Iran: Arguing Over the Death Date

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July 1, 2022: It’s been a very bad year so far. Iranian economic problems have led to more public protests by a larger variety of dissatisfied groups, including teachers, pensioners and essential oil industry workers. In 2019, when the protests revived and were resistant to government use of force to clear the streets, the government discovered that force no longer works and makes matters worse. The government is now purging the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) leadership. That won’t reduce inflation (now over 50 percent and still rising) or the declining value of the Iranian currency.

But will the economic crisis determine if the IRGC can be made useful once more? The IRGC has been the point of the spear in Iranian efforts to destroy Israel and has failed to make much progress. These failures did not come cheap and consumed billions of dollars of money that Iranians believe would have been better spent to improve the economy. The Iranian rulers have noticed, more so than their IRGC bodyguards, how harmful the corruption in the government and spending on nuclear and ballistic missile programs is, as well as hiring foreign mercenaries to be foot-soldiers for IRGC campaigns that tend to fail with the IRGC constantly asking for more money to deal with the problem.

Smuggling oil and selling it clandestinely at a huge discount is hailed as a victory. As is resumption of negotiations with the United States and key European nations to lift the economic sanctions. There are still those in the West willing to give Iran one more one more chance. Meanwhile the Americans, Israel and its new Arab allies have formed an air defense network that links everyone’s sensors together and gives Arab participants access to Israeli sensors and systems that have consistently detected and defeated Iran ballistic and cruise missiles. Iran portrays this alliance as a betrayal of Islam because it means Arab nations that long vowed to destroy Israel are now united with Israel to defend Arabs from Iranian attacks.

Most of the senior clerics running the country believe they are on a mission from God and destined to eventually overcome all these local and foreign problems. There have always been some senior clerics who were more pragmatic and mindful of Iranian and Islamic history. There are more of these clerics, despite efforts to keep them out of the government. This is not a new problem. For thousands of years Iran has been the regional superpower that periodically weakened itself with extended periods of corruption and bickering among the leadership. That’s how the Greeks and later the new Arab Islamic armies conquered Persia (as Iran used to call itself). Now Iran is threatened with a similar weakening of Iranian leadership and major changes in how the country operates. One of the most frequent demonstrator demands is to be done with Islam, which has never done much for Iran. This is heresy to the religious dictatorship, but the religious rulers no longer have the ability to stamp out such radical thoughts.

All the more reason, critics of the Iranian nuclear program advise, to block any deals that will speed up the nuclear weapons program. Israel already has nukes and multiple different delivery systems. Any Iranian attempts to use nukes against Israel, even if the missile with the nuclear warhead is intercepted and spreads lethal nuclear debris over territory between Iran and Israel, will bring nuclear retaliation. The religious leaders and IRGC commanders may dismiss that threat, but most Iranians do not and that majority increases. The Iranian Islamic government never believed they would not last forever, but now reality announces itself along with a looming death date for the religious dictatorship.

June 30, 2022: Major General Hossein Salami, the new head of the IRGC IPC (Intelligence Protection Organization) that handles Counterintelligence, and deals with detecting enemy spies and preventing enemy attacks inside Iran) admitted Israel had penetrated the IPC but wound not confirm that some of the recently dismissed IPC officials were accused of working for Israel. This came a year after former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed that one reason for several recent successful Israeli attacks inside Iran were because a senior IPC official was found to be working for Israel. Ahmadinejad claims the Iranian government kept this discovery secret because it would be embarrassing to admit a top counterintelligence official was working for the enemy. No details were given about who the official was or what happened to him. Israel usually has exit plans ready to get a burned (exposed) Iranian agent out of the country quickly. Details are usually considered secrets, whether they work or not. The official Israeli response to Ahmadinejad’s claim was to dismiss it as delusional. Ahmadinejad has a history of embracing conspiracy theories, but so do many other Iranian officials. Ahmadinejad was often criticized because he blamed corruption among Iranian leaders was a major problem and that even mentioning it openly was seen as disloyal.

