Western efforts to halt Iranian nuclear weapons work continue to fail. Russia and China block any efforts in the UN to impose severe (banking and oil) sanctions that would cripple the Iranian economy. The Iranian government has kept its restive population under control, using its secret police and paramilitary forces to shut down any public protest or serious disruption. In the past year, the government has sped up its crackdown on the media, arresting nearly a hundred journalists and shutting down over a dozen media outlets. Hundreds of outspoken government opponents have been arrested since the demonstrations last June, and few have been released. Dozens have been executed. The government is jamming more foreign electronic media (especially BBC and Voice of America), and getting better at controlling Internet access. For example, most G (Google)mail accounts suddenly became unreachable in the days leading up to the February 11 celebrations. The revolution is on hold.
Some U.S. officials believe that the Revolutionary Guard (the paramilitary force that is personally responsible to the clerics who rule the nation) is becoming independent minded and inclined to take control from the clerics. In other words, a "military dictatorship." This is unlikely, since the clerics rule as representatives of God. Non-clerics running the Revolutionary Guard don't qualify. This religious angle is important, and the current dictatorship cannot hold its base together without the religious element. However, some clerics are more involved with police and military affairs, and the "military dictatorship" the U.S. officials fear is one where more adventurous (terrorism, military activity) clerics take the top jobs in the government. The men running the Revolutionary Guard are seen as more disciplined, reliable, and less corrupt. So the senior clerics are recruiting more Revolutionary Guard officers for important government jobs (especially those involved with economic activities, like running companies.)
The clerics who run Iran believe that all domestic opposition is fomented by foreigners (particularly the United States and its allies.) This is great for reassuring nervous Iranians, but it otherwise just another example of Iranian propaganda. Meanwhile, the clerical dictatorship is getting their economic problems under control, sort of. Inflation is now under ten percent (it was nearly 30 percent a year ago), and unemployment has slipped from 12 to 11 percent in recent months (down from nearly 20 percent a year ago). But the jobs are often make-work, because the corruption (families of officials own much of the economy, and run it ineffectively) stifles economic growth or development. The government puts on media events to provide the illusion of economic progress, but most Iranians just get by. The government wants to deal with unemployment, because young men without jobs are prone to anti-government violence. But this economic malaise hurts educated Iranians the most, and these are the ones who want to emigrate. The government realizes that, long term, this migration of the educated is disastrous, and says they are going to privatize much of the economy. But the corrupt officials who control so many of the state owned firms resist selling their companies to private individuals, who might become economically powerful and assist in overthrowing the dictatorship.
South Korean experts on the North Korean missile program believe that available evidence (pictures, performance) indicate clearly that the Iranians are using North Korean technology for their long range ballistic missiles. Iran and North Korea deny this, but this is another bit evidence indicating otherwise.
February 23, 2010: Iranian warplanes forced a foreign airliner, flying through Iran, from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan, to land in Iran. Secret police then boarded and took off Abdol Malek Rigi, a leader of Sunni terrorist group Jundullah (which is active in the southeast). Jundullah represents Baluchi tribes resisting religious and ethnic persecution by the Shia majority in Iran. The Baluchi tribes that support Jundullah are on both sides of the Iran/Pakistan border. The fighting has been going on for generations, but Iran insists that the United States, and other foreign powers are backing Jundullah.
February 21, 2010: Fighting with Kurd separatists in the northwest, along the Iraq border, continues. Recent battles left four Kurds dead.
February 11, 2010: Big pro-government demonstrations all over the country, to celebrate the anniversary of the 1979 revolution. Opposition attempts to disrupt all this were largely foiled by the police and paramilitary forces. The increased activity of opposition and reform groups in the last few years has got the attention of the government, and the reaction has been widespread and brutal response. That, coupled with more energetic efforts to lower unemployment and inflation rates, has reduced enthusiasm for opposition to the government.
February 10, 2010: The U.S. has imposed new sanctions on leaders of the Revolutionary Guard. These are annoying for the Iranians involved.