2008: Government leaders make the most of the one thing they are popular for;
the nuclear program. Atomic bombs are rarely mentioned, the emphasis is on "nuclear
technology". That's a code word for nuclear weapons, which are immensely
popular in Iran. Political and religious leaders openly boast of how clever
they are in obtaining nuclear technology despite the efforts of the UN, and the
world, to deny Iran access.
leaders need all the popular acclaim they can get, because the religious police
have not relented in their campaign to punish women who do not dress properly.
Now the religious police will visit work places and restaurants to insure that women
found there are properly covered up. Those who fail inspection are issued a
warning or hauled off to a police station, where they must wait for a family
member shows up with proper clothing (that is not too tight, too short, to
skimpy or too revealing in general). The clerics who run the country and
mismanage the economy are also trying to distract the public from the shortages
and 20 percent a year inflation. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has recommended
greater use of the "culture of martyrdom", to solve the country's economic
problem. He did not elaborate.
subject the Iranians do not want to discuss is the continued persecutions of the
Arab minority in the west, along the Iraqi border. The Iranians don't trust
their Arabs, and keep lots of secret police and Revolutionary Guards in the
area, with orders to be active in the pursuit of real or imagined traitors. The government is a little more outspoken
about unruly Kurds up north. In response, separatist minded Kurds openly
threaten the Iranian government, something the Iranian Arabs are much more
circumspect about. The most invisible victims in Iran are the three million
refugees. Over 90 percent of these are from Afghanistan, and they are a major
problem along the Afghan border. The refugees find the religious dictatorship
in Iran more hospitable than the warlords and Taliban back in Afghanistan. Then
there is the drug business. The Afghan refugees are deeply involved with the
smuggling and distribution of Afghan opium and heroin. There are several
million addicts in Iran, and the Afghan refugees help keep them all high and
also are quick to deny any Iranian involvement in the violence that still
troubles neighboring Iraq. But the U.S. has a growing pile of evidence that
says otherwise. Documents, equipment and interrogation transcripts all detail
Iranian efforts to, well, that's where it gets murky. There are several Iranian
factions meddling in Iraq. Some are most interested in establishing a religious
dictatorship, as Iran has, in Iraq. Others just want to support those who are
willing to kill American soldiers. Others only want to make money, any way
possible. U.S. troops have killed or captured hundreds of Iranians and Iraqis
who are working for various Iranian government factions, plus some private
Iranian groups that could best be described as "armed entrepreneurs."
gotten itself involved in a public feud with al Qaeda. It began when Iranian president
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad publically claimed that the September 11, 2001 attacks were
a ploy by Israel or the CIA, to justify a war on Islam. A few days later, an al
Qaeda leader, Ayman al Zawahri, rushed out an audio tape, denouncing the
Iranians for casting doubt on the fact that al Qaeda had planned and carried
out those attacks. Although Shia Iran and Sunni al Qaeda occasionally cooperate,
they are, in fact, bitter enemies.
photo satellite pictures have revealed a ballistic missile assembly and test
facility 230 kilometers southeast of the capital. Layout is similar to such
facilities in North Korea. Iran is not particularly upset with this kind of
exposure, and officials openly boast of getting around UN and European
sanctions by getting what they need from "East Asia" (code word for North Korea
and China.) Iran even tries to export its weapons, but was recently expelled
from a Malaysian weapons trade show because UN sanctions prohibit Iran from
exporting weapons. At first, Malaysia allowed Iran to exhibit, but then the UN intervened
and the Iranian exhibit and salesmen were gone.
the last two weeks, armed Iranian speedboats (the favorite ride of the seagoing
Revolutionary Guards) have come too close (a few hundred meters) to U.S. ships
in the Persian Gulf, and warning shots were fired by the Americans.
Interestingly, the Iranian government denied both incidents. That's not
unusual. The government is a collection of factions that don't communicate
well. The Revolutionary Guards are often out of control, and make everyone in
the government nervous.
2008: A bomb went off in a southern Iraq
mosque, leaving a dozen dead and nearly 200 wounded. Police later denied it was
a bomb, and blamed the explosion on an accident involving weapons left in the
mosque after a military exhibition. Mosques are frequently used to store and
show off weapons. Islam considers itself a "militant" religion, so weapons are
welcome in mosques.