January 8, 2008: It's been a cold
Winter, and there's not been enough fuel, especially natural gas, to keep
everyone warm. Despite huge natural gas reserves, Iran's distribution system is
inefficient. Thus Iran imports natural gas from neighboring Turkmenistan, to
keep that border area supplied, and exports natural gas to Turkey. But
Turkmenistan had some problems with their pipeline recently, and cut pumping to
Iran. Rather than risk riots, Iran improvised, and cut 80 percent of shipments to
Turkey, and diverted that gas to the Iranians who were freezing because of the
missing Turkmenistan gas. The Turks are not happy, and the Iranians who are
suffering from erratic gas supplies are cold and unhappy. Iranians are reminded
every day of the sorry state of their government, and the growing impact of so
many years of poor infrastructure maintenance.
The supreme Iranian leader, pressed
about restoring diplomatic relations with the United States, replied that this
was eventually possible. But to do it Iran would have to expose itself to
increased American espionage, via spies operating out of the American embassy.
Iran practices what it preaches, and runs espionage, technology theft,
assassination and terrorism operations out of its embassies. It's only natural
to believe that your enemies would do the same. To that end, Iran plays
hardball with diplomats. Last Summer, Germany expelled an Iranian diplomat who
was caught trying to arrange the illegal export of equipment needed for
building nuclear weapons. In response to that, Iran recently expelled a German
diplomat. The long delay in this was caused by attempts at negotiating "smuggling
rights" for Iranian diplomats.
Increased use of international banking
sanctions, and bans on the export of U.S. goods to Iran, has not stopped American
stuff from getting to Iran, it has just increased the cost. American goods must
break more laws and use more middlemen (who charge a fee) to get into Iran.
In the Straits of Hormuz, five Revolutionary
Guard Corps approached three U.S. warships (a cruiser, destroyer and frigate).
The speedboats sent a threatening radio message, and then turned away when a
few hundred meters from the U.S. ships (and perhaps noting that automatic
cannon on the American ships was pointed at them). This took place about 27 kilometers
off the coast of Iran, about five kilometers outside of Iranian waters. When
the U.S. complained to Iran about this incident, an Iranian official said it
was just a normal exercise and nothing to worry about. U.S. officials have a
hard time getting used to the fact that no one is in charge in Iran. There are
many different factions, which generally tolerate whatever the other faction
does. Although technically a religious dictatorship, it's more of a collegial
setup, with much debate and bickering required before the majority of the factions
can lean on one group to do, or stop doing, something. That's how the Islamic
radical factions in the Revolutionary Guard Corps were finally persuaded to
stop encouraging terror attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq (U.S. and British
commando operations against the Revolutionary Guard Corps operations helped).