Iran: The West Wages Weather War

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June 5, 2011: The government has explained its support for the Syrian government against protestors demanding democracy, by pointing out that Iran opposes protest movements believed to be sponsored by the United States and Israel. Iran accuses America and Israel of causing the uprisings in Syria, but not in any other Arab country. This is an attempt to explain away Iranian support for one of the most brutal Arab dictatorships, mainly because Syria has been an Iranian ally since the 1980s (because Syria was feuding with Iraq and needed a powerful and generous friend).  Iran is also accused of sending the besieged Syrian government cash, equipment and, most importantly, security specialists from the Quds Force (a group that is trained to work in foreign countries, usually to stir up pro-Iranian unrest). Iran is determined to keep the Assad family in control, as any new government would be anti-Iranian and that would be a major defeat for Iran. There is also fear that arch-enemy Saudi Arabia is supporting the Syrian rebels (who are largely Sunni). Iran angers Sunnis (who are over 80 percent of all Moslems) by demanding that the Sunni al Saud family relinquish control of the Moslem holy places (especially Mecca) and let Shia Iranians (who believe there are better Moslems) take over.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad backed away from taking control of the Oil Ministry when the Guardian Council (the group of senior clerics that can veto anything, and have their own army of Revolutionary Guard fanatics to enforce their decisions) declared such a move illegal. That was followed by a Republican Guard general demanding that Ahmadinejad be arrested. Three days ago, Ahmadinejad appointed an old friend and political ally to take over the Oil Ministry, but this guy, Mohammad Aliabadi, had been rejected by the Guardian Council before, when proposed for senior positions. Ahmadinejad wants control of the Oil Ministry because it controls the nation's main source of revenue and, especially, foreign exchange (needed to obtain needed, or just wanted, imports.) The Oil Ministry is also a major source of corruption, especially for clerics and their allies seeking some quick cash. Ahmadinejad thus threatens to expose, and perhaps even try to prosecute, senior people responsible for thefts all Iranians know take place.

Meanwhile, the clerics have had their police launch another campaign to find and confiscate satellite dishes. These are forbidden, even though over ten million Iranians are believed to have them. These periodic crackdowns are unpopular, but even more so since the recent cuts in food and fuel subsidies. These cuts have increased living expenses (10 percent or more), and left Iranians with less money to buy replacement satellite dishes (after the police seize theirs).

Iran is having increasing problems getting spare parts for existing weapons, and components for building new systems. The UN and American economic sanctions against Iran have, over the last decade, become more effective, sending more smugglers to jail, and discouraging new prospects Iran tries to recruit to keep the flow of material going.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has blamed Western nations for a drought, that is devastating large parts of Iran. Ahmadinejad claims that the West is using special technology to control the weather over Iran. This sort of thing plays well with many Iranians, as conspiracy theories are particularly popular in Iran.

Iran's support for the Shia uprising in Bahrain has backfired. Several prominent Shia political groups in Bahrain have now backed the Sunni monarchy that has long run the tiny kingdom across the Gulf from Iran. While the Shia are a majority in Bahrain, they are also Arabs, and can't help but notice that Iranian Arabs have long been oppressed, and that Iranians tend to have disdain for Arabs. In this case, ethnicity trumps religion.

May 31, 2011: Despite earlier granting permission to fly through Iran, an airliner carrying the German leader, Angela Merkel, to India on an official visit, was forced to circle over Turkey for two hours. Iranian officials blamed the delay on "technical problems." The real reason is Iranian anger at Germany giving in to American pressure to shut down the EIH bank (that had been allowing Iran to avoid financial sanctions,  especially when it comes to moving around oil revenue). The Merkel trip to India was partly to discuss Indian difficulties in paying for $12 billion of Iranian oil, something made more difficult by the recent crackdown on the rogue German EIH bank. Mostly Merkel was in India to seek more trade (Germany is Europe's largest exporter to India). The U.S. and other Western nations accused Germany of putting trade with Iran (over $4 billion a year) above efforts to halt Iran's nuclear weapons program. This pressure eventually forced Germany to realize that this could go very public, paint Germany as a secret supporter of Iran,  and hurt trade with many nations that fear Iran, with or without nukes.

May 29, 2011: Supreme leader and senior cleric Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared the feud between the clerics and president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The dispute was all about how much control Ahmadinejad could exercise over Iran's oil. Actually, this struggle continues, but the clerics would like it to be over. To that end, they have arrested over twenty of Ahmadinejad's political allies, and have threatened to go after Ahmadinejad himself.

Egypt released an Iranian diplomat who had been arrested a day earlier for spying, and other anti-Egyptian activities. Iran was glad to see the previous Mubarak government overthrown in Egypt, and has been trying to support pro-Iranian groups. However, some of these groups contain a lot of Islamic radicals who want to establish a religious dictatorship, like the one that exists in Iran.  

May 26, 2011: The EU (European Union) has added over a hundred Iranian companies to its blacklist. The sanctioned firms are accused to aiding in Iran's nuclear weapons development efforts.

Kuwait arrested two Iranians, after two guns and 14,000 rounds of ammo were found hidden in the cargo of the small coastal cargo vessel the two had docked in Kuwait. Increasingly paranoid about Iran's espionage and terrorism, Kuwait has been making it harder for people from Iran and Pakistan to even enter Kuwait.

May 24, 2011: At an oil refinery in the southwest, representing 25 percent of the country's oil capacity, suffered an explosion (later attributed to a gas leak), killing two and injuring twenty. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was visiting the vicinity at the time, but was not hurt. Ahmadinejad was there to publicize a plan to expand the refinery.

May 21, 2011: The government announced that it had destroyed a CIA spy network and arrested 30 Iranians and charged them with espionage. Several of those arrested were senior government officials.

 


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