Iran: The 30 year Itch

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February 15, 2009: It's the 30th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, and most Iranians are complaining, not celebrating. The religious dictatorship is very unpopular. But, like most modern police states, it is well entrenched and difficult to overthrow. Most Iranians are hoping some of the more realistic and practical clerics will take over from the fanatics that have been running the country into the ground for decades.

The "1979 Revolution" wasn't supposed to establish a religious dictatorship. But after Saddam Hussein invaded in 1980 (hoping to grab some Iranian oil wells while the nation was weakened by the revolution), the subsequent eight year war (that ended in a stalemate), allowed radical clerics to basically stage a coup, and establish a religious dictatorship that persists to this day. The clerics brag of mighty economic and cultural achievements, but most Iranians know it's a lie. They look at the other oil producing nations in the Gulf and note that, with market economies and more political freedom, those Arabs have done much better with their oil money. This is particularly humiliating for the average Iranian, who knows that for thousands of years Iranian military, economic and cultural power dominated the region. But now, because of a bunch of wild eyed clerics, and their heavily armed secret police and "revolutionary guards," Iran has been reduced to poverty and backwardness. The government issues more and more outlandish press releases about economic and military achievements that exist only as public relations stunts. The new weapons are crude prototypes, the "Iranian space satellite" is a clone of what Russia did in 1957 and the economy is largely lies and corruption.

Two-thirds of Iranians were born after 1979, and most of them are unhappy with the government. There are few jobs, little credit and much inflation. The government spends most of its time urging people to prepare for war with the United States (which many young Iranians would like to immigrate to, and several hundred thousand already have), and help destroy Israel (a nuclear power that has never lost a war.) Most young Iranians, who know how incompetent their own government is, and how technically advanced, and military skilled, the Israelis are, believe that Iran would get the worst of any war between the two nations. And for what? Most Iranians have nothing against Israel. To young Iranians, all the anti-Israel propaganda they get from their government is just more official lies. Same with the pro-Palestinian stuff. Many young Iranians consider the Palestinians another bunch of self-destructive Arab losers. Anti-Arab attitudes are ancient, and still quite strong, in Iran. This is exacerbated by religious differences (most Arabs are Sunni, while most Iranians are a smaller sect, the Shia). Currently, these religious differences have developed into worse relations between Iran and the Arab world.

The government also implies that it is building nuclear weapons. There is a reluctance to openly boast about this, because the UN threatens even more sanctions, and Israel openly says it will attack and destroy any nuclear weapons built, or under construction.

The Cyprus-flagged cargo ship Monchegorsk has been held in Cyprus since January 29th, on suspicion of carrying weapons in violation of UN sanctions. All Cyprus officials will say is that the UN has told them that the ship is, indeed,  in violation, and that the weapons in question will be removed. No one will say exactly what the cargo was. The Monchegorsk was tracked leaving Iran last month, and was stopped by U.S. and Egyptian warships before it moved through the Suez canal. Cyprus was able to legally detain the ship because, while it is Iranian owned, it flies a Cyprus "flag of convenience" (for tax and other benefits). Monchegorsk was apparently headed for Syria, with weapons for Hezbollah, the Syrians, or both.

February 14, 2009:  The military is putting all its ground based anti-aircraft weapons (except the shoulder fired ones) into a separate air defense command. The primary goal of this new command will be the defense of Iran's nuclear facilities.

February 12, 2009: In the south east, Baluchi rebels ambushed a police patrol and killed four policemen. Baluchi tribesmen regularly battle border police, regular police and revolutionary guards who try to keep smugglers from moving heroin, opium and consumer goods across the border from Pakistan. Armed Baluchi groups base themselves across the border in Pakistan (which refuses to crack down on this).  The Baluchi are Sunni, and resent the way they are persecuted by the Shia government of Iran. Most Baluchi tribes live across the border in Pakistan (all of southwest Pakistan is called Baluchistan, or "Land Of the Baluchi", a tribe ethnically related to the Pushtun in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the Iranians themselves).

February 7, 2009:  A Hamas official was caught trying to bring over $10 million in dollars and euros, from Iran,  into Gaza. Egyptian border guards believe many other cash shipments have gotten through. Hamas officials are the usual couriers, and its believed that the wrong border guards (ones that were not bribed) were on duty when this cash shipment was caught. Cash has turned out to be the most useful weapon in Lebanon (where Iran has long supported the Shia radical group Hezbollah). You can buy a lot of friends and loyalty if you have enough cash. In Iran, it has been known, for several years, that hundreds of millions of dollars a year are spent on supporting foreign radicals. This has become very unpopular, what with the growing economic problems inside Iran.  

February 6, 2009: Members of parliament are calling for an investigation of what happened to a billion dollars of oil revenue that appears to have gone missing. Government corruption, and the obvious wealth of many government officials, is hugely unpopular. This is particularly so because none of these wealthy officials ever seem to get prosecuted, or even publicized in the state controlled media.

February 3, 2009: Iran launched a satellite into low earth orbit. This was similar to the Russian Sputnik launch of 1957, which was the first satellite put in orbit. Since then, nine other nations, including Iran, have done the same. Ukraine was the last to do so, in 1995. Israel launched its first satellite in 1988.

 

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