in western Asia.
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• Suicide bombings in Iran are unusual, making Thursday’s attack on Chabahar an unwelcome reminder of existing tensions inside the country. Iranian and British media accounts of the incident vary, however it is estimated that at least three people were killed by the blast and anywhere from 24 to 27 injured during the attack. State media reported that the perpetrator was also killed. The governor of Chabahar confirmed that several women and children were badly injured by the blast. Videos of a large cloud of smoke soon spread on Twitter. The attack took place in the region of Sistan-Baluchestan, whose population is made up of a Sunni Muslim minority in what is a predominantly Shi’ite country. The area has long been vulnerable to violence from drug smugglers and separatists.
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• Resignations appear to be the latest form of protest in Iran. Citing government inaction over its promise to cultivate the Zayandehrud river and supply drinking water to the region, 18 Majlis from Isfahan province resigned this week. The resignations were sent to Parliament in a letter, which outlined several concerns around the President’s assurances on water supply in the region. The Majlis felt that the removal of water supply projects from the province and their inability to provide water for its constituents as their representatives left them with no choice but to resign. This may not be the last we hear of the congressmen. Several groups in Iran have resigned in the past on similar grounds but later took back their posts after successful negotiations.
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• Iranians have also started to protest with their feet. Thousands of Iranian children and their families are risking their lives to travel from Iran to Calais with the intent of ending up in the UK. A surge in Iranian migrants arriving on British shores in small boats has alarmed UK politicians and coast-based charities. At least 120 migrants have tried to cross the Channel over the last few weeks and most are Iranian adults, and Iranian children as young as 18 months. The vessels the families travel on range from small rubber boats to dinghies which are not designed to withstand long distances or the ocean currents of the Atlantic.The UK Home Secretary is now looking at deploying more border cutters along the English Channel to stem what British charities fear will be increased fatalities over the cold winter months. The sharp rise in Iranians making the journey through the illegal pathway is partly down to relaxed visa regulations between Tehran and Belgrade, which have since been shelved. Smugglers are charging Iranian families eye watering sums to make these trips, with fees of up to 20,000 Euros. Smugglers are also telling Iranian families the borders will shut once Brexit is completed, which may also explain the sudden rush to make it through the Channel, at any cost.
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