Iran: Power Comes At A Cost


November 16, 2021: The new radical government has been around for three months and is already in trouble for overpromising and under delivering. The hardline decisions made since August in Iraq, Syria and Yemen have not had the desired result. In each of these countries there is a Quds Force general who directs the activities of all Iranian controlled or supported local forces. In Iraq this led to a failed assassination of the nationalist Iraqi prime minister who opposes Iran. In Syria the Assad government, which has developed relationships with Russia, Turkey, and Israel, demanded that the current Quds Force general in Syria be replaced, and that was done. In Yemen the Iranian “ambassador” in the Shia rebel-controlled capitol, ordered the Shia rebels to seize control of the inactive (since 2015) U.S. Embassy compound and take hostages among the Yemenis who currently are employed as compound caretakers or had previously held those jobs. The Shia rebels scoured the empty embassy compound for “evidence” of American plots against Iran or the Shia rebels. This was a violation of international law and not quite a repeat of what the Iranian radicals did in 1979 to the operational U.S. embassy in Iran. The U.S. began negotiating for the release of hostages and got most released but the Shia are demanding ransoms for the few still held. Several days before the embassy compound attack the Shia rebels began arresting Yemenis working for the UN and American foreign aid groups. The Shia rebels have bullied the UN and foreign aid workers in the past, usually to keep the aid coming despite the rebels diverting much, or most of it to support their military operations.

Earlier this year a new American government had taken the Yemen Shia rebels off the international terrorist list to get peace negotiations going. Iran claims that several billion dollars’ worth of Iranian assets frozen overseas had been released but would not identify who released those funds and why. Iran has been threatening several countries holding frozen funds to release some or all the Iranian cash. In some cases, hostages are usually crews of foreign tankers or cargo ships with business in the Persian Gulf.

The Iranians appear to be goading Israel into attacking by increasing Iranian efforts to kill Israelis in Israel or overseas, where Iran considers local Jews targets as well. These efforts rarely succeed but do destroy any support Iran has in areas where the attacks on local Jews take place.

Iran continues to demand an end to sanctions before they will negotiate the terms for reviving the 2015 treaty that briefly lifted sanctions. Inside Iran people are growing more impatient, desperate, and frustrated at how the radical government promises of economic improvements and less corruption have failed. The poverty rate continues to grow and the local currency grows weaker. Covid19 is still a major problem because the new hardline government reversed plans by the former government to import covid vaccines and instead allocated a billion dollars to an Iranian firm that a member of the new government has an economic interest in, and promised an Iranian vaccine would soon be available. Instead, the government plans to import Chinese vaccines and pretend it is an Iran-developed vaccine. Next door in Afghanistan a new Taliban government is, as feared, targeting Afghan Shia and despite increased security on the Afghan border, thousands of desperate Afghans are getting into Iran to escape the Taliban terror that the previous Afghan government had prepared to resist by organizing Afghan Shia, especially those who served in Syria as mercenaries, to defend Afghan Shia. That plan was apparently cancelled or suspended by the new hardline Iranian government. All these failures of the new radical government are generating more widespread anger against the religious dictatorship that has ruled since the 1980s. The new hardline government has threatened to act quickly and brutally against any more public unrest against government misrule. That tells the Iranian people that if they want to resume the demonstrations, they must do it with the intention of overthrowing the religious dictatorship by force.

Syrian Betrayal

Israel and Russia have become more open about their cooperation agreement in Syria. This included Russia taking more active measures to keep Iranian forces, especially the Hezbollah militia, away from the Israeli border. Russia agreed to establish a 10–20-kilometer buffer zone and enforce it. A key aspect of this was telling the Assad government that continued Russian assistance was contingent on the Assads cooperating with the Russians in keeping the Iranians away from the Israeli border. At the same time the Russians would continue tolerating Israeli air and missile strikes on Iranian weapons shipments moving from Syria to Lebanon for Hezbollah. Syria protested all this via the media but did little beyond that. In the last two years it has become obvious that the Syrian Assad government was also cooperating with Israel as part of an effort to get free of Iranian control. That means the Assads need a new protector and the Russians, Israelis and Arab Gulf States are willing to fill the need.

Iran might still turn to their Plan B for dealing with the Assads if they became a liability. This involved removing the Assads from power and putting some other clan in charge. There was no other clan with enough influence to make that work and the Assads had made it so on purpose to avoid any Iranian Plan B use. Iran also recognized that the cozy relationship Russia had with Israel was more valuable to Russia than any deals it had or could have with Iran. Russia recognizes that Israel has the strongest economy in the region as well as being the most capable military power. Israel also has nuclear weapons. In 2018 Russian diplomats told Israel that Russia would support Israel if Iran attacked Israel directly. The Russians made it clear they did not want to fight the Israelis, especially when the Russians have growing evidence that Russian military equipment would not do well if there were clashes. Israel later revealed cases where they cancelled an airstrike at Russian request. Apparently, there were Russian troops in the target area and Israel, once informed, was able to divert that airstrike to another area in need of attention.

