Iran: Onward Christian Converts

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May 24,2008: The most powerful weapon in the Iranian arsenal is the press release. That's not saying much, as the Iranians have been recycling the same paranoid plots for too many decades. For example, the April 12th terror bombing of a mosque in Shiraz was first said to be an accident, then it became a Western plot. Now there are unnamed culprits in custody who have confessed to having American and Israeli sponsors. The official Iranian line is that the Great Satan (the United States) is trying to destroy Iran, and halt its efforts to convert the world to a Shia Moslem dictatorship. The evil Americans are doing this by surrounding Iran (with troops in Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Pakistan and Afghanistan.) The U.S. is also held responsible for propping up Israel, and keeping the Palestinian people down. Iran is an open advocate of destroying Israel.

In reality, Iran is a religious dictatorship, ruled by a minority of religious fanatics who operate a very effective secret police force. The more extreme of the religious fanatics support Islamic radicals elsewhere, like in Lebanon, Gaza and Iraq. The majority of the clerical rulers of Iran seek to maintain their power, and wealth, by obtaining nuclear weapons. In the West, the fear is that the radicals will get their hands on a nuclear weapon and use it against the U.S. or Israel. This could happen once the unhappy majority of Iranians rebel against the Islamic police state they are so unhappy with (and terrified by).

The Sunni Arabs in the Persian Gulf see Iranian influence everywhere, and feel it's all about turning the Sunni Arab states into vassals of Iran. The recent street battles between Shia and Sunni gunmen in Beirut, Lebanon was interpreted as an Iranian reminder that they have the final say on what happens in Lebanon. In Gaza, the Hamas radicals hang onto power mainly through cash, weapons and advisors from Iran. The large Shia minorities in Saudi Arabia, and other Arab Gulf states, are constantly scrutinized for signs of Iranian manipulation. In Yemen, a rebellion by Shia Arab tribes is seen (without much proof) as another bit of Iranian mischief.

In response to many complaints, China says it has cut back on weapons exports to Iran. Chinese assault rifles, rockets and RPGs were being sold to Iran and smuggled to neighboring countries. Some of this was just for the money, in other cases, there was some politics involved. Chinese weapons have been showing up, via Iranian gunrunners, in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Gaza, Somalia and Iraq.

The embargo on Iran is largely ineffectual. Smugglers (government or freelance) can bring in just about anything you want. Those trying to enforce the embargo are most successful when directed at the manufacturers of unique military or scientific equipment. But any commodity items, forget it. Computer gear and consumer goods come across the Gulf daily, and nightly, in speedboats. The two man crews get about twenty dollars each per trip. If an Iranian patrol boat is encountered, a $100-150 bribe usually takes care of any problems. Larger items are driven in from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Azerbaijan.

The government is increasing its efforts to censor what Iranians can access on the Internet. The banned sites tend to be those critical of the government, or pushing women's rights. Iranian Islamic radicals are very sensitive about anything touching on their control over women's lives. Another serious subject, which the Iranians like to keep quiet about, is the growing number of Iranian Moslems who convert to Christianity. Blocking Farsi language Christianity sites is a big deal. The odd thing is that Christianity was never really big in Iran. Iran's pre-Christian religion, Zoroastrianism, survived until it was largely replaced by Islam 1,400 years ago, after dominating the country for about 1,500 years. The government is also blocking Farsi language sites about Zoroastrianism, which is becoming more popular in Iran, apparently in response to the seemingly dreadful impact of Islam. Many Zoroastrianism customs survived the arrival of Islam, much to the chagrin of Moslem clerics. Efforts to stamp out these customs only makes them more popular.

 

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