Iran: Sacrificing Hamas


October 10, 2023: The Hamas attack on Israel meant the end of one of Iran’s major paramilitary assets. The Israeli military is one of the best in the world and did not expect Hamas to self-destruct like this, killing as many Israelis as it could before Hamas was gone and their base in Gaza severely damaged. Iran may have ordered this in an effort to disrupt the recent alliance between Israel and the Gulf oil states against Iran. The Hamas attack was a major intelligence failure for Israel and the Arab neighbors realize that this was an Iranian intelligence victory. If Iran could do this again it would most likely be used against one the Arab states that oppose the expansion of Iranian influence in the region. Expending Hamas to accomplish this attack on Israel reminds Arab states that it could happen to them. Iran is a common enemy or threat to Israel, Arabs and Turks. Surviving Hamas members were surprised to discover that Iran had not ordered Hamas to attack. It was Hamas leaders that approved the attack and many of them died during the subsequent fighting.

The end of Hamas was another side-effect of the long, since 1979, Iranian efforts to destroy Israel and America, which Iran called the two Great Satan’s, has been largely one-sided but increasingly expensive as the Iranian defeats piled up. It didn’t take long for many Iranians to figure out that this war against former allies was not really a war but rather an excuse for the clerics to spend a lot of money on an army of Islamic terrorists whose main job was to protect the ruling clerics from the Iranian people. The clerics thought they could control popular dissent by maintaining a militia of religiously minded volunteers who could earn some extra cash and other favors by bullying or beating anyone who openly opposed the religious dictatorship. These government approved thugs were a common feature of dictatorships, Nazis and communists both used them. By the 1990s the government had organized street gangs, composed of young men who are Islamic conservatives, paid to break up pro-reform demonstrations by force and attack any groups that openly oppose the government for whatever reason. There has always been the risk that a series of street brawls could escalate and lead to another mass revolution like the one in 1979. So far that has been avoided but more and more of the young men who were prime candidates to join these gangs have changed sides. Once more there are protests and even attacks on local religious leaders in towns and cities that do not have a lot of religious conservatives, or a local Islamic conservative militia unit. The militia had a name; the Basj, which provided the manpower for pro-government street gangs since the 1990s, when popular protests against the dictatorship became more common and threatening. The Basj is actually part of the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) whose main job is to protect the religious rulers from any internal threat (including from the national police or regular armed forces). Although the Basj officially has 11 million members, the number that the government could depend has been declining. A few years ago, it was several hundred thousand but now it is less than 100,000 and falling. Basj have families and feel the economic decline like everyone else. The IRGC also decided to aid Hamas, a militant Palestinian group that appeared in the 1980s and took control of Gaza after the Israelis left in 2007. Hamas always had one primary goal; the destruction of Israel. Since the United States was a steadfast supporter of Israel, the Americans would have to be eliminated as well. Few believed Hamas would choose self-destruction and try to act on their goals of destroying Israel. At the same time, Hamas eventually became dependent on Iranian financial support, which enabled Hamas to buy a lot of support and some loyalty in Gaza. The Sunni Palestinians in Gaza were not happy about being dependent on Iranian cash. The rest of the Arab was not happy with Hamas becoming subservient to Iran, which was at war with all Arab governments, plus Israel and the United States. Arabs say Iran as a potential threat and a perpetual nuisance. Subsidizing and then expending Hamas was seen as typical Iranian behavior with allies and against enemies. The large number of Israelis Hamas killed pleased Iran, even as it horrified most of the world. With Hamas gone, attention is turning to Hezbollah, an earlier and larger Iranian creation in Lebanon. Hezbollah is also, like Hamas, seen as a ruthless Iranian tool that is capable of anything. As Hamas attacked Israel it called on Hezbollah to join in. Hezbollah declined. Hezbollah has always been more cautious and rational than Hamas. Hezbollah continues to concentrate on its own survival. The definitely does not include another war with Israel. Hezbollah aways saw Hamas as an erratic and undependable ally and the feeling was mutual. With Hamas gone, Hezbollah continues to concentrate on preserving its power in Lebanon, which is threatened by the Lebanese government. Israel and Hezbollah fought a five week war in 2006 that could have meant the end of Hezbollah were it not for an UN effort to arrange a truce and then a peace deal. While Lebanon wants Hezbollah gone, they also want to avoid an extended war with Israel to get Hezbollah gone. This is why Hezbollah ignored Hamas calls the join in attacking Israel. Hamas had a death wish, Hezbollah does not. While both Hamas and Hezbollah receive financial support from Iran, Hezbollah generally ignored Iranian calls to attack Israel. Hezbollah knows that does not work while Iran doesn’t care as long as some Israelis get killed. Iran appears willing to continue subsidizing Hezbollah as a potential threat to Israel but does not want another suicidal conflict with Israel like the one that destroyed Hamas and increased Arab resolve to ally with Israel against the Iranian threat.


