Iran is declaring its interim deal with the UN over its nuclear program as a victory. One Iranian official pointed out that Iran could reverse the effects of concessions within a month and that Iran was not really giving up anything. UN officials and many Western governments dismiss all this as Iranian efforts to improve domestic morale. The UN believes that the current agreement, which merely gives Iran some concessions ($4.2 billion in frozen funds are released and some sanctions eased) in return for agreeing to negotiate a more permanent deal, is worth it for the rest of the world. But Iranian officials are telling Iranians that there will be no permanent changes in the nuclear program and that full scale uranium enrichment could be resumed within 24 hours. Meanwhile the existing deal only allows for six months of negotiations. The way these things work the Iranians will demand more concessions to extend the negotiations after no deal is achieved within the first six months. It’s not a promising start when Iranian leaders are telling their people that the negotiations are simply a ploy to weaken the sanctions. Based on recent remarks by senior Iranian officials and their Western counterparts there are some serious differences of interpretation over the current deal and what the negotiations can, or are supposed to, achieve.
The government makes these victory statements to boost morale among the majority of Iranians who are suffering from the sanctions and will continue to suffer until, and when, the sanctions are greatly reduced. Iran is adapting to the sanctions, which have cut oil income by half and made foreign trade much more difficult in general. Western optimists believe the Iranian officials are making all these statements to placate their own hard-liners. Yet the Iranian nuclear power program (which everyone admits Iran has) and the Iranian nuclear weapons program (which Iran denies exists but most Iranians believes is real) are both very popular with most Iranians. This popularity for the nuclear weapons program is generally kept out of the Iranian media but you can hear on the street and on the Internet where Iranians can speak freely.
The UAE (United Arab Emirates) has adopted conscription in an effort to maintain its military strength, create a reserve force of trained citizens and be less dependent on mercenaries. Conscription is rare in Arabia, but the growing Iranian threat is causing many radical ideas to become acceptable.
In Iraq car bombs continue to go off in Shia neighborhoods of Baghdad. When police capture suicide bombers before they can set off their explosives they find that the bombers are usually foreigners, showing that al Qaeda in Iraq continues to attract Sunnis from other parts of the Arab world to join in the fighting against Shia Iran and its “puppet” the Shia government of Iraq. Since these foreign volunteers usually arrive with few useful skills, many are convinced to volunteer for suicide bombing missions. The foreigners often balk at attacking Sunnis, so Iraqis are used for those attacks, which usually don’t involve suicide bombers.
Going into its third year, Syria has become a proxy war between Iran and the Sunni Arab states (and their Western allies). Because of disunity and increased internal violence the rebels are losing. The pro-Iran Assad clan led government has the backing of Russia, China, North Korea, Cuba and the other usual suspects. The West does not want the expense and bother of doing another Libya (air support and special operations troops on the ground) but that is where this is headed if the West wants to avoid an Iranian/Assad victory.
Iran has executed at least 40 people so far this year and at least 625 in 2013. Unofficial deaths are more difficult to get an accurate count of. Executions have been more frequent since the new president (the kinder and “more moderate” Hassan Rouhani) took office in August 2013.
January 22, 2014: The foreign minister pointed out that the new agreement with the UN does not obligate Iran to dismantle any of its nuclear technology. This contradicts what many Western leaders are telling their people. Iran says all it will do is slow down its production of enriched uranium.
The navy announced that it has, for the first time, deployed warships (a “destroyer” and “helicopter carrier”) to the Atlantic Ocean. Iran describes these two ships as the “27th fleet” and that the two ships will stay out there for three months protecting Iranian merchant ships from pirates. In reality the “destroyer” is a 1,500 ton frigate and the “helicopter carrier” is a 33,000 ton oil tanker modified to have a helicopter landing pad and it sometimes carries three helicopters. The helicopter carrier has also been armed with a 76mm gun and tw0 twin-23mm anti-aircraft guns. The main function of the helicopter carrier is to ensure that the frigate does not run out of fuel in the middle of the ocean. This frigate can travel 9,000 kilometers on internal fuel (at 28 kilometers an hour). In other words it has to refuel every two weeks if it keeps moving while at sea.
