Iran: Herding Cats

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January 8, 2008: It's been a cold Winter, and there's not been enough fuel, especially natural gas, to keep everyone warm. Despite huge natural gas reserves, Iran's distribution system is inefficient. Thus Iran imports natural gas from neighboring Turkmenistan, to keep that border area supplied, and exports natural gas to Turkey. But Turkmenistan had some problems with their pipeline recently, and cut pumping to Iran. Rather than risk riots, Iran improvised, and cut 80 percent of shipments to Turkey, and diverted that gas to the Iranians who were freezing because of the missing Turkmenistan gas. The Turks are not happy, and the Iranians who are suffering from erratic gas supplies are cold and unhappy. Iranians are reminded every day of the sorry state of their government, and the growing impact of so many years of poor infrastructure maintenance.

The supreme Iranian leader, pressed about restoring diplomatic relations with the United States, replied that this was eventually possible. But to do it Iran would have to expose itself to increased American espionage, via spies operating out of the American embassy. Iran practices what it preaches, and runs espionage, technology theft, assassination and terrorism operations out of its embassies. It's only natural to believe that your enemies would do the same. To that end, Iran plays hardball with diplomats. Last Summer, Germany expelled an Iranian diplomat who was caught trying to arrange the illegal export of equipment needed for building nuclear weapons. In response to that, Iran recently expelled a German diplomat. The long delay in this was caused by attempts at negotiating "smuggling rights" for Iranian diplomats.

Increased use of international banking sanctions, and bans on the export of U.S. goods to Iran, has not stopped American stuff from getting to Iran, it has just increased the cost. American goods must break more laws and use more middlemen (who charge a fee) to get into Iran.

In the Straits of Hormuz, five Revolutionary Guard Corps approached three U.S. warships (a cruiser, destroyer and frigate). The speedboats sent a threatening radio message, and then turned away when a few hundred meters from the U.S. ships (and perhaps noting that automatic cannon on the American ships was pointed at them). This took place about 27 kilometers off the coast of Iran, about five kilometers outside of Iranian waters. When the U.S. complained to Iran about this incident, an Iranian official said it was just a normal exercise and nothing to worry about. U.S. officials have a hard time getting used to the fact that no one is in charge in Iran. There are many different factions, which generally tolerate whatever the other faction does. Although technically a religious dictatorship, it's more of a collegial setup, with much debate and bickering required before the majority of the factions can lean on one group to do, or stop doing, something. That's how the Islamic radical factions in the Revolutionary Guard Corps were finally persuaded to stop encouraging terror attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq (U.S. and British commando operations against the Revolutionary Guard Corps operations helped).

 

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