(Reuters) - Arab insurgents blew up a gas pipeline in Iran last week and dedicated the attack to their brothers in arms in Syria, highlighting how the Syrian civil war is spreading into a region-wide proxy conflict that could blow back onto Iran.
The blast, two days after new President Hassan Rohani took office, hit a pipeline feeding a petrochemicals plant in the city of Mahshahr in Iran's southwest, home to most of its oil reserves and to a population of ethnic Arabs, known as Ahwazis for the main town in the area.
The Ahwazi Arabs are a small minority in mainly ethnic Persian Iran, some of whom see themselves as under Persian "occupation" and want independence or autonomy. They are a cause célèbre across the Arab world, where escalating ethnic and sectarian rivalry with Iran now fuels the wars in Syria and Iraq and is behind political unrest from Beirut to Bahrain.
Tehran dismisses any suggestion that discontent is rife among its Arab minority, describing such reports as part of a foreign plot to steal the oil that lies beneath its Gulf coastal territory. Iranian news agencies reported a fire on the gas pipeline last week but said its cause was unknown.
Aug 15, 2013
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