The May elections were decided by the religious dictatorship, not the will of the Iranian people. The new president and at least half the senior officials are known supporters of Islamic terrorists and many are recognized as supporters or practitioners of terrorism against Iranians and foreigners. The decision to install such a government has consequences and one of them is a hardline approach to negotiations over Iranian nuclear weapons development and the economic sanctions placed on Iran because of the nukes. The new Iranian government ordered its negotiators to make demands that even the most pro-Iran Western officials could not accept. Initially the new Iranian negotiators made it clear that Iran wants all sanctions lifted before any serious, and probably unsuccessful, negotiations over ending the Iranian nuclear weapons program can take place. This attitude has not changed since May. Iran still has the support of China, which became more important in August when the Taliban overthrew the elected government. China and Iran share a similar attitude to Islamic terrorist threats. More importantly, China does not see Iranian nukes as a problem because Iran understands that China has no qualms about using extreme (even nuclear) violence against any threats by a nuclear armed Iran. China is telling Iran that China can be their best friend or worst enemy. So far Iran is playing nice towards China because that makes it easier to pressure European countries into lifting sanctions despite Iran continuing with its nuclear problem. This Chinese support has caused nearly all Western nations to adopt a “no concessions” attitude. That means assent to Israeli air strikes against Iranian nuclear weapons facilities.
Nine days ago, the Iranian situation got worse when an Iran educated Iraqi religious leader, Muqtada al Sadr, won control of the Iraqi parliament in the national elections. Sadr is hostile to Iranian influence in Iraq, especially the way Iran exploits the Iraqi corruption to maintain Iranian influence in Iraq. Pro-Iran Iraqis, who want Iraq to have a government like Iran’s, insisted the October 10 elections were fraudulent. Corruption is usually a factor in Iraqi elections, with voters or voting officials bribed or threatened in order to favor a particular candidate. The only reliable antidote to that is to compare opinion polls taken before the vote with the outcome of the vote. The polls have remained relatively corruption-free and this time they showed the vote following what the polls were saying; the reform coalitions, especially the dominant Sadr faction, would win.
There Are Other Problems
In the north Iran rattled sabers towards Azerbaijan, which it accused of supporting Israeli operations against Iran. The Azeris responded by holding joint military operations with Turkey, accepting Russian support and continuing to spend money on Israeli weapons while also buying Turkish weapons and encouraging competition between Israel and the Turks in that area. Azerbaijan considers themselves “free Azeri Turks” compared to the majority of Azeri Turks who still live under Persian (Iranian) Rule. Azeris are a quarter of the Iranian population and long accepted as peers. The failures of the religious dictatorship over the last four decades and have made more Iranian Azeris drawn to the long-deferred dream of all Azeris living in one Azeri nation. Turkey encourages that and Russia will tolerate it. Azerbaijan has oil wealth and has been free from the Soviet Union since 1991, proving that a modern Azeri state can successfully exist. Iranian history shows that making threats against well-armed and well-prepared Turks does not work out well for Iran, which lost Azerbaijan to Russia over a century ago. Now those former “Russians” are free and flourishing, something that does not sit well with Iran. Turkey recently discovered and arrested all eight members of an Iranian kidnapping/assassination operation in eastern Turkey, about a hundred kilometers from the Iranian border. Tw0 of those arrested were Iranians, the rest locals. The group was planning to kidnap a former Iranian soldier who was living in the area. Iran considered the man a deserter and traitor who should stand trial in Iran before being killed. The next mission for these Iranian agents was to collect more information on Turkish military and intelligence capabilities in the area.
In Yemen Iran had ordered its Shia rebels to stand fast, even though the Yemeni Shia rebels are losing the war. Saudi Arabia proposes that Iran resume diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia and try to work something out so the Yemeni civil war will end. Currently the Saudis cannot withdraw their forces from Yemen until the Iranian presence is gone along with all the ballistic and cruise missiles Iran smuggles in to be used for attacks on Saudi Arabia. Iran uses the same negotiating tactics against the Saudis that they have been using against the Americans and Europeans, with the same results.
