[written by Rebeka Seyfried]

We are coming upon the final ten weeks of our academic year at Mercyhurst University and while the weather is getting better, our team is working harder on the term’s final output for the Sentinel Project. The past few months have been focused on extensive research into the situation in Iran and how it affects the Bahá’í. While each of the interns on the team will continue to keep abreast of current events in the country, our focus for the next eight weeks is going to be more visual and hands on.

Our immediate tasking includes using structured techniques to determine the likelihood of violent action being taken against the Bahá’í in the next 12-24 months. Initially, we will use a technique called structured analysis of competing hypotheses (SACH). This method is exactly what the name suggests – it analyzes competing hypotheses. For example, one question to be addressed through SACH will be whether an anticipated downturn in Iran’s economic situation, as a result of the impending European Union oil sanctions, are likely to create conditions that increase the likelihood of violence against Bahá’ís. This method will be applied to each of the risk factors used by the Sentinel Project. “Structure” is added to ACH as the hypotheses for each factor are further refined in order to determine which specific factor(s) are most and least likely to increase the risk of violent action.

Another structured technique we will apply is the multi-criteria intelligence matrix, or MCIM. MCIM allows the user to weigh likely courses of action against each other. For example, in the event that conditions in Iran continue to deteriorate, what courses of action are factions within the Iranian government likely to take? Will they cease production of enriched uranium? Will they try to block the Straits of Hormuz? Will they acquiesce to Western demands? Will they use the Bahá’í as a scapegoat, suggesting that they are agents of foreign powers, and attack them to take the pressure off themselves?

We will also be using our time and resources over the next eight weeks to produce visual products to enhance the report on our findings. One visual we are working on is a map utilizing geographic information systems (GIS). The purpose of a GIS map will be to determine if there are any clear indications of methods or directions of attack that should be especially considered or monitored to prevent violence against the Bahá’í community.

We will also be producing a link chart to conduct social network analysis. A link chart is a visual depiction of how people or groups interact and the direction in which influence, power, and resources flow. In this case, we will try to identify particular connections or factions in the Iranian government or military which are most likely to lead efforts or be deployed against the Bahá’í.

While reports are vital to sharing our analysis of the Iran SOC, having visual analysis of the situation is important as well. Maps and link charts illustrate information in ways that sometimes show connections or assist in developing estimates that writing alone may obscure. These can relate to how and where events are likely to take place or the flow of the chain of command within Iran’s government and military. The Mercyhurst team will be working hard over the next few weeks to put our written research and analysis into easily-understood charts and maps. Part of what we do at Mercyhurst is filtering the information into concise findings including visuals that help get the point across. We hope that our final outputs this year will help the Sentinel Project determine the correct level of genocide risk in Iran and inspire the attention that the situation requires.