The Assads want the same deal but Russia and Israel agreed that this would only happen if Russia or Israel could confirm the situation. The Assads also had to understand that there were Syrians who wanted Israel destroyed along with the Assads and all foreigners in Syria. Israel and the Assads are still working out the details of an agreement.

By 2019 Russia had treaties with the Assads that included a long-term lease for a major airbase and a smaller port facility in western Syria. Israel had no formal objections, apparently because this arrangement was made after consultations with Israel. Russia agreed to these treaties to give the Assads an opportunity to move away from the long dependence on Iran. As far as the Assads were concerned the Iranians were trying to turn Syria into something like Hezbollah, the Shia militia Iran helped create in the 1980s and has sustained ever since. That turned southern Lebanon into a region controlled by Hezbollah which, in turn, took orders from Iran. Israel had long sought to get Iran out of Lebanon and now most Lebanese agreed and were now openly fighting with Hezbollah over the issue. The Assads agreed to informally make peace with Israel in an arrangement that would be monitored and enforced by Israel and Russia. Russia considers this a major achievement in Syria and most of the world will agree if the changes do not prompt Iran into starting a major war over it.

How To Anger Egypt, Palestinians, Lebanon, Israel And Arabs Everywhere

In Gaza the Iranian support for Hamas is cited by Egyptian negotiators as the main reason the Palestinian Sunni Hamas organization ruling Gaza is not serious in renewed efforts to negotiate a ceasefire with Israel. At the same time Iran has transferred more personnel to assist Hamas preparations for new efforts to carry out terror attacks inside Israel as well as recruit more Palestinians in Gaza to carry out larger attacks on Israel with long range rockets. Iran no longer trusts Hezbollah with those tasks because Hezbollah is distracted by growing violence in Lebanon and economic collapse there that Hezbollah has contributed to. Most Lebanese accuse Iran and Hezbollah for contributing to the current problems in Lebanon, especially those related to Hezbollah becoming an extension of the Iranian 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 many of them were expelled from Lebanon because of that perceived betrayal.

November 11, 2021: Iran has agreed to sell 100 MW of electricity to Afghanistan, most of this power will go to western Afghan provinces Heart, Farah and Nimroz, where Iran has a lot of supporters. The new Iranian deal will supply about fifteen percent of the electric imports. While only a third of Afghans have reliable access to electricity, that is a major upgrade over the situation in 2001, the last time the Taliban were in power. Reliable, if not 24-hour electricity, is mainly available in cities. The rest of the country also has power, mainly from inexpensive solar panels that provide small amounts of power for lighting, radios and TV and recharging cell phones. Afghanistan has the potential to be self-sufficient in electric power for everyone but that kind of economic development was blocked by the Taliban, corruption, and drug cartels since the IRA (Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) government replaced the Taliban in 2002. Pre-1979 power generation capability (hydroelectric dams and coal fired plants) was repaired and upgraded after 2002, when the war that began in 1979 paused over a decade before the Taliban made a comeback. Since 2002 electrical power consumption has more than quadrupled and 60 percent of it is currently imported, via newly built transmission lines from Central Asian neighbors. Iran was also a supplier, but not as much as what was coming from Central Asia. When the (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) took over three months ago they quickly found that the corruption that they fostered and used to regain power, had left the national treasury empty. The IEA has been unable to pay its bills, especially for the imported power, which costs about $12 million a month. There were also expenses for the local sources but those could be put off while the foreign sources could not. The Central Asian suppliers have been patient but the IEA recently made a very public appeal to the UN for $90 million to pay the power bill and keep the lights on. Unpaid electric bills are one of many economic problems the IEA has encountered and been unable to deal with. Most of the previous IRA government budget was paid for with foreign aid and until payments were made, the cash was kept in overseas accounts controlled by donor countries. Most of the money came from the United States and one of the many anti-corruption measures was maintaining control of the aid until the IRA could provide a valid request. Afghans deemed those anti-corruption measures an obstacle to be overcome and they often did, until caught by the donor auditors. This is another battle where Afghans won and once more the country lost. This has been a regional curse for as long as their has been any prosperity in the region. While many debts can go unpaid for a long time, having your power turned off for non-payment tends to get your attention. Iran is willing to commit some cash to this kind of risk so they will have more power over the IEA.

November 10, 2021: In Yemen, Shia rebels seized the American embassy compound, which has been inactive since 2015 but still considered embassy property and immune from seizure. Five days ago, the Shia rebels began seeking out and arresting Yemenis who still worked for the Americans or used to. Un aid personnel were arrested as well.

