January 20, 2012:
Iranian threats to close the Straits of Hormuz are believed to be just for show. Iran only hurts itself by trying to close the straits while Iran oil is still being shipped to customers. The attempt to close the straits would also probably fail, and cause widespread destruction of Iranian military forces and economic assets.
Currently, China appears willing to continue buying Iranian oil, although at a substantial discount, especially if China is the only buyer. China is Iran's biggest customer for oil but only gets 11 percent of its oil from Iran. So Iran needs China more than China needs Iran. China is already demanding lower prices and better terms from Iran, which annoys the Iranians a great deal.
The latest round of sanctions are doing more damage to Iran, but only in terms of driving up costs for the government and some shortages and higher prices for most Iranians. Many Iranians are already unhappy with their government, but only a complete halt in oil income (via war or closure of the straits) would really shake things up inside Iran. At the same time, the Iranian nuclear weapons program (which the government insists does not exist) is very popular with most Iranians (who do believe it exists).
When yet another scientist working on nuclear weapons was killed recently, the government promptly accused the usual suspects (Israel and the U.S.). For some time, there have been reports of Israeli Mossad agents recruiting Iranian Kurds, who have fled to northern (Kurdish controlled) Iraq and formed an intelligence and assassination network in Iran. Israel has long been an ally of the Iraqi Kurds, who shared a hatred of Saddam Hussein. Because of that support (which has included military equipment and advisors), Israel has been given a lot of latitude in setting up espionage operations, especially against Iran, in Kurdish controlled northern Iraq. Kurds have long had a hostile relationship with Iran, and supporting Mossad terror attacks inside Iran will, for the Kurds, not make things much worse.
The U.S. believes that the increasing use of sanctions will eventually persuade Iran to drop its nuclear weapons program. Israeli officials are quite vocal in criticizing this view, pointing out that Iran is a police state and sanctions, so far, have inflicted gradual economic damage that the Iranians have been able to cope with. For this reason, Israel is always the prime suspect whenever there's a problem with the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Although Israel has been reported ready to launch a major air raid on Iranian nuclear facilities, Israelis also point out that the general popularity of that program inside Iran would simply make the religious dictatorship popular for a while if there were overt attacks with bombs or missiles.
Iran has also threatened Arab nations who would increase oil production to make up for Iranian oil that could not find a customer. Iran has also threatened retaliation to nations that refuse to buy Iranian oil because of sanctions. Iran seems to have an inexhaustible supply of threats.
The U.S. has confirmed allegations that Iran is helping Syria break sanctions against selling oil.
January 19, 2012: The U.S. has sent a second aircraft carrier task force to the Persian Gulf area. Earlier in the month Iran warned that there would be serious consequences if the U.S. sent any carriers to the Gulf area. Iran did nothing when these two carriers subsequently showed up.
January 18, 2012: For the third time in ten days an American warship went to the aid of an Iranian fishing boat in distress. The first time this happened there were public thanks from the Iranian government. But internal reporting of the rescue cast it in a more sinister light. Same with the second two rescues.
January 16, 2012: The government announced it had made arrests on the January 11th assassination of a nuclear weapons scientist. No more information was released.
January 15, 2012: A leader of the Quds force (pro-terrorism commandos) said that Iran would send military aid to Syria if there was foreign intervention on the side of the pro-democracy forces. Iran has backed the Shia dictatorship in Sunni-majority Syria since the 1980s. At the same time, Iran threatened retaliation against European nations that go along with the latest sanctions and stop buying Iranian oil.
January 14, 2012:
Three Iranian soldiers, arrested after they pursued a Pakistani man into Pakistan on January 1st, were released from a Pakistani prison and allowed to return to Iran. The three were fined $100 each for illegal entry into Pakistan.
January 12, 2012:
Arab satellite media outlets, like al Jazeera, revealed that two satellite jamming stations in Iran are jamming Arab satellite news signals in Iran. The government there does not want their people to see the success of the opposition in Syria, and be encouraged to do the same.
January 11, 2012: Another scientist associated with Iran's nuclear weapons program was killed, this time using a bomb attached to his car, as the two assassins on a motorcycle sped away.
January 10, 2012: Turkey halted and seized four trucks coming from Iran as they sought to cross the border into Syria. Turkey had received information that the trucks contained military equipment. Turkey supports the pro-democracy rebels in Syria and the weapons embargo placed on Syria.
January 9, 2012: Iran announced that it has begun uranium enrichment at a new underground facility. This location was built to resist bombs and missiles.
The government announced that an Iranian-American who had come to Iran to visit his grandmother had been convicted of espionage and condemned to death. Foreign governments are increasingly warning their citizens, especially those of Iranian birth or ancestry, to stay out of Iran. There, the government has a history of arresting such visitors and prosecuting them for espionage. Most, if not all, of the accused have been innocent. Iran usually releases those arrested for a large sum of cash, or the release of an Iranian agent in a foreign prison.
January 8, 2012: Large ground force exercises take place on the Afghan border. This area has been a battlefield for two decades, as Iran seeks to halt the movement of Afghan opium and heroin into (for several million local addicts) and through (for Middle Eastern and European addicts) Iran.