Iran continues to be the main threat for neighboring Iraq for reasons of current political power, but not any of the ancient animosities of the area. Both Iran and Iraq have dominant Shia majorities. Iraq has a clear majority of Arabs while Iran is half Indo-European and half everything else, with only a small minority of Arabs.

A few years ago, Iran seemed close to taking control of Iraq but now appears to be losing most of its influence. Iraq’s internal problems were the major contributor to Iran’s no longer growing dominance, chiefly Iraq’s rampant and persistent corruption. Historically, what is now known as Iraq was seen as the most corrupt region in the Middle East, if not the world.

According to international surveys of corruption, Iraq is no longer the most corrupt country in the world. For the last 30 years Transparency International has monitored corruption worldwide and reported their findings annually. The corruption is measured on a 1 (most corrupt) to 100 (not corrupt) scale. The nations with the worst score are currently Syria (score of 14), South Sudan (12) and Somalia (12). The least corrupt nations are currently Denmark and New Zealand, each with a score of 88. Iraq does better than you would expect with a corruption score of 23 in 2022, up from 21 in 2020, 20 in 2019, 17 in 2017-18 and 16 in 2013.

Iraq’s reduction in corruption played a part in convincing a growing number of formerly pro-Iran Iraqis to change their minds about backing Iran. The current Iranian government has been an economic, diplomatic and military disaster for everyone in the area, not just Iranians. Few Iraqis want to emulate Iran and this now includes Iraqi members of pro-Iran militias. Initially Iran encouraged and maintained pro-Iran attitudes in Iraq by supplying Iraqi militiamen with weapons and regular cash payments. Growing economic problems inside Iran reduced the money available to pay the Iraqi militiamen enough to keep them loyal to Iran. The longer the Iraqi militiamen went unpaid, the less willing they were to serve Iranian interests. How much is left is questionable.

Iraqis were also put off by the brutality Iran used to suppress the “hijab protests'' that began a year ago and only began to diminish earlier this year because so many women were simply not wearing hijabs to cover their hair. There were too many of these women for the Iranian government to arrest or otherwise punish. The Iranian government has not given up on enforcing the use of hijabs and is seeking ways to force women to comply. A proposed new law would criminalize failure of women to wear hijabs but the government is unsure what impact trying to enforce such a law would have. Most women and many men oppose the hijab restrictions and consider these laws another reason to overthrow the religious dictatorship that has misruled Iran for decades

Iraqis see this Iranian obsession over the hijab as odd and scary because this is the sort of thing Iran would try to impose on Iraqis if it could. Iraq and Iran were long known as much less fanatic about this sort of thing than, say, the Saudis. That is changing in Saudi Arabia, as it already has in Iraq and, until recently, Iran. The growing protests are seen as similar to what led to the successful rebellion against the Iranian monarchy (Shah) in 1979. Iranian clergy played a role in this rebellion and eventually took control of the government. At that point the religious assets were much smaller and were supervised by government officials. The clergy did not like this at all, and that supervision was quick to disappear once the monarchy was gone. Another post-Shah change was that, rather than wait for pious Iranians to donate property to religious institutions, the clergy seized the assets of wealthy "enemies of the state" and turned the goodies over to religious institutions which they operated for their personal gain. The clergy try to portray themselves as pious stewards of these assets.

The truth is less savory and not invisible. All that PR and propaganda just enraged Iranians even more. A growing number of people from these wealthy clerical families are trying to reform the system before there is yet another civil war, something Iranians have been noted for since antiquity. Such an uprising now would rip the country apart and probably leave Iranians worse off than they are now. These reformers believe that the violence could be triggered by something like photos of adult children of clerics enjoying the company of polo ponies and immodest women who don’t cover their hair, or much else either.

