Iran: Howling In The Moonlight

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July 17, 2009:  The government has shut down the street demonstrations, with a massive use of security forces, particularly the Basij (the reservists of the Revolutionary Guard, the separate armed forces of the clerics running the government.) But the opposition is still out there, as in many towns and cities, the opposition still has people getting on rooftops or out windows each night for 20 minutes, shouting "God is great." The government has tried to shut this down by having the Basij going to buildings where people are doing this, and making arrests. But this was difficult, as shouters began to stay out of sight (from the street) when shouting.

The secret police, aided by the Basij, continue to raid college campuses and arrest the leaders who have arisen to replace those arrested earlier. Historically, this approach has not worked in Iran if the dissent was widespread enough. The government is also having a difficult time suppressing the opposition media. The government has been suppressing these people for decades, yet the opposition media persists.

The government shutting down cell phone text messaging, and blocking web sites seen as anti-government, has not halted anti-government groups from using the Internet to organize demonstrations. The Internet is vast, and unless the government shuts it down completely (which is costly, since the government and economy depend on it), the opposition will still get through.

The guessing game over Iran's nuclear program comes down to whether they have a workable bomb design (developed themselves, or bought from North Korea or Pakistan). The other key ingredient, the nuclear material (uranium enriched sufficiently to power a bomb) is a matter of time. Iran brags about its progress in enriching uranium (but only admits to doing it to the lower levels adequate for power generation.) Exactly how much weapons grade (very highly enriched) uranium the Iranians have is unknown, nor is the state of their atomic bomb design. But they could.

Meanwhile, the head Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, has resigned after 12 years. Aghazadeh is associated with government officials who opposed Ahmadinejad during the current election.

July 15, 2009: A Russian made Tu-154 airliner crashed after takeoff, killing 168. Iran has a much higher rate of crashes for both civil and military aviation. Partly it's because of the embargoes, making it difficult to get new aircraft (the Tu-154 is a Cold War era model) or spare parts for the ones it has. But another reason is bureaucracy and poor management. The government could do a better job at making aircraft safer to fly, but doesn't consider it important enough.

July 14, 2009: The government executed 13 Baluchi Sunnis from southeast Iran. Most Baluchis live across the border in Pakistan, and those living in Iran have been fighting back against radical Shia (the current government) persecution of the Baluchi because they are not ethnic Iranian, and not Shia.

July 13, 2009: Inflation has declined (to 14.5 percent) from its high of 30 percent last October. But it's still higher than the 11 percent when Ahmadinejad was first elected four years ago on the promise that he would reduce inflation. The economy remains a mess, with high unemployment, and increasingly obvious corruption (especially by the families of senior clerics.)

July 11, 2009: Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri criticized the clerics running the country, the first time such a high ranking cleric had done so. Statements like this give reform minded clerics the opportunity to preach against the government. This is where the government is vulnerable. If the rebellion starts coming out of mosques, especially after Friday (the Moslem Sunday) services, the government is in trouble. This is also seen in Ahmadinejad's loss of his international following. Ahmadinejad's outrageous statements over the last four years have made him popular with radicals and populists worldwide. But now that he has presided over a crackdown of street protests, Ahmadinejad is now seen as "the enemy."

July 9, 2009: Thousands of anti-government demonstrators again came out in the capital. Police went after them and disrupted the demonstrations.

 

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