June 29, 2022: In southern Syria, Iranian Shia Arab mercenaries are being subjected to a purge by their Iranian employers who have noted a lack of enthusiasm for their work. If the unemployment weren’t so high, these poor performers would not be working for these Iranian fanatics. The regular pay is a tremendous incentive to pretend you’re doing your job and hope the Iranians don’t notice. They did and took action. Iran has been having cash-flow problems since American economic sanctions were revived in 2017. Iran was forced to reduce what it spent on mercenaries in Syria and Lebanon. Iran does not send Iranian troops from the army because most of those soldiers want nothing to do with overseas wars and neither do the families of these soldiers. For a while some army commandos volunteered to go but that eventually ended as anti-government sentiment increased back in Iran and IRGC personnel supplied as much supervision as they could. The IRGC was created in the 1980s to protect the religious dictatorship from attacks by disloyal military personnel. Then and now, many, now most, Iranians opposed the religious dictatorship. Now the IRGC is having problems finding suitable new recruits. At the same time the IRGC is facing growing problems inside Iran, not just from the Iranian military, but from the general public and a growing presence of Israeli assassinations (of IRGC and nuclear weapon specialists) and sabotage attacks on Iranian nuclear weapons facilities.

June 28, 2022: In Qatar, two days of negotiations between the United States and Iran over lifting economic sanctions ended unsuccessfully because the Americans believed Iran was making unreasonable demands and was not serious about the Western efforts to end the sanctions. Iran refused to allow verification Iranian claims that it was not continuing work on nuclear weapons. China, Russia and some European nations were willing to drop verification demands but the U.S. was not and a growing number of European nations were supporting this demand.

June 27, 2022: Russia and Iran signed a new agreement that expanded economic and political cooperation between the two nations. This agreement ignores that sanction currently imposed on Russia and Iran and formalizes the cooperation between the two oil producers to evade Western efforts to prevent Iran and Russia from exporting its oil. The new agreement also confirms joint efforts to support each other militarily. Iran has supported the Russian invasion of Ukraine while Russia backs Iranian threats to other Middle Eastern oil producers. This does not include unofficial Russian agreements in Syria that keep Israel and Russia from going to war because of continued Israeli attacks on Iranian forces in Syria. Russia continues to support Iranian efforts to expand its influence over the Iraqi government.

June 26, 2022: Iran conducted the second test of its 52-ton, three-stage solid fuel Zuljanah SLV (Satellite Launch Vehicle). The test was declared a success even though the satellite put into orbit exploded after a short time in orbit. The last stage, which carries the satellite and uses small maneuvering rockets to achieve a suitable orbit before releasing the satellite. Zuljanah is one of two solid fuel SLVs being tested. The other one is the 82-ton Simorgh, which is an upgraded multi-state liquid fueled SLV that has conducted six test launches and none were a complete success. The first test was declared a success because it was only meant to see if Simorgh could successfully reach a lower (sub orbital) altitude. Early versions of Simorgh used liquid-fuel rockets but over the years more and more solid fuel stages were added until it was completely solid fuel and similar to the American Minuteman ICBM of the 1960s. A solid fuel Simorgh is seen as a solid fuel ICBM that could reach the United States. In 2009 Iran successfully tested its first ballistic missile with a solid fuel rocket motor that could reach Israel. Up until then Iran's missiles that could reach Israel all used liquid fuel, which meant it took hours to get the missiles ready for use. Solid fuel missiles can be ready for action in minutes. This is a big deal, as Israeli satellites and spies can detect liquid fuel rockets being readied for action. No so for solid fuel missiles. Israel has anti-missile missile systems, which work better if they have some advance warning of an enemy launch. Some of the SLV tests were conducted from a mobile (large truck) launcher parked near a stationary launch platform used for liquid-fuel rockets.

