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April 18, 2005
Does Anyone Like Al-Jazeera?

Arabian satellite news service Al-Jazeera has taken an enormous amount of criticism for airing hostage videos, biased news reporting, and fomenting trouble by deliberately broadcasting false or misleading information. And apparently that's just the Iranian mullahcracy's complaints:

Iran said Monday some 200 people were arrested in ethnic unrest in its southwest in recent days and closed the offices of the Arab language Al Jazeera television channel, accusing it stirring up trouble.

At least one person died after Arab-Iranians went on the rampage in the city of Ahvaz, near the border with Iraq, on Friday and Saturday, smashing and setting fire to police cars, banks and government buildings and clashing with police.

Government officials have said the violence in Iran's traditional oil-producing heartland was sparked by a forged letter, supposedly penned by a senior government official, discussing the idea of relocating ethnic Arabs from the area.

"Many of those arrested are young, innocent people. The real criminals are those who provoked them," the official IRNA news agency quoted Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi as saying.

"We have arrested many of those behind the scenes and it became evident that they have ties to anti-government (television) channels," he said.

The executives of AJ may respond to criticisms from Americans by pointing out that their reporting causes as many complaints from Muslim tyrannies, and claim that therefore their product has balance. On the other hand, it's much more likely that their reporters and editors are broadly incompetent, giving everyone cause for irritation or worse.

However, the more useful information from this event is the news that Iran has had significant internal political turmoil, a rare admission of such from the Islamist government in Teheran. The location of the demonstration may have meaning as well. The proximity to Iraq, and the introduction of true multiparty democracy, may have inspired people in their oil-production region to consider the opportunities their Arab cousins next door have and which are denied to Iranians. After all, we only have Teheran's word on the cause and motivation of the rioting; Reuters reports that a regional opposition group put the death toll much higher and the violence in Ahvaz at a much higher level than the mullahcracy admits.

The Iranians have spent their time trying to infiltrate the Iraqi political process, but they may want to focus more on defending their creaky tyranny from the influences of democratization instead. Otherwise, they will soon know how the Shah felt when the Iranians decided they'd had enough of his authoritarian rule.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 18, 2005 12:21 PM

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Tracked on April 18, 2005 9:04 PM

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