Friday, September 29, 2006
Somebody blew up an Iranian natural gas pipeline:
An explosion on a natural gas pipeline outside an Iranian border city has halted the flow of gas to Turkey, Iranian authorities said Friday.
The governor of Maku, a town in western Iran near the Turkish border, Safar Aseri, said the fire broke out at 11:30 p.m. Thursday (2000GMT) and was extinquished an hour later, state-run radio reported Friday.
Aseri was quoted as saying the cause of the explosion was under investigation. But officials at the Iranian Embassy in Ankara said they believed the explosion was an act of sabotage by separatist Kurdish rebels who are active on both sides of the Iran-Turkey border.
The question is, was this wanton destruction, or a means of communication? If you are a Kurdish guerrilla in northern Iran, what is your objective in sabotage? Surely you know that you cannot do actual damage to the Iranian economy. Perhaps you are trying to provoke the Islamic Republic. May I suggest that you may be trying to trigger an Iranian intervention so overt and violent that the world, meaning particularly the United States, has a reason to intervene on your behalf. Do the Kurds of northern Iran want their own Operation Northern Watch? Is Iranian Kurdistan the back door?
It's Friday, so flip off the safeties and comment at will.
A few thoughts on this.
first, I beleive that a sustained guerilla style effort against the Iranian life line will have an effect on the Iranian economy.
Further as we see in Iraq a guerilla effort forces the host regime to expend resources to counter the guerillas. If this was in fact sabotage the Iranians must now either patrol the pipeline or find ways to deal with frequent outages.
there are political issues as well. I clearly recall how the left in america hectored us about our failure to bring Iraqi oil production up to the Saddam standard. Now the iranians are in the same situation. A continuation of sabotage attacks on the pipelines will cost them the respect of their own subjects.
finally there are international diplomatic overtones. This issue runs the gamut from age old regional conflicts to "proxy" fights by opposing nations.
In the current war of words between the US and Iran among our goals should be the testing of the Teheran regime's endurance.
It is common to ascribe all sorts of supernatural powers to our enemies. We've seen this repeatedly since 9/11. The afgan winter, the republican guard, the heat the cold the this the that, yet the fact is challenges cut both ways.
Now Teheran must contend with this issue. It is one more challenge for a regime that is beset by challenges. they must develop responses which again sap resources that could be used to confront other policy and diplomatic issues.
If we are to prevail diplomatically we must press the Mullahs at every opportunity. Visualize the fight between Darth Vader and Luke. Luke loses when the very walls start flying at him. We must create the same storm of issues for the Iranian rulers. They must face issue after issue after issue. We must force them to work night and day confronting us.
One final thought (you said safety off!) The population of Iran might be restive. The population is said to harbor deep disgust for the mullahs and this might result in even more oppression which will result in even more unrest and all the while the economy spirals down.
All in all who ever did this, if indeed it was sabotage, did us a favor.
First, let's assume the report is accurate and that Kurds were involved. As stated elsewhere, McKiernan's new book is basic reading here. The main reason why the Kurdish separatist movement has failed is because various powers in the region have been playing off the Kurdish internal factions against each other. For example, there are three or four Kurdish organizations who incorporate some form of the word "socialist" or "worker" in their party names, even though none of them get along. Over the years various factions have gotten some level of support from the various countries that overlap with Kurdistan. These groups are always looking to stage events to popularize their causes.
That said, I would look to where the pipeline is going to rather than where it comes from. The Turkish military has had, and continues to have, a rabid hatred of the Kurds. My guess is if it was Kurds they were more interested in doing damage to the Turks, but it was easier for them to blow the pipeline in Iran. The Turks maintain much tighter control on Kurdish movements on their side of the border than the Iranis do.
Finally, we have to ask who else would have opportunity, means and motive. Given the shifitng situation over there, this could cover a lot of territory. Perhaps some Sunnis looking to weaken Iran, and or discredit the Kurds? After all, Talabani is a Kurd so their could be some motive to discredit him. I also don't think that you can count out skipsailing's note above. There is a fair amount of internal dissonance within Iran with the revolution losing steam. Most younger Iranis don't share their parent's revolutionary fervor, and the mullahs have been buying them off. Under the circumstances it could be an internal Irani effort to further destablize a somewhat fluid situation.
Just some thoughts.
It seems probable that it's the PKK blowing up things in Iran, although this being the Middle East, other possibilities are always present. We should remember, for paranoia and history's sake, that the original Hezbollah bombings in Lebanon in the 1980s were made with claims of responsibility from nonexistent organizations, in order to sow confusion. The Iranian hand wasn't shown til later.
If it is the PKK, it's important to remember that the PKK is the Turkish branch of Kurdish nationalism. So it's very likely the action was directed against Turkey, the Turkish military having made life too difficult for the PKK in Turkey proper. If the Turks should decide to retaliate, this can only be bad for the Iraqi Kurds.
A third possibility is that it may be the Iranian Kurds, blowing things up to display their ... discontent with the central government in Teheran (the current government having suppressed more peaceful forms of protest). If so, interesting times are coming to Iran.
Or it could just be a normal pipeline explosion, like we had here a few years back when the feeder pipeline just decided to blow up for no apparent reason, leaving a hundred foot across crater with molten soil that cooled into a kind of foamy rock pumice. Natural gas makes a *huge* plume when it blows, they could see the light in all the surrounding counties.