In Lebanon, most Lebanese (the 70 percent who are not Shia) are in open and armed revolt against the Iran-backed Hezbollah power in Lebanon. Hezbollah members are no longer eager to serve their Iranian sponsors in doing whatever Iran wants.
Inside Iran the economy is a growing threat to the government.
GDP has been tanking since sanctions were revived in 2017. Inflation was 30 percent a year ago and getting worse. The unemployment rate is twelve percent but the underemployment rate, because of firms shut down by quarantines, is much higher. Over half the population is visibly living below the poverty line, even though the official poverty rate is about 40 percent. For more than a year a growing number of senior officials expressed fear this will spark another round of violent anti-government protests. Even government-controlled media is openly discussing this prospect, along with warnings that the new government would suppress such promptly and violently.
The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan has caused illegal immigration from Afghanistan to grow dramatically with most Afghans using people smugglers, who keep track of where security is weakest along the 921-kilometer border Iranian border. Iran is not tolerating more Afghans settling down in Iran and few Afghans want to do so anyway. Iran expected to deal with these refugees by not blocking their access to the 534 kilometers border with Turkey. That did not work because the Turks do not want Afghan illegal refugees either and have ordered border guards and police near the border to use force to get Afghan refugees back into Iran. Inside Afghanistan the Taliban have returned to their anti-Shia violence. The Taliban had assured Iran that this would not happen but like so many other Taliban promises this one was also quickly abandoned.
October 16, 2021:
In southern Syria (Golan Heights) an Israeli sniper killed Midhat as Saleh, a Syrian Druze politician who was working for Iran in southern Syria to establish an Iranian military presence on the Israeli border. Saleh was born in the Israeli Golan Heights and was jailed several times for anti-Israel activities. After getting out of jail he moved to the Syrian side of the border and went to work for the Assad government, a position he held until his death. Syrian and Israeli Druze have become more pro-Israel over the last decade and Saleh was one of pro-Assad Druze trying to change that by any means necessary.
October 15, 2021: Off the south Yemen coast, in the Gulf of Aden, an Iranian warship, the 1,500-ton corvette Alborz, reported that it fought five speed boats armed with machine-guns and other weapons that were attacking an Iranian tanker. The 50-year-old Alborz was built in Britain in the late 1960s for Iran and kept in service by the religious dictatorship since then with frequent refurbishments and little time at sea. In August Alborz, described as a destroyer, was sent to the Gulf of Aden to protect Iranian merchant ships.
October 14, 2021: Iran is reviving its accusations that northern neighbor Azerbaijan is cooperating with Turkey and Israel to launch covert attacks against Iran. This is an old accusation that is being revived in part because Turkey and Israel have been working on improving their diplomatic, economic and military relationships. At the same time the Turks have been increasingly hostile to Iran and that includes ignoring Iranian requests during the recent war between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Turkey sent advisors, armed UAVs and Syrian mercenaries to help the Azeris score their first victory over Armenia in a three-decade long territorial feud. Iran was also unhappy with the fact that the Azeris gave credit to the many Israeli weapons they had purchased over the last decade. This included the Israeli Barak 8 anti-aircraft system which intercepted several Russian ballistic missiles fired at Azerbaijan by the Armenians. Iran is also angry about how its campaign in Syria is proceeding and how unhelpful, or even hostile, their allies Turkey and Russia have been.
Turkey, Iran and Azerbaijan have other reasons to prefer dealing with Israel rather than Iran.
About a quarter of Iran's population is Azeri Turk. Two centuries ago Russia and Iran ended up dividing control of Azeri population in the area. For a while after World War I, and after 1991 (dissolution of the Soviet Union), the Russian Azeris were independent. While the Iranian Azeris are generally loyal to Iran, they are still Turks and many speak a different language than the ethnic Iranians. Seeing Azerbaijan allying itself with Israel, for whatever reason, does not sit well with Iran. But there's not a lot Iran can do about it. Iran was not able to provide the weapons or other military assistance the Azeris needed to overcome the Armenians, so the Israelis were called in, and later Turkey as well. The Azeris have proved to be good allies. They have detected and destroyed Iran sponsored terrorism efforts, like one that was planning to attack Israelis in Azerbaijan. Iran was believed behind this plot, and Azerbaijan did not appreciate it. Azerbaijan has bought several billion dollars’ worth of Israeli weapons over the last fifteen years.