It should be no surprise that some of the growing protests call for a return of the monarchy. In part that is because nothing irritates the religious dictatorship more than calling for a return of the monarchy. The Shia clerics led a revolution that enabled them to oust the monarchy in 1979 and then take over the government in the 1980s. The current generation of Iranians is too young to have experienced living under the monarchy but it is clear from photos, videos and whispered confirmation from their elders that life was better under the monarchy even though there was always corruption, favoritism and secret police. In short, the Shah (emperor) was never as crazy, oppressive or destructive as the current religious dictatorship. It is telling that the overseas Iranians, whose numbers have grown enormously since the 1980s, are organizing to support another revolution and many of the exiled aristocracy are involved, including the children and grandchildren of the last shah.


Afghanistan, Iran’s eastern neighbor, is also a problem but for different reasons. With the withdrawal of American troops and financial support in 2021, the Taliban, as the IEA or Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, took over but had a difficult time running Afghanistan or dealing with Islamic terrorists and local rebel groups. That has sent a growing number of Afghan refugees into Iran. Relations between Iran and the IEA have been tense but, so far, not violent.


And then there is Lebanon. Iran continues to have problems in Lebanon where its Hezbollah militia is having a difficult time. This is because of all the Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The Lebanese government has been expelling Syrian Sunni Arab refugees. Lebanon also began registering and attempting to deport these refugees. The nearly two million Sunni Arab Syrians that fled to Lebanon since 2012 radically changed the demography of Lebanon. Before 2011 the Lebanese population was only five million. Since nearly all those refugees are Sunni Moslems, it changed the religious mix of Lebanon from 27 percent Shia, 27 percent Sunni, and 46 percent Christian (and other religions) to a more volatile combination. With the refugee influx there were now seven million people in Lebanon and 47 percent were Sunni, 19 percent Shia and 34 percent Christian (and others). This put the Iran-backed Hezbollah militia in a bad situation. Their better armed and trained fighters have been able to dominate the other minorities since the 1980s. That was possible because of Iranian cash, weapons and advisors. But the Iranian help and better organization is no longer enough when the Sunnis are nearly half the population and out for blood because of the slaughter the Iran-backed Shia Syrian government inflicted on Syrian Sunnis. Not to mention that Iranian financial support has largely disappeared.

Lebanon does not want another civil war over this and it was becoming difficult to contain the anger. Hezbollah and Iran have had some success attracting non-Shia factions, especially Christians, to be part of the Shia coalition. This is traditional Lebanese politics, with the Christians surviving by forming a coalition with non-Christian groups. Now even these Christian factions are backing away from Hezbollah. By 2023 Lebanon felt itself capable of dealing with the refugee crisis, especially since large-scale violence in Syria has largely disappeared. During the Syrian war some 5.5 million Syrians fled to neighboring countries. Turkey has 3.6 million, Lebanon two million and there are 250,000 in Iraq. There are also several million Syrians in Saudi Arabia, who are considered part of the large (over six million foreigners) expatriate workforce. About a third of those workers are Syrians. While many fled to Saudi Arabia because of the war in Syria, they were not treated like refugees and have jobs and status in Saudi Arabia. Countries bordering Syria want their refugees to go home. That cannot happen without the cooperation of the Syrian Assad government. Syria needs a lot of those refugees to revive the economy and the Arab League is willing to allow Syria to rejoin if they reduce their cooperation with Iran. That has always been a dangerous option for the Assads because the Iranians have enough armed operatives inside Syria to threaten the lives of key Assad clan members. Currently, Iranian power is unusually weak inside Iran and inside Syria. Now is a good time for the Assads to make a break from Iran, especially since he has the support of the Arab League and assurances that the League will help, not hinder Assad use of force to maintain their rule in Syria. The Arab League looks after its members and Syria recently rejoined the Arab League. Turkey does not belong to the Arab League but is eager to send its Syrian refugee’s home. The Assad offer is acceptable if it will finally get those Syrians out of Turkey.