June 23, 2022: The IRGC head of intelligence, Hossein Taeb was removed from his job. He is the highest ranking IRGC official to love his job recently and confirms rumors that senior IRGC leadership is finally reacting to the growing number of Iranian nuclear scientists and IRGC officials who have died under suspicious circumstances. There have also been more unexplained explosions as well as obvious attacks against Iranian nuclear weapons development facilities. Unlike Iran, Israel does not take credit for operations inside Iran unless they are announcing the results of a major secret operation inside Iran that cannot be described without admitting Mossad (foreign intelligence organization) involvement. Something Israel definitely does not comment on is the growing number of Iranians working clandestinely to destroy nuclear weapons facilities and other weapons production. Many of these Iranians were knowingly or unknowingly doing it in cooperation with Israel. Mossad has a reputation for taking better care of foreign operatives than Iran does. This is why Iran tends to blame these attacks on accidents rather than confirming that Israelis and Iranians are responsible.

All this explains the recent dismissals of senior IRGC intelligence and internal security officers. For several years Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Guardians Council of twelve senior clerics have been criticizing IRGC performance in defending Iran from attack. This is apparently why the head of the Guardians Corps was replaced. This organization is an elite IRGC unit with over 10,000 troops responsible for personal protection of Khamenei, Guardians Council members and their families. Israel does not go after those the Guardians Corps protects but a growing number of Iranians, even during public protests, call for such violence against the senior leadership. Khamenei noticed that for years these public protests now occurred in provinces that were long dominated by a pro-IRGC population. The protests were mainly about government corruption and mismanagement of the economy. There are fewer IRGC recruits coming from these provinces, which are also suffering from the growing poverty in Iran.

Blaming all these woes on foreign enemies does not work when the causes are internal. It is unclear how extensive this purge of IRGC leadership is or will be. The replacements for dismissed IRGC commanders are expected to turn things around. Such efforts could make the situation worse because corruption within the IRGC and the Guardians Council is one problem that is not discussed openly. Some senior clerics have criticized the corruption in their ranks but that has not had much impact, other than the occasional demotion of such critics. The corruption is most evident within the families of the senior clergy, especially sons and grandsons who openly flaunt their wealth. These playboys have been punished within the family and forced to adopt more discrete and less openly lavish lifestyles.

June 21, 2022: In southern Syria (Daraa province) there have been 260 attacks (leaving 214 dead and many more wounded) so far this year against Syrian military personnel, most of them carried out by Iran. This level of violence remained fairly constant for three years until 2022. This is part of the undeclared war between Iranian and Syrian forces going on there since 2018. Anonymous assassins use pistols and hidden bombs to kill those who work, or worked for government forces or Russia and Syria backed local militias. There are also attacks against former members of ISIL and other militant groups. These victims had accepted amnesty. Russian and Assad forces openly force Iran-backed groups and individuals out of the area. There is no open violence because Iran, Syria and Russia are still officially allies. Israel sometimes fires on Iranian forces operating in Daraa, especially near the Israeli border. Israel also shares intel with Russia and Syria about Syrian officers who are secretly working for Iran. The Iranians pay well, and in dollars. Israel will sometimes release evidence of this to the media, so that Iranians back home have another reason to oppose Iranian foreign wars. Negotiations have been underway between Iran and Russia/Syria since 2020 but have not made much progress. The covert Iranian violence is just another incentive for Syria to get the Iranian agents out of the area. In 2022 much of the violence is from other groups, some of them criminal gangs retaliating against those who refuse to pay for protection from the violence.

June 20, 2022: Iran is angry at the new IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) government because of increased attacks on Afghan Shia. Iran threatens to support an armed Afghan Shia resistance manned by the thousands of Afghan Shia who served as mercenaries in Syria. Some still do, because the Shia Afghan mercs were the best fighters and demanded higher pay than Arab mercenaries. These armed Shia fighters sometimes cooperated with their 1990s Northern Alliance allies, which has reassembled as the NRF (National Resistance Front) and is planning new operations. That alone may be more than the new IEA government can handle. Some of the NRF leaders are sons of successful Northern Alliance commanders. Iran threatens to provide more support to the NRF than they gave the Northern Alliance.

