Proxy War With Iran
After the alleged Iranian government plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Washington, the White House issued a finding to the intelligence community authorizing stepped-up covert action against Iran. A “finding” is top-level approval for secret operations considered to be particularly politically sensitive.
An earlier finding of the Bush administration already permitted the use of intelligence assets to disrupt Iranian Revolutionary Guard activity in border zones—the areas adjacent to Pakistan inhabited by ethnic Baluchis, the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, and the ethnically Arab province of Khuzistan, which borders southeastern Iraq. Activity in the Kurdish region was limited and was partially run by Israelis due to sensitivities in dealing with the Turks. That effort was abandoned altogether in 2009, when the Obama administration decided to increase intelligence and military cooperation with Ankara against the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK). Attacks in Baluchistan and the Arab region over the past seven years, which have killed a large number of Revolutionary Guards and even more civilians, were part of the program authorized under the earlier finding.
The new finding extends those existing initiatives and adds involvement with the Azeris, who inhabit northwestern Iran and share a common border, language, and culture with their fellow tribesmen in Azerbaijan. Twenty million ethnic Azeris in Iran comprise nearly 25 percent of the population. When combined with the 2 percent who are Baluchis, 7 percent Kurds, and 3 percent Arabs, Iran has a significant ethnic problem along its borders. This is precisely what the covert action will seek to exploit by encouraging ethnic fragmentation and supplying dissidents with communications equipment, training, and weapons.