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Updated: February 28, 2012 23:22 IST

Iran prepared to tackle poll unrest

Atul Aneja
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SHADOW OF UNREST: A woman walks past electoral posters in central Tehran on Tuesday.
AP SHADOW OF UNREST: A woman walks past electoral posters in central Tehran on Tuesday.

Iran has signalled that it is wide awake to the possibility of foreign sponsored unrest during the coming parliamentary elections and alive to the need for strengthening support for Lebanon, which borders its key ally Syria, and arch-foe Israel.

On Monday, Seyed Mohammad Ale-Hashem, a senior army official stressed that Iran's “enemies will do their best to provoke unrests similar to 2009 presidential election,” Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency reported. In that year, the leaders of so-called “green movement,” well-known for undertaking their green, colour-coded election campaign for the Presidency, were at the forefront of heavy street protests, that had broken out after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared President for a second term. Mr. Ale-Hashem's remarks echoed similar observations last month by Iran's Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi.

Mr. Ale-Hashem explained that foreign pressure against Iran was expected to rise, on pretexts of the nuclear activities and alleged human rights violations, because the U.S. wants to make up for the exit of its forces from neighbouring Iraq.

Along with threats to their internal security in the wake of the elections, the Iranians are looking at strengthening Lebanon, where the influence of their ally, Hizbollah, has risen steadily in the aftermath of its war with Israel in 2006. But analysts say the group, dependent on support from Iran and Syria, may find itself vulnerable if the regime of President Assad falls in the wake of the mounting unrest inside Syria.

On Sunday, Lebanon's Defence Minister Gayez Ghosn, met in Tehran his Iranian counterpart Ahmad Vahidi who pledged support for Lebanon's armed forces in the wake of the threat from Israel.

“Strengthening the Lebanese Army is a serious issue for us since we believe that Lebanon is one of two important countries in the conflict against the Zionist regime [Israel] and due to the very same reason, there should exist a powerful army in Lebanon the same way that there is a powerful resistance in that country,” Gen. Vahidi observed. In the past, Hizbollah chief, Hassan Nasrallah has offered the services of his organisation to catalyse possible military cooperation between Iran and the Lebanese government. Observers say in case Israel launches air strikes to target Iranian nuclear facilities, the Hizbollah in Lebanon could strike northern Israel, opening another front in that conflict, in case it materialises.

Adding to the war-hysteria building around Iran, Israel has threatened to launch air strikes against Iran's nuclear installations, without the knowledge or consent of the United States. Citing a leaked U.S. intelligence report, the Associated Press is reporting that this message was conveyed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak to a number of senior U.S. officials visiting the country.

Aware that fears about its intention to develop atomic weapons were, apparently, driving the tough talk for air strikes, Iran has announced that it is ready to open up its military facilities, suspected of being part of a clandestine network to develop nuclear weapons, to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In an interview with Russia Today, Iran's representative at the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh has declared that his country was not opposed to IAEA inspectors visiting its military base in Parchin, to which a visiting IAEA team was recently denied access. “Iran is not ruling out access to any military sites, including Parchin,” Mr. Soltanieh said.

On Monday, China said it hoped that a “dialogue process” on the Iranian nuclear issue at an early date-echoing remarks by the Russian

Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin who said in article published in the daily Moskovskie Novosti on the same day, that the Iranian nuclear dispute “must be settled exclusively by peaceful means”. Both countries are standing up to calls in the West and parts of the Arab world for using military force to defuse the inter-related crises in Syria and Iran.

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