Will Iran's turmoil be a windfall for the CIA?

Given the agency's, er, controversial past in the country, the best thing the CIA can do for the cause of regime change in Iran right now is probably to stay as far away as possible. But CQ's Jeff Stein reports that the U.S. intelligence community is looking to take advantage of this week's situation:

Iran's political crisis provides the CIA with an opportunity to provoke the defection of Iranian military, intelligence and diplomatic representatives abroad.

(After the Soviet Union crushed the "Prague Spring" in 1968, Czech officials defected in droves to the CIA.)

How it handles a similar scenario now, and the possible windfall of inside information on the Iranian leadership and its nuclear program, will be far more beneficial than clumsy attempts to manipulate the protests sweeping Tehran.    


Number of displaced persons hits historical high

The U.N. High Commission for Refugees has announced that the number of internally displaced has reached the highest level ever, thanks to the intensifying of several recent conflicts:

The number of people internally displaced within their own countries has reached a historical high of more than 28 million, the UN's refugee agency said today, as conflicts in Pakistan's Swat valley and Sri Lanka compound a growing global problem.

At the end of last year the total number of people forcibly uprooted by conflict and persecution around the world stood at 42 million, including 16 million refugees and asylum seekers and 26 million people uprooted within their own countries, according to UNHCR's annual Global Trends report, which was released this afternoon.

But since the end of last year there has been an exodus of more than 2 million from the Swat valley, which has become a battleground between the Taliban and the Pakistani army.

More than 300,000 refugees are being held in internment camps in Sri Lanka, victims of the conflict between government soldiers and the Tamil Tigers, and 130,000 people have been displaced by fighting in the Somalian capital, Mogadishu.

The full report can be found on UNHCR's website. Not surprisingly, Iraq (2.6 million) and Sudan (over 2 million) had some of the largest internally displaced populations, but the largest population is in fact still Colombia, due to the decades-long war between the government and the FARC. Similarly tragic is the number of refugees from the most recent major conflicts: Iraq and Afghanistan account for "almost half of all refugees under UNHCR’s responsibility worldwide," with Afghan refugees in an astonishing 69 countries worldwide.