Iran: Arabian Nightmare


October 25,2008: U.S. and Iraqi forces regularly capture Iraqis smuggling weapons in from Iran. Over the Summer, nearly 10,000 Iranian weapons were seized from smugglers, usually by American troops. Iran denies any involvement, as there is a lot of smuggling from Iran to Iraq. But many of the captured smugglers admit that they received military training in Iran, as part of a plan to build a pro-Iranian terrorist organization inside Iraq, to be used whenever Iran believes it needs a little more chaos inside its Shia neighbor. The Iraqi government officially thanks Iran and Syria (a client state of Iran) for helping to halt the flow of aid to Sunni terrorists inside Iraq. But many Iraqis suspect that Iran wants to annex southern Iraq, which is over 80 percent Shia, has the major Shia holy places and oil fields that would increase Iranian   exports by over 50 percent. Iraqis, particularly Shia Iraqis, note that Iranian Arabs, living just across the border in Iran's oil producing region, are not treated well, never have been, and probably never will be. Ethnic Iranians (an Indo-European people) have a low opinion of Arabs, and do little to hide it.

Iran's Central Bank, which controls the nation's banking system, has had three governors (the guy in charge) removed in the last three years. Each of the former governors was a professional banker who rebelled at government orders to make bad loans and subsidize make-work (economically inefficient enterprises) to try and reduce the unemployment rate (officially about 10 percent, really more than twice that). That has sent inflation to nearly 30 percent and starved legitimate firms for credit. The professional bankers see this as economic suicide, even though there is some political wisdom in trying to reduce the unemployment rate in the short term. What the bankers are smart enough to not bring up is that the majority of Iranians oppose the clerical dictatorship they have been living under for nearly three decades, but are not yet ready to go into open rebellion against.

Growing hostility between Arab Sunni and Iranian Shia religious zealots has resulted in a Cyber War. Last month, Sunni hackers defaced hundreds of web sites of Iranian clerics. This month Shia hackers have responded by shutting down the news site of Saudi satellite TV news channel Al Arabiya. The two main web sites for dispensing al Qaeda propaganda were also shut down. Media in Iran and the Arab world generally deplore this religious Cyber War, urging the hackers to go after Israel instead, or do something, anything, more productive. The hackers are not listening.  Many Sunnis believe the Iranians will somehow take over Iraq, and then invade Arabia and seize all the Arab oil. Some Iranians believe this as well, and talk openly about how the Moslem world would be better off if the Shia (that is, the Iranians) were in charge. When the Sunnis see Iranian weapons being smuggled into Iraq, and Iraqi politicians being bribed by Iran to vote for laws the Iranians prefer, they see their fears being realized. The general Iranian strategy appears to be getting U.S. troops out of Iraq so that pro-Iranian Iraqi groups, perhaps with the help of the Iranian military, can take over the government.

The war against Kurdish separatists (the PKK, for the most part) continues in the north. There are several dozen casualties or arrests each week. The government continues its crackdown on the Arab minority as well, arresting more people each week for being American spies, or simply suspected of disloyalty. A new law passed by the parliament will inflict the death penalty for any Iranian Moslem male who converts to Christianity. Women converts got to jail for life. There have been 189 executions so far this year, most of them for drug offenses (heroin and opium are pouring in from Afghanistan).

The government is trying to muzzle criticism of this by Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, one of the senior clerics. An aide to Montazeri was recently arrested (for putting critical, of the government, comments on Montazeri's web site). Montazeri has long been a critic of the radicals, and was under house arrest from 1997-2003.

The government is becoming more vocal in its support of Hamas, a Sunni dominated Palestinian terrorist organization that controls the Gaza Strip (between Israel and Egypt.) This is seen as an unnatural arrangement, given the growing hostility between Shia and Sunni radicals. But Hamas is so intent on attacking (and destroying) Israel, that Iranian radicals make an exception. Hamas cooperates by not joining its fellow Sunni radicals in openly hating Iran.

October 24, 2008: The U.S. has imposed more sanctions on Iranian banks and businesses, in a continued effort to cripple the Iranian smuggling network. For over two decades, the Iranians have been successfully smuggling in components for weapons and other technology they are not allowed to buy openly (because Iran is a supporter of Islamic terrorism.)

October 21, 2008: Security forces seized two pigeons near the Natanz nuclear plant and declared that the birds had been equipped with some mysterious Israeli technology, so the nuclear plant could be spied on. Or at least that's how it's being reported in the Iranian media. We're not making this up.

October 15, 2008: An Iranian-American graduate student, in the country do research on women's rights, was arrested for a traffic offense. But now she is being held indefinitely, apparently because of her academic work. In the past, Iranian expatriates have been arrested and beaten to death, apparently while being interrogated.

October 14, 2008: Compulsory military service has been cut from 18 to 16 months (except in areas with very high unemployment, where it is only cut to 17 months). The half million man armed forces is expensive to operate, even if the conscripts are paid very little. They still have to be fed, housed and supervised. Moreover, there are more young Iranian men becoming eligible for the draft each year, than the military needs. This is causing social unrest as draft exemptions are for sale, and become another annoying example of government corruption.   

October 10, 2008: The government made it pretty obvious who controls the Lebanese Shia terrorist organization Hezbollah, by sending a senior intelligence officer, Mohammad Rida Zahidi, to serve as the new military commander (and number two guy) for Hezbollah. The previous incumbent, a Lebanese Shia Arab, was assassinated in Syria last February. Zahidi is apparently under orders to make sure Hezbollah does not start any more unauthorized wars, like it did two years ago with Israel. Hezbollah is now pushing the other factions in the country (which comprise the majority of the population) into a civil war, which Iran does not want.

In Somalia, pirates freed an Iranian cargo ship, which had been seized two months ago. Apparently a ransom had been paid. The ship was carrying chemicals and raw materials from Iran to the Netherlands. There were rumors that 16 pirates died when they opened one of the cargo containers holding what appeared to be holding a poisonous substance. Exactly what the ship was carrying is not yet known.

October 8, 2008: Israeli officials convinced Russia to announce that Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile systems would not be shipped to Iran. This system is similar to the U.S. Patriot system. Israel did not reveal what it used to persuade the Russians to halt the S-300 shipments, but it was believed to be a promise not to market technology that would help attackers defeat S-300 missiles and radars. Meanwhile, Iran is being criticized for exporting weapons to Sudan, where the government is slaughtering its own people in Darfur.

October 6, 2008: An airplane from Iraq, carrying a senior politician (the Sunni Arab speaker of the parliament) was refused permission to land at the capital. The official reason was a technical problem on the ground. More radical Iranian clerics are very hostile to Iraqis Sunnis (who are all seen as still secretly loyal to Saddam Hussein.) Elsewhere, a passenger plane carrying Hungarian air traffic controllers and air port administrators, to work in Afghanistan, mistakenly strayed into Iranian air space and was forced to land by Iranian warplanes. The Iranians promptly announced that they had captured an American military plane and its crew. It took almost a day for the real story to get out. The Hungarians were allowed to continue on their way.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close