The economic sanctions are becoming more of a problem. For example, most of the traditional gasoline (petrol) suppliers are no longer shipping to Iran. Smugglers are sending in poor quality fuel, knowing that the Iranians will buy it anyway. Iran has proclaimed that it will build gasoline refineries to eliminate the need for imports, but the government has been saying that for years, and now, in addition to the usual corruption and incompetence, they have stronger sanctions that make more suppliers unwilling to do business with Iran. New U.S. economic sanctions are scaring off the major industrial players. This is making it much more difficult for Iran to maintain their oil production equipment, or build new facilities. Sanctions have also been put on key individuals in Iran, who can no longer move around freely outside Iran.
The government is increasingly alarmed at the continued resistance to the religious dictatorship. So the government is fighting back. In the last few weeks, two reform parties were outlawed and more reformers have been prosecuted and sentenced to longer prison sentences. This pushes the resistance underground, and leads to more violent attacks against the government. But the government finds the message reformers are putting out (democracy, more effective government and less corruption) to be increasingly popular. This is more dangerous than bombs.
October 7, 2010: In the northwest, two men, apparently Kurdish separatists, opened fire on a police patrol, killing four policemen. One of the attackers was killed.
Russia announced it would repay Iran the $800 million paid for S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems that Russia now refuses to deliver. Russia has held up this sale for three years, in the face of Western (especially Israeli) opposition. Russia sells Iran about $3 billion worth of goods (mostly industrial supplies, automobiles and weapons) a year. So while the Iranians make a big deal about being angry at Russia over the S-300 deal, they need Russian imports. While Russia supports the export sanctions on Iran, the Russians are willing to slip through forbidden goods when asked. The loss of the S-300 system, and unwillingness of China to provide a similar system, does leave Iran vulnerable to air attack.
October 5, 2010: Afghan police found 19 tons of explosives in a shipping container being trucked in from Iran. The boxes containing the explosives were marked as containing toys, kitchen utensils and toys. Afghanistan has long complained about weapons being smuggled in from Iran. The Iranian government denies all responsibility, but this is unlikely. Private individuals cannot obtain the quantity of weapons being shipped to Afghanistan without Iranian officials (known for their corrupt behavior) being involved. The Taliban in Afghanistan are particularly desperate for explosives for their roadside bombs, as there is a severe shortage of illegal stuff available.
October 4, 2010: The government insisted the delay (until next year) in starting up the Bushehr nuclear plant had nothing to do with the Stuxnet computer worm. This elaborate and well crafted Cyber War weapon is being blamed on Israel or the United States, and was only discovered four months ago. It was believed to be released in late 2009, and millions of computers have been infected as the worm sought out its apparent target, the Iranian nuclear power plant at Bushehr. Iran says they have cleaned the worm out of the Bushehr plant, but no one is sure, and now Bushehr is not going to start producing electricity this year, as scheduled. Iran says the delay was caused by a leak. Meanwhile, it was announced that several "spies" were arrested for getting Stuxnet into Bushehr. It was believed that some of those arrested were Russian technicians working at Bushehr, as many of them are quickly leaving Iran. Stuxnet was designed to interrupt the operation of the control software used in the Bushehr plant. This "malware" was designed to hide itself in the nuclear plant control software, making it very difficult to be sure you have cleaned all the malware out. This is the scariest aspect of Stuxnet, and is making Iranian officials nervous about other Stuxnet-type attacks having been made on Iran. The U.S. and Israel have been successful with "software attacks" in the past. This stuff doesn't get reported much in the general media, partly because it's so geeky, and because there are no visuals. It's computer code and arcane geekery that gets it to its target. But the stuff is real, and the pros are impressed by Stuxnet, even if the rest of us have not got much of a clue.
October 3, 2010: The government allowed Chinese warplanes to use Iranian air space to travel to Turkey for military exercises.
October 1, 2010: In the northwest, Revolutionary Guard troops crossed the border into Iraq and attacked a group of Kurdish separatists believed responsible for a recent bombing of an Iranian military parade (killing 12 and wounding 80) two days earlier. The operation in Iraq was announced as killing 30 Kurds. Iraq complained, but not too loudly.
September 30, 2010: Bahrain keeps insisting local anti-government activists were trained abroad, and supported by a foreign nation. But Bahrain refuses to come right out and name Iran as the source of this support. Arabs are very afraid of Iran, which has been walking all over Arabs for thousands of years. Despite the fact that Arab forces on the other side of the Gulf are much better armed than the Iranians, Arabs still back off when it comes to possible showdowns with Iran. Old fears die hard.
September 27, 2010: The military displayed over a dozen one-man "flying boats" that were proclaimed as stealthy reconnaissance craft. Armed only with a machine-gun and cameras, it's unclear why Iran invested in such an absurd vehicle. Apparently it's another item in the long line of fictional super weapons the military churns out.