It's becoming increasingly obvious that economic, military and diplomatic sanctions are not going to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons program. The U.S. has been the biggest fan of sanctions, imposing most of them in the past few decades. But the alternative is to either leave the offending nation to do whatever odious activities they are engaged in, or take military action. Neither of these two options are acceptable to American politicians, so more sanctions keep coming. Many countries have joined the U.S. sanctions effort. The latest one is South Korea, which has essentially banned South Korean firms from trading with Iran. The big problem with sanctions on Iran is that China, which buys lots of Iranian oil, is willing to supply Iran with many of the sanctioned goods and services. Many nations just go through the motions of enforcing the sanctions. The UAE (United Arab Emirates) tried to comply with the latest financial sanctions, and some UAE banks froze Iranian accounts and halted cash transfers to Iran. But other UAE banks have continued to serve Iran based customers. Initially, the UAE banks that stopped doing business with Iran has cut UAE trade with Iran by about half. That is expected to change as Iranians switch to UAE banks that will still deal with them.
Afghan banks also ignore sanctions (although often say otherwise). British journalists claim to have proof that Iran uses some of these Afghan banks to deliver bounties to Taliban groups that kill American soldiers. Iran is said to be paying $1,000 for each American soldier killed and $6,000 for each American military vehicle destroyed. American commanders believe that there is some Iranian support for the Taliban, but it is low key and limited.
A UN report claims that Iran now has enough enriched (to weapons grade) uranium for three nuclear weapons. The UN investigators (the IAEA, or International Atomic Energy Agency) doesn't get much access to Iranian nuclear facilities these days, but the IAEA has a lot of data, and contacts inside Iran. Thus IAEA estimates are taken seriously.
The Palestinian Authority (which only controls the West Bank) has gone public with its feud with Iran (which supports, with weapons, cash and military training, Hamas, which controls Gaza). Iranian leaders call the Palestinian Authority a puppet of Israel, while Palestinian officials call the Iranians corrupt and running a dictatorship. Many Arab nations are becoming increasingly open in calling for military action against Iranian nuclear weapons development facilities, at least in the local (Arab language) press.
Without accusing Iran directly, Bahrain and Kuwait announced a major effort against Shia terrorists. Hundreds have been arrested. Most of those rounded up are in Bahrain, and are locals. But some Iranians and Yemenis were also picked up. The word on the street is that Iranian agents are trying to get some pro-Shia revolution going.
September 9, 2010: The government said the one woman (who is also ill) among the three American hikers, seized on the Iraqi border last year, would be released soon. The three have been charged with espionage.
September 8, 2010: At the UN, Iran asked for more help in halting all the opium and heroin coming out of Afghanistan. A lot of this stuff is moved through Iran, on its way to more lucrative markets in the Persian Gulf and Europe. But enough of it stays in Iran to sustain several million opium and heroin addicts. The Iranians say that thousands of their security personnel have been killed fighting the smugglers, and billions of dollars has been spent on attempts to halt the drugs from crossing the border. Iran has a serious problem here, and it's interesting that it has got to the point where the Iranians are calling for help.
September 5, 2010: Revolutionary Guard soldiers killed four Kurdish rebels near the northern Iraqi border.
September 3, 2010: Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards surrounded the home of opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi, throwing rocks, paint, at least one gasoline bomb and firing their weapons. There were no injuries, but Karroubi was prevented from leading an anti-government rally. A few days later, Revolutionary Guard leaders denied they had authorized this action, and blamed it on rogue elements of the Guard. This often happens when Guard members do something that does not play well in the international media.
September 1, 2010: Iran and France are involved in a nasty diplomatic spat. It began when Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the wife of the French president, criticized an Iranian court threatening to stone to death, for adultery, a widow. A pro-government Iranian newspaper called Carla Bruni-Sarkozy a whore, and the French government threatened retaliation for such behavior. Eventually, the Iranian government quietly apologized.
August 29, 2010: U.S. officials believe that a quarter of American casualties in Iraq were caused by terrorists backed by Iran.
August 28, 2010: Police arrested five employees of a Swedish cosmetics firm, and charged them with espionage. The clerics who run the government are hostile to things like cosmetics, and see foreign cosmetic firms operating in Iran as ideal targets.
August 27, 2010: The government has banned media from mentioning the names of opposition leaders.
August 26, 2010: Revolutionary Guard soldiers killed five Kurdish rebels near the northern Iraqi border. One soldier also died.
August 25, 2010: The government announced a successful test of its short range (250 kilometers) Fateh-110 ballistic missile. The 3.5 ton weapon is believed to be based on a Chinese design (the DF 11).
August 23, 2010: The Revolutionary Guards were given direct control over Iranian banks and telecommunications companies. There is growing fear that Iran is turning into a military dictatorship, backed by corrupt clerics. Hmmm, that's what the Shah's government was accused of being.
August 22, 2010: The government has suspended three prosecutors, for anti-government protestors being imprisoned and beaten. Three of the prisoners died from this. The prosecutors denied complicity for months, but eventually contrary evidence emerged and embarrassed the government.
August 21, 2010: The government revealed a new, jet powered UAV. The new weapon, the Karar, appeared similar to American jet propelled cruise missiles from the 1950s.
Nuclear fuel was loaded into the Russian built nuclear power plant. It will be another two or three months before the plant is generating enough power to be connected to the national power grid.
August 18, 2010: U.S. prosecutors and bank regulators have fined Barclays Bank (a British firm) for violating sanctions against Iran. Major international banks like Barclays are essential in any attempt to use financial sanctions to cause any damage to Iranian nuclear and weapons development programs.
August 17, 2010: An Iranian F-4 fighter crashed near the Russian built power plant that is about to receive its nuclear fuel.