The Happy Arab News Service

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

All Roads Lead to Allahu Akbar

(The sign says God is great)

Two years ago, foreign engineers built a new highway through the desert of western Afghanistan. . .

The modernization comes with a message. Every 5 to 10 miles, road signs offer quotations from the Koran. "Forgive us, God," declares one. "God is clear to everyone," says another.


Another New York Times reporter reports about Iranian activities in the region. This time it's Afganistan. The pattern of penetration is somewhat similar to Lebanon and Azerbaijan - high profile infrastructure projects, schools and social services. Unlike Lebanon though it appears that here the Iranians are building mostly by themselves.

Only 20% of Afgans are Shia. They are concentrated in Western provinces. As in Iraq, in Afganistan the American experiments in democracy have produced an impressive Shia revival. The governers of 4 out of the 34 Afgan provinces are now Shia. The hardline Sunnis resent this situation. Last February gun battles between Sunnis and Shia were raging on the streets of Herat. Elsewhere in the country the Iranian aid is cautiously welcomed but the Iranians are feared. Yet the Iranians are throwing money everywhere from Herat to Kabul.

The Iranian economy is not in a good shape. Unless something is done to drastically supress the domestic oil consumption, the nation may find itself by the beginning of the next decade in a very embarassing and even dangerous situation of having to import crude oil. Wasting billions on reconstruction projects around the region does not help Iran's finances nor its economy, but given that God is great and clear to everyone, who really cares.

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