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Smugglers’ Protests: Iran Succumbs To Trauma And Demons

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Smugglers’ Protests: Iran Succumbs To Trauma And Demons

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Submitted by Dr. James M. Dorsey

Recent clashes in the Iranian province of Sistan and Balochistan highlight Iran’s vulnerabilities as well as its inability to overcome trauma and control its demons.

The clashes sparked by a crackdown on cross border fuel smuggling to neighbouring Pakistan achieved what past US and Saudi machinations failed to accomplish: ethnic unrest in a strategic, impoverished and long restive majority Sunni province in predominantly Shiite Iran.

The clashes in February erupted after Iranian Revolutionary Guards killed two smugglers, prompting protesters to storm the governor’s office in the city of Saravan and burn police cars. Security forces dispersed crowds with tear gas, closed off roads and temporarily shut down Internet connections to prevent the protests from spreading.

True to form, the Guards denied responsibility.

Tasnim News Agency, a privately owned news outlet with close ties to the Guards, reported that the shots that killed the smugglers had been fired from the Pakistani province of Baluchistan. Tasnim reported several attacks in the days before and after the clashes that targeted the Guards as well as Intelligence Ministry officials in Sistan and Balochistan.

The Guards’ response constitutes more than a tired effort to evade responsibility. It is rooted in a deep-seated belief that Iran’s foremost enemies, the United States and Saudi Arabia, are bent on overthrowing the regime in Tehran and have repeatedly attempted to foment unrest using Pakistani Baluchistan as a launching pad.

While Iran has reason to fear attempts to destabilize the country, it often fails to separate the wheat from the chafe. As a result, the government frequently responds to crises in ways that threaten to aggravate rather than solve problems.

The Guards’ assertion that the shots were fired from Pakistan suggests that an investigation into the incident announced by the foreign ministry is unlikely to draw a different conclusion.

A precarious calm has returned to Sistan and Balochistan with the help of a prominent local Sunni cleric, Shaikh Abdolhamid Ismaeelzahi, who used the opportunity to call on the government to apply the law and tackle the region’s social and economic problems.

Seemingly rejecting the Guards’ version of events, Mr. Ismaeelzahi insisted that “the officers who made mistakes should be punished according to the law.”

The Guard’s version was also countered by the province’s deputy governor, Mohamad Hadi Marashi, who asserted that security forces “were forced to resort to shooting” because their “honour” was at risk due to fuel porters’ “attempts to enter the (Guards’) base,” stone-throwing, and other “destructive actions.”

Mr. Ismaeelzahi went on to say that the “selling of fuel is not a crime or smuggling, rather it’s one of the means of income through which thousands of families make a living… Governments have a duty to plan for the sustenance of people so that no one is forced to choose hazardous jobs.”

For residents of Sistan and Balochistan, one of Iran’s provinces with the highest rate of unemployment, smuggling is often the only way to put bread on the table. Anger has been mounting at the killing of scores of smugglers each year by security forces.

Some 120 people, many believed to be Baloch nationalists, are on death row in the central prison of the provincial capital of Zahedan. Five have been executed since January.

The risk smugglers run is enhanced by the fact that Baloch nationalists operating from Pakistan have repeatedly launched attacks on the Iranian side of the border. Iran boasts some of the world’s lowest gas prices.

Iranian authorities had hoped that fuel hikes in November 2019 that sparked mass anti-government protests in which at least 225 people were killed by security forces would dampen the incentive for smuggling. Officials and smugglers say it did not.

“Increasing the price of gasoline does not affect fuel smuggling because the main fuel that is transported is diesel,” said Ahmed, a smuggler. “When I sit behind the wheel of a van full of diesel, I feel like I am carrying a big bomb, but I have no other way of escaping unemployment and earning a living.”

Iranian concerns about the porous border with Pakistan are not unfounded.

Senior US and Saudi officials played in 2017 publicly with the idea of pressuring Iran by supporting potential unrest among Iranian ethnic minorities, including Balochis, who straddle both sides of the Iranian-Pakistan border.

Pakistani militants asserted at the time that Saudi funds were pouring into religious seminaries in Balochistan that were operated by anti-Shia and anti-Iranian groups.

Intermittent efforts to foster unrest in Iran using Pakistani Baluchistan as a base date back to the presidency of George W. Bush.

Men like Mr. Ismaeelzahi suggest that investment in cross-border trade would serve to pacify Iran’s restive southeast, improve standards of living, and allow Iran to circumvent US sanctions.

“Borders are important potentials. Our country has a wide border with some Arab countries in the southeast by sea and it shares borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan by land… Exchange of goods at borders is one of the most important ways of living and employing for people,” Mr. Ismaeelzahi said.

Acting on his advice would require Iranian authorities to expand their fixation on border security to include human security. That would mean adopting a prism that is not exclusively framed by concern about real and imagined external plots and machinations.

