MANAMA, Bahrain, April 10 — Just minutes after the call went out over chat boards and cellphone text messages late Sunday, a group of young men trickled into a main street in the village of Sitra, about 20 minutes southeast of this city.Just a coincidence.
The young men, local residents say, blocked traffic, set fire to tires laid on the street and prepared for the arrival of special security forces — and for a potentially violent confrontation. But by most accounts, the conflict proved tame: some stones were tossed, the police dispersed the crowd and arrested a few young men and the incident was over within half an hour.
In recent months, organized confrontations between Shiite youths and national security forces have become almost weekly events in Bahrain's squalid Shiite townships and villages.
The cycle of confrontation, spawned in December when a Shiite cleric from Bahrain was arrested at the airport, is today the most visible sign of the rising sectarian tensions tugging at this sliver of a nation.
Bahrain, whose population of about 500,000 citizens and 200,000 expatriates, is two-thirds Shiite, faced sectarian strife bordering on civil war a decade ago. Now it is often seen as a bellwether of Sunni-Shiite relations as Shiite influence in the region continues to grow — and with it, fear of Iranian meddling. And increasingly here, tensions are bubbling to the surface.
"We don't like going out and demonstrating and closing off streets," said Ali Hassan Mushaima, 23, a leader of the Unemployed Youth Movement, a group that agitates for labor rights. "But there is no other way to put pressure and get the attention of the government. All we are asking for is that our civil demands be met."
This once sleepy island, long a weekend playground for Saudis, has become one of the most strategically important spots in the Persian Gulf. It is the base for the United States Navy's Fifth Fleet, produces a notable amount of oil and remains a banking hub. Construction projects, the fruits of Bahrain's share of the oil boom, dot its coastline.
Politicians see it differently — as an enclave that mimics the heavily Shiite demographics of Iraq. In recent years this kingdom has made a series of changes to become a constitutional monarchy. But moves intended to give citizens more say in the government faltered, opposition figures say, and sectarian tensions began to grow as Shiites found their hopes of increased clout dashed.
Hard-line Sunnis in Bahrain portray the country as the edge of a so-called Shiite Crescent that is to be controlled by Iran and is threatening to menace the vastly larger predominantly Sunni Arab world. Sunnis and Shiites have no doubt that this small state is heavily affected by what happens in Iraq and Iran.
"It is only natural that we'd be affected by Iraq, but that effect has begun to hurt us," said Jassim Reda, deputy head of the municipality of Manama, the capital, and a Shiite politician. "Whenever things in Iraq go haywire, it reflects here."
When the Askariya Shrine in Iraq, a mosque revered by Shiites, was bombed in February, the protests in Bahrain were the largest in its history, with more than 100,000 demonstrators expressing condemnation, including many Sunnis. When United States-led forces laid siege to Falluja in late 2004, Mr. Reda said, Sunnis in Bahrain also marched in significant numbers to show solidarity with Iraq's Sunnis.
Shiite politicians insist their demands are simple: they want jobs, equal opportunity in the country's institutions and greater representation in government. But to many Sunnis here, such aspirations sound more like threats to take control.
They often see Shiites as inextricably linked to Iran and question their allegiance to Bahrain, pointing to incidents in which demonstrators held up pictures of Iranian leaders and the leaders of the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah. Portraits of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran's former supreme leader, and other Iranian clergy hang in many Shiite homes.
Mr. Mushaima's group, meanwhile, has adopted a yellow flag. He says it is merely a coincidence that it resembles Hezbollah's trademark banner, but photographs of Hezbollah leaders hang prominently on the walls in his family home.
During the two-minute interviews, every commuter surveyed gave his or her name and address, to allow the chocolate eggs to be sent to them if they won the fictional draw. Eight out of 10 gave their date of birth, while nine out of 10 gave their phone number.
When the commuters were asked if they gave any of their Easter eggs to their pets, 86 per cent went on to reveal their pet's name - a piece of information often used in passwords on internet sites.
The researchers were also asked if there was a tradition of giving Easter eggs in their family. When asked for the names of their mothers' and fathers' families, 80 per cent revealed their mothers' maiden names.
Mother's maiden names are key pieces of identity information used by banks and utility companies in identity checking procedures.
By the end of the survey, the researchers had enough information to steal their victim's identity. The researchers gave no verification of their own identity.
During the crackdown on universities in 1980, which Khomeini called the “Islamic Cultural Revolution”, Ahmadinejad and the OSU played a critical role in purging dissident lecturers and students many of whom were arrested and later executed. Universities remained closed for three years and Ahmadinejad joined the Revolutionary Guards.
In the early 1980s, Ahmadinejad worked in the “Internal Security” department of the IRGC and earned notoriety as a ruthless interrogator and torturer. According to the state-run website Baztab, allies of outgoing President Mohammad Khatami have revealed that Ahmadinejad worked for some time as an executioner in the notorious Evin Prison, where thousands of political prisoners were executed in the bloody purges of the 1980s.
In 1986, Ahmadinejad became a senior officer in the Special Brigade of the Revolutionary Guards and was stationed in Ramazan Garrison near Kermanshah in western Iran. Ramazan Garrison was the headquarters of the Revolutionary Guards’ “extra-territorial operations”, a euphemism for terrorist attacks beyond Iran’s borders.
In Kermanshah, Ahmadinejad became involved in the clerical regime’s terrorist operations abroad and led many “extra-territorial operations of the IRGC”. With the formation of the elite Qods (Jerusalem) Force of the IRGC, Ahmadinejad became one of its senior commanders. He was the mastermind of a series of assassinations in the Middle East and Europe, including the assassination of Iranian Kurdish leader Abdorrahman Qassemlou, who was shot dead by senior officers of the Revolutionary Guards in a Vienna flat in July 1989. Ahmadinejad was a key planner of the attack, according to sources in the Revolutionary Guards.
Ahmadinejad served for four years as the governor of the towns of Maku and Khoy in northwestern Iran. In 1993, he was appointed by Minister of Islamic Culture and Guidance Ali Larijani, a fellow officer of the Revolutionary Guards, as his cultural adviser. Months later, he was appointed as the governor of the newly-created Ardebil Province.
VIENNA (Reuters) - New satellite imagery indicate Iran has expanded its uranium conversion site at Isfahan and reinforced its Natanz underground uranium enrichment plant against possible military strikes, a U.S. think tank said.They've shifted military nuclear research to the universities, too. Nuke You U?
Iran last week announced it had enriched uranium for use in fuelling power stations for the first time, stoking a diplomatic crisis over Western suspicions of a covert Iranian atomic bomb project. Iran says it seeks only nuclear energy for its economy.
The U.N. Security Council, which could consider sanctions on Iran, has called on Tehran to halt enrichment activity and asked U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei to report on the Iranian response on April 28. But Iran has accelerated nuclear work and stood its ground during a visit by ElBaradei last week.
The Institute for Science and International Security said in an email sent to news media with attached commercial satellite photos that Iran has built a new tunnel entrance at Isfahan, where uranium is processed into a feed material for enrichment.
There had been just two entry points in February, it said.
"This new entrance is indicative of a new underground facility or further expansion of the existing one," said ISIS, led by ex-U.N. arms inspector and nuclear expert David Albright.
ISIS also featured four satellite images taken between 2002 and January 2006 that it said showed Natanz's two subterranean cascade halls being buried by successive layers of earth, apparent concrete slabs and more earth and other materials.
The roofs of the halls now appear to be eight metres (26 feet) underground, ISIS said.