September 12, 2006: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki made the first official visit, of an Iraqi prime minister, to Iran. Al Maliki is a Shia Moslem, as are most Iranians, and about 60 percent of Iraqis. Al Maliki is trying to convince the Iranians to stop supporting (with money, weapons and technical advisors) radical Shia militias in Iraq. The purpose of this support is to prepare these radical Iraqi groups to stage a coup and take over the Iraqi government. Iraq would then be turned into an Islamic republic, like Iran. This kind of takeover worked in Iran because it was done in the middle of a war with Iraq (in the 1980s), a war begun by Saddam Hussein, who thought he could rush in and grab some Iranian oil fields while Iran was distracted by its rebellion against the Iranian monarchy. The Iranian religious radicals have held on to power since, despite only having the support of a minority of the population, by establishing a police state. Most of the cops are Islamic radicals out to impose proper Islamic lifestyles on all Iranians. Democracy is not considered properly Islamic, nor are a lot of things from the West, including movies and accurate news. But the Iraqis, al Maliki is apparently trying to convince the Iranians, are different. While about 30 percent of the Iranian population supports the religious dictatorship, the percentage is lower in Iraq, and the pro-democracy crowd is armed and willing to fight. The Iranians believe that, as soon as the U.S. troops leave, the Iraqi Islamic radical militias can make their move and, in effect, unite Iran and Iraq as a Shia axis for Islamic radicalism that will conquer the world for the Shia brand of Islam. This is a nightmare scenario for the 90 percent of Moslems who are Sunnis.
Al Maliki would also like Iran to stop support for al Qaeda. This is rather more difficult for Iran to handle, as very radical factions in Iran are supplying support for al Qaeda. These Iranian factions are not really under the control of the Iranian government (which is actually a coalition of Islamic radical factions). Most Iranians hate al Qaeda, which is a Sunni Moslem organization that considers Shia to be heretics, and terrorizes Shia whenever it can. Taking support from Iran is another form of "the enemy of my enemy is my (temporary) friend."
September 8, 2006: The U.S. imposed severe sanctions on a major Iranian bank, for transferring money to Hizbollah (which the U.S. recognizes as a terrorist organization.) America has long barred Iranian banks from dealing directly with U.S. banks, but the additional sanctions interfere with the Iranian banks dealings with the world banking system, and are more damaging.
The governments divide and conquer strategy, against the UN and member nations determined to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program, continues to work. Meanwhile, Iran still has Russia and China ready to veto any UN attempt to impose further sanctions. Russia and China are happy to do this in return for access to Iranian markets (for sales of weapons and industrial equipment). While China and Russia don't want Iran to have nuclear weapons, they appear to believe that the Iranians are too inept to actually build the things. That may change if North Korea (another supplier of weapons technology to Iran) successfully tests its own nuclear weapons design. North Korea is supposed to have gotten its nuclear weapons design from Pakistan, which is known to have developed some designs that did not work (the failed tests were monitored, so this is known for a fact). Some European nations are inclined to side with the Russians and Chinese on this, but the U.S. and Israel, constantly named by Iranian officials as the targets of any Iranian nuclear weapons, take the whole matter rather more seriously.