In the southeast (Sistan and Baluchestan province) Iran is facing more problems with its Baluch minority (1.6 million Sunnis) who often cooperate with the Baluchi across the border in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan. Southwest Pakistan has long been called Baluchistan, or "Land Of the Baluchi'', after a tribe ethnically related to the Pushtun in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as the Iranians. Baluchistan also includes a small portion of southeast Iran, which all Baluchis consider part of Baluchistan. Baluchi separatists in Pakistan have been fighting the government for more autonomy, or even a separate state, since Pakistan was created in 1948. After the 1990s some Baluchi tribes tried to work with the Taliban and al Qaeda but that failed because the Taliban were created by the Pakistani military and al Qaeda depended on Pakistani government sanctuary and protection to survive. The Baluchi separatist problem is nothing new as Iran has been fighting such separatists for centuries. Baluchis comprise about two percent of the Iranian population. In Pakistan Baluchis are 3.5 percent of the population and sympathetic to the struggles of their fellow Baluchi in Iran, where Baluchi are a religious (Sunni) and ethnic minority in a Shia majority nation. In both countries government efforts to suppress the Baluchi separatists is criticized for growing use of illegal methods like kidnapping, murder and tolerating Islamic terrorist violence against Baluchis (usually by pro-government groups hiding out in the area).

Iran also has problems with other types of Pakistani radicals. Iran deported 102 Pakistani refugees as a protest for Pakistan accusing Iran of harboring members of a Sindh province terrorist group because two members of the group were captured and admitted receiving bomb making instruction in Pakistan.

June 15, 2022: In the last week three IRGC officers associated with developing new weapons have died under suspicious circumstances. The IRGC refused to comment on this.

June 12, 2022: In Iraq powerful Shia cleric and political leader Muqtada al Sadr gave up on his eight-month long effort to form a new government and ordered the 73 members of his parliamentary coalition to resign, which they did. The 2021 national election was a defeat for pro-Iran parties and an unexpected victory for the Sadr coalition, which won 73 of 329 seats in parliament. He had momentum and the best chance of forming a majority coalition and forming a government that would make good on his promise to do something about government corruption. Sadr was unable to get enough ethnic or religious coalitions to join him and form a government. Even then, Sadr would have to achieve a two-thirds vote in parliament to elect a new president. This is seen as a win for Iran. Meanwhile parliament was not idle. Even without a new government it could pass new laws and last month approved a law making it a capital (death or life in prison) crime to have any contact with Israel or Israelis. This was a win for Iran because 84 percent of parliament voted for it. Iraq never recognized the existence of Israel and a state of war still exists with Israel. The new law caused problems with the West, especially the United States, because Western trade with Iraq often involves Jews with dual (Israeli and their home country) passports. Other Arab oil states have not only recognized the existence of Israel, but established diplomatic, economic and military relationships. One reason for this is Iran, which has been calling for the destruction of Israel since the 1980s. Before that, Iran followed its ancient practice of tolerating all religions. In 1979, when Iranian religious leaders played a major role in overthrowing the monarchy, it became fashionable to oppose everything (including religious tolerance) that the monarchy supported. This was not popular with many Iranians who realized that one reason for Iran being the traditional local superpower was religious tolerance. Islamic conservatives consider that heresy and that was another custom that was not an Iranian tradition. At the same time, anti-Semitism was becoming less of a factor in Christian and Moslem majority countries. The new Iraqi law is seen as a win for Iran and a defeat for Iraq because in practice the new law makes Iraq less able to cooperate with Arab and Western nations it depends on economically, diplomatically and militarily. Many Iraqis, particularly Kurds, openly opposed the new law and still do. Iran may not be very good at creating progress but the religious dictatorship there has been very successful at causing disasters and decline for the Iranian people. The new Iraqi law does not become official until it is ratified by the president of Iraq. Since 2018 that has been Barham Salih, a veteran Kurdish politician. Salih got the job by obtaining the support of most members of parliament. He was seen as a practical choice, someone who would moderate the sometimes-radical laws that get passed mainly for show because parliament knows that Salih will not confirm it and take the heat for members of parliament who silently agree with him.