Christian Armenia and Moslem Azerbaijan both belonged to the Soviet Union until 1991.Russia has managed to maintain good relations with both countries since they left the Soviet Union and those good relations survived the recent war between the 2020 Azerbaijan-Armenia war. Another casualty of that war was any good will left between Iran and Azerbaijan.
Since 2018 Israel and Russia have been trying to negotiate a deal to prevent a war between Iran and Israel over Iranian plans to establish bases in Syria and organize anti-Israeli forces for a final battle with Israel. For Israel any long-term Iranian presence in Syria is intolerable. Russia believed it could work out such a deal but many Israelis were skeptical and Iran declared that such a deal was not possible. When it comes to opposing Iran, Israel always had some very public backing from Russia even though this put Russia at odds with their two other allies in Syria. The Russians see the Israelis as a more powerful and reliable ally than the Turks or Iranians. Russia is also backing the Kurds in Syria and that is causing problems with Turkey. Despite their problems with Russia, Turkey does agree with Russia on the need to improve relations with Israel, even if it comes at the expense of Iran.
In Gaza the Iranian support for Hamas is cited by Egyptian negotiators as the main reason Hamas is not serious in their renewed efforts to negotiate a ceasefire. At the same time Iran has transferred more Hamas personnel to join a new effort to carry out terror attacks inside Israel as well as recruit a larger force to carry out larger attacks on Israel. Iran no longer trusts Hezbollah with those tasks because Hezbollah has major problems most Lebanese over all the problems they have caused in Lebanon since Hezbollah became an extension of the Iranian al Quds force in the 1980s. Quds supports pro-Iran Islamic terrorists in foreign countries. Al Quds considers Hezbollah their greatest success but more and more Lebanese, Syrians and other Arabs in the region see Quds and Hezbollah as a deadly curse created by Iran. Over a hundred-thousand Palestinians settled in Lebanon after the creation of Israel in 1948 and proved to be more of a problem than Israel ever was. Palestinian violence was one reason for the fifteen-year long 1975-90 Lebanese civil war and most of them were expelled from Lebanon by the end of the civil war.
Neighboring Jordan suffered similar problems. Currently most Jordanians consider themselves Palestinian, or at least descended from Palestinian refugees. While the Palestinian majority may not like the monarchy, they know that the Bedouins, who have lived in the area for centuries, would respond violently to any uprising against a Bedouin king. That has happened often enough since the 1960s to convince most Jordanians that, while you can shout nasty things at the king, don't take a shot at him. That said, the current king of Jordan, and his late father, went out of their way to be nice to their Palestinian citizens, if there was no violence against the government. The occasional violation of this understanding is met with a swift and sometimes violent response. Nevertheless, Jordan has long had to be careful with how it deals with the Palestinians. In 1970, the government expelled over 20,000 thousand Palestinian militants and their supporters, who sought to overthrow the monarchy. This event came to be known by Palestinians as "Black September". Thousands of the militants were killed. In 2001, the Hamas leadership was ordered to leave, for security reasons. Hamas efforts to revive anti-Israel terror operations in Jordan have failed so often that Iran is seen as the last place Palestinian, or any other kind of Islamic terrorist, can set up operations.
October 13, 2021:
In central Syria (Homs province) Israeli airstrikes hit the T4 airbase
for the second time this week. The targets were the same’ Iranian training areas and weapons warehouses. One Syrian soldier was killed and four wounded. The attacks were launched from jets flying over the area where the borders of Iraqi, Syria and Jordan meet. Air-to-surface missiles are used and some are intercepted by Syrian S-200 SAMs (Surface-to-Air missiles) that have less success against Israeli fighters that are equipped with countermeasures and pilots who know how to avoid the SAMs.
The T4 airbase, hear the ancient ruins of
Palmyra, has been hit at least three times a year since 2018. T4 is the largest airbase in Syria and Iran has constantly built new structures for storing weapons and housing personnel, usually to replace buildings destroyed by the air strikes. T4 is where Iran moved its UAV operations in 2018 after its original UAV base in Syria was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike.
