Iran: Behind The Headlines


July 12, 2008: Iran is a mess. The economy suffers from growing inflation (over 25 percent) and unemployment (ditto). Jobs are more available to those who behave and avoid outspoken opposition to the religious dictatorship that has ruined the economy and made Iran an outlaw state in the world community. The government uses police state tactics to harass or imprison trade unions and media that speak openly about the incompetence and cruelty of the government. Thousands of "Revolutionary Guards" and guys who can best be described as "street thugs", are on the government payroll to intimidate or assault anti-government people, wherever they can be found. This sort of thing even makes many government supporters (about 20 percent of the population, mostly Islamic conservatives) uneasy.

More and more Iranians are finding out the extent to which their oil revenue has gone to prop up Hizbollah (Shia Islamic radicals in Lebanon), Syria (run by a Shia religious minority as a hereditary dictatorship) and Hamas (Palestinian Islamic radicals dedicated to the destruction of Israel, which has impoverished and imprisoned 1.5 million Palestinians.) Iran has also been funding religious radicals in Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan, and Iranians are not happy with all this expensive troublemaking. The Iranian government responds with more religious (lifestyle) police and increased political restrictions. This extensive troublemaking has brought about increased restrictions on Iranian access to the international banking system. This is part of a growing effort to shut down three decade old Iranian smuggling efforts (in response to embargos). That is working, and the Iranians are paying more for the smuggled goods, or not getting them at all. Iranian financial support for Islamic terrorists is getting more expensive as well, often requiring the use of couriers carrying large quantities of cash across many international borders. This results in lots of loss (to bribes, seizure and theft).

Decades of sanctions, with no dramatic result (like a new Iranian government, or a more cooperative one) has led to more nations joining in on the sanctions, and more personalized sanctions. This angle has been taken to the extent that individual Iranian officials now have all manner of travel and financial restrictions on them. This sort of thing has an effect, if only because of the personal nature of it.

Iran is also defenseless. The military has been without upgrades to its equipment since the 1980s. Even then, the last new military technology received has been second rate North Korean, Chinese or Russian stuff, and not much of it. A recent shouting contest between Iran and Israel (over a threatened Israeli air raid on Iranian nuclear weapons development facilities) made it clear that Israel had real capabilities, while Iran was mostly blowing smoke. For example, Iran was caught, once more, issuing doctored photographs of missile tests. It's also been pointed out that, Iranian attempts to halt Persian Gulf oil traffic two decades ago failed, and since then, Iran's relative military power has declined. U.S. naval commanders have flat out stated that Iran would not be able to halt oil traffic. No details were given, which reflects the need to keep combat plans as secret as possible (lest the enemy have an opportunity to develop countermeasures.) The one Iranian threat that has some relevance is terrorism. Iran has invested billions of dollars in developing a terrorist infrastructure throughout the region, and the world. Many major intelligence agencies have detected this network, which has rarely been put to work carrying out attacks. If the Iranian terror network were ordered to make an all-out effort, it's uncertain how dangerous they would be. This, of course, is another reason most of the World does not want Iran to develop nuclear power plants (a source of radioactive material for terrorists) or nuclear weapons.

Many Persian Gulf Arabs, with a sense of history and experience dealing with Iranians (there is still a large, if often illegal, trade across the Gulf), believe that the Iranians will not do anything dramatic. There are two reasons for this. First, the Iranians have a history, and it is one of pragmatism and reluctance to do crazy things. The Arabs have always considered this scary, although reassuring under the current circumstances. Secondly, the religious dictatorship in Iran has lots of economic and political problems at home. Yes, the Iranian dictators would love to have the Israelis or Americans attack Iran, as this would divert the Iranian public for a few months, or years, from the real enemy (themselves). Many Arab diplomats in the Gulf caution their Western counterparts to beware of Iranian attempts to goad the West into attacking Iran. Leave the Iranians alone, the Arab wise men say, and the Iranians will do one thing they constantly do, fall into disorder and civil war. That's how the Arabs won their single great victory over the mighty Iranians, 1400 years ago, and installed Islam as the new Iranian religion. But since then, the Iranians have gone back to being what they have always been; the neighborhood bully.

July 6, 2008: Iraq is making stronger and stronger protests against Iranian attacks on Iraqi villages along the Iranian border. These villages are used, by Kurdish separatist terrorists, as bases for operations inside Iran. Iraq does not want to get into a border war with Iran, but the constant Iranian attacks are getting embarrassing. The Iraqi press is calling for "something to be done."

June 28, 2008: On the Pakistani border, Baluchi rebels killed two of the sixteen Iranian policemen they kidnapped two weeks ago. The rebels are Sunni Moslems, and that religious difference, added to the ethnic ones (Baluchis and Iranians have been fighting for centuries) has created a bitter struggle along the border. Iran blames the U.S. for this current outbreak of tribal violence, leaving out the long and bitter history of the area. The Baluchi tribes live on both sides of the border, and the Pakistani government refuses to get involved when Iranian Baluchis hide out across the border.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close