October 10, 2023: The recent Hamas attack did not involve any support by Russia, other than cheerleading. Hamas leaders have had several meetings with Russian officials in the last few years. Some of these meetings took place in Russia while others took place in Iran. While Israel visibly refrained from any involvement with the Ukraine War, Russia is losing that war and needs a distraction that Hamas was eager to provide. Western nations voiced support for Israel against Hamas but continue sending their military aid to Ukraine. Israel is not short on weapons or military capabilities. The Israeli military is one of the best in the world and not in need of the kind of aid sent to Ukraine. Israel needs more cooperation from its Arab neighbors and further Israeli economic cooperation depends on some Arab diplomatic and intelligence support. The Hamas attack was a major intelligence failure for Israel and the Arab neighbors realize that this was an Iranian intelligence victory. If Iran could do this again it would most likely be used against one the Arab states that oppose the expansion of Iranian influence in the region. Expending Hamas to accomplish this attack on Israel reminds Arab states that it could happen to them. Iran is a common enemy or threat to Israel, Arabs and Turks.

October 8, 2023: Russia has approached Iran about the purchase of Fateh 110 short range ballistic missiles. These have a range of 250 kilometers and were used by Iran in 2018 to attack Iranian Kurdish separatist bases in northern Iraq. Russia has placed a large order for Fateh -110 missiles but one of the 200 missiles ordered has been delivered yet.

October 7, 2023: In southern Israel Iran-backed Hamas launched an unprecedented and surprise rocket attack on Israel, firing over 3,000 rockets into Israeli towns and cities. Hundreds of Israelis were initially killed and more than 1,500 seriously wounded. At the same time, Hamas gunmen crossed the border and moved into southern Israel, capturing 52 Israelis and taking them back to Gaza. Israel then announced that Israel was at war with Hamas and Israeli forces would recapture Gaza and kill or capture all the Hamas gunmen they could. Despite the imminent loss of Gaza, Iran declared this a great victory over Israel because of the number of Israeli civilians and soldiers killed in the attack. Israeli leaders admit they were taken by surprise and promised swift retaliation and permanent elimination of the Hamas threat in Gaza as well as an end to the independence of Gaza. For Iran, this is a small price to pay for such a striking attack on Israel. Iran will protest the loss of Gaza and the deaths of Hamas members and Gaza civilians. The reality is that Hamas has been losing support from the civilian population of Gaza over the last decade and many Gazans approve of the destruction of Hamas. Israeli occupation of Gaza is another matter. Israeli troops occupied Gaza until 2005, when they decided to abandon Gaza and evacuate all Israeli settlers living in and near Gaza.

Hamas was a violent offshoot of the Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood, which did not believe in violence. Hamas broke away from the Brotherhood in 1987 to wage war on Israel and eventually destroy Israel. After the current attack, Hamas will suffer heavy losses and survivors plan to regroup in Lebanon. Israel has told Lebanon that if they provide sanctuary for Hamas, Israel will “bomb Lebanon back in the stone age.” Lebanese take this threat seriously and to avoid it they will attempt to control Hamas activities in Lebanon. In the past Lebanese have informally cooperated with Israel to eliminate a mutual threat, like Hamas, based in Lebanon. Given a choice between being bullied by Hamas and cooperating with Israel against Hamas, Lebanon will do what it has to do to eliminate the Hamas presence in Lebanon. None of the Arab countries in the region support Iranian military efforts in their countries, even if the Iranians do manage to kill some Israelis. This is a cause for public celebration in most Arab countries. This backfires on Arabs because it demonstrates how homicidal and determined the Arab hatred of Israel is. Arab governments were also surprised and agreed with Israel that Iran was behind the attack. Officially, Arab governments do not support Israeli retaliation against Hamas or Gaza. Unofficially these same governments cooperate with Israel and the West to limit Iranian power in the region. Iran is seen as a threat to Israel and Arabs. Israeli retaliation was swift, massive and continues. Air strikes by warplanes, helicopters and missiles were launched within hours of the Hamas offensive. These attacks will continue as long as there is visible Hamas activity. Israel is quietly coordinating these attacks with Arab governments that also want Hamas gone and Iranian influence in Arab countries reduced. This includes eliminating Hamas presence in Gaza. Israel will have to again take control of Gaza, something it gave up in 2005 when they pulled their troops out. This seemed to be a good idea at the time, but that proved to be a false hope as Islamic terrorists and eventually Hamas took control of Gaza, using it as a base for attacks on Israel. Over the last decade Iranian support for anti-Israel groups in Gaza, especially Hamas, grew. This made the recent attacks possible. The Israeli intelligence failure was the worst since the one 50 years ago that turned into the 1973/Yom Kippur War. Israel won the 1973 War but at substantial cost. The current war does not involve Egypt or Syria, both of whom were the major antagonists during 1973. Israel was able to eventually obtain peace deals with these two countries. Hamas is not a country and Israel has made clear that peace with Hamas will involve the extermination of Hamas. Some Hamas members will survive this and go into hiding, because Israel will pursue, with assassins, opponents who survive a major attack on Israel.

