The Arab countries on the west side of the Gulf are taking a closer look at what Iranians (including diplomats and legal residents) are doing in Arab countries. It's long been known that a lot of Iranian "diplomats" were actually members of the al Quds force, an organization that supports pro-Iranian terrorist activities in foreign countries. Al Quds, and other branches of the Iranian government, encourage Arab Shia Moslems to rebel against their government (especially if that government is not real friendly with, and deferential to, Iran). The Sunni minority ruling tiny Gulf state Bahrain (population under a million) believe that Iran orchestrated the current Shia Arab (the local majority) riots. Moreover, Iranian gangsters are very active on the Arab side of the Gulf, and these crooks will often do chores for the Iranian government (in return for some favors back home). Meanwhile, al Quds is not taking credit for the recent unrest in Bahrain, but is trying to keep it going. Other Arab Gulf states have sent soldiers and police into Bahrain to help control the violence, and in so doing have made it clear to Iran that Bahrain will not become another Iranian pawn (like Syria or Hezbollah controlled southern Lebanon) or client (like Hamas in Gaza).
In the last few months, the government has quietly attacked the security of electronic communications in and out of the country. The government has organized a team of hackers (Iranians and foreign mercenaries) to use various method (deep packet inspection, forged SSL certificates) to read email that users thought was encrypt or anonymous. That may explain an increase in the number of pro-reform people arrested lately. But the main goal appears to be scaring the opposition away from using the Internet.
For the last three years, a mysterious outfit, the Iranian Cyber Army, has proclaimed its willingness to hack for the rulers of Iran. While the Iranian Cyber Army is largely individual hackers inside and outside Iran, there is an official operation as well. During the same period, Iran has admitted having formed a government Cyber War organization. This outfit appears to concentrate on internal matters, and catching Iranians who are using Internet access to work against (that includes protesting) the government. One recent hack, which a 21 year old individual took credit for, briefly gave the culprit the ability to more easily examine email. This hack attack on an Internet security company was soon detected, traced back to Iran, and fixed.
The anti-tyrant uprisings sweeping the Arab world since the start of the year, have not bypassed Iranian allies. Despite being one of the most brutal police states in the world, Syria is suffering from an increasing number of anti-government demonstrations. So far, the death toll (among protestors) is only in the hundreds. In the past, Syrian dictators have killed over 10,000 of their subjects, in the name of restoring order. Pro-Iranian rulers in Lebanon and Gaza are also suffering from growing protests. Iran seems to be telling everyone to follow the Iranian example. Just start killing opponents, and keep killing until the opposition goes silent. The dead don't protest. Iran is doing more than give advice, and has sent security experts to Syria and ordered Hezbollah gunmen into Syria to help with terrorizing freedom lovers.
In Iran, more and more state owned businesses are being turned over to the Revolutionary Guard (the military and paramilitary organization composed of Islamic zealots who will kill to keep the religious dictatorship in power). The clerics apparently see this as a way to deal with the growing corruption, as the Guard's are one of the least corrupt organizations in the country. But the Guards are still corrupt, and getting more so now that they have access to all these new resources. The more corrupt and less corrupt Guard commanders are spending more time feuding with each other. These new business responsibilities have also distracted many Guard commanders from their military and police duties. As the Guard grows richer, it's ability to influence events on the street declines.
Meanwhile, violence, including beatings, imprisonments and executions, against reformers (and government opponents of all sorts) is increasing. The government is also demanding more discipline from senior officials, especially clerics. Those who display any sympathy to reformers can expect to lose their government job, and any other goodies they receive from the establishment.
March 25, 2011: In the north, two policemen were shot dead, and three other people wounded, by what are believed to be Kurdish separatists. Iran has increased its patrols along the Iraq border in the north, because on the other side is autonomous northern Iraq, and a largely Kurdish population that runs its own affairs. This includes being hospitable to Kurdish separatist organizations that are, in all other respects, illegal.
March 23, 2011: The UN is investigating Iran for violating the import sanctions against it, after shipments of specialty metals headed for Iran were interrupted in Singapore (the stuff came from North Korea) and South Korea (the illegal metals came from China). Iran denies everything, but there is a growing body of evidence that North Korea and Iran continue to illegally trade with each other.
March 20, 2011: The U.S. has indicted four Colombian men (and arrested three of them) for attempting to buy jet engines (for Iranian F-5 fighters) and export them to Iran.
Bahrain expelled an Iranian diplomat, after accusing the man of helping coordinate Iranian aid to anti-government groups in Bahrain.
March 19, 2011: Twice in the last few days, Turkey has ordered Iranian cargo aircraft to land and be searched for contraband (especially weapons headed for Syria, Hezbollah or Hamas). The first plane ordered down had no contraband, but the second one, which was supposed to be carrying used car parts, was found to have a crate of automatic rifles. The Iranians explained that the rifles were for aircraft security. The Russian built transport was carrying a crew of seven. Iranian aircraft frequently fly across Turkey on their way to Syria, and it's long been known that many of these aircraft unload, in Syria, stuff that was not declared, to Turkey, when permission to transit Turkish air space was requested.
Saudi Arabia protested to the Iranian government that attacks on Saudi diplomatic facilities in Iran had to be government organized and that this sort of thing was a violation of international law.
March 18, 2011: A senior Iranian cleric openly called on Bahraini Shia to continue their protests until the Shia majority there has overthrown their Sunni Arab king. While Shia Arabs appreciate help from Shia Iran, they remain conscious of the fact that Iranians are not Arabs (rather they are Indo-Europeans) and that Iran has dominated the region, and Arabs, for thousands of years.
March 16, 2011: West of the capital, 14 died and 33 were wounded during an unsuccessful prison breakout. The attempt was apparently organized by drug smuggling gangs, who have been at war with the government for over a decade.
March 15, 2011: Iran launched a rocket, the Kavoshgar-4, into a low (120 kilometers up) orbit, as a test of a capsule that can carry a small animal. In the next year or so, Iran plans to put an animal in orbit and, eventually, a human.
Off the coast of Israel, Israeli commandos seized control of a German transport that had been hired by Iran to take a cargo of weapons to Egypt, where the weapons would be smuggled into Gaza, for Iranian ally Hamas to use against Israel. The cargo included several Chinese C-704 anti-ship missiles.
Opposition groups called for large demonstrations in the capital today. The police showed up in force, but the demonstrators did not.
March 8, 2011: Malaysia seized two containers from a ship headed for Iran. Inspectors found equipment that could be used to help build nuclear weapons.
March 7, 2011: NATO forces checked a truck in western Iraq, and found it carrying a load of 122mm rockets, that were marked as made in Iran.