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Iran: Hard Times For Hard Liners
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September 6, 2007: Big changes at the top. Former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has been elected as head of Iran's Assembly of Experts. The previous incumbent died. This group, of 83 senior clerics, elects the Supreme Leader, a cleric, of the country. This official (currently 67 year old Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) outranks everyone, and is the last word on everything. The Assembly of Experts can also remove the Supreme Leader, but usually everyone works together. The head of the Assembly of Experts controls the agenda, for what is done, and to whom. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tried to get one of his allies elected head of the Assembly of Experts, but failed. The "moderates," led by Rafsanjani, got 41 votes, compared to 34 for Ahmadinejad's man. This is seen as a payback moment. Ahmadinejad defeated Rafsanjani in the 2005 presidential elections. But since then, Ahmadinejad's scare talk has cost the president a lot of support. Ahmadinejad's promises of reform and honest government have not happened. The hard liners are on the defensive. An example of this is the removal (shortly after Rafsanjani was elected) of the head of the Revolutionary Guards (the clerics private army). A pro-Ahmadinejad officer was replaced by a pro-Rafsanjani man. Rafsanjani served as president from 1989 to 1997, and was elected by over 80 percent of the population, on promises of reform and moderation of the strict religious line advocated by hard liners. This scared the hard liners, and they cracked down on moderate or reform politicians, forbidding most of them from running for office. Rafsanjani took the hint and retired to the sidelines. But the backlash, both internally and externally, has shocked even the senior clerics. Many believe people like Ahmadinejad are leading the country to confrontation and destruction. While the Islamic radicals believe they are on a mission from God, and entitled to run the country as a religious dictatorship, they are not blind to public opinion (most Iranians hate them), or the attitudes of foreigners (Iranian threats to destroy Israel and the U.S. are not ignored.)

September 5, 2007: In the north, seven policemen were killed in a clash with Kurdish separatist rebels.

September 4, 2007: One of the jailed U.S. citizens has been allowed to leave the country, while another has been released on bail. The four were in the country visiting kin or on business, and were grabbed in order to annoy the United States, and to stir up more anti-U.S. sentiment in Iran.

September 2, 2007: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) enacted a new law forbidding the export of military, or dual-use, equipment to Iran. The UAE is a major trading operator in the region, and has long provided Iran with assistance in smuggling forbidden items into Iran. The new UAE policy was enacted at the urging of the U.S., and Iran has protested. Iran will still be able to sneak forbidden goods in, it will just take longer and cost more.

August 31, 2007: The IAEA believes that Iran has stopped trying to create high grade nuclear fuel for a nuclear bomb, and is only creating low grade stuff for nuclear power generation. Critics of Irans nuclear program point out that Iran has lied about their activities in the past, and succeeded in hiding a lot of this activity from IAEA inspectors.

August 25, 2007: Iranian troops continue firing artillery and mortar shells across the border at nearly two dozen Kurdish villages in northern Iraq. Several hundred villagers have fled. Over a thousand shells have been fired in the last two weeks. The Iranians believe the area has been a base for Iranian Kurdish PKK rebels. Some Iranian troops have gone into Iraq, to search for rebels, or examine shelling targets for documents or other evidence of rebel activity. Iran has ignored Iraqi government complaints about all this, and denied that it is even happening.

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