October 10, 2021: Neighbor Iraq held national elections that made Muqtada al Sadr, a senior Iraqi Shia cleric, the leader of a parliamentary coalition that is anti-Iran, anti-corruption and wants all foreign troops out of Iraq. That’s fine with most American, who left in 2011 and were asked to return in 2014 as ISIL took control of a third of Iraq. Sadr and the Americans also agree that it was the epic levels of Iraqi corruption that made 2014 possible. If Sadr can make a serious dent in the corruption, especially inside the military, the Americans are eager to go. When asked to return in 2014 the American came back in smaller numbers and were mainly involved with training and advising Iraqi troops. The Americans, and Iraq, also depended on the support of the autonomous Kurds in the north, who have always had the best troops and it was Kurds and Iraqi special operations troops who took the lead in driving ISIL out of Mosul and the rest of Iraq. Sadr does not like the Kurds, who are largely Sunni Moslems or Islamic sects most Moslems consider heretical. Despite that Sadr is more willing to cooperate with the Kurds because they are one Sunni group that do not all Shia their enemy.
October 5, 2021: Iran told northern neighbor Azerbaijan that Azeri military transports could no longer use Iranian air space for transit flights. These flights are mainly to Nakhchivan, an isolated Azeri exclave surrounded by Armenia, Iran, and Turkey. This does not make it impossible to supply Nakhchivan, just more expensive.
October 1, 2021: Iran began large-scale military exercises on its northern border with Azerbaijan. This was supposed to intimidate the Azeris but it didn’t.
The number of Afghans fleeing to Iran is increasing and many of them are Afghan Shia who offer personal accounts of how the Taliban attacks on Afghan Shia have resumed. Iran has kept its criticisms of the Taliban misrule private so far. But the renewed violence against Afghan Shia and collapse of the Afghan economy have put the Iranian support for the Taliban IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) government in danger.
September 29, 2021: American efforts to increase cooperation between Arab nations and Israel triggered a major Iranian reaction in Iraq. Iran does not, under any circumstances, want Israel to be allies with more Arab states. This began six days ago when an unexpected peace conference was held in the autonomous Kurdish north, where some prominent Iraqis openly called for Iraq to join the growing number of Moslem states that are ending over 70 years of hostility towards Israel and establishing diplomatic relations. This effort, called the Abraham Accords, became official in mid-2020 after several years of unofficial negotiations. This came after decades of unofficial diplomatic, intelligence and economic relationships between Israel and the UAE (United Arab Emirates), Morocco and other Arab states that were officially at war with Israel.
The UAE has been, for centuries, an international trading center and had contacts with most nations and a lot of rebel groups as well as major corrupt foreigners and international criminal gangs. The UAE has been the most successful Arab oil state in developing an economy that can replace the oil income when it is gone. What really prompted the recent willingness to have Israel as an ally rather than an enemy was the growing threat from Iran. The Americans pointed out
that the most successful weapons against the Iranian threat, especially missiles and UAVs, were developed and used by Israel, which has always been willing to cooperate on mutual-defense matters with other nations in the region. The UAE always recognized this, often quite openly and was the first to accept the
Abraham Accords. O
ther Arab states followed and a growing number of Moslem majority nations are at least considering doing the same.
For Moslem states in the Middle East, Israel is recognized as the most technically advanced country in the region and a primary target for Iranian aggression. Israel has also been the most successful at fighting back against Iran. This is popular in Arab countries, as is the Iranian inability to retaliate against Israel. Not only that but Israel, although majority Jewish, has a population where the majority is quite literally Arab, or Semitic. When founded in the late 1940s, over half the population consisted of local Semites, either Jews forced out of Arab countries where they had lived for over a thousand years, or Arabs who did not flee the newly created Israel when surrounding Arab nations declared war on Israel and told Arabs living there to leave until Arab armies could wipe out the Jews. That never happened and it took four failed attempts to convince Arab nations that the Israelis could not be defeated militarily. Today 20 percent of Israelis are descendants of Arabs who did not leave after Israel was founded. Most are Moslem, with the remainder Christian or Islamic sects consider heretical. The Jews whose ancestors came from other Arab states in the 1940s and 50s were later joined by more European, American and Russian Jews. There were few new arrivals from Moslem nations because nearly all the Jews had been expelled in the late 1940s. Many Israelis still resemble their ancient ancestors who were identical to their Semitic neighbors and spoke Aramaic, an ancient Semitic language that appeared in Syria a few centuries before Hebrew showed up.
