Iran: Things That Are Not Talked About


November 24, 2010: The government is going after more children of senior officials, even those of senior clerics, who have been active in reform activities. This is causing more tension among the several hundred clerics and politicians at the top, who now have to deal with these family problems, and prosecutors. The UN has been openly criticizing the Iranian crackdown on reformers and dissidents, but the Iranian government just ignores this sort of thing. The government is more concerned with hostile information flowing in via satellite TV, and flowing both ways via the Internet. Bloggers and other Internet based commentators based in Iran are being tracked down and prosecuted with increasing frequency. Diplomatic and technical efforts are directed at halting the satellite transmissions.

The government claims that it has upgraded its older (1960s era) S-200 (SA-5) Russian anti-aircraft missiles so that they will be able to operate like the more modern S-300 (SA-12) systems that Russia sold Iran, but now refuses to deliver (because of Western pressure). These claims are common with the Iranians, and are largely a charade, meant more as internal propaganda than as an accurate reflection of Iranian weapons development capabilities.

The U.S. believes that the latest round of sanctions, especially those cracking down on Iranian use of the international banking system, are having greater impact than any earlier efforts. The Iranians find that they are having a hard time buying goods abroad, and getting them smuggled in. Moving money is much more difficult. The government does not publicize details of these problems, lest the "enemy" (the rest of the world) know how well, or not, the new sanctions are working. But a lot of Iranian economic activity has been disrupted, and Western intel agencies are detecting more "chatter" among senior Iranian officials complaining about the situation.

November 23, 2010: The government denied that the Stuxnet computer worm was the cause of recent shutdowns in uranium enrichment operations. This despite announcements from computer security experts in the West, who have been dissecting Stuxnet, that the code appears to be directed at the kind of software and hardware Iran is using to control its enrichment equipment. The elaborate and well crafted Stuxnet Cyber War weapon is being blamed on Israel or the United States, and was only discovered four months ago. It was believed to have been released in late 2009, and millions of computers have been infected as the worm sought out specific targets, initially believed to be the Iranian nuclear power plant at Bushehr. Stuxnet was designed to interrupt the operation of the control software used for industrial equipment, but it was unclear initially exactly what specific industrial gear. This is the scariest aspect of Stuxnet, and is making Iranian officials nervous about other Stuxnet-type attacks having been made on Iran. The U.S. and Israel have been successful with "software attacks" in the past. This stuff doesn't get reported much in the general media, partly because it's so geeky, and because there are no visuals. It's computer code and arcane geekery that gets it to its target. But the stuff is real, and the pros are impressed by Stuxnet, even if the rest of us have not got much of a clue.

November 21, 2010: The West African state of Gambia has severed ties with Iran over revelations that 13 cargo containers of weapons discovered in a Nigerian port a few months ago were ultimately headed for Gambia. Nigerian police ran down the documentation and people associated with the shipment, and confirmed that the weapons had come from Iran, and that the movement of the containers was being supervised by two Iranian members of the Al Quds Force (an Iranian organization that runs foreign terrorism operations), working out of the local Iranian embassy. One of these guys had diplomatic immunity. The second man did not, but was hiding out in the Iranian embassy in Nigeria. Gambia is throwing all Iranian embassy personnel out of the country, and seeking any others who may have been working with the Iranians, and especially al Quds. Gambia believes Iran was trying to help overthrow the Gambian government, and was importing these weapons to help with that. Earlier, Nigeria reported the Iranian arms shipment to the UN, as an official case of Iran violating the arms export sanctions placed on it. Since Iran has no reason for support the overthrow of the Gambian government, it's believed this arms shipment was just an arms smuggling, for profit, operation by al Quds. Iran does not officially recognize these kinds of activities either, but a lot of it goes on.

November 19, 2010:  Nigerian police discovered 130 kg (286 pounds) of heroin, welded into aircraft parts shipped from Iran. Much of Afghanistan's heroin is moved through Iran to more distant markets. Enough of the heroin and opium stays in Iran to supply about two million addicts. Despite energetic efforts to stop the drug smuggling from Afghanistan, most of it gets through, and is then smuggled to other countries. Iran gets blamed for whatever heroin is seized abroad and traced back to Iran based smugglers.

November 16, 2010: The armed forces began five days of nationwide training exercises to see how prepared air defense forces were to deal with an attack. The exercise tested communications links, equipment readiness and troop training, seeking to find out who was not ready to do their part. What the exercise could not test was what kind of countermeasures Israeli or American (or whomever) attackers might use. The most potent electronic weapons attackers would employ are kept secret, to enhance the surprise and disruption. For the same reason, the Iranians kept secret many details of their training exercises, particularly the results.




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