Iran: We're Only In It For The Money


September 22, 2010: Without any advance warning, the government has increased electricity prices to ten times their old (heavily subsidized) level. The government expects this to save them billions of dollars a year. That is, if a popular revolution doesn't overthrow the government first. The government has said it would take away subsidies for gasoline and electricity, but did not say when. That's because the government knows these price increases would be very unpopular, and would cause, at the very least, a sharp cut in disposable income, and living standards.

There's an increasingly nasty power struggle going on inside Iran. There are three main factions; the clerics (who currently have supreme power), the Revolutionary Guard (that answers to the clerics, at least in theory) and the elected politicians (the clerics can veto any candidates they don't like, so all the politicians are considered "good Moslems.") The Revolutionary Guard has been taking more power (in theory, at the behest of the clerics, but not everyone is so sure), and the politicians, led by president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, want more power. But the clerics and their Revolutionary Guard are not willing to give up power. The popular opposition has, for the moment, been suppressed and no longer seen much in public. The ruling clerics are reviled for their corruption, and the Republican Guard for their violent suppression of any dissent. The elected politicians are hated because they are often willing tools of the clerics and Revolutionary Guard. These days, no one likes anyone very much in Iran.

Iran continues to frustrate UN attempts to inspect the Iranian nuclear program. The latest ploy is to bar key UN nuclear inspectors. The UN protested this, and Iran ignored the protests.

In the last two weeks, two Iranian diplomats (assigned to Finland and Belgium) have defected, complaining about increased repression and misrule back home.

Customs officials in Italy found seven tons of RDX, a military grade explosive, hidden in bags labeled as "Powdered Milk" and headed for Syria. Iran increasingly resorts to such smuggling schemes in order to smuggle forbidden goods in, and out, of the country.

September 18, 2010: The government said that it was now self-sufficient in gasoline (petrol) and had stopped importing the stuff. But the new embargo blocked other countries from exporting gasoline to Iran, and even China has backed off from shipping gasoline to Iran. It appears that the government will now impose the price increases (removal of heavy subsidies) on gasoline, to cut consumption to a level that local production can handle. Previously, about a third of needed gasoline was imported. Gasoline rationing, which began three years ago, has cut sharply into the $5 billion a year the government had to pay for imported gasoline (which is sold at highly subsidized prices). This has forced many of the seven million Iranian automobile owners to get some of their fuel from the black market, where the price is ten times higher (about $4 a gallon) compared to the subsidized, and rationed, price. This is very unpopular. The Iranian solution has long been to obtain the needed components to built more refineries, and slowly eliminate the subsidies.

September 16, 2010: In the southeast, Sunni terrorists took six Shia captive after stopping a bus. Revolutionary Guards troops went after the kidnappers and their hostages. After three days, the kidnappers were cornered. In a gun battle, two of the captives and a kidnapper were killed, but the other four captives were rescued. This incident was embarrassing to the government, which has recently been proclaiming the Sunni tribal rebellion in the southeast over.

September 14, 2010: : The government freed the one woman (who is also ill) among the three American hikers, seized on the Iraqi border last year, but only after the payment of $500,000 in "bail" (actually a ransom). The three have been charged with espionage. Iran wants the U.S. to release Iranian Revolutionary Guard agents it has captured in Iraq and elsewhere. These agents provided assistance to local terrorists who attacked American troops. The U.S. will not do this kind of exchange, because it encourages Iran to kidnap more Americans in order to get more Iranian spies and terrorism support agents freed.




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