Iran: We Don't Officially Know About That

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August 9, 2007: In Iraq, the U.S. surge offensive has turned to Iranian supported terror groups, and dozens of terrorists have been killed or captured in the last week, along with documents and Iranian made weapons. In addition, the Iraqi government is becoming increasingly alarmed at what appears to be an Iranian backed assassination campaign that is picking off moderate Shia religious leaders, and their aides. This is a tactic reminiscent of Saddam Hussein, and in character for Iranian religious fanatics. Iran denies such support for this dirty business, but there it is. The Iranian government can make these denials with a straight face because of the way factions control different parts of the government. The Islamic radicals, in particular, are left alone as they pursue all manner of special projects. Fomenting terrorism and rebellion in foreign countries is one Islamic radical activity the Iranian government would rather not officially know about.

Another growing problem is the growing disparity between the military power of Iran and its Arab rivals on the other side of the Persian (or Arabian, depending on who you ask) Gulf. Recently the U.S. announced it would sell two billion dollars worth of new weapons a year to Saudi Arabia, for the next decade. Add to that a billion or so dollars worth of new weapons bought by other Arab Gulf states, and you have a growing disparity in weapons quality. For the last two decades, Iran was forced to smuggle in a few hundred million dollars worth of weapons and spare parts a year. Various embargos, in response to Iran's support for Islamic terrorism, has reduced the Iranian armed forces to a sorry state. Iranian propaganda (mostly about a flourishing, but largely ramshackle, domestic arms industry) notwithstanding, the Iranian armed forces are equipped with elderly, poorly maintained weapons, used by troops who don't get much opportunity to train with them. That's because of the fuel shortage, and the inept way the clerical dictatorship mismanages the economy.

Iran does have a military edge in that they are the traditional regional badasses. Iranian warriors have been kicking serious local butt for thousands of years. That means something. But Arabs were encouraged at how Iraq held off the Iranians for several years in the 1980s, and forced the Iranians to accept a ceasefire. In Arab eyes, the Iranians are dangerous, but not invincible. However, if Iran gets nuclear weapons, a certain degree of invincibility comes along with that.

The war against younger Iranians continues, with a spectacular raid, by the religious police, on a rock concert held in the suburbs of the capital. Over 200 people were arrested. In lesser actions, the religious police continue to round up young men and women who are not acting, or appearing, as good young Moslems should. Young Iranians complain about this treatment, but are not yet moved to do anything about it. Thus the government shows how it prefers to be feared, if it cannot be respected.

Meanwhile, there is confusion in the east. Iran wants cooperation from Afghanistan, to help stop drug smuggling by Afghan gangs. Iran has several million opium and heroin addicts, and this problem is getting worse. The drugs are coming from Afghanistan. One anti-drug tactic involved about twenty percent of the million illegal Afghan migrants in Iran getting expelled recently, much to the displeasure of the Afghan government. But the Iranian government has cooperated by carrying out economic development projects in western Afghanistan. On the surface, Iranian and Afghan officials get along and cooperate along the border. Unofficially, radical factions in the Iranian government support terrorism inside Afghanistan.

 

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