Iran: There Can Be No Greater Sin


January 27, 2011:  In Lebanon, three decades of Iranian support for local Shia group Hezbollah has paid off as a combination of bribes, bullying and Iranian backing resulted in Hezbollah putting together a coalition of parties that gave Hezbollah control of the Lebanese government. This could trigger another civil war in Lebanon, but Iran doesn't care. This move gives Iran control of Lebanon, as long as Hezbollah leads the coalition government. And another civil war would be an opportunity to increase Iranian influence there, and to hurt Israel. There are also risks, but these are the kinds of, behind the scenes, risks that Iran prefers.

Russia has called for an international investigation of the Stuxnet computer virus, and punishment of those responsible. Iran has admitted that their nuclear program was damaged by Stuxnet, and blames the attack on the U.S. and Israel. Although Russia has recently cancelled several important weapons sales to Iran (in return for Western and Israeli help in updating Russian weapons industries), Russia still wants to maintain good relations with Iran. Thus the loud, but largely meaningless, campaign to punish whoever unleashed Stuxnet.

Another result of Stuxnet is the government announcing a cyber (computer security) police force. Not just to protect against Stuxnet type threats, but the more insidious Internet based dangers (Facebook, twitter, email and so on). Help is being sought from Russia and China, two nations that have long had powerful "cyber police" operations.

As it does every year, with increasing vigor, the government declared it illegal to produce anything related to Valentine's Day. This occasion, technically the celebration of a Christian saint, but mainly a day for men and women to pledge their love for each other, is seen as un-Islamic and forbidden. So far, the government attacks on Valentine's Day have only encouraged the young to more imaginative efforts to honor Valentine The Forbidden.

January 26, 2011: Two al Qaeda members were reported arrested in the north, near the Iraqi border. Last year, over a dozen "al Qaeda" were reported arrested in the same area. All these arrests probably involve Kurdish Islamic terrorists. That sort of activity is rare among the Kurds, who are very secular. But there are some Islamic radicals. Since the Kurds are Sunni Moslems, their Islamic radicals profess the same beliefs as al Qaeda, namely that Shia Moslems are heretics and must convert or die. Most Iranians are Shia. Iran still supports al Qaeda who are not Kurdish, and willing to make deals.

January 25, 2011: The military announced a five year plan to upgrade the nation's air defense, so that all of the country would be protected. Last November, the capital was declared protected by a "modern air defense system." This is all bluster and propaganda for domestic consumption. Iranian efforts to upgrade its 1970s era (largely American) air defense system have been under increasing attack, and attempts to buy the latest Russian anti-aircraft missile systems have been blocked. American and Israeli intel have long concentrated on keeping track of any Iranian progress in this area, but that's not a subject the spy agencies will talk about. Sources inside Iran are too valuable to risk for the sake of a few headlines that make the CIA look good.

The U.S. has had an easier time keeping Iran away from military technology than from the latest consumer tech. Smugglers keep Iran supplied, and the latest consumer gizmos (like iPhones and iPads) can be had in Iran for the same prices Europeans pay. But there is less money for these goodies, now that the government appears to have implemented the removal of food and fuel subsidies without triggering a revolution. These subsidies cost the government $100 billion a year. Instead, the ten million or so families in Iran will have to each give up thousands of dollars of disposable income a year, to buy more expensive food and fuel. For wealthier families, that's going to mean fewer consumer electronics. But the government is merciful, as in how it has not made an all-out effort to eliminate illegal access to satellite television. Most of the stuff coming in via satellite TV is technically forbidden (soap operas, cooking shows, American Idol and foreign news), but it keeps the population content. Take this video access away, and people might have more time, and energy, to get madder at the government.

January 24, 2011:  The first two (of dozens) of democracy demonstrators were executed. The two were arrested during the demonstrations following the 2009 elections, and were prosecuted for taking videos of the attacks against the demonstrators and putting those images on the Internet. There can be no greater sin than making the Islamic Republic Of Iran look bad. More executions of demonstration leaders are promised.  So far this month, at least 47 people have been executed, mostly for drug related offenses.

January 22, 2011:  Another round of international discussions with Iran over the Iranian nuclear weapons program has failed. Iran has no intention of halting its weapons program, and the rising (to about $100 a barrel) price of oil gives Iran more cash to support the nuke effort, and keep its angry population quiet. The unexpected price increase has given the government 40 percent more oil revenue (which makes up most of the government budget) than it has expected.





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