Iran: Depressing News

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September 2,2008:  The governments growing closeness with leftist Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez had led to hundreds of Iranian intelligence and special warfare (terrorism) operatives being dispatched to South America. It was only a decade ago that such Iranian operations were shut down there, in the wake of terror attacks against Jews in Argentina. One truck bomb attack in 1994 killed 85 Argentineans, most of them Jewish. This horrified people throughout the region, and the backlash caused Iranian diplomats and terrorism operatives to run for cover. But with Venezuela as a safe, and hospitable, base, Iranian death squads are again up and running in South America.

September 1, 2008: The government insists that it has not bought S-300 long-range anti-aircraft missile systems from Russia. This despite many reports coming out of Iran over the last year about preparations (training of operators and building of bases) for these systems. Now Russia has offered to not deliver S-300s to Iran if NATO membership is refused for Ukraine and Georgia. This despite Irans enthusiastic backing of the Russian dismemberment of Georgia via an invasion and occupation last month.

August 31, 2008: There was an unusual flurry of new weapons announced this month. In one respect, this was embarrassing, as Iran has become something of a joke in the international defense community, for all those press releases over the years, touting new weapons that don't exist, and never seem to enter service. Iran does have an arms industry, but all it produces is simple weapons (small arms, mortars, artillery, unguided rockets). The high few tech items, like ballistic missiles, are handmade, using foreign plans, and many foreign components, by select teams of Iranians with the necessary skills and training. Overall, Iranian industry is not large enough, or skilled enough, to manufacture all the new weapons announced over the last few years.

August 30, 2008: Last year, the government said that it had 3,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges operating. That was enough to produce enough enriched uranium in a year for a nuclear bomb. Previously, Iran had only 328 centrifuges operating in a research facility. Now, Iran says it has 5,000 centrifuges, although UN IAEA inspectors believe that the Iranians are exaggerating, and have only 4,000 functioning, with several thousand more being prepared for operation. Iran is also believed to have increased the efficiency of its centrifuges, so that 4,000 of them could produce enough enriched uranium in a year for 3-4 nuclear bombs. Iran insists it is only enriching the uranium sufficiently to run its Russian built nuclear power plant. Iran insists on producing its own nuclear fuel, despite offers from Russia and the West to sell fuel at much less than it would cost for Iran to produce the stuff itself.

The World Health Organization (WHO) believes Iran has an above average number of people (about 20 percent of the population) suffering from depression. WHO also believes that Iran has at least a million drug addicts (mainly opium and heroin). The government has long believed that the number of addicts was over two million.

August 29, 2008: The governments solution for decades of double digit inflation is to issue new currency, that is worth 10,000 times what the current one does (thus the current 10,000 rial note would be replaced by one worth one rial). Three decades, 70 Iranian rials were worth one dollar. Now it takes nearly 10,000 rials. So the new rial would be worth about the same as a dollar. No date was given for the switch, but most likely in the next six months. Inflation is caused when the government issues more money than can be justified by the size of the economy. With more money out there, people competing for relatively scarce good, drive the prices up. Thus in the last three decades, prices have increased 400 times. That's more than a hundred times more inflation than in the better run economies of the West.

August 28, 2008: Much of the Iranian military aid (weapons, cash, technical experts) being smuggled into Gaza is not going to the dominant Palestinian faction, Hamas, but to smaller, more radical Islamic terror groups. The Iranians are trying to make the more radical groups strong enough to resist Hamas attempts to halt terror attacks on Israel. Last June 19th, Hamas signed a ceasefire with Israel, but is having a hard time preventing more radical groups in Gaza from continuing attacks.

August 22, 2008: The government mismanagement of the economy is resulting in growing labor unrest. Workers at many government owned companies have not been paid for months, because the government runs so many companies that don't make a profit. Having these workers go on strike does not bother the government much, but increasingly the workers have realized that and taken to organizing noisy public demonstrations against the government. Using the government paramilitary forces (in civilian clothes) to attack the workers does not always work (the paramilitaries are defeated). That, however, has revealed another worrying syndrome; growing disenchantment with Islam. The secret police reports on "the public mood" reveal a growing dislike for Islam itself. Not just in the cities, but in the countryside. Mosque attendance is down and clerics report more and more disrespectful (of Islam) attitudes among the young. The government proposes to spend more money (about $15 million) on propaganda to convince Iranians to adopt a more austere and "revolutionary" attitude towards Islam.

 

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