Iran: The Secret Police Like To Keep Busy

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September 12, 2009:  There are sharp disputes among members of the senior clerics who run the country, about the mass "show trials" of people who protested the recent rigged (by the government) elections. The dissenting clerics are also unhappy with the rape of female protesters in prison (an old custom). The mass trial (over over a hundred protestors) has shocked the leadership because of widespread popular anger and opposition to the trial. Normally, such trials are accepted by Iranians, and even generate some popular enthusiasm against those on trial. Not this time. Meanwhile, universities have been expelling hundreds of student identified as pro-democracy activists.

Despite disagreement among senior clerics, the government continues to hunt down and arrest those seen as opposition leaders. Iran is, after all, a police state, and the secret police like to keep busy.

Russia and China have again succeeded in preventing the UN from imposing more severe sanctions on Iran because of that country's nuclear weapons program. The IAEA, the UN's nuclear inspection organization, has accused the West of "hyping" the Iranian nuclear weapons threat. Israel came right out and accused the IAEA of concealing evidence it had that showed how far along the Iranian nuclear program was. Russia and China are more intent on doing business with Iran, than in preventing that country from building nuclear weapons.

Iran is keeping up the pressure on PJAK, the Iranian branch of Kurdish separatist organization PKK. More troops have been sent to the border with northern Iraq, and artillery is regularly fired into Iraq, at buildings where PJAK gunmen are believed to be staying. This has put PJAK on the defensive, and fear that Iranian pressure on Iraq might result in Turkish and Iraqi troops attacking as well.

Increasingly, Iranian weapons, including armor piercing roadside bombs (like the EFP, or Explosively Formed Penetrators, found in Iraq) are showing up in western Afghanistan. Some of this might be smuggling gangs (Iranian and Afghan) making a buck by bringing across what their customers want, or the Iranian government trying to increase the anti-government violence in Afghanistan, or a bit of both. Meanwhile, Western governments are increasing their pressure on gunrunners who have been smuggling weapons to Iran for decades. At the same time rogue Pakistani nuclear scientist A Q Khan has openly boasted of passing nuclear weapons technology to Iran, and doing it with the permission of the Pakistani government. Iran continues to stonewall the West on its nuclear weapons program, and pointing out that an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would only mobilize the Iranian people behind the unpopular religious dictatorship.

September 3, 2009: The parliament approved the first female cabinet minister, Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi, in30 years, as Health Minister.  But Dastjerdi is a religious conservative, who advocates things like only allowing female patients to be treated by female doctors.  Two other, more liberal, female ministers were rejected. In all, only three of 21 cabinet ministers were rejected, which translates as a victory for newly re-elected (in a widely disputed vote) president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. About 22 percent of the conservative members of parliament have turned into an opposition force, which has rattled the Islamic conservatives who run the country. They can no longer depend on all Islamic conservatives to unite against reformers.

August 29, 2009:  The tug of war among senior clerics has led to the firing of senior prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi (who is running the mass trial of democracy demonstrators, and earlier closed over a hundred reformist publications and prosecuted reformist journalists.)

August 28, 2009: The UAE revealed that it had seized a North Korean ship, illegally carrying weapons for Iran, earlier this month. The UN investigated and confirmed the illegal shipment.

 

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