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.