October 6, 2023: The United States has sent weapons and ammunition to Ukraine that was seized from Iranian smugglers in the Middle East. Iran has been smuggling weapons to Yemen Shia rebels for a long time. Despite the American led naval blockade of rebel-controlled Yemen coastlines, the Iranian smuggling of weapons to the rebels continues but at a lower intensity, and consists mainly of infantry weapons rather than cruise and ballistic missiles used to attack Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are negotiating directly with the Iranians about the fighting in Yemen and how to reduce it. This is part of an effort, brokered by the Chinese, to improve relations between the Saudis and Iran and reduce the tensions in the Persian Gulf and Yemen. All this smuggling costs Iran a lot of money, both for the smuggled cargos and personnel including shipyard technicians to modify the boats to carry smuggled cargo. The crews of these boats are also well paid for the risks of getting caught and jailed. Iran has been short of cash since economic sanctions were revived in 2020 and increased in 2022 because of Iran support for Russian forces in Ukraine. There were also higher costs for preparing the boats and bonuses for the crews limiting the amount of smuggled cargo that reaches the Yemen rebels. Those expenses were one of the reasons for the nationwide anti-government protests which began in September 2022 and continue. The IRGC (Islamic Republic Guard Corps), which guards the religious dictatorship that has ruled Iran since the 1980s, also handles Iran’s many foreign wars including Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and now Ukraine. Iran controls the leadership of the Yemen rebels, in large part because Iran supplies weapons. With that weapons pipeline disrupted during the last three months, the rebels responded by observing a ceasefire with their many opponents.

IRGC leaders were reluctant to give up gains made in Yemen and are unsure when or if they can revive support for the Yemeni Shia because of the growing economic sanctions on Iran as well as the demands of supporting Russia in Ukraine. Because of the sanctions imposed in 2017, the Quds force saw its budget cut by half ever since. This meant major reductions in Quds activities in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

Yemen was always the least expensive Quds operation and did not suffer noticeable aid cuts after 2017. Yemen was the only IRGC operation that was able to attack arch-enemy Saudi Arabia directly and that counted for something. The Yemen operation was allowed to continue. This was only possible if the smuggled weapons from Iran kept getting through. The Iranian weapons smuggling has now been greatly reduced. This sharply limits Iran’s ability to directly attack Saudi Arabia by arming Shia rebels in Yemen. The Shia rebels in Yemen received over a thousand ballistic missiles and UAVs between 2016 and 2021. Most of these were aimed at southwestern Saudi Arabia. Less than one percent of those UAVs and missiles hit anything of consequence in Saudi Arabia. Iran sought to carry out a similar campaign against Israel using Iran-backed militias in Syria. That hasn’t worked so far because Israeli intelligence capabilities and airstrikes have been much more effective in Syria than Saudi efforts in Yemen, despite the facts that Israel and Saudi Arabia have similar aircraft, smart bombs and air defense systems.

Iranian smuggling efforts have been less effective over the last few years because the international naval blockade has been detecting and intercepting more of the Iranian smuggling efforts. The Saudis had already put a stop to cross country smuggling via Oman. The Iranians have not tried to revive it, in part because Oman has backed the halt to Iranian smuggling.

