Iran has long been known as an exporter of terrorism beyond its borders. This month their primary arm for sowing discord abroad, the Revolutionary Guard Corps, was designated a terrorist group by the Trump administration. Although the world is distracted by the insurgencies and destabilization caused by Iran, very little attention has been paid to problems that exist within that country. Even at a glance, it’s clear that Iran consists of many fractured pieces that are only loosely held together.
The most substantial of Iran’s domestic battles lies with the militant arm of the Baluch ethnic minority. The Baluch population is best known in modern times as the smuggling arm of the Taliban that facilitated the flow of supplies and narcotics vital to the Taliban’s mission. Subordinate to no one and utilizing nomadic skill sets, they were able to traverse the border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan with ease. The Baluch population’s base is spread over three countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran. Roughly two million Baluch live within Iran’s borders.
This strand of resistance to Iran began in 2003 with the creation of the Jundullah group in Baluchistan, whose initial mission was to gain equality for Sunnis in Iran. Jundullah’s first act of violence was the ambush of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s motorcade, followed by a series of bombings, shootings, and kidnappings targeting government officials and citizens alike. After the group’s leader was killed in 2010, members shifted focus toward waging jihad in order to restore an Islamic caliphate.
The most recent outburst of serious Baluch violence occurred in mid-February, when insurgents killed 27 IRGC members in southeast Iran. Iranian officials stated the attackers were based in Pakistan. The Sunni group Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice), which states that it seeks greater rights and better living conditions for the ethnic Baloch minority, claimed responsibility for the attack.