History, as defined by appearance and language, is still important in the Middle East, less so in Europe and least of all in the U.S. and other former English-speaking colonies. The Abraham Accords are based on the shared history and culture of Semitic speakers, not which religion they adopted. The Jews expelled from Moslem countries in the 1940s still remember that their families had always lived among fellow Semites and now more Arabs are recognizing that as well.
The September 24 conference was later condemned by the Iraqi Shia dominated federal government. Iran still has a lot of influence in Iraq, mainly because of the common Shia Islamic religion. It does not go unnoticed in Iraq that the ancient Arab minority in Iran has always been poorly treated by its Indo-European majority. Therefore, Iran is losing its influence among Arab Shia in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. Iran demanded that the Iraqi government punish those attending the conference. There were efforts to do that but as with similar Iranian demands, those who attended the Erbil conference believe they had more supporters in Iraq and Iran than the current Iranian religious dictatorship of Iran does.
September 27, 2021: The EU (European Union) and UN revealed a joint project that will clear 80,000 land mines along Iran-Turkey. The project will begin with demining a 400-hectare (1,000 acre) area.
September 26, 2021: In Iran there were several explosions at a ballistic missile factory outside Tehran. Commercial satellite photos showed extensive damage to one of the large buildings. There were some dead and wounded. There have been explosions in facilities like this outside Tehran. One in 2011 was blamed on mishandling explosives. Israel did not take credit for either of these explosions but Iran noted that similar incidents inside Iran that Israel did take credit for were often made to look like accidents.
September 22, 2021: In Syria Iran is being criticized by just about everyone for being the main obstacle to peace. The current civil war has been going on since 2011 and Iran is determined to keep Syria a war zone until they can use their “Syrian Front” part of a successful attack that will destroy archenemy Israel. In the 1980s, the new government in Iran, which emerged from the 1979 revolution that ousted the monarchy, quickly evolved into a religious dictatorship and declared itself the protector of Shia throughout the region. Most of these Shia were persecuted religious minorities in Sunni dominated nations. Two exceptions were Syria and Lebanon. In Syria the ruthless and resourceful Shia Assad clan had managed to take control of the government despite the Sunni majority population. During the 1980s Iraq and Iran fought an eight-year war after an Iraqi surprise attack sought to grab oil-rich Iranian territory near the border where most of the locals were Arabs. Iran was still suffering from the aftereffects of their revolution and Iraq thought they had a rare opportunity here. Most Iraqis are Shia Arabs but the government was dominated by a ruthless Sunni minority (20 percent of the population) , now led by Saddam Hussein. The Sunni majority nations in the Persian Gulf area, especially the ones that controlled most of the region’s oil wealth, rallied to the support of Iraq, which was now the “Defender of True Islam” against the Iranians, who in addition to being Shia, weren’t Arab either, but Indo-Europeans, like those heathen Indians and Europeans.
Assad rule of Syria was assured when they became allies with Iran. This move included support for the Shia minority in neighboring Lebanon, where a civil war between Sunni, Shia and Christians had been going on since 1975, and didn’t end until 1990. The Shia were about a third of the population but taking a beating. Iran supplied cash, weapons and military trainers and advisors. The result of this was the Hezbollah militia, which came to control southern Lebanon and the Israeli border. While this Iranian intervention was good for the Shia, it was bad for the non-Shia majorities in Syria and Lebanon. The Iranians also supported the revival of “Greater Syria” which included Lebanon as well as chunks of Jordan, Israel and Turkey. ISIL calls Greater Syria the “Levant”. This is the only thing ISIL and Iran agree on. Beyond that, the Iranian influence is seen as a malign presence in the Levant.
