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Iran: Civil War Brewing
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March 26, 2007:  The government is not happy with the way things are going. The UN refuses to back down on economic sanctions, or demands that Irans nuclear weapons program be shut down. Inside Iran, a majority of the population still opposes the government, and attempts to cajole or bully this majority into changing their mind,  have not worked. The problem is that most Iranians are fed up with the "Islamic revolution," and want less religion and corruption, and more democracy, in their government. Since the clerics running the government, as a dictatorship, could be prosecuted for corruption if they allowed free elections, there is no incentive to loosen up. In Iraq, most Shia Arabs, like most Iranians, have rejected the concept of a religious dictatorship. There is open warfare between pro and anti-Iranian Shia militias in southern Iraq. 

 

But the most damaging development has been the capture/defection/kidnapping, by the Americans, of over a dozen Iranian intelligence officials in the last few weeks. Some of these guys are apparently talking, because more Iranian operations in Iraq are suddenly being discovered and shut down. The radicals who are into secret operations in Iraq, and elsewhere in the region, are allied with  president Ahmadinejad, and other factions that believe democracy is un-Islamic. These are hard core Islamic militants, who have been held in check by more moderate (although more corrupt as well) clerics. That balance of power is falling apart. Take the kidnapping of the British sailors, for example. The Iranian government does not have a commander-in-chief, but several big shots (and Ahmadinejad is not the biggest) who can order military or commando  operations. The kidnapping of British naval personnel is apparently an attempt by the Ahmadinejad crowd to whip up some patriotic support for themselves, as part of  battle with other factions in the government. The more moderate clerics don't want to keep escalating the shouting contest with the UN, or the terrorism support in Iraq. It's bad for business, and not very popular inside Iran. So far, all this has just been a shoving contest. That's because the Iranian Islamic conservatives know that if they start fighting among themselves, it could be all over for them. The majority of Iranians would love to see the Islamic conservatives kill each other off, and they may eventually get their wish. Radical movements tend to be unable to move in reverse. Eventually they escalate the rhetoric and violence to the point where they self-destruct, or are wiped out. 

 

March 24, 2007:  The UN approved new economic sanctions on Iran, making it more difficult to import and export weapons. 

 

March 23, 2007:  Armed Iranians, in speedboats, seized fifteen British sailors and marines who were inspecting an Iraqi ship for smuggled goods. Despite everyone having GPS receivers, the Iranians insisted the British were in Iranian waters. The Iranians had done this sort of thing three years ago, and released eight British marines after three days of grandstanding. 

 

A French court has accused former (1989-97) Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani of accepting (between 1996 and 2003) over $80 million in bribes, from French oil company Total, to insure French success in gaining oil contracts in Iran. President Ahmadinejad wants to crack down on this sort of corruption, but most of the senior conservative  clerics are on the take, and don't want to lose this lucrative source of income. 

 

March 22, 2007:  The navy began eight days of exercises in the Persian Gulf. These are to feature the use of many small boats and mini-submarines (obtained from North Korea). 

 

March 21, 2007:  Sources that have previously proved reliable, report that the Iraqi Badr organization, and senior Iraqi Shia politicians, are using training camps in Iran to improve the combat skills of their militias. After Saddam fell, the Iranian backed SCIRI party became a prominent Shia political party, but always denied direct links to Iran. No one really believed them, and the evidence that Badr/SCRI were an extension of the Iranian government began to pile up. Iran is also training and supplying factions of the Mahdi Army, which has now split the organization formerly controlled by  radical  cleric Muqtada al Sadr. Iran is offering $600 for each Mahdi army man who defects, and $200 a month thereafter. Monthly payments are what keep several thousand Badr organization militiamen loyal. 

 

March 20, 2007:  In a dispute over payment, Russia is withdrawing many of the 2,000 technicians it has working on Irans first nuclear power plant. Russia has also refused to deliver the nuclear fuel for the plant, which is several years behind schedule. Unofficially, these moves are supposed to be a Russian attempt to get the Iranians to stop their nuclear weapons program. 

 

March 19, 2007:  The popular Islamic conservative Baztab website, closed by the government for criticizing president Ahmadinejad, was allowed to reopen.  Baztab had criticized Ahmadinejad conference of scholars who believed that the Nazis did not kill six million Jews. Baztab did not like Ahmadinejad in general. This was one of the few times the government shut down an Islamic conservative media outlet.  

 

March 18, 2007:  In response to talk of more sanctions (prohibiting the import or export of weapons from Iran), UN nuclear inspectors were barred from visiting a nuclear enrichment site.

 

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