Iran is finishing up eight days of naval exercises. This is actually a publicity event, largely for domestic and foreign media. Among the highlights were a domestically made torpedo (which no one was allowed a close look at, to insure that it was new, and not an older American or Chinese model with a new paint job) and ten new helicopter gunships for the navy. These were actually U.S. made AH-1s, which Iran had bought in the 1970s. Photographers were allowed a close look, and the only thing new about these helicopters was the paint and Chinese electronics installed in the cockpit to replace the elderly U.S. stuff. The only weapons seen on the helicopters were also 1970s vintage. Some of the helicopters were flown, however, proving that a few are still operational.
The lifestyle police have been ordered to become more active. Women with tans are being arrested (even though the lifestyle cops can only see faces) for possible sunbathing offenses (female police later do a more extensive search to confirm if a crime has been committed.) Companies are now being fined for using any of many foreign words on their signs or ads. Foreign words are seen as a corrupting influence.
Next month, the UN is planning to bring to a vote new economic sanctions. Iran has allies in the UN (most of them purchased with cheap energy exports or other economic deals), and the sanctions are not expected to put any real pressure on Iran to halt its nuclear weapons program. Meanwhile, in the last year, non-oil Iranian exports to Europe increased to $2 billion (from $1.8 billion for the previous 12 months).
American and Israeli intelligence officials agree that Syrian and Iran have given Hezbollah several hundred longer (250 kilometers) range ballistic missiles. These are solid fuel missiles, that can be launched quickly and hidden in caves, mounted on commercial trucks. This puts most of northern Israel within range of Hezbollah rockets. Israel has anti-missile defenses, but there would be overwhelmed if dozens of missiles were fired at once.
The U.S. is trying to find out what Iranian intelligence operatives are doing in Venezuela. Iran denies that their people are in South America, but the U.S. is convinced otherwise. The leftist leadership of Venezuela has become an ally of Iran. The U.S. is also concerned about the thousands of North Koreans working in Iran (and Syria). Many of these North Koreans appear to be technical specialists, working on military projects. Sanctions have halted the shipment of most military goods to Iran, but not the movement of people.
May 9, 2010: A car manufacturing plant was opened, the largest in the Middle East, capable of peak production of 150,000 vehicles a year. French and South Korean auto manufacturers assisted in designing and building the plant. Most output will be cheap (under $10,000) automobiles, vans and pickups. Initial production will be very small, but heavily publicized. Nearly $400 million was built to construct the plant.
Five Kurds were executed, after being charged with planning and making attacks on pipelines carrying natural gas to Turkey. The amount of gas going to Turkey has been increasing, which is one reason Turkey has been so supportive of Iran lately. The government continues to try, and convict, people who demonstrated for reform, and against vote rigging, last year. Some 600 people were arrested, and a third or more are apparently being sent to jail. The reform groups are still active, even though police have arrested dozens of leaders, and are searching for many more. The reformers are trying to form a coalition of all groups that have a grudge with the government (that would be a majority of Iranians).
May 7, 2010: Apparently in support of an effort to get a French citizen freed from an Iranian prison, France turned down an American extradition order for an Iranian engineer arrested in France last year. The Iranian was accused of masterminding the illegal purchase, and shipment to Iran, of American weapons components.
May 6, 2010: Police raided an illegal club, and arrested 80 young men and women who were apparently ready to party. Alcoholic beverages and musicians were also found. Such merrymaking is forbidden in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
May 1, 2010: Kuwaiti security officials broke up an Iranian controlled espionage unit operating inside Kuwait. Eight arrests were made, and documents, equipment and $250,000 in cash were seized. The Kuwaiti counter-intelligence efforts regularly encounter Iranian agents, who are monitoring political and military matters inside Kuwait.
April 29, 2010: Iran was named, by a UN commission, as one of 13 nations heavily engaged in religious persecution. Neighboring Saudi Arabia (where the public practice of any religion but Islam is forbidden) was also named.
April 28, 2010: The U.S. Navy confirmed that, on the 21st, an unarmed Iranian aircraft had flown close enough to an American aircraft carrier to be seen. But since the Iranian twin engine transport was unarmed, there was not much the carrier, under international law, could do. The Iranians played up the incident as a military triumph.