November 9, 2021: In Syria Iran is trying to establish bases close to existing Russian ones to provide some protection from the constant Israeli airstrikes. This apparently explains the growing number of Israeli airstrikes near Russian bases, attacks that are carried out with Russian cooperation.

November 5, 2021: Egypt is still having problems getting Hamas to agree to any sort of long-term ceasefire with Israel. Hamas insists the only long-term solution is the destruction of Israel. Hamas makes matters worse by sending delegations to Iran to improve the military relationship Hamas now has with Iran. Egypt and Iran have been enemies for a long time and Hamas is not helping clear up that mess. The best Egypt can get from Hamas is the possibility of a prisoner swap with Israel. Hamas will ask for more than Israeli can give, as in men imprisoned for murder and particularly infamous terror attacks. Hamas is more interested in doing what their new sponsor, Iran, wants. Egypt and Israel still disagree on many issues but agree on the threat Hamas poses to them both and with Iran now involved, there is not much cause for optimism.

November 4, 2021: Efforts to negotiate a settlement of the issues in Yemen and end the seven-year civil war are stumbling over two “non-negotiable” issues. First, there is the Iranian refusal to give up their presence and support of the Yemen Shia. This is unacceptable to Saudi Arabia and most other Arab states because they can see what happened in Lebanon when the Iranian presence and support of the Hezbollah militia was allowed to persist. The second difficult issue is calls for partitioning Yemen again. This has been the case in the past and most Yemenis came to believe unity was preferable. With Iran refusing to give up their control of the Shia north, partition is even less acceptable. No one has come up with a viable solution yet.

November 3, 2021: In southern Syria (between Damascus and the Golan Heights) Israeli missiles hit warehouses in Zakiyah that contained Iranian missiles and other military supplies stored there for use by Iran-backed militias operating along the Israeli b0rder. Near the destroyed warehouses is the headquarters of the Syrian Army 4th Division, which suffered no damage or casualties.

October 31, 2021: In central Yemen (Marib province) the Shia rebels fired two of their Iranian ballistic missiles at a madrasa/mosque compound in the Al Amound district. The compound was full of civilians and 29 were killed with many more wounded. This is a hilly area surrounded by desert that the Shia rebels have been trying to take for over a year.

October 30, 2021: In southern Syria, an Israeli airstrike outside Damascus destroyed an Iranian convoy transporting weapons and missiles. Hezbollah was operating the convoy and six of their men were killed and several wounded. At least two Syrian soldiers were also wounded. It was later revealed by Israel that the airstrike was carried out by a helicopter launched Spike NLOS missile, which was cheaper than using an F-16 and more expensive missiles.

October 29, 2021: Iran retaliated against the October 26th Israeli attack on their retail fuel distribution system by ordering Black Shadow, one the criminal hacking groups they provide sanctuary for, to attack an Israeli hosting service and disable several web sites that had not kept their security updated. Iran publicized the attack while Black Shadow sought to extort money from the web sites data was stolen from. The data was later sold on the Dark Web black market.

October 28, 2021: In Iran diplomats and economists from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Russia, China, and Pakistan met with their Iranian host to discuss the risks of total collapse in Afghanistan and a surge of refugees fleeing the new IEA government. Iran is the neighbor with the most to fear from this because Iran has a 921-kilometer border with Afghanistan and feels an obligation to help protect the 20 percent of Afghans who are Shia and long the victims of Taliban violence. Iran also wants to keep Sunni Islamic terror groups like ISIL out of Iran as well as protect Afghan Shia from Sunni terrorist attacks. Even if the IEA stabilizes the situation, there will still be the problem of Islamic terrorist groups able to operate more freely in Afghanistan and able to launch attacks on the neighbors, as some of these terrorists are already doing inside Afghanistan. While many of the neighboring countries revel in the departure of the Americans, they do miss what the Americans were doing to maintain stability and bring prosperity to Afghanistan. The Iran conference released a statement supporting the Afghan people and calling on the IEA to form a more inclusive government that would make it easier for foreign aid donors to return to Afghanistan. Most of the neighbors are wary or hostile towards the IEA and bracing for the worst. The meeting in Iran did not include the IEA, which is perhaps just as well because some of those in attendance agreed that the IEA government could collapse in a few years and the neighbors had to prepare on how to deal with that disaster, or opportunity depending on how the neighbors react.

