Violence swells amid Iran's upheaval

TEHRAN, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- An explosion at an army base has heightened concerns that the Islamic Republic, grappling with severe political tumult, is facing a surge in violence that could be linked to tortuous negotiations on curbing its nuclear program.

There has been no explanation concerning the explosion Wednesday at a military facility in the port of Bandar Abbas in the southern province of Hormozgan that wounded three people.

It may well have been an accident. But Bandar Abbas is a major base for the Iranian navy and the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. It dominates the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the only way in and out of the Gulf and a key oil route.

The explosion follows a chain of violent incidents mainly located in Iran's periphery in restive provinces along the borders with Pakistan, Iraq and Azerbaijan that may escalate as Tehran becomes more obstinate on the nuclear issue.

Armed groups in these provinces, where the populations are largely Sunni Muslim, have been fighting the Tehran government for several years claiming to seek separation from the overwhelmingly Shiite Islamic Republic.

Tehran claims these groups are supported, armed and financed by the United States, Britain, Pakistan and Israel. All deny that, but it is widely believed that covert action against Iran is under way using these forces.

The objective is to destabilize Iran and undermine a regime that allegedly seeks to acquire nuclear weapons. >>>

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