Iran: Ahmadinejad In The Crosshairs

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September 24, 2011: Negotiations have begun with Russia, to build another nuclear power plant. The first one, at Bushehr, only went online last month. Seven months ago, the government admitted that it was unloading nuclear fuel from the recently completed Bushehr plant, and had again delayed the opening. It was believed that the Stuxnet computer worm had done some damage at Bushehr, but the Iranians said the move was made for safety reasons, because of poor construction of the power plant. The Russian designed plant was supposed to be operational two years ago. That was delayed several times, in each case Russian technical advisors are saying that there might be more delays. Government officials kept complaining to the Russians, with no apparent effect. Russians who worked at Bushehr complained of sloppy work by Iranians and a nuclear power facility that is fundamentally unsafe. Perhaps because of this, the government recently announced that 4,000 civilians living near the Bushehr plant would be relocated, at a cost of $10 million. Work on Bushehr began in 1974, but was interrupted by the 1979 revolution and did not resume until 1992, when the Russians took over from a German firm. Meanwhile, there is still no progress in getting Iran to stop developing nuclear weapons. Iranian officials are openly accusing Israel of assassinating their nuclear scientists.

September 22, 2011: At a parade in the capital, commemorating the 31st anniversary of the start of the war with Iraq, long range ballistic missiles were displayed. These included the Shahab 3. This is one weapon the Iranians have put a lot of money and effort into, and recently extended its range from 1,800 to 2,000, which puts all of Israel within range, even if fired from deep inside Iran. Chemical warheads (with nerve gas) are thought to be available for these missiles. But Israel has threatened to reply with nuclear weapons if the Iranians attack this way. Iran would probably get the worst of such an exchange, and the Iranians are aware of this.

Also displayed was the solid-fuel Sejil II, also with a 2,000 kilometer range. Iran is known to be working towards a longer range missile that can reach Europe. Iran has been testing solid fuel missiles like Sejil II for over four years, and has only had them in service for the last two. The big question is, who did they get the solid fuel manufacturing technology from? There are many potential vendors (North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, China, or even stolen from the West). China, it appears, is the most likely donor. Iran has been manufacturing solid fuel for smaller rockets for over a decade, but had not yet developed the technology to build larger, and reliable, solid fuel rocket motors.

The Shahab 3/Sejil II missiles are basically 1960s technology, with the addition of GPS guidance. Russian and North Korean missile technology has been obtained to make these missiles work. This has resulted in missile designs that apparently will function properly about 80 percent of the time, and deliver a warhead of about one ton, to a range of at least 2,000 kilometers, to within a hundred meters of where it was aimed. By current standards, this is a pretty effective weapon.

September 21, 2011: The Revolutionary Guard said it had cleared its northwestern border area of PJAK Kurdish separatist rebels. For the last two months, Revolutionary Guard troops have been operating on both sides of the Iraq border, seeking out and destroying PJAK bases. But Iran admits that many PJAK fighters escaped into the hills. PJAK, which has been active since 2004, is supposed to have several thousand armed members.

A growing number of Internet security experts are accusing Iran of using its own hackers, or hiring mercenaries, to break Internet security so that the Iranian secret police can eavesdrop on the Internet communications of Iranians.

Iran continues to support pro-democracy activists in Bahrain (an island kingdom on the west coast of the Persian Gulf), even while suppressing similar activism in Iran. The hypocrisy of this is not lost on many Iranians, or Bahrainis (where the majority Shia Arabs are ruled by a Sunni Arab king.)

September 18, 2011: The Revolutionary Guard said it had finally captured the main base of Kurdish separatist rebels (PJAK) in the northwest. Iran claims that PJAK and the PKK (Turkish Kurdish separatist) receive money and weapons from the United States, but no proof has ever been shown.

The government announced that 22 men were hanged, outside the capital, for drug smuggling. Opium and heroin continue to be a major problem, with the number of addicts continuing to grow. There has been a low-level war on the Afghan border for a decade, in an attempt to stop the drugs from getting in.

The government announced that, for the last few years, a gigantic bank fraud had been carried out, with $2.6 billion stolen. So far, 19 men have been arrested. The government insisted that 99 percent of the money was still within the country and would be recovered.  Corruption is a major, and growing, problem in Iran. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad got elected partly on his past record of fighting corruption. This made him very unpopular with many senior clerics (who rule the country, and are very corrupt). Now there are apparently attempts to connect Ahmadinejad, or some close aides, to this bank scandal. Many clerics want Ahmadinejad gone. While Ahmadinejad said the right things about foreigners (especially Israel and the United States), he was too dangerous to real crooks within Iran.

September 14, 2011: Afghanistan accused Iranian troops of having crossed the border and attacked Afghan border guards. Afghanistan says this has happened before and accuses Iran of trying to establish a base on the Afghan side of the border.

September 10, 2011: In the northwest, three members of PJAK were killed by soldiers patrolling the border. Ten PJAK members have also been arrested recently, including two leaders. An Iranian general was also killed in the fighting.

 

 

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