Iran: Determined, Defiant And Broke

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September 27, 2012: Oil production has shrunk to 800,000 barrels a day, a level not seen since the 1980s, during the war with Iraq (who bombed Iranian oil fields and tankers). Inflation is making items like meat, medicine, and imported goods too expensive for most Iranians. Inflation is out of control and the value of the rial (Iranian currency) against the dollar and other foreign currency continues to decline. It costs nearly three times as much to buy dollars with rials versus a year ago. Even with more currency being printed, the government cannot get everyone paid on time.

The loss of Iranian oil has not driven up oil prices. There is plenty of supply, with new sources from North America and lower demand because of worldwide recession filling in for the missing (because of sanctions that began last June) Iranian supplies (nearly two million barrels a day). Iran is seeking to sell its oil at large discounts to anyone willing to risk getting caught and punished. Iran apparently has millions of barrels of its oil sitting in tankers off Malaysia, waiting for Asian buyers to make an offer.

Angered at the growing number of (often very effective) Cyber War weapons unleashed against it, Iran has struck back with attacks on the web sites of Western corporations and banks. This is primitive stuff but apparently all Iran could muster. There are some Cyber War mercenaries available and Iran appears to have used some of these.

A government news agency, owned by a religious education group, recently publicized an attack on a cleric by two teenage girls he had criticized for not "covering up." The elderly cleric was hospitalized for three days. It was not reported if the girls were caught and punished. This new story was official recognition of a growing problem: women (and men) fighting back against lifestyle restrictions. After the story of the two rebellious girls appeared, Western reporters found many Iranians willing to recount similar incidents, including those where the women were caught, jailed, and beaten by police. This has not stopped the attacks.

More countries, especially Arab Gulf states (like the UAE) are now cooperating in blocking Iranian smuggling efforts. This is particularly the case with items meant for the Iranian nuclear program. It used to be that Iran could buy cooperation from Arab smugglers but that has suddenly become much more difficult.

September 24, 2012: The government announced the introduction of upgraded Russian anti-aircraft missile systems. The Taer-2 missiles appear to be updated SA-6s (a 1970s design), while another system (Raad) was based on the more recent Russian Buk, obtained via Syria (who bought them from Russia with Iranian cash).

September 23, 2012: The government cut access to Google and gmail. This is apparently a prelude to cutting the country off from the Internet and leaving only Iranian web sites functioning. This can work because the Internet was built to operate no matter how much of it had been shut down (by nuclear war, according to the original specifications half a century ago). Iranians will still be able to use expensive satellite communications or, near the border, cell phones to access the worldwide Internet. So forbidden news will still get in and be circulated. But the government will sharply limit the ability of Iranians to regularly communicate with people outside the country (especially the millions of Iranians living abroad). There will still be official worldwide Internet access within Iran but only with government approval and considerable restrictions.  Such "intranets" are quite common. The U.S. government and many large corporations use them for security reasons.

September 22, 2012: As the new academic year begins in Iranian universities, women are facing many more restrictions. This is all part of a government effort to reduce the growing dominance of women at universities. Currently 60 percent of university students are women and the females outperform their male counterparts. To deal with this women are now barred (in 36 of 343 universities) from 77 majors (including accounting, counseling, and engineering) and most universities will be forced to hold separate classes for men and women. The government wants fewer women in universities and is trying to persuade women to have more children. The government also wants fewer urban reform activists. Many of these are university students and more than half are women. Decades of living under a religious dictatorship has produced rising unemployment and less optimism among most Iranians. That has led to a plunging birth rate. The government is ignoring its role in all these problems, mainly because the ruling clerics see themselves as on a Mission From God.

September 21, 2012: The U.S. put sanctions on 117 Iranian transport aircraft, including two 747s that carry most of the cargo to Syria. Iran ignores this sort of thing and keeps its aircraft away from places where they might be seized. The U.S. also accuses Iraq of allowing Iranian air truck traffic, which helps supply and reinforce the remaining troops in eastern Syria. Sunni rebels have taken control of most of eastern Syria, which has always been largely Sunni.

September 18, 2012: A Kilo class submarine went back into service, after being refurbished in Iran. Russia insists that refurbishment of its subs take place in Russia but Iran thought the cost was too high and that Russia might bow to Western pressure and not return the sub. Russia did not provide any technical assistance or components to the Iranians, so it's uncertain how adequate the work was. A locally built frigate was also launched.

September 17, 2012: Iran revealed that last month someone had used explosives to cut electricity supplies to a new underground nuclear facility. Iran continues to deny that it is developing nuclear weapons or allow UN inspectors access in order to confirm that. Most Iranians believe that their country is developing nuclear weapons and that is a great thing for Iran. Officially, Iran believes some of the UN inspectors are spies and saboteurs.

September 16, 2012: Government officials admitted that members of the Quds Force have been operating in Syria. Quds is Iran's international terrorism support organization. The Quds Force supplies weapons to the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban as well as Islamic radicals in Somalia, Iraq, and elsewhere. Quds is believed to be advising Syrian forces on how to deal with the rebels, and occasionally helping with raids and interrogations. Iran is also bringing in some badly needed special weapons and equipment. Most of this is coming in by air.

The U.S. and 29 other nations began major military exercises in and around the Straits of Hormuz. This included major mine clearing operations and other exercises to ensure that all these nations could communicate and cooperate with each other if Iran tried to close the straits.

September 15, 2012: The Iranian government has increased the reward for killing British novelist Salman Rushdie by $500,000. The Iranian government first offered such a reward in 1989, because they felt a recent Rushdie novel was critical of Islam. The reward has been increased several times since then and now stands at $3.3 million. No one has ever made a serious attempt to collect the reward. The latest increase was prompted by a recent U.S. made (by a refugee from Egypt) movie many Islamic conservatives consider critical of Islam.

 

 

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