by David Malone
I had another interesting conversation about Islamic unrest with the person who used to work with one of Europe’s larger Intelligence Services. We talked about Iran.
The Iranian government is getting worried apparently. And what they are most concerned about are the tribes. The government in Iran, like most governments in the area, is a city government who, for all it rages against western notions is in fact intimately tied to the most central of western notions, that of the nation state.
It is why the central, national governments we in the west deal with, often have great difficulty extending their effective power beyond the capital cities and do so only with an elite secret police or ‘revolutionary Guard’ of some sort. Such elite forces are an attempt to create a non-tribal loyalty. More often that not they fail at the critical moment and melt away.
Tribal leaders are a real power in most of the nations which stretch across North Africa all the way to Pakistan. What changed Libya was the intervention of the tribes, such as the Al-Zuwayya, in the oil producing regions of the country. They threatened to stop the oil and hey presto – end game.
Western analysts are well aware that loyalties to tribal identities are far more powerful than national identities but sadly the operations side of Western intelligence services often are not. This has been particularly true of the CIA whose very good analysts are almost always totally ignored by the field operations side. Which is why the CIA is so often, as it is now, behind the curve.
Tribal identity is strong and always, but always, takes precedence over national identity. In Iran the powerful tribes who will ultimately decide what happens next are the Baluch in the south east next to Pakistan, the Bakhtiari in the South West, who control all the Iranian oil and gas fields and pipelines and the Kurds in the north.
It is worth remembering that even the men of the Revolutionary Guard have tribal allegiances. The tribal leaders can be expected to apply pressure now on the Mullahs.
Besides watching the tribes, the news will be all about which Western Nations are successful in negotiating new oil and gas deals with Libya. If Europe seals good deals with the tribes and whoever takes nominal national power and if they negotiate those in euros not dollars, then expect fireworks from the US. And expect the Saudis to start to become very worried indeed. I do not think Saudi Arabia is secure and I do not think the CIA is on top of events there.
David Malone is the author of the book Debt Generation. You can read and listen to excerpts from his book here: http://www.debtgeneration.org/index.php