June 10, 2022: In southern Syria (outside Damascus) an Israeli airstrike against the international airport inflicted substantial damage that halted normal operations for nearly two weeks. Russia, Iran and the Assads were angry about this unpresented attack on key infrastructure. Israel wanted to remind the offended nations that Israel was fighting for higher stakes than anyone else. Iran has been trying to destroy Israel for decades and they keep getting closer, as in southern Syria and the Israeli border. Israeli attacks against Iranian convoys carrying weapons to Syria and Lebanon were regularly detected and destroyed. Iran had tried making deliveries by sea but Israel arranged for these ships to be attacked. Iran was now trying to get new missiles into Syria via the Damascus airport.

In northern Syria increased Turkish military activity has led to confrontations with Iranian-backed Shia militias in northwestern Syria. Turkey is in the process of creating a 30-kilometer-wide border buffer zone. This means pushing Syrian Kurd People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia units out of the buffer zone. Turkey plans to move thousands of Syrian Arab refugees from Turkey to the buffer zone. Iran has been trying to negotiate a ceasefire with Turkey and half the violence between Turkish and Iranian Arab mercenaries in Syria. So far, no success, even though Turkey and Iran still consider themselves allies in Syria.

June 6, 2022: In southern Syria (outside Damascus) an Israeli airstrike used ten missiles against Hezbollah and Iranian facilities outside the city. There was a lot of damage but no reports of casualties. These attacks are usually carried out at night, to reduce the possibility of civilians in or passing near the target area being injured. This is the 14th Israeli attack in Syria for 2022.

In the northern Iraq, Akbar Sanjabi, an Iranian Kurd critic of the Iranian government, survived an Iranian assassination attempt with a bomb planted under his car. This took place in the autonomous Iraq Kurdi regional capital Erbil. Sanjabi belongs to NCRI (National Council of Resistance of Iran), a very effective organization critical of the Iranian government. NCRI also supports Iranian Kurd autonomy. That’s why many of the key NCR! Members in northern Iraq are Iranian exiles. There are a lot more NCRI members outside the Middle East and they are also threatened by Iranian retaliation. In 2021 Iran quickly protested a NCRI rally in Germany.

NCRI began in 1965 as an Iranian secular (Marxist) group that opposed the monarchy and later the religious dictatorship that replaced the monarchy in 1979. NCRI previously called itself the PMOI (People's Mujahideen Organization of Iran) or the Mujahideen Khalq. The PMOI fled to Iraq in 1986 and Saddam Hussein offered sanctuary for over 3,400 Khlaq members and their families who lived at Camp Ashraf, near the Iranian border. The Khalq was disarmed by U.S. forces in 2003. America and Iraq refused Iranian demands to arrest and return most members of the Khalq to Iran for prosecution for attacks Khlaq made in Iran while working from their Iraqi base. After 2003 there were several raids on Camp Ashraf and in 2012 most residents were moved to the more secure “Camp Liberty” near the Baghdad airport. There have been over a thousand Khalq deaths since 20o3 because of attacks by pro-Iran Iraqi Shia militias. The U.S. and the UN long sought countries willing to take PMOI members as political refugees. PMOI members were dedicated leftist terrorists and no one was eager to accept them. The PMOI reformed itself into the NCRI and did it so convincingly that by 2012 the UN and United States had removed NCRI from their list of international terrorists. The 2021 rally was attended by European and American officials who spoke in support of the NCRI to replace the current Iranian government with a democracy.

June 4, 2022: Israel has not been providing any weapons to Ukraine because of Iranian activity near the Israeli border in Syria. Israel needs to maintain good relations with Russia to deal with the Iranian threat. Russia told Israel that sending weapons to Ukraine could reduce Russian cooperation in Syria against Iran. Most Israelis support Ukraine, but the Iranian threat is very real and next door, so Israeli politicians cannot ignore it unless they want to lose their next election.

In southern Iraq, near the Iranian and Kuwait borders, border guards acted on a tip that an ultralight aircraft operated by drug smugglers would attempt to cross into Kuwait. The aircraft was flying low and slow when sported and the border guard fired on it, causing the aircraft to crash land near the Kuwait border. The pilot ran off towards the border and border guards found the aircraft was carrying a million captagon (amphetamine) pills. The aircraft and its cargo had come from Iran. Captagon is a stronger and illegal drug that is popular in the Middle East, especially with Islamic terrorists.