With the government preoccupied with a tug of war with US President Joe Biden about who goes first in reviving the moribund 2015 international agreement that curbed Iran’s nuclear program and elections scheduled in the next months, that is likely to prove a tall order.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is an award-winning journalist and a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore and the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute as well as an Honorary Senior Non-Resident Fellow at Eye on ISIS


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To be Frank and blunt objective about it, the author has done a fair job. Baluchistan or Sistan in Iran has largely been neglected and was carved up by the British and largely ignored even in colonial India. Successive Iranian governments, especially the foreign imposed shah totally neglected economic development and recently the Saudis, CIA and Mossad have used the failed Pakistani side as a spring board to push Wahhabi terror in Iran. However, Iran has largely secured the border now, but smuggling of Iranian fuel in particular is a big problem as it lucrative in dirt poor Pakistan. Also India and Afghanistan are supporting the BLA which is fighting a rather successful liberation struggle to get rid of the Punjabis who have sold natural resources rich Pakistani occupied part to China’s CPEC ambitions. Iran needs to pay attention to economic, political and edicational development of Sistan.

Supreme Blyat

Probably sanctions forced Iranian government close the eyes on smugling. Any sanctioned(new word for embargo) country relies on smugling. I remember NATO failed to impise embargo on Serbia, all neighbouring counteies including NATO ones were smugling with Serbia.


Very astute observation. Correct it was also used as a safety value to diffuse the economic pressure in Iranian Sistan, and you you are well aware as a Serbian, about the immigration exodus out of impoverished Pakistan and Afghanistan as Iran turned a blind eye for a short time. But when CIA got involved in pushing Wahhabi terror on the Iranian side, the IRGC got tough and sealed the border, so smuggling has become dangerous.

Supreme Blyat

I’m not Serbian, just have simpathy for the underdogs that stand against superpowers.


Being for the underdog is the essence of Shia Islam and a very noble and brave trait. Very few in the cheapened west have such lofty ideals remaining. Our politicians, media and businesses are all predatory criminals in Jew pockets now.

Supreme Blyat

It’s pretty common everywhere, just Westerners are permanently lied about who is the victim and who is the aggressor.

Ashok Varma

The Baluch never wanted to be part of rotten Pakistan and have been bombed since 1947 illegal partition of India. They have fighting for their freedom since then. India needs to increase its support.


yeah, that’s about right Frank…….no shit, you’ve done your homework on this.


Excellent summation of the Baluch predicament. The Baluch are very tough fighters like the Yemenis and many serve in the Omani military.

Jens Holm

Maybee all were drunk :) I blame none living there like that.

Supreme Blyat

I feel bad for you at those alcohol prices :)

klove and light


cechas vodobenikov

jens needs more electric shock therapy—but now in pre-electric society w boyfriend in Texas

Samuel Vanguard

iran is a victim of western imperialism that is a fact

Ashok Varma

Not just Iran, any country that has natural resources, Russia is now the number one target as for the Zionist Bilderberg it offers immense wealth. Iran has been a victim of British imperialism since oil was discovered there in 1908. Then the US and Zionists moved in.

Supreme Blyat

Russia is not targeted by Bilderberg, it’s literary plundered. They have a strong olygarchy very close to Bilderberg and the others. Putin has one hand tied, he controls the army but not the economy. USA pretends supporting Russian opposition and Ukraine but it’s more for blackmailing and creating havoc that forces Putin need more the Oligarchs support.

Supreme Blyat

100% correct but they are alone standing against NATO while other superpowers only talk though. If Russia and China could be just a bit closer to Iran and eachother, NATO was forced to sit on table and negotiate. But Russia and China didn’t learn much from the Cold War mistakes of being in a harsh secret competition.

Real Anti-Racist Action

The United States went berserk back in 1914 and plotted to conquer Europe. Ever since then no one has stopped them.

Zyklon B

Not USA specifically. but world jewry

Great Khan

Iran brother STRONK!


This specific region is not and was never under the control of the Iranian government. We had a project to provide humanitarian support after the earth quake in the beginning of 2003 in Bam. The goods we were supposed to deliver to hospitals were not allowed to be transorted directly, but should have handed over to local “players” for distribution. It turned out, that these goods were sold off to Pakistan instead of being used for the Iranian population. The whole region is in the hand of Pashtun tribes, any governemental institution is bribed or under direct control by these tribes, and nothing is happening without these tribes approval. The situation is similar to the grip on everything Sicillian clans established in Siciliy. No wonder they fight against any danger to their business.

Ashok Varma

Exactly, even the British imperialists failed to subdue Baluchistan and NWFP Pashtun tribal areas.


The Baluch are far superior and more disciplined Iranic martial race then the fractious Pashtuns who can be bought.


Martial Race theory is debunked. Please dispose of the BS of British Eugenics – it does not work


What a beautiful narrative, but how much of it is true?

