Iran: Confronting the Swarm at Sea

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June 7, 2007: Iran's economy is similar to that of medieval Europe. Back then, the Roman Catholic church owned about a third of the real estate in Europe, the result of centuries of donations to various church institutions. Thousands of churches shrines and monasteries had endowments (usually land, and serfs obliged to work it). This wealth could not be taxed, and eventually greedy kings, or needy parliaments, seized the church lands, so that today the Roman Catholic church is a very minor factor in the European economy. No so in Iran, where over 70,000 mosques, shrines and religious schools own more than a third of the economy, pay no taxes, and even have their own army. But there's one big difference between medieval Europe and contemporary Iran. About a thousand years ago, to prevent clergy from passing church property on to their children, the clergy were forbidden, henceforth, to marry. In Iran, the families of clergy have a monopoly on jobs, and business decisions, within the religious portion of the economy. All those assets are there to serve, first and foremost, the clergy and their families. This has not gone unnoticed. Before the shah was overthrown in 1979, the religious assets were much smaller, and were supervised by government officials. The clergy did not like this at all, and that supervision was quick to disappear once the monarchy was gone. Another post-Shah change was that, rather than wait for pious Iranians to donate property to religious institutions, the clergy seized the assets of wealthy "enemies of the state" and turned the goodies over to religious institutions. The clergy try to portray themselves as pious stewards of these assets. But the truth is less savory, and is not invisible. All that PR and propaganda just enrages the population more.

June 6, 2007: Israel believes Iran could have a nuclear weapon by 2009, and said Israel could not let that happen. Exactly what Israel would do was left unsaid. June 5, 2007: The Iranian navy appears to be training in the use of "swarming" tactics. This involves squadrons of about a hundred small boats (20-70 feet long, moving at speeds of 70-90 kilometers an hour) approaching U.S. warships. Some 10-20 percent of the Iranian boats would be equipped with anti-ship missiles (like the 21 foot long, 1,500 pound Chinese C-802). Some smaller boats have been seen equipped with anti-tank missiles. The idea is that some of these boats would make it to the American ships, 50-100 kilometers away, and inflict some damage. China was thought to be planning on the same tactics, but has apparently abandoned it as impractical. Iran, however, has over a thousand of these small boats, and buys more every month. The U.S. navy has been practicing, for over a decade, defending itself against such swarms. Wargame simulations indicate the swarms would lose, but you never know. Iran also has over 5,000 naval mines, a weapon that U.S. Navy wargames have shown to be much more troublesome than swarms. The Iranian preference for "swarm tactics" has a lot to do with their inability to build or buy anything much better. Moreover, all those small boats keep thousands of pro-clergy militiamen occupied, and makes for great propaganda videos. June 2, 2007: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is painting himself into a corner, by making more outrageous statements, that expose him to more ridicule. The most recent example is his claim that Israel will soon be destroyed. Ahmadinejad has enough enemies in the country to insure that Israel's continued existence will be pointed out loudly and continually. Ahmadinejad has made a lot of enemies in the religious establishment, not least because of efforts to clean up the massive corruption among clergy who are supposed to oversee the enormous wealth owned by religious institutions in Iran.

 

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