June 3, 2022: In Yemen Iran is not participating in the current peace talks but pressures the Shia rebels to not surrender anything that will further disrupt Iranian weapons smuggling. Iran wants to continue smuggling in ballistic and cruise missiles, which are brought in broken down, to be assembled under Iranian supervision in Shia territory and then fired at targets in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The Shia rebels have suffered heavy casualties in the past year because of failed efforts to gain more territory as well as defending areas they have long occupied.

The April ceasefire was generally adhered to and that could be measured by the reduction (by more than 50 percent) in civilian casualties. This is not usually the case. Past ceasefires are seen as futile because the Shia rebels violated so many of them and, until recently, showed no interest in change, especially since Iran support is crucial to the maintenance of the Shia military efforts.

The best example of Iranian and rebel disdain for ceasefire agreements was the 2018 agreement to halt the successful government campaign to take control of the Red Sea port of Hodeida. This is the second largest port in Yemen and the main entry point of foreign aid for Yemenis in Shia controlled territory. Despite UN monitoring, Hodeida was also where a lot of Iranian military aid was smuggled in. In 2018, as government forces were about to drive rebel forces from the Hodeida city and port, the rebels appealed to the UN for a timeout (peace talks). The UN persuaded the Yemen government and its Arab Coalition to halt operations and the rebels signed an agreement whereby they would withdraw their forces from the port area so that government troops could replace them. The rebels withdrew some of their forces then moved them back in and attacked the government troops. Rebels accused the government of violating the agreement. By 2020 it was clear that the rebels never intended to withdraw and the ceasefire deal was revealed as yet another ploy to enlist the UN to assist the rebels in avoiding a defeat. Not only did the rebels maintain their control of areas near the port, but increased their attacks on shipping in the Red Sea while denying that they were responsible. More key UN members came to conclude that the Shia rebels and their Iranian backers were intent on maintaining control of northwest Yemen so the rebels could use Iranian cruise and ballistic missiles to attack Saudi Arabia.

The current peace talks are different because the Shia and the Yemeni government both agree that allowing Yemen to be a battleground for the Iranian campaign to replace Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Moslem world is not good for Yemen. Then there is the situation in Iran. Yemeni Shia are aware of significant popular opposition in Iran to the Yemen war. The Saudis and UAE were always reluctant participants in the war but could not withdraw as long as Iran was attacking them from Shia rebel-controlled northern Yemen. This encouraged the Yemen government to seriously consider some kind of Shia autonomy and sufficient guarantees that the autonomy would not later be taken away.

The Yemeni government has also gone through some changes. In April president Hadi was forced to resign because of corruption and general ineffectiveness. Hadi agreed to officially transfer his power to a Presidential Council, whose eight members were selected earlier by the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) in consultation with many prominent pro-government officials. The council is led by Rashad al Alimi, a former interior minister. The other seven members include governors of Marib and Hadramawt provinces, STC (South Transitional Council) leaders, a Suuni tribal leader in the north who has formed an anti-Shia coalition, and several military commanders, including a member of the Saleh family that ruled Yemen before the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. The council members accurately represent the key pro-government factions in Yemen. All of these members want peace, but without the continued Iranian presence. This new government was able to use the ceasefire to reorganize and upgrade the Yemeni army.

The new Presidential Council made it easier for the Saudis and the UAE to negotiate with Yemeni factions, including many Shia ones, to work out a peace deal. The war has dragged on for eight years mainly because Iran got involved and injected religious issues. For most Yemenis the war was about maintaining the cohesion of the nation. For Iran and the Shia rebels it’s also about religion. The Iranian religious dictatorship is obsessed with replacing Saudi Arabia as the guardian of Mecca and Medina, the most important religious shrines for all Moslems. Arabs have always controlled these two cities near the Red Sea coast, 780 kilometers north of Yemen Shia territory. Even when the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) controlled the area, they put a proper (descendants of Mohammed) Arab family in charge of Mecca and Medina. The Turks profited from what the many annual pilgrims spent when they arrived. Iran wants to change all that and the Saudis, with the support of most Moslems, oppose Iranian claims.

