What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Eastern Iran travel warnings

A Japanese student called the Japanese embassy in Tehran on Monday to tell them he was kidnapped in southwestern Iran, after entering the country from Pakistan. He was travelling on his own. The BBC notes that in August two Belgian tourists were seized also in that area.
What may be worth remarking on the basis of this is the by now notoriously bad security situation in eastern Iran. Bonnie Boyd wrote back in August:
" One 2005 article in the Washington Post cited the new UN World Drug Report. Iran has the highest opium addiction rate in the world: 2.8 percent. That’s 4 million users of an illegal substance in a country of 70 million inhabitants. This is an illegal trade with 4 million ready customers. Furthermore, there are few substitution products on the market. After the 2003 Bam earthquake in Iran, the relief agencies that delivered aid also included a good supply of methadone, in order to medically stabilize Iranians who would have been cut off from their opiate intake. Going further back, BBC in 2000 reported Iranian addiction rates as endemic, and noting that 3200 Iranian law enforcement officers died in 2001 trying to enforce drug interdiction. The total amount of drugs intercepted was only estimated at 30%.
All in all, such a customer base would allow many opportunities to turn a profit and corrupt government, military, police, and supply chain officials to divert weapons to an illegal counter-trade for narcotics. And it seems, from the facts above, that Eastern Iran could be viewed as a failing territory of the state. State failure means that Iran’s government is not any more in control of its Afghanistan border than Pakistan is with its Northwest frontier.
Iran’s mass-deportations of Afghanistan refugees this past April seem to indicate a porous border and also a situation which Iran can barely control. "
At that time I decided I'd pay more attention to developments in the area, so here's a bit of a follow-up to that, in reaction to this latest kidnapping. Japan Today reports:
" The ministry issued a reminder Thursday morning calling on Japanese nationals traveling to or residing in southeastern Iran to remain alert to the possibility of further incidents and to avoid traveling at night.
The Foreign Ministry has upgraded the travel advisory for some areas in southeastern Iran. The danger level for the region has now been raised from the category of recommending careful consideration of visits to the second-highest category of recommending postponement of travel. The ministry has a four-category system to reflect the danger levels in respective countries. Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon are among those ranked in the highest danger category where the ministry recommends evacuation.
Travel warnings are one of the many possible stakeholder indicators of instability. Foreign ministries are obviously interested in putting out warnings in time, as that can potentially save everyone from consular officials possibly all the way to the ministerial level from complications. So I looked up U.S. State Department travel warnings, too (highlighting by me):
" The Iranian regime continues to repress its minority ethnic and religious groups, including Azeris, Kurds, Bahai, ethnic Arabs, and others. Consequently, some areas within the country where these minorities reside, including the Baluchistan border area near Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Kurdish regions in the northwest of the country, and areas near the Iraqi border, remain unsafe. The Bam-Kerman road, the site of armed attacks during May 2007, is also unsafe. "
Whatever you think of the minority situation in Iran, that's a warning. So I looked up the Hungarian foreign ministry's warnings, too.
It says: "Irán (az ország keleti, Pakisztánnal és Afganisztánnal határos vidéke)" belongs to the category of "Fokozott biztonsági kockázatot rejtő további országok és térségek."
Hungarian text in this context might look frightening in and of itself, but in fact that sort of reaction is appropriate on the basis of the contents, too. Hungary's foreign ministry warns that one should think of Iran's eastern areas bordering on Afghanistan and Pakistan as areas of elevated risk for the traveller.
Ok, so that's it for a mini research project for today. For something additional, you may read from UNODC chief Antonio Maria Costa about Iran's efforts to go Westphalian (with trenches, fortification towers, barbed wire and large concrete obstacles) faced with the mounting challenge of all things post-Westphalian, coming from the east.
Another, final remark then. A few days ago I wrote of the FATA to the right of Afghanistan. Now I find myself writing of what's to the left of Afghanistan. Or is it that I'm usually writing of what's to the left of FATA? Or is that stretching it a little too much?

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