The latest example of this is the fact that Iran has major, and expensive, problems in Syria, Iraq, Gaza, Lebanon and Yemen. All these Iranian trouble spots are managed by the Iranian Quds Force as part of its ongoing wars against Israel and Saudi Arabia. None of these conflicts are doing well for Iran, which provides some comfort for the people in Syria, now being torn apart by its own endless civil war. The most damage to Iran is occurring in Syria. The core problem is that if Sunni Islamic terrorists remain in northwest Syria (Idlib province), while ISIL is active in eastern Syria and Iranians near the Israeli border, there will be no peace and rebuilding. While the Islamic terrorist and the Iranian presence persists, the Syrian civil war will not be over. Officially, Iran needs this civil war to end so they can concentrate on Israel. The key role of Iran in Syria has been noted and no one, not even Iranian allies, are cooperating with Iran. The only ones who cannot walk away from this are the Syrian Assad government, Turkey and Israel.
Syria has been at war with Israel from the beginning, when modern Syria was created in 1946 and Israel in 1948. Israel would like to make peace with Syria but will settle for a quiet border. Russia depicts itself as an old (since the 1950s) Syrian ally interested only in peace and prosperity for Syria. Russia has treaties with Syria justifying their presence. That leaves Iran as the real interloper and troublemaker. Dealing with Iran has been a headache for Turkey and Russia for centuries while the Arabs have several thousand years of bad memories created by Iran. In other words, Iran is difficult to deal with, something everyone can agree on. That is a common problem, not an incentive to violently gang up on Iran. Yet there is an unofficial anti-Iran coalition in Syria, with Israel, Russia, Turkey and the Assad Syrian government as active members. Israel is doing most of the fighting and hurts Iran in a major way. Russia, Turkey and Syria sympathize with their “ally” Iran but do little beyond that and Iran does not like this sort of thing because it is straight out of the ancient Iranian/Persian playbook. The Syrian mess makes Iran, and especially the Quds Force, look bad to Iranian supporters in Iraq (Shia radicals on the Iranian payroll), Yemen (more Shia rebels), Lebanon (Hezbollah) and Gaza (Sunni Hamas).
September 19, 2021:
In northern Iraq (Sulaimani Province) Iran took credit for using cruise missiles to hit four Iranian rebel camps on the Iraqi side of the border. The nearby Mount Azmar area is a favorite with groups from Iran to remain hidden on the Iraq side of the border.
September 18, 2021: Israel announced that it was not attacking Iranian tankers delivering oil products to Syria because most of it is sent to Lebanon where Iran is blamed for the collapse of the economy and inability of the Lebanese government to pay for oil imports. Technically some of these tankers are owned by members of Hezbollah and some of the recent shipments went directly to Lebanon. Shipments were sent to Syria because Iran was trying to revive Hezbollah power in Lebanon by sending several illegal oil shipments to Syria rather than Lebanon because Syria is already under sanctions and Lebanon is not, at least not yet. Iran hopes to change that, in order to make Lebanon easier to control because Hezbollah already controls many of the black market and outlaw enterprises in Lebanon. Iranian interference in Lebanon did help achieve a negotiated end to the 1975-90 civil war. This involved Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states, cooperating with Iran. This settlement came with a catch that meant the civil war had not ended but just paused while Iran expanded Hezbollah power via cash and weapons. Hezbollah soon became a state within a state by controlling large portions of southern Lebanon and acquiring veto power over the elected Lebanese government. Iran also acquired Syria as an ally in the 1980s and got away with having Syrian troops part of the peacekeeper force that occupied much of Lebanon to prevent the civil war from restarting. Most Lebanese saw the Syrian troops as an occupation force that was there to protect black market and drug smuggling operations that enriched Hezbollah and Syria at the expense of Lebanese. Over the decades the Lebanese government sought to reduce the Iranian influence and illegal Hezbollah control of the south. Iran helped Hezbollah exploit the complex and often corrupt factional politics of Lebanon, which had a population where no one was a majority. Christians were the majority after World War II but that changed as Palestinians moved in as refugees and formed armed militias that became a threat to Lebanese as well as Israel, which until the last decade was generally considered the enemy by most Moslems in the region.
