As armoured vehicles and troop guard troublespots in Teheran, Western politicians and strategists are expressing growing alarm at the threats they see posed by unrest in Iran.
As armoured vehicles and troop guard troublespots in Teheran, Western politicians and strategists are expressing growing alarm at the threats they see posed by unrest in Iran. The only non-Arab oil power in the unstable Middle East, Iran occupies a key strategic and economic position for the West. It is bounded by the Soviet Union in the north; by Turkey and Iraq in the north-west; and by Afghanistan and Pakistan in the east. To the south, the waters of the Gulf border on major Middle East oil-producing states. The West depends on access to the Gulf, and Lord Alport, a former British Conservative Minister who has jut returned from a tour of the East, says " alarm bells" are ringing throughout Asia from the Gulf to Peking. The seriousness with which the anti-Shah demonstrations are being viewed was indicated when President Carter interrupted the Camp David summit talks on Middle East peace to telephone the Shah last Sunday (10 September) to reaffirm America's close and friendly relations.
SYNOPSIS: The Iranians are reportedly highly conscious of the military threat posed by Russia, which occupied the northern part of Iran more than once this century. The Shah has used much of the country's oil revenue to modernise and build up his armed forces, and Iran now has the largest military force in the Middle East - all reportedly loyal to the Shah.
The army has a total of 285,000 men and is supplied with modern ground-to-air missiles and hundreds of modern tanks. The Navy and Air Force are reported to be equally well-equipped.
In addition, the para-military forces include 74,000 gendarmerie, forming a credible deterrent in the volatile Gulf region. But at present, the main show of strength is taking place in Iran's own capital as tanks and troops enforce the martial law declared last week in Teheran and eleven other centres.
According to official figures, 97 people died last Friday (8 September) and more than 200 were wounded when troops opened fire at a mass gathering in the capital. Since then the Government is reported to have detained several opposition politicians and journalists.