Iran produces lots of propaganda, on lots of subjects. But there's one topic that is rarely covered officially; the Al Quds Force. This is an intelligence and commando operation that supports Islamic terrorism overseas. It has always attracted very bright and able people, but also got personnel with a wide range of views on just what constituted an "Islamic Republic" or the proper role for the Quds Force itself. For over two decades, one of the few things Quds officers could agree on was the need to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Many Quds officers actually warmed to the United States for doing the deed for them. But most Quds operatives are still dedicated to Shia Islam becoming the dominant religion on the planet. Thus Al Quds can be found operating nearly everywhere, from South America (where they have a new base in Venezuela) to wherever Iran has a diplomatic presence. But the big Quds operations are in southern Iraq, western Afghanistan and Gaza.
Iranian support for Iraqi Shia militias has greatly diminished in the past three years, but it is still there. The Iraqi defeat of pro-Iranian Shia militias in Basra two years ago was a serious setback for Iranian radicals. The Quds Force had been talking up the power of the Iraqi militias Iran was subsidizing. The Iraqi offensive rolled right over these outfits, and Iraqi security forces continue to find caches of Iranian supplied weapons. Many pro-Iranian Iraqis hid their weapons when they realized that the Iraqi army was more than they could handle. For many pro-Iranian Shia, these hidden weapons might eventually be used in a civil war, although many are instead being sold to make some cash on the black market. As the Iraqi police extend their control in Basra and other pro-Iran areas down south, more people are willing to tip off the cops about where weapons may be hidden, or who used to be a pro-Iran terrorist. But while the Quds operatives face failure, Iranian diplomats hand out more cash bribes to Iraqi politicians. Same situation in Iran, where arms smuggling efforts are increasingly intercepted. More successful has been the terrorist training operation the al Quds Force runs for the Taliban. This is carried out, in Iran and in Afghanistan, with the understanding that the Taliban back off on attacking Shia in their midst. Both sides know that this is a temporary deal, that ends when the Iranian aid does. But Iranian Islamic radicals are so eager to kill Americans, that they will put fellow Shia at risk to do so.
Iranian support for Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, includes efforts to convert largely Sunni Palestinians to the Shia brand of Islam. This has caused more anti-Iranian activity among Palestinians, who are being pressured by oil rich Sunni Arab states in the Gulf, to join in the growing struggle between Arabs and Iran (which believes it, not some Arab state, should lead the Moslem world.) Hamas in particular, and the Palestinians in general, will take money from anyone, and say a kind (or whatever the suggested script calls for) word in return. Palestinian resistance groups have been living off charity for over half a century, and know how to play donors.
Meanwhile, a Quds operation in Nigeria has blown up and caused embarrassment. Last month, Nigerian police found 13 cargo containers full of weapons. The shipping documents listed the contents as building materials. Some detective work confirmed that the containers were shipped from Iran several months ago. Worse, at least two Nigerian Moslems were involved in the operation, as well as an Iranian diplomat. The unanswered question is whether the containers are being stored in Nigeria, before they can be shipped to some other destination (like Gaza, Venezuela or Eritrea), or were meant for someone in Nigeria (like a pro-Iranian Moslem politician up north). Iran has been supporting the Shia minority in northern Nigeria, which has brought forth denunciations from Sunni Islamic leaders. ). There are 5-10 million Shia (and over 60 million Sunni) in Nigeria and most Shia want a religious dictatorship like Iran, running the country using Islamic law. While many in the Sunni majority agree with this, the religious differences between Shia and Sunni cause tension and violence. There have been assassinations (of Shia and Sunni leaders) as well as riots and some battles. While the Nigerian Shia are considered less-than-orthodox by the senior Shia clergy back in Iran and Iraq, they are still recognized as Shia, and Iran has provided some support (most of it illegal, in the form of cash smuggled in to help sustain Shia organizations.) But the 13 cargo containers of weapons may be an escalation in this support.
With cuts in fuel and food subsidies looming in Iran, the government has increased executions of protest leaders, and arrests of newly discovered organizers of anti-government demonstrations. Nearly 400 people were executed last year, most of them for drug offenses. But 800 people are on death row, and a growing number are leaders of groups trying to reform, or overthrow, the government. The most recent round of U.S. and UN sanctions is having an impact, driving up prices (inflation is nearly ten percent) and forcing the government to cut food and fuel subsidies by over $100 billion. This is liable to cause widespread unrest. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is being openly criticized for letting all this happen. Many in the clerical leadership, and the Revolutionary Guard, believe Ahmadinejad could have avoided a lot of this by being less bombastic and reckless.
November 10, 2010: The government said it would soon begin testing its version of the Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missile system. Since Russia officially refused to sell the S-300 to Iran, Iranian clerics have been condemning Russia for being seduced by the evil United States. The Iranians regularly announce new weapons they have developed. Most of this is posturing and morale building nonsense.
The government made it clear that it's right to develop nuclear capabilities was absolute and would be pursued.