First: The border patrol is a branch of police (neerooye-entezami), not IRGC.
Second: Iranian government is too soft on smugglers in border areas. I explain why. The fuel in Iran is one of the cheapest in the world, diesel fuel is even cheaper than drinking water so there’s enormous benefits in smuggling it. True, the unemployment in the province of Sistan and Baluchestan is rather high and even that has its reasons. Government has its own responsibilities which it forgets sometimes but not all faults rests on its shoulders. The following is true for the Kordestan province too:
Imagine a population that refuse to send their children to schools, prevent them from learning Persian and doesn’t even let them watch any of Iranian TV channels. The result will be a young man or woman, illiterate, can’t speak or understand the official language of the country and therefore unable to communicate and find jobs in any other places. There’s high activity of Terror groups, often target local population and as a result, the security is not at a level that anybody from out of province invest there, despite the loans, free land and cheap energy that the government offers in industrial towns. Locals might not have high capital but they are too are uninterested in creating a workshop or a factory, one reason is the locals aren’t skilled enough (I explained why above) and the other, when you get used to enormous profits of smuggling, you refuse to work and break your back for a fraction of that money.
There’s a war going on and the terrorists that are captured will be executed if they killed someone, otherwise it’s just jail. They are executed not because they are Baluch or Kord, but because their victims’s next of kin didn’t forgive them. I cannot stress enough on this law.

In these provinces the government issued the official “smuggler ID” (I kid you not) and told the smugglers you are free to smuggle, there are only 2 conditions for Kordestan and 3 for Sistan va Baluchestan: 1- Go and come using the designated roads and paths, any other paths which is not among them we’ll shoot. 2- We’ll examine what you bring in for arms, explosives (and drugs in case of S&B province) 3- You are free to smuggle a certain amount of fuel each week and no more than that. the profit of smuggling this amount is more than enough for them to live comfortably but they won’t be wealthy by it.

Needless to say many of the smugglers refuse this because there’s even more profit in smuggling in drugs and weapons. The border guard has every right to shoot to kill, because the smuggler caravans aren’t boy scouts, they are heavily armed with heavy machine guns and RPGs, DShKs installed on the back of trucks and so on.

The incident in February was the result of gathering of a lot of fuel smugglers on the Pakistani side that didn’t have an ID, so the border guard didn’t let them in. They were not on Iranian soil while the shooting by Pakistani side started and they broke the blockade and entered Iranian side. Up to this point the border guard didn’t do anything but when they started attacking their office with fire arms and set it on fire, they defended -not their honour, but their lives and the border- the result was a handful of people killed on both side.
The real carnage started tomorrow and that’s when the IRGC get involved because it no longer was a simple quarrel but a systematic destruction and murder.

Unfortunately this vicious cycle of illiteracy, unemployment and insecurity is repeating and repeating. As long as they behave this way, no one will invest there and things remain the same. The stupid things our government does don’t help too, I mean WTF is a smuggler ID? Why are they allowed to steal the subsided fuel for their own gain instead of going to school or at least learn the language? This act confused the local and they deducted the government is weak, and it gets worse with each and every concession the government gives them.

No other country on earth does this with smugglers, ours does it so it is not accused of being harsh on religious minorities but it’s wrong because we are being accused anyway. They must crush the troublemakers and educate the ordinary ones, With the security returning, the investment comes and maybe after a generation things become normal.
If the government continues on this path, things only get worse.


Denial …

Jimmy Jim


cechas vodobenikov

tritz gargles lube for boyfriends dildo


Denial …

cechas vodobenikov

description appreciated

klove and light


british intelligence !!!!!

Hasbara Hunter

Very unrcreative & kinda Boring…same Babylonian Magick Trick over & over again….you are Finished AngloZioNazis…better remember that!



Can’t get enuf …

tick tock …

It’s coming and it won’t be long …

Hasbara Hunter

Yeah…comin’ for you little Chickenshit Zio-Maggot…ashes to ashes kiddo….You Parasites are done…


Have no fear … vaporization doesn’t hurt a bit

Hasbara Hunter

Hahahahahahaha….bring it on boy…there won’t be many people around who care when ISraHell burns down to the Ground…

J Ramirez


Jimmy Jim



And neither is getting your head chopped off. BTW, it will take only 3 nukes that Iran bought from Ukraine in 2000’s to wipe out Israel completely. By then, perhaps only 5% of tehran would be destroyed, and the rest of Iran completely intact. Nuking is not only a Fake Jew perogative. We can do it too.



Spare me …the rafsanjani bs

Real Anti-Racist Action

Obviously Mossad agents who operate in Pakistan fired the shots from across the border in an attempt at a faults flag attack. Expect more Israeli attacks from Pakistan in efforts to destabilize the situation.

Serg The Purge

Allow free markets to operate, while requiring foreign investors to pay all taxes in physical gold or silver.

The problem in Iran is economic. Believe it or not the sanctions help the state remain independent, without the sanctions Iran’s Gov’t would be in the pockets of Banking Elite.


The sanctions have helped Iran develop its industry and live more frugally. Despite sanctions, Iran is the most technologically advanced state in the region. It has made quantum leaps in nuclear, medicine and nano technology.

cechas vodobenikov

smuggling occurs everywhere where prices differ…ukrainians frequent smuggle cigarettes, etc to Poland; Colombians smuggle benzene from Venezuela, etc

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