The government is not happy
with the way things are going. The UN refuses to back down on economic
sanctions, or demands that Irans nuclear weapons program be shut down. Inside
Iran, a majority of the population still opposes the government, and attempts
to cajole or bully this majority into changing their mind, have not
worked. The problem is that most Iranians are fed up with the "Islamic
revolution," and want less religion and corruption, and more democracy, in
their government. Since the clerics running the government, as a dictatorship,
could be prosecuted for corruption if they allowed free elections, there is no
incentive to loosen up. In Iraq, most Shia Arabs, like most Iranians, have
rejected the concept of a religious dictatorship. There is open warfare between
pro and anti-Iranian Shia militias in southern Iraq.
But the most damaging development has been the
capture/defection/kidnapping, by the Americans, of over a dozen Iranian
intelligence officials in the last few weeks. Some of these guys are apparently
talking, because more Iranian operations in Iraq are suddenly being discovered
and shut down. The radicals who are into secret operations in Iraq, and
elsewhere in the region, are allied with president Ahmadinejad, and other
factions that believe democracy is un-Islamic. These are hard core Islamic
militants, who have been held in check by more moderate (although more corrupt
as well) clerics. That balance of power is falling apart. Take the kidnapping
of the British sailors, for example. The Iranian government does not have a
commander-in-chief, but several big shots (and Ahmadinejad is not the biggest)
who can order military or commando operations. The kidnapping of British
naval personnel is apparently an attempt by the Ahmadinejad crowd to whip up
some patriotic support for themselves, as part of battle with other
factions in the government. The more moderate clerics don't want to keep
escalating the shouting contest with the UN, or the terrorism support in Iraq.
It's bad for business, and not very popular inside Iran. So far, all this has
just been a shoving contest. That's because the Iranian Islamic conservatives
know that if they start fighting among themselves, it could be all over for
them. The majority of Iranians would love to see the Islamic conservatives kill
each other off, and they may eventually get their wish. Radical movements tend
to be unable to move in reverse. Eventually they escalate the rhetoric and
violence to the point where they self-destruct, or are wiped out.
March 24, 2007: The UN approved new economic
sanctions on Iran, making it more difficult to import and export weapons.
March 23, 2007: Armed Iranians, in
speedboats, seized fifteen British sailors and marines who were inspecting an
Iraqi ship for smuggled goods. Despite everyone having GPS receivers, the
Iranians insisted the British were in Iranian waters. The Iranians had done
this sort of thing three years ago, and released eight British marines after
three days of grandstanding.
A French court has accused former (1989-97) Iranian
president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani of accepting (between 1996 and 2003) over
$80 million in bribes, from French oil company Total, to insure French success
in gaining oil contracts in Iran. President Ahmadinejad wants to crack down on
this sort of corruption, but most of the senior conservative clerics are
on the take, and don't want to lose this lucrative source of income.
March 22, 2007: The navy began eight days of
exercises in the Persian Gulf. These are to feature the use of many small boats
and mini-submarines (obtained from North Korea).
March 21, 2007: Sources that have previously
proved reliable, report that the Iraqi Badr organization, and senior Iraqi Shia
politicians, are using training camps in Iran to improve the combat skills of
their militias. After Saddam fell, the Iranian backed SCIRI party became a
prominent Shia political party, but always denied direct links to Iran. No one
really believed them, and the evidence that Badr/SCRI were an extension of the
Iranian government began to pile up. Iran is also training and supplying
factions of the Mahdi Army, which has now split the organization formerly
controlled by radical cleric Muqtada al Sadr. Iran is offering $600
for each Mahdi army man who defects, and $200 a month thereafter. Monthly
payments are what keep several thousand Badr organization militiamen
March 20, 2007: In a dispute over payment,
Russia is withdrawing many of the 2,000 technicians it has working on Irans
first nuclear power plant. Russia has also refused to deliver the nuclear fuel
for the plant, which is several years behind schedule. Unofficially, these
moves are supposed to be a Russian attempt to get the Iranians to stop their
nuclear weapons program.
March 19, 2007: The popular Islamic
conservative Baztab website, closed by the government for criticizing president
Ahmadinejad, was allowed to reopen. Baztab had criticized Ahmadinejad
conference of scholars who believed that the Nazis did not kill six million
Jews. Baztab did not like Ahmadinejad in general. This was one of the few times
the government shut down an Islamic conservative media outlet.
March 18, 2007: In response to talk of more
sanctions (prohibiting the import or export of weapons from Iran), UN nuclear
inspectors were barred from visiting a nuclear enrichment site.