Iran: The Tragic Impact Of Afghan Opiates

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July 7, 2011: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears to be on his way out. He took on the more conservative religious leaders, mostly because of their corruption, not their hyper-conservative attitudes, and is losing. It was bad enough that Ahmadinejad was going after the stolen wealth of clerics, but he also had the pulse of most Iranians, who wanted less of the extreme (especially anti-woman) social policies. Iranians associate that with Arabs, and Iranians have a low opinion of Arab culture. Ahmadinejad would not back off when the clerics came after him. Ahmadinejad had promised to fight corruption, but the most corrupt wrapped themselves in Islam and used their private army (the Revolutionary Guard) and control of the justice system and military to resist. Ahmadinejad refused to use his popularity to call his supporters onto the streets. That could get ugly, because Iranian reformers see Ahmadinejad as the lesser evil (compared to the greater evil, the corrupt and powerful clerics) and also a part of the oppressive clerical dictatorship. Ahmadinejad may yet survive, but that's more a matter of what his clerical opponents decide to do.

The military ended ten days of military exercises. This was mainly an opportunity to use troops and weapons for propaganda purposes. Local and foreign media were given easy access to all the performances, especially the launching of  missiles. These media military performances have been going on for years and say more about what the Iranian military wishes it was, not the reality of its aging weapons and closely watched (by Revolutionary Guard gunmen, selected for religious fanaticism, not combat ability) troops. The Iranian armed forces exists to keep the clerics in power, not protect Iran from any external threat.

U.S. commanders are seeing more Iranian weapons, especially 107mm rockets for attacking bases, in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to captured terrorists, Iran is providing the weapons free, or at sharp discounts, as long as they are promptly used against American troops.

Although the government mocks international sanctions (in retaliation for Iranian nuclear weapons development), especially American ones, these restrictions do hurt. The latest problem is American sanctions, and lawyers, that have made it difficult, or impossible, for Iranian airliners to refuel in foreign countries.

With the warm weather, comes the lifestyle police, to harass, beat or arrest those who dress or behave in un-Islamic ways. The rules are stricter this year, and the universities are even starting to segregate male and female students in class. The clerics seem to go out of their way to torment the young reformers, secure in the knowledge that there are plenty of young Islamic conservatives who enjoy beating up college students.

July 6, 2011:  The military tested a new anti-ship missile, the Khalij Fars, which claimed a 300 kilometer range and a speed of 3,000 kilometers an hour. Iran frequently announced high-tech weapons like this, but they rarely appear in service, or are convincingly tested. A lot of this is more for propaganda than improving military power.

Western intelligence agencies have gone public with their condemnation of Iranian interference in the Arab Spring uprisings. Not surprisingly, Iran pursued its interests. Iran used money and its Quds force (a terrorism support organization) to back the rebels who might be more pro-Iran, or likely to damage anti-Iran Arab groups. Thus in Egypt, long a bastion of anti-Iran activity in the Arab world, Iran supported anti-Israel groups and Islamic radicals (even though these people, ultimately, are hostile to Shia Iran.) In Syria, Iran is supporting the pro-Iran dictatorship. In Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran supports the Shia Arab reformers.  In Libya, Iran supports Kaddafi, because this makes life more difficult for NATO. And so on throughout the Arab world. While most Arabs are hostile to Iran (for historical, ethnic and religious reasons), they are also very angry at their own corrupt and ineffective leaders. Iranians also realize, although they won't discuss this openly, that true reform in Arab nations, will make the Arabs more formidable. But the traditional Iranian attitude is that the Arabs are hopeless, so the current uprisings are seen as likely to just put another bunch of local despots in power.

Bahrain sentenced one of its own citizens, and two Iranians, to ten years in prison, for being Iranian spies.

July 4, 2011:  A prominent pro-reform lawyer was sentenced to nine years in prison for treason, and owning a satellite dish. The government has gotten more aggressive against pro-reform people in the last year.

July 2, 2011: The government announced that 90 percent of its 1,800 kilometer long eastern border has been sealed. The remaining portion, in the southeast along the Pakistani frontier, would be sealed in three years. This effort began in the early 1990s, as part of an effort to keep Afghan opium and heroin from getting in. Nearly 4,000 police and Revolutionary Guards have been killed since then, either by Afghan smugglers bringing drugs in, or shooting at those building the fence that has been built along the border. But the drugs still get in, as Iran has over two million addicts. The media and street chatter is full of stories about the tragic impact of the Afghan opiates. On the plus side, a lot of young people who would be out in the streets trying to change the government, instead get high.

June 28, 2011: Kuwait sentenced three of their soldiers (a Kuwaiti and two Iranians) to death for treason. The three were accused of being Iranian agents. Two other non-Kuwaitis were also convicted and got life sentences. Arab Gulf states enlist a lot of foreigners for their armed forces, something they did even before all the oil was discovered (and made military service even less attractive to the locals.)

June 27, 2011: The government revealed that it had allowed Russian experts to examine the wreckage of American UAVs that had crashed on Iranian territory. Iran said it had reverse engineered these UAVs, but none have been seen in service. Russia is still considered a friend of Iran, despite increasing Russian cooperation with international sanction efforts. Iran doesn't have many foreign friends, so it cultivates the few it does have.

June 24, 2011: Russia and China have blocked the UN from making public a report detailing Iranian efforts to evade international sanctions. Russia and China get favored treatment when doing business with Iran, and this is how they earn that advantage. Russian and Chinese firm also violate the sanctions frequently, but discreetly.

June 22, 2011: Russia revealed that among the 44 people killed in a recent airliner accident in the northeast, were five Russian nuclear power experts who had been working for Iran. This prompted conspiracy talk, that the plane crash was an assassination. But the aircraft involved, a Cold War era Tu-134, had a tendency to crash.

In the southeast, police arrested four Sunni men carrying suicide bomb vests. These were believed intended for terror attacks.

In Iraq, a group of Iranian oil industry officials were fired on. It's not known if this was deliberate, or just an attempted kidnapping.

 

 

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