In Lebanon, the UAE (United Arab Emirate) ordered its ambassador to leave Lebanon and the next day advised UAE citizens to leave as well. This comes after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait also withdrew ambassadors. This is the result of Iran increasing its efforts to link the battles between Lebanese Shia and the non-Shia majority with a similar conflict in Yemen. What triggered all the anti-Saudi/UAE animosity was the broadcasting of an August interview with the Lebanese Information Minister in which he compared the situation of Shia in Lebanon with that of Shia in Yemen and blamed it all on Saudi Arabia. This is pure Iranian propaganda because the Lebanese Shia Hezbollah militia was created in the 1980s with Iranian help and has since become a major component of the Iran-backed Shia paramilitary forces in the Arab world. In Yemen the Shia minority have been troublesome for several generations because they lost their autonomy.

October 27, 2021: In northern Yemen, Shia rebels launched five Iranian ballistic missiles into southwest Saudi Arabia. Saudi BMD (Ballistic Missile Defense) systems detected and destroyed the incoming missiles headed for the Saudi Red Sea port of Jazan near the Yemen border. Because of the effectiveness of the Saudi BMD, the Iranians have ordered the rebels to launch as many missiles at one target at once to overwhelm the BMD system. Apparently five missiles at once were not enough. The rebels have been allowed to use more of their ballistic missiles against targets inside Yemen, where there are a lot fewer BMD systems. The ballistic missiles have been used in Marib province and southern Yemen to attack military targets and non-military ones as well. Key civilian supporters are being attacked, if only to terrorize even more of the opposition.

October 26, 2021: Israeli Information War specialists hacked the Iranian retail fuel distribution system, which took nearly a week for the Iranians to get working again.

October 25, 2021: In southern Syria (Quneitra province) an Israeli airstrike using missiles hit Syrian and Iranian targets outside the town of Baath. One of the targets was a SAM (surface to air missile) anti-aircraft battery recently moved to the area, which is too close to the Israeli border for such weapons.

October 22, 2021: In Russia, the Israeli and Russian leaders met to discuss their cooperation in Syria, especially how to deal with Iran. Details of these are not revealed but it is known that they involve specific items. These often become obvious over the next few weeks. For example, Israel is deliberately avoiding defeating Russian air defense systems that are used by Syria to guard the capital Damascus. This involves Israel firing some air-to-surface missiles at times when the Russian systems have the best chance of intercepting them to make Russia look good while still hitting the intended target. Another form of cooperation is Russian naval forces stationed in the Syrian port of Tartus to prevent Iran from smuggling in weapons or other items via ship. Iran is angry at this obvious cooperation against them, which Israel and Russia are openly protecting the Assads. In many parts of the country Assad and Russian forces still cooperate with Iranian forces and Iranians are forced to accept whatever they can get. Iran has been getting less and less cooperation from its allies Turkey and Russia as well its client, the Assad government.

October 21, 2021: Despite Iranian efforts to use violence to get what it wants in Iraq, deaths from Islamic terrorism or political violence in Iraq continue remain at historically low levels. That is another change most Iraqis agree on and support. ISIL and pro-Iran radicals are encountering more resistance and less popular support than in the past. Now pro-Iran groups are sliding into the same status. The many Sunni factions are once again more united than in the past and willing to deal with Kurds or the Sadr coalition to improve the economic and political situation in Iraq. The Sunni coalition is also useful for reassuring the Sunni Arab oil states that investing in Iraq is the wise thing to do. After all, Iran is broke, and 80 percent of Iraqis are Arabs, and the Kurdish minorities in both are not friends of the Turks or Iranians.

October 20, 2021: In eastern Syria (Deir Ezzor province), near the Tanf /Waleed (on the Iraqi side) border crossing (on the Iraqi side) border crossing explosions were heard in the American base near Tanf. The Americans confirmed the explosions but said there were no casualties. The U.S. later revealed that they had advance warning of the attack and flew out 200 American troops stationed there, leaving only a few dozen who took shelter in fortified bunkers. Civilians in the area reported that the attacks came from several small UAVs carrying explosives and several rockets which appeared to have been launched from the ground. Syria, Russia and Iran want the American base gone and their ground forces have tried to get close but were turned back by American airstrikes. The attacker in this case used Iranian UAVs and rockets and the UAVs were used as cruise missiles. Iran has several local militias on the payroll that they could have used to carry out the attack. The Americans have controlled the Syrian side since 2017 while a pro-American Iraqi militia controls the Iraqi side. This is one of the three main Syria/Iraq border crossings and controls access to the main Baghdad-Damascus highway. The crossing is near where the borders of Jordan, Syria and Iraq meet.

In western Syria, (Damascus) three roadside bombs were used against a Syrian army bus that was used to transport Iranian officers to work. Two of the three bombs went off and killed fourteen of the Iranian passengers. A third bomb did not go off and was disabled by army bomb disposal specialists. No one took credit for this attack but Israel was at the top of the usual suspects list.

October 19, 2021: 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 Iranian 534-kilometer 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.




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