December 6, 2012: Iran insists it has captured a U.S. Navy Scan Eagle UAV. The U.S. says none of its Scan Eagles are missing. Iran then released a photo of the captured Scan Eagle. But the photo showed a Scan Eagle without military markings. Iran either has a commercial version of Scan Eagle (in service since 2005 to help high seas fishing ships find schools of fish to go after) or are just using a photo of one (and decided it was too much trouble to photoshop the pix to add the military markings). In any event, stunts like this are mainly for raising morale among Iranian civilians depressed over economic problems. It doesn’t really matter what the U.S. says or does.
Iran stopped making public a lot of economic statistics nearly two years ago. This was ominous, because it could only be to hide bad news. It’s feared that the Iranian economy is slipping into high unemployment and hyperinflation. Keeping Central Bank data secret will delay public panic for a while but eventually most Iranians will figure out the kind of economic mess they are in. After that could come chaos.
The U.S. is putting more pressure on Turkey to stop trading with Iran. Turkey imports gas and oil from Iran and exports a lot of raw materials, food, and manufactured goods. Cutting trade with Iran will hurt the Turkish economy. But the new sanctions impose currency and banking restrictions that the Turks have a difficult (but not impossible) time getting around. Although the Turks and Iranians are at odds over Syria, business is business and the Turks are being pressured by the U.S. to stop cheating.
The rising unemployment has led to increased pressure on illegal Afghans to leave. Several hundred of the 2.4 million Afghans (many of them refugees from the 1980s Russian invasion) in Iran are forced to leave each day. Now most of the others are being asked to go home. Only a million of these Afghans are in Iran legally and even these may be at risk. Afghans still pay $500-$1,000 to smugglers to be led into Iran and the (still) more prosperous Iranian economy. Even with the sanctions, Iran is more prosperous than the medieval economic conditions that prevail in most of Afghanistan.
Despite continued criticism from the United States, Iraq continues to allow Iran to fly weapons and military personnel into Syria via Iraq. Iraq had agreed to inspect all Iranian aircraft passing through Iraq on their way to Syria and check for weapons. Iran protested but went along. In practice Iraq did not inspect most Iranian aircraft, and those that were forced to land for inspection were found to be clean (apparently because the Iranians were warned in advance). There is ample evidence on the ground that weapons, spare parts, and all manner of military equipment are being flown into Syria from Iran via Iraq. Iraq complains that it simply does not have the resources to halt and inspect all the Iranian air freighters passing through on their way to Syria. In more practical terms, the Shia dominated government of Iraq feels obliged to remain on friendly terms with Iran. For one thing, Iran is run by a Shia religious dictatorship and so far the Iraqi elected Shia officials have managed to persuade the Iranian leaders not to support that minority of Iraqi Shia Arabs who want to establish a religious dictatorship in Iraq by force (and terrorism). There’s also the problem that Iranian efforts to become the leader of the Moslem world has brought it into direct confrontation with the Gulf Arabs (especially Saudi Arabia, a Sunni kingdom where the Saud family justifies its rule by being the caretakers of Islam’s most holy shrines). Iran believes it would be a better guardian of those shrines and all of Arabia (and all of its oil). This makes even Iraqi Shia Arabs nervous because this is all about the Indo-European Iranians wanting to dominate the Semitic Arabs. The Iranians have been kicking the Arabs around for thousands of years and that only slowed down a bit when the Arabs managed to convert Iranians to Islam 1400 years ago. Now that conversion is backfiring and all Arabs are nervous about it.
November 30, 2012: American politicians are pushing for another round of economic sanctions against Iran, this time declaring major Iranian industries (besides oil) and companies off limits.
November 29, 2012: The head of the Iranian Internet police (FATA) was fired because an Iranian blogger, arrested for saying what shouldn’t be said, was beaten to death by police in prison. The dead man had blogged about economic inequities in Iran and was very popular. The government was embarrassed when FATA killed the blogger while trying to get him to renounce his blog postings. Officials feared that if something dramatic was not done this might lead to widespread public demonstrations. Firing the head of FATA was seen as an easy solution. The dismissed official could be quietly given another job in the national police and the public dismissal would send a signal to all police commanders to be more careful with the use of torture and aggressive interrogations.
November 28, 2012: In an attempt to make Iranians feel better, government TV broadcasted video of a new warship made in Iran. Unlike the two 1,400 ton Iranian built corvettes presented in the last two years, the new ship was larger (about 2,500 tons) and called a frigate. However, it had just been launched and had no weapons or electronics installed. The new ship would not be ready for service for at least two years but the government needed a little good news now.
November 27, 2012: In Gaza Hamas showed its thanks to Iran by erecting three large billboards saying thanks to Iran in Arabic, English, Hebrew, and Farsi (the Iranian language). Iran supplied most of the rockets fired in the recent Hamas war with Israel. Hamas lost but declared a victory anyway and wants to thank Iran, which it initially denied had helped. Technically, Hamas is not an ally of Iran because of the growing conflict between the Sunni Gulf Arabs and the Iranian led Shia Moslems.
The UN condemned Iran for human rights abuses. Iran ignored these charges.