Iran: Cold Comfort



January 23, 2008: The U.S. has increasingly put economic sanctions on individual Iranian officials. These have little practical effect, as those so named can do their overseas banking through a third party. Most of those sanctioned don't travel to the West, so the threat of legal action against them there is moot. But these sanctions to put these Islamic radicals in the spotlight, giving many of them publicity they would rather not have.


American commanders in Iraq believe that Iranian radical groups are still training Iraqi Shia Arabs for terror operations, and supplying weapons to these groups. But attacks on U.S. troops, especially with Iranian EFPs (explosively formed penetrators) continue (since last Fall) to be rare. There were a few more such attacks right after New Years, but then it died down. The Americans believe that the Iranians are having problems with the factional politics found in Iraq. The pro-Iran Shia Arab militias have broken into factions, some of them less enthusiastic about any Iranian connections.


The UN has agreed to more economic sanctions on Iran, but not enough to really hurt. To date, the sanctions imposed have caused Iran to spend more time and money to buy foreign goods. Iran has been smuggling in sanctioned military gear for over two decades. This gradual approach to sanctions just gives the Iranians enough time to adapt.


Eurasia is undergoing a sustained cold spell, as frigid arctic air moves farther south than usual, and stays there. Iran has had nearly a hundred people dying from the cold, and fuel supplies are running short, or even running out in some parts of the country. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is taking most of the blame. To make this very clear, supreme (religious) leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had a proclamation broadcast on national radio, commanding Ahmadinejad (who is subordinate, like everyone else, to Khamenei) to get fuel those parts of the country that have the worst shortages. Iranians are not happy with Ahmadinejad, now they are cold and unhappy.


Khamenei has made matters worse for Ahmadinejad by approving half the reform candidates for the March parliamentary elections. Last year, far fewer reform minded candidates were allowed to run for parliament. While technically a democracy, Iran's constitution gives a panel of religious leaders the final say on who can run for parliament. That, in effect, makes the nation a religious dictatorship. Most of the population is unhappy with this, but not to the extent that they would start a civil war to change things.