January 20, 2014: The interim nuclear program/sanctions deal with Iran goes into effect. This means some of the sanctions will be relaxed. That means it is now legal for European tankers to transport Iranian oil to the few countries that are allowed to buy it. The UN also announced that the invitation to Iran to attend the Syria peace talks was being withdrawn because Iran refused to consider talk of a transitional government in Syria nor the removal of Basher Assad as ruler of Syria.
January 18, 2014: The UAE (United Arab Emirates) has adopted conscription in an effort to maintain its military strength, create a reserve force of trained citizens and be less dependent on mercenaries. Conscription is rare in Arabia, but the growing Iranian threat is causing many radical ideas to become acceptable.
In Yemen an Iranian diplomat was killed when he resisted a kidnapping attempt.
January 12, 2014: A state run news agency reported that the United States is run by space aliens and has been since 1945. Before that the space aliens ran the Nazi government of Germany. According to the Fars news agency story the presence of space aliens explains the unusually large amount of new technology the Nazis developed until 1945 and the U.S. after 1945.
January 10, 2014: The Russian government is negotiating a trade deal that will help Iran get around the international banking sanctions. To do this Russia will sell Iran goods in exchange for oil, instead of cash. Russia will then mix this oil in with its own and dare the world to refuse it as illegal Iranian oil. This could get interesting because oil can be identified according to its chemical characteristic that makes it possible to know which country, or even well, it came from. In effect, Russia is daring the world to try and stop it from helping Iran beat the sanctions. Russia has much to gain because of its close cooperation with Iran. For one thing, Iran has an excellent intel network in the Moslem world and apparently shares terrorist related items with Russia. Nearly all the Islamic terrorist activity against Russia is by Sunni groups, who also target Iran when they have a chance. Sunni Islamic radicals consider Shia heretics and worthy only of death. Russia also expects to have a good trade relationship with Iran once the current embargo is lifted. Then again that might not happen if the Iranian religious dictatorship falls and the new Iranian government is understandably hostile to those countries that helped keep the clerics in power. Iran officially denies this barter deal exists but Iran has long denied deals like that with Russia and China, and such deals tended to eventually be revealed as real.
January 9, 2014: Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei publicly spoke of how negotiations with the West regarding Iran's nuclear program are really part of a plan to stall or reverse international efforts to halt Iranian nuclear programs. While Iran is technically a democracy, the constitution gives the supreme religious leader (currently Ayatollah Khamenei) veto power over anything the parliament or government officials do.
An Iranian born man (Mozaffar Khazaee) who is an engineer and an American citizen, was arrested after he was caught trying to ship tech manuals for the F-35 back to Iran. The F-35 material was hidden among household goods being shipped from the U.S. to Iran. Khazaee was arrested as he tried to board a flight from the U.S. to Iran (via Germany) and was charged with espionage. Khazaee was 59 and had worked for several American defense contractors.
January 8, 2014:
A retired Israeli diplomat recently revealed that Israel had quietly tracked down and killed most of the Iranians or Iranian operatives involved in two terrorist attacks against Jews in Argentina in 1992 and 1994. The Israeli overseas intel and special operations organization (Mossad) has handled assignments like this for decades, even though some of the Israelis involved in these operations eventually go public. The two Argentine bombings killed 114 and wounded over 200. Most of the victims were not Jews but nearly all were Argentinians. Israel often quietly goes after those behind attacks like this and kills them. There is rarely any official admission of this activity or the results. But the terrorists do take notice, even though the government again denied that it did this sort of thing.
January 6, 2014: A senior cleric and member of parliament (Mohammed Nabavian) announced (in a speech at a conference for government political workers) that Iran needed a nuclear weapon to deal with Israel and that Iran would have such a weapon within two weeks of producing enough highly-enriched uranium.
January 5, 2014: A senior Iranian general openly announced that Iran was willing to supply Iraq with weapons if it needed them in its current fight with Sunni Islamic terrorists in western Iraq (Anbar). The general pointed out that Iraq had not requested such assistance yet.
Iran recently reported that it had cleared 60 percent of the mines planted during the 1980s war with Iraq. But there are still 16 million mines along the Iraq border and these cause over 300 casualties a year, even though the general location of the minefields is well known and many of these mines are in thinly populated areas. Iran is in the process of recruiting more mine clearing technicians to increase the rate at which all the old mines on the Iraqi border can be finally eliminated.