The main battlefield for control of Mecca has become Yemen, where Iran-backed Yemen Shia rebels began a civil war in 2014 and with Iranian support have survived Saudi efforts to prevent the Shia provinces in northwest Yemen from becoming an Iranian military base area. The Yemen Shia rebels are led by members of the Houthi tribe, which Iran supports because ultimately Shia controlled northwestern Yemen would be ruled by a religious dictatorship with the Houthi tribe providing the hereditary leaders of the Yemeni Shia state.

There are about nine million Shia in Yemen (40 percent of the population) and most belong, like the rebels, to the Zaidi sect that the Houthis dominate. In 2009 only a few hundred thousand Zaidi were up in arms against the government, and not all of them were actively resisting the advancing troops. The Houthi religious leaders, despite their disagreements with Iran over what form of Shia beliefs was superior, accepted Iranian offers of support in regaining self-rule for the Zaidi Shia in Yemen as well as the million Zaidi across the border in Saudi Arabia.

It was difficult for the Shia rebel leaders to realize they had made a mistake accepting Iranian weapons and “guidance.” The Iranians and the Shia rebels had different goals and priorities. When it became obvious that most Iranians as well as most Yemenis opposed the war in Yemen. At that point it became preferable for the Shia rebels to negotiate with the Yemeni government without Iranian “guidance” and threats. Long ago the Shia and Sunni in Yemen learned that it was preferable to tolerate each other and unite when Yemen was threatened. That balance was disrupted during the 1990s as Yemen was once again a united country, The Sunni majority refused to address those complaints because many of the united government leaders were Shia. For many Yemeni Shia, those Shia government officials were out for themselves, not the Shia community in Yemen. Now that there is general agreement on that, there is an opportunity to end the war and create a more lasting peace.

May 30, 2022: Israel warned its citizens in Turkey, or those planning to visit, that there was credible evidence that Iran was planning to attack Israelis in Turkey as retaliation for the assassination last week of IRGC colonel Hassan Khodaei in the Iranian capital. Iran always blames Israel for attacks like this. Turkish officials pointed out that while Iran often threatens to carry out attacks on Israelis in Turkey, they rarely do so. Aside from the fact that Turkish counterterrorism efforts against such attacks is quite good and that such an Iranian attack would damage cooperation between Turkey and Iran in Syria. The Turks believe Iran made the threat mainly for propaganda purposes.

May 29, 2022: Iran announced they had designed and built a new twin-engined military transport aircraft called Simorgh. As with most Iranian announcements like this, the reality of the situation is somewhat different. Simorgh is actually a rebuilt Russian-designed An-140 transport. Iran assembled fourteen of these from component kits supplied by Russia and called their version the Iran-40. Only 39 An-140s were built and none remain in service. Most were built in Russia and two of these were lost in crashes. The first crash, in 2002, involved a Ukrainian airline An-140 carrying a delegation of top Ukrainian Antonov aircraft designers and engineers to a ceremony in Iran to commemorate the assembly of the first Iran-140. Iran went ahead and assembled fourteen Iran-140s and was planning to begin building its own. The plan was abandoned in 2014 when a second Iran-assembled Iran-140 crashed. In 2005 an Azerbaijan An-140 was lost in a crash, The 2015 Iranian announcement ended the brief career of the An-140. None remain in service and most have been retired, perhaps in the hope that someone will come up with an updated and safe version. This is what Iran has apparently done. But to enhance confidence in the Simorgh there is no official mention of the Iran-140. None is needed, anyone who has seen an Iran-140 will note the resemblance. If the Simorgh turns out to be a safe and reliable Iran will be praised. If the Simorgh runs into problems, it will be seen as another Iranian bait and switch.

