Iran: An Army of Smugglers Marches to Victory
September 23, 2006: Unless there's a sudden change of heart by several nations (Russia, China and France), Iran appears to have won its standoff with the UN over nuclear weapons development. The UN cannot muster the votes to impose sanctions (an embargo of questionable effectiveness), and the Iranians continue to get what they want through a decades old network of smugglers. The only losers here are the Iranian people, who suffer from a stagnant economy (which is hurt by the embargo, and the corrupt religious dictatorship). The government puts priority on religious and weapons issues, and staying in power despite having the support of less than a third of the population.
September 22, 2006: A military parade celebrating "Sacred Defense Week", and the end of the 1980-88 war with Iraq, was held in the capital. The usual armored vehicles and missiles (some of them apparently mock-ups) were moved past the cheering crowds. Nothing new in the parade, despite a flurry of announcements proclaiming new wonder weapons.
September 20, 2006: Ukraine has apparently sold Iran a powerful passive radar system. The Kolchaga radar network, developed in the 1990s, has a range of 600 kilometers. As such, it can detect attacking aircraft far enough away for defenses to be alerted and ready for action. Selling it to Iran is a violation of the UN arms embargo, but that has not stopped Ukrainian gunrunners before. Ever since the Cold War ended in 1991, arms dealers from Eastern Europe have been selling just about anything to anyone. Ukraine was accused of selling the Kolchaga radar to Iraq in 2002, but apparently the sellers got it to Iran instead. The new government in Ukraine has been cracking down on the gunrunners, but has not completely put them out of business.
September 18, 2006: An Iranian was arrested in Texas for trying to procure forbidden (by the embargo) industrial equipment for Iran. Ever since the U.S. embargo was imposed in 1979 (after Iran broke diplomatic protocol by seizing the American embassy), Iran has sought, with some success, to offer big money to smugglers who can beat the embargo and get needed industrial and military equipment. This is a risky business, and American and European prisons are full of Iranians, and other nationals, who tried, and failed, to procure forbidden goods. The smuggling operations is currently under more scrutiny, and attack, because of Iran's growing nuclear weapons program.
September 17, 2006: Despite government indignation over the pope's comments about Islam and violence, only a few hundred demonstrators turned out, nationwide, to protest. Normally, the government can, though its political organizations, get over a hundred thousand people on the streets for photo opportunities.