October 1, 2023: In the capital (Tehran) another young woman was seized and beaten by the morality (lifestyle) police for refusing to cover their hair with a hijab (scarf). The victim is in a coma and police won’t let her family visit. A similar incident a year ago left a woman dead after being seized for the same crime. Iran is increasingly desperate to force women to conform and wear the hijab, which has been mandatory since 1983. The women are defiant, so the government tried closing businesses that have women employees or customers who refuse to wear hijabs. That did not succeed so the religious dictatorship decided to use more force against the anti-hijab demonstrations. This led to nearly 800 protestors killed and over 30,000 arrested. By early 2023 the protests had stopped. The religious dictatorship seems determined to resume its deadly campaign against protestors. Some of the senior clerics caution that this escalating violence is how

September 27, 2023: Iran launched its third military space satellite into orbit, using a Qasem three-stage solid fuel ballistic missile as an SLV (Satellite Launch Vehicle). The use of ballistic missiles as SLVs is nothing new and it is a convenient way for Iran to test its ballistic missiles without being accused of testing ballistic missiles. Iran has been doing this for over a decade and many of the early SLV launches failed to put a satellite into orbit. The missions failed because the SLVs encountered problems, often with the third stage of the missile unable to release the satellite into orbit. These launches were also tests for long range ballistic missiles, as the same rocket design is often used for satellite launchers as well as long range ballistic missiles. The only difference is that the satellite launcher is carrying satellites high enough to put them into orbit while the same missile with a warhead would be programmed to move in the direction of its target and at a lower altitude (and for a longer distance from the launch site) than when putting a satellite into orbit.

September 12, 2023: An August 7 Israeli air strike near Damascus apparently killed a Syrian army officer who was working on a project that would enable Hezbollah in Lebanon to launch another missile attack into Israel using some new Iranian technology. Israel is generally successful in detecting and launching airstrikes on Iranian weapons shipments into Syria or moving through Syria to Lebanon. Iranian technology transfers to Syria or Hezbollah are more difficult to detect, which is why Israel launches air strikes in Syria against any site where new Iranian tech is being installed. Syria has several military bases where such work is carried out and Israel attacks these bases whenever they suspect something is going on.

September 10, 2023: Iran announced it had developed a new long range UAV called Mohajer-10. This comes two years after the similar but smaller Mohajer-6 was offered for export. Mojaher-6 entered service in 2017 and an upgraded model entered service in 2021. Mojaher-6 weighs 670 kg (1,477 pounds) with a payload of 150 kg and max endurance of 12 hours. Max range on a one way mission (as a cruise missile) is 2,400 kilometers with a 100 kg payload. This is not a large enough payload to do much damage to the target. That’s one reason the larger Mohajer-10 was introduced in 2023. This version can carry a 300 kg explosive payload on a one way cruise missile mission to targets over 2,000 kilometers away.

Iran pointed out that this puts the Israeli nuclear reactor near Dimona as well as several other Israeli cities and military bases. Not mentioned was the fact that Israeli air defenses have long been capable of detecting and destroying such attacks. Iran has been trying to fly smaller surveillance UAVs from southern Lebanon into Israel without success. A larger Mohajer-10 coming from Iran to hit Dimona in southeast Israel has to get past Israeli air defenses built to stop attacks by aircraft and ballistic missiles. These defenses failed earlier to stop a Syrian anti-aircraft missile that missed its target and kept flying for another 200 kilometers until it exploded in the air near Dimona. The Dimona air defenses failed to intercept the missile, which exploded in the air as anti-aircraft missiles are designed to do when they miss. This incident led to the Dimona air defenses being upgraded. The 2021 era air defenses probably would have destroyed a slower UAV, but Israel was taking no chances when it upgraded those air defenses. Iran claims Mohajer-10 is equipped with countermeasures to defeat air defenses but those have never been tested against Israeli air defenses. A UAV attack against the Dimona reactor or an Israeli city would trigger retaliation whether it succeeded or not. The Israelis have ballistic missiles carrying conventional warheads that can reach Iranian targets and Iran does not want to see how effective those would be against Iranian air defenses.

The Mohajer-6 has been in use since 2017 against Kurdish separatists and Syrian rebels, is thus “combat tested” and that is used to attract export customers. Mohajer-10 has not been offered for export yet and if it was it would be more expensive than Mohajer-6 because of the longer range and larger explosive payload.

Iran has long been an exporter of weapons, usually cheaper versions of Chinese and Russian assault rifles, mortars and RPGs. Iran has long had a trading relationship with North Korea in ballistic missile technology. Both nations are banned from exporting that sort of thing but desperation will find a way.




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