Iran: What Frightens The Sunni Arab Rulers Of Arabia

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November 25, 2011: Sunni Arab governments continue to blame Iran for instigating the Shia Arab minority unrest in Saudi Arabia, and the Shia Arab majority rebellion in Bahrain. But there has been no hard evidence of Iranian instigation and lots of obvious reasons for Shia unrest. For one thing, Islamic conservatives have long preached openly against Shia Moslems, calling them heretics and worse. The Saudi government prevents the Sunni fanatics from acting on these beliefs, but does not prohibit the preaching. In Bahrain, a Sunni Arab minority has long ruled a Shia Arab majority, and this sort of thing is never popular. While the anti-Shia attitude is not nearly as prominent in Bahrain, it is still there.  All Iranian media, which can be picked up by Shia in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, has to do is repeat the Shia side of this ancient conflict. Iran, the largest Shia nation on the planet, also believes that Shia Moslems should be the guardians of Mecca and Medina (the most sacred Islamic shrines, which the Saud family, and other Sunni clans, have guarded for centuries). It's this Shia-Sunni feud, and Iran's historical role as regional superpower that frightens the Sunni Arab rulers of Arabia.

November 24, 2011:  Eleven drug smugglers were executed by hanging.  The government has sharply increased the use of executions. It's possible that over a thousand people will be executed this year. This is more than five times the normal number. Usually, most of those killed were for drug offences. But now, more political reform leaders are being killed, plus a lot more drug smugglers and dealers and common criminals. The war on drugs is intensifying. Armed smugglers will take on police, army or Revolutionary Guard patrols on the Afghan border, causing over a thousand casualties a year. With nearly two million addicts, in a population of 75 million, drug use is seen as a major social, and security, problem.

The government said it had arrested twelve "CIA spies", most of them with senior jobs in the oil and energy industries. Iran has improved its counter-intelligence capabilities in the last decade, partly because they devoted more effort it, and possibly because they received training and specialized equipment from Russia and China. As a result, it's become much more difficult to recruit and maintain agents in Iran and southern Lebanon (where Iranian client Hezbollah runs things).

While under increasing international pressure to halt its nuclear weapons program, the government has no intention of doing so. Having nukes is one thing that unites nearly all Iranians. A foreign attack on Iran's nuclear facilities would also unite Iran in defense of the country, and the nuclear program. Another unifying element is the idea that Iran should, as it has done for thousands of years, dominate the region. The Turks, who restricted Iranian power for over a thousand years, takes issue with that attitude. But the Arabs are terrified at the idea of renewed Iranian aggression.

While politicians and people in Western nations are against attacking nuclear facilities in Iran, Israel is not. That's because Iranian officials speak openly and often about attacking Israel and destroying it. It's hard for Israel to ignore this sort of thing, so Israel continues to seriously study, and prepare, for an air attack on Iran. It's generally agreed that such an attack would delay the Iranian nuclear weapons program, not destroy it. Despite Iranian boasts, Iran doesn't really have much capability to retaliate, not yet.

While some senior Iraqi military leaders have said nice things about Iran, and encouraged close ties between the two countries, most Iraqis are more concerned about being able to fend off Iranian aggression. So the fear that Iran would turn Iraq into a compliant client state has not materialized.

November 21, 2011: Security troops, on orders from senior clerics, raided the offices of the government owned newspaper "Iran Daily." About 40 staff were arrested, but the police failed in their attempt to seize president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's media adviser (and head of the official Islamic Republic News Agency) Ali-Akbar Javanfekr. This is a continuation of the feud between Ahmadinejad and his anti-corruption reformers, and the corrupt senior clerics who don't want to be reformed.

The U.S., Britain and Canada announced additional financial sanctions against Iran, making it even more difficult for Iran to use the international banking system. The new restrictions are being implemented in part to curb Iranian money laundering for terrorist activities and getting around earlier sanctions.

November 20, 2011: A court convicted the head of the official Islamic Republic News Agency, Ali-Akbar Javanfekr, of publishing un-Islamic materials. Javanfekr was sentenced to a year in prison and banned from working in the media for three years. Javanfekr had, for example, pointed out that nowhere in Islamic scripture does it say anything about women having to cover up.

November 19, 2011: Army and air force units began a four day series of training exercises to deal with any foreign attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.

November 14, 2011: The government admitted that its nuclear research facilities had been hit by another damaging computer virus.

November 12, 2011: A huge explosion at a military base outside the capital killed over 30 people, including the general in charge of the ballistic missile program. The base contained lots of ammunition and rocket motors stored in bunkers. But the brother of the dead general said the explosion was caused by a defective rocket motor that was being worked on. The government is releasing few details of the incident, except to say it was an accident, and not the result of Israeli agents. Although Israel denied any role in the accident, rumors immediately began attributing the catastrophe to Israeli undercover efforts.

November 10, 2011: The government has ordered women to ski only if they have a male guardian (member of their family, not a boyfriend) along.

November 8, 2011: The UN released a report documenting the existence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. But Russia and China promise to block any efforts by the UN to act on that report, and try to halt the Iranian program.

 

 

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