October 18, 2009:
The government believes it has contained the recent outburst of popular opposition to the government and have sentenced three of the resistance leaders to death, and put at least a hundred in prison for long sentences.
U.S. and Iraqi intelligence believe that Iranian support for Iraqi Shia militias has greatly diminished in the past two years. The Iraqi defeat of pro-Iranian Shia militias in Basra last year was a serious setback for Iranian radicals. The Quds Force (which is in charge of stirring up trouble in foreign countries) had been talking up the power of the Iraqi militias Iran was subsidizing. But the Iraqi offensive rolled right over these outfits, and U.S. and Iraqi troops are continuing to find caches of Iranian supplied weapons. Many pro-Iranian Iraqis hid their weapons last year when they realized that the Iraqi army was more than they could handle. For many pro-Iranian Shia, these hidden weapons might eventually be used in a civil war, or to make some cash on the black market. But as the Iraqi police extend their control in Basra and other pro-Iran areas down south, more people are willing to tip off the cops about where weapons may be hidden, or who used to be a pro-Iran terrorist.
Because of sanctions, and bad management, Iran has not been able to build enough refineries to produce gasoline, and other refined products, for internal use. Some 40 percent of gasoline has to be imported. Now, cash shortages have those imports declining 20 percent this month. Western nations are also threatening sanctions that would bar refined petroleum product (like gasoline) exports to Iran. This would put the Iranians into a difficult position. Iran could not really threaten to halt oil exports, because they still have to import much of their food needs, and many consumer goods and essential items. But the gasoline shortage would cause enormous popular unrest.
Earlier this year, an Iranian nuclear scientist went to Saudi Arabia on the Haj (pilgrimage to Islam's most holy shrines), and never returned. Iranian attempts to find out what happened to their man were not answered by Saudi Arabia. Two years ago, a senior Iranian government official, with knowledge of the nuclear program, disappeared in Turkey. These two incidents indicate that Western intelligence officials have a very good idea of what goes on in the Iranian nuclear program. The Arab nations on the west coast of the Persian Gulf also have a good informant network inside Iran. There aren't as many secrets in Iran as the Iranians would like. Meanwhile, U.S. intel officials insist that they discovered Iranian efforts to build their new underground uranium processing facility down south (near Qom) were spotted via spy satellites early on. It took a while to figure out what was being hidden, but there was no doubt about the concealment effort.
Iranian intelligence agents are becoming more active in Europe, monitoring, and intimidating, exiled Iranians who are actively opposing the religious dictatorship in Iran. In support of this Iranian secret police will harass, or even arrest, the Iran based relatives of dissidents in Europe, particularly Germany. If the dissidents return to Iran, they risk arrest, torture and even death. European nations have been cracking down more aggressively on Iranian espionage, and smuggling efforts. This sort of thing is often more painful to Iran than additional economic sanctions.
October 16, 2009: Venezuela has openly thanked Iran for assisting in the search for uranium deposits, and advice on how to mine the stuff.
October 10, 2009: A former rebel leader (of local Shia tribesmen) in Yemen revealed that the Shia rebels were receiving financial and trainer support from Iran. The cash is easy enough to deliver, but Iran also sent in trainers from Iran and Lebanon (Hezbollah) to improve the combat skills of the Shia tribesmen. The Yemeni government is currently continuing a three month offensive against the rebel Shia tribes.
October 8, 2009: The Revolutionary Guard has bought (for $8 billion) a controlling interest in the telecommunications company that has a monopoly on mass media in the country. The Revolutionary Guard has become a stronger, and more independent, force in Iran over the last few years. That's largely because the leaders of the Revolutionary Guard have successfully defied orders from the religious leadership, to sell off their growing commercial empire. It's control of most of the nations major companies, that provides the financial incentives for religious leaders to stay in control of the country. But the Revolutionary Guard has a lot of non-clerics in charge. While not clerics, the Revolutionary Guard leaders are Islamic radicals, ready to kill for the cause. The most numerous killers, that the Iranian clerics can depend on, belong to the Revolutionary Guard.
October 6, 2009: The government has closed down three more opposition newspapers. The government success in shutting down recent opposition demonstrations has encouraged it to go after opposition organizations that it had tolerated until now.
October 3, 2009: Israeli officials traveled to Russia with a list of Russian nuclear scientists who were believed to be helping Iran develop nuclear bombs. Russia considered this for a few days, then denied such Russian involvement was going on. The Israelis were disappointed, as they believed they had very reliable information from inside Iran.
October 2, 2009: A German merchant ship was stopped, in the Red Sea by a U.S. warship, and searched for Iranian weapons, headed for Syria.