Iran: All Bluff and Bluster


September 24, 2007: The new French government is talking openly of the possibility of war with Iran. This is talk, aimed at increasing European sanctions on Iran, in an attempt to convince the Iranian people to overthrow their Islamic dictatorship, and replace it with something more efficient, and less belligerent. War with Iran would disrupt, possibly for an extended period, oil shipments from the Persian Gulf. Iran may have a ramshackle and run down military, but they do have enough missiles and jets to seriously threaten Arab oil fields and shipping facilities, as well as use of the Straights of Hormuz, the only way in or out of the Persian Gulf. Cutting off oil revenue, and imports, would be catastrophic for Iran, and disruption of the oil supply would upset economies worldwide.

The government recently showed off new weapons, including an Iranian made jet fighter and an extended range (from 1,300 to 1,800 kilometer) version of their Shahab 3 ballistic missile. The new version puts all of Israel within range of these missiles, even if fired from deep inside Iran. Chemical warheads (with nerve gas) are available for these missiles. But Israel has threatened to reply with nuclear weapons if the Iranians attack this way. Iran would probably get the worst of such an exchange, and the Iranians are aware of it. Not all of the clerics that run the country are eager to go to war with Israel, or even threaten it. But because the clerical factions do not want to appear at odds with each other in public, the more radical leaders are allowed to rant away about attacking Israel. All Iranians know that, while the Iranian clerics and politicians talk a tough game, they rarely do anything. Even Iranian support of Islamic terrorism has been far less effective than the rhetoric. The Iranians have always been cautious, which is one reason Arabs fear them. When the Iranians do make their move, it tends to be decisive. But at the moment, the Iranians have no means to make a decisive move. Their military is mostly myth, having been run down by decades of sanctions, and the disruptions of the 1980s war with Iraq. Their most effective weapon is bluster, and, so far, it appears to be working. But the Iranians know that nuclear weapons would make their bluff and bluster even more muscular. Even the suspicion that they had nukes would be beneficial. And that appears to be the plan.

The new Iranian jet fighter appears to be a make-work project for unemployed engineers. It's a bunch of rearranged parts on an old U.S. made F-5 (which was roughly equivalent to a 1950s era MiG-21). The new fighter, like so many other Iranian weapons projects, is more for PR than for improving military power.


September 21, 2007: In northern Iraq, U.S. troops arrested an Iranian man and accused him of running a smuggling operation that brought terrorist weapons into Iraq. The Iranian was well connected, and had apparently bribed some local Kurdish officials. Smuggling has long been a big business on the Iraq/Iran border, and local politicians expect a piece of the action.

September 18, 2007: The national censorship office unblocked Google (including gmail email), which had apparently been blocked by accident the day before. With technical assistance from China, Iran is building an extensive array of tools for monitoring and censoring Internet use.

Dutch company officials were arrested for buying military equipment in the U.S. and then arranging for it to be send illegally to Iran.




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