The non-Shia majority in Lebanon realize that the fuel shipments to Lebanon are not “free” but do fill an immediate need because the Lebanese currency is worthless and the economy unable to function. With control of the black market for fuel, Hezbollah and Iran can expand their power, as they did in Syria until 2011 when the non-Shia majority rebelled.
Because of all this
Iran cannot call on Hezbollah to carry out any sort of major military operation against Israel. First, Hezbollah must deal with local problems because most Lebanese want Hezbollah gone and getting Lebanon involved in another war with Israel might see Hezbollah fighting Israel and Lebanese at the same time. Iran wants to destroy one enemy at a time. Iran hopes a major war with Israel will result in more popular support from all Moslems in the region. That’s more of a gamble than a sure thing as Iran has replaced Israel as the designated “enemy”.
The Iranian solution has been to gradually transfer Hamas members from Gaza to southern Lebanon to work for a Hezbollah construction brigade. The Hamas men were there to prepare for attacks on Israel and to take control of Hezbollah missiles stored in local homes and businesses. The “construction brigade” builds the basement rocket storage bunkers along with adjacent firing positions outside the structure but also underground. Hezbollah leaders were angry when Iran told them that these Hamas personnel would take control of these rockets in wartime and wartime would occur when Iran decided to have Hamas launch massive rocket attacks, which would not include Hezbollah rockets in southern Lebanon. When this arrangement became widely known most Lebanese had another reason to oppose Iran, and Lebanese who belonged to Hezbollah.
September 17, 2021: In northwest Syria (Latakia and Idlib provinces) there has been another round of Russian airstrikes on Islamic terrorist rebels trapped in Idlib and ignoring the 2020 ceasefire agreement with Turkey, Russia and Syria that only worked if everyone stopped attacking each other and not enter territory they did not already control. The key weapon of reprisal for Syria has been Russian airpower. This time some of the Russian airstrikes were on rebels who were very close to Turkish positions, risking Turkish casualties. Russia blames Turkey’s more accommodating attitude towards Islamic terror groups that were willing to work with Sunni Moslem governments, which Russia is not. Everyone in Syria agrees that ISIL is bad and most everyone is hostile towards Iran. While Turkey and Russia try to maintain some kind of military alliance, the two governments still have fundamental differences about how to handle Islamic terrorism. Increasingly those differences get Turkish forces killed or wounded by Russian airstrikes and artillery fire.
September 16, 2021: Chinese media claim recent American actions make it clear that China is now dominant in East Asia and that its power is spreading worldwide. China is openly dismissive of the ability of foreign governments, especially the Americans, to defy Chinese demands. China is flaunting its power in places like Afghanistan where everyone is discovering that China has the final say over who does what there now that the Americans have withdrawn. That is a dubious achievement as far as everyone else in the region is concerned. China is disrupting an
ancient rivalry between Persians and Indians over who gets what inside Afghanistan. The economic basis of that rivalry was control over portions of the Silk Road trade routes between China and points west. The Silk Road was replaced by more efficient European ships, and their firepower, six centuries ago. In the 21st century China is reviving the Silk Road as an overland and maritime network through nations friendly towards trade with and investments from China. Iran and India see this as a threat while Pakistan sees it as an economic lifeline as well as an obligation to do what China wants. In Afghanistan China is willing to do business with whoever can provide a safe environment for Chinese investments and trade. There are doubts that anyone can do that and China is waiting to see what Iran and Pakistan can do about it. India and Russia are also cautious about doing business in Afghanistan; both currently consider the Taliban IEA a threat. Because of Pakistani control of the IEA, India is now banned from Afghanistan but still has valuable trade relationships with Iran that Iran does not want to lose. China and India are currently archenemies of each other. Finally, there are the Afghan-based drug cartels that supply most of the heroin to the entire planet. While universally hated throughout the region, cartel money is a major source of income for the Taliban and the Pakistan military, which is currently running the government in Pakistan.
Although everyone regards China as a potential wealthy benefactor, the Chinese themselves are less confident. For a decade China has faced the growing prospect of a major financial disaster because of growing bad debts, a property bubble and corruption. As problems go, this one puts the Chinese interest in Afghanistan into perspective.