May 28, 2022: In Tajikistan, national security officials from Iran, India, Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, but not Pakistan, met to discuss the terrorism situation in Afghanistan. All agreed that the terrorism threat from Afghanistan was growing despite the new IEA government insisting they have it under control. There was also agreement that diplomatic recognition and financial aid or investment was on hold until the IEA got serious about the terrorism threat. A senior IEA official recently said that all were welcome in Afghanistan, including known Islamic terror groups. The one exception is ISK (Islamic State Khorasan), the local ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) group that regularly kills non-Moslems or non-Sunni Moslems, especially Shia. This causes major problems with Shia-majority Iran, which considers itself the protector of Shia everywhere. The security officials agreed that the Pakistan-backed Taliban dominate the IEA government and seem unable to control what they have created. That includes the sanctuary the TTP enjoys in Afghanistan. TTP wants to impose an IEA-like government in Pakistan. Tajikistan also noted that a similar Tajik group had received sanctuary in Afghanistan just across the Tajik border.

May 27, 2022: Over two million Afghans have fled to Iran or Pakistan since the IEA took power in late 2021. These refugees were tolerated in Pakistan because most of the shared border has tribes related to those in Afghanistan. This is not the case in Iran, which ordered the refugees to leave and those who refused were forced back into Afghanistan. So far Iran has sent over 600,000 Afghans back.

May 25, 2022: Outside Tehran, at least half a dozen explosive carrying quadcopters made an attack on the Parchin military base that included a secret nuclear weapons research facility. The attack destroyed structures and left one Iranian engineer dead and another wounded. At first Iran described the incident as an industrial accident Days later the dead engineer was hailed as a “martyr”, a term only used for someone killed by enemy action.

Parchin is 30 kilometers southeast of Tehran, which means it is hundreds of kilometers from the nearest border and that the quadcopters used to attack Parchin were launched from somewhere inside Iran. This is similar to a number of other attacks on nuclear facilities in the last year. Iran likes to blame Israel for attacks on its nuclear program but there have been so many of them recently that Iran has to admit that Israel has a large network of agents in Iran. Worse yet, most of these operatives are Iranians who oppose the current government and the nuclear weapons program.

Parchin is another of those secret research facilities that Iran always insisted was not involved with nuclear weapons research. Doing so was a condition of the 2015 JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) treaty. This is the group of six nations (China, France, Russia, Britain, the U.S. and Germany) that negotiated and signed the 2015 treaty with Iran to lift economic sanctions in return for Iran halting its nuclear weapons program (which Iran insisted it did not have). The treaty was signed in mid-2015 despite doubts about Parchin. There was mounting evidence that Iran was already working to continue its nuclear weapons research program. Before and after mid-2015 there were satellite photos available showing work performed at the underground nuclear facilities at Parchin that was long suspected of housing a nuclear research facility. Iran never let UN IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) inspectors inspect this base. Yet satellite photos showed Iran “cleaning up” evidence that nuclear weapons research was going on there. One condition of the 2015 treaty was to let the IAEA visit Parchin before the end of 2015. The facilities IAEA wanted to inspect were all destroyed or modified and much material removed before the inspectors finally arrived.

Iran continues to work on nuclear weapons despite the fears that the Israel agent network in Iran is growing fast. The government insists all these agents are Israeli but most Iranians believe that a lot, if not most, of them are Iranian. That’s because there are more anti-government demonstrations involving more Iranians from all parts of the country. They are all calling for the end of the religious dictatorship. Some call for an end to Islam in Iran while even more openly support Israel.

The Iranian monarchy and Israel were allies from 1953 to 1979, when a revolution led by religious leaders replaced the monarchy with a theocracy. The religious rulers were against much of what the monarchy supported, especially Israel and the United States. Any Iranian who opposed this was a traitor and many Iranians were executed for openly opposing the religious leaders on this. Some of the victims were executed just because they were suspected of supporting ties with America and Israel. That support still existed but Iranians learned how to keep it a secret. As the religious rulers did more damage to the Iranian economy and tried to impose Islamic lifestyle rules on all Iranians, the quiet opposition grew. There were periods of public protests that were temporarily halted by gunfire. Many senior clerics did the math and tried to carry out reforms from the inside. That has not worked, especially among the senior clerics who have become corrupt as well as oppressive.

 

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