Sunday, July 13, 2008

Iran: Behind the Scenes

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 trouble making. The Iranian government responds with more religious (lifestyle) police and increased political restrictions. This extensive trouble making 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 embargoes). 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.

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The Feared Threesome
China's neighbors are scared, and a look at the recent past reveals good reasons for that fear. Over the last three decades China has simultaneously solved its population and economic problems. The "one child" program prevented the birth of at least 400 million Chinese. As the current 1.3 billion Chinese note the problems they are having with land and resource shortages, they cannot help but be grateful that there are not 1.7 billion Chinese. At the same time police and bureaucrats were tormenting parents who even thought about having more than one child, the government revived China's market economy, presided over by a Communist Party that stood Marxism on its head and didn't give it a second thought (anyone who did, was shot or sent off to a work camp for "reeducation.") China now has the third largest economy in the world.

For the last decade, China has been reforming and expanding its military. The neighbors who witnessed the population control and economic reform (neither of which any of the contemporary experts believed possible), consider it likely that the Chinese will, in the next two decades, become a military superpower. Japan, India and Taiwan, in particular, are not too happy about that.




China and Russia: Supporters of Genocide
This week, both Russia and China again proved their inhumane belief system by supporting the genocidal policies of Zimbabwe, by supporting that nation in the UN against a rebuke by neighboring nations. This was part of an effort by the USA to step up punitive measures against the authoritarian regime in (black-dominated) Harare after a widely discredited presidential election last month. Western powers mustered nine votes, the minimum needed to gain approval in the 15-nation council. But the resolution pushed by the Bush administration failed because of the action by two of the five veto-wielding permanent members.

The other three states with veto power — the U.S., Britain and France — argued that sanctions were needed to respond to the state-sanctioned violence and intimidation against opponents of President Robert Mugabe before and after Zimbabwe's recent presidential election.

The proposal would have imposed an international travel ban and freeze on personal assets of Zimbabwe's oppressive President Mugabe and 13 key officials. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad expressed disappointment and said he found it "disturbing" that China joined with Russia. In London, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband criticized the veto, saying that "it will appear incomprehensible to the people of Zimbabwe."

Russia and China have both supported genocide in any nation that is an ally. It's sad that even after the democratic changes that both nations have endured in the last decade that they continue their horrible foreign policies of the Cold War.



Fox News Won't Report the News
This week, Fox News decided to join the politically-correct crowd that dominates US media and refused to report that a homosexual (or gay) man abducted to (straight) men. While I watched the news a few days ago, Fox began a report that said "Man kidnaps two men". At first I was confused, why would someone do such a thing? After about 2/3rd of the report the announcer stated that the perpetrator (Edward Lanphear) had "sexually assaulted" his two prisoners, who he held in a bizarre Saw-like scenario. What bothers me deeply is that the report was slanted so that it wouldn't offend gay men. The title of the report should have been "Gay man kidnaps two straight men, sexually assaults them" but in typical propaganda fashion, Fox News has bowed to the PC God and left out (as much as possible) critical information that the public and police should know. All because they didn't want gay men to look badly. The scary thing is that Lanphear acted like he knew what he was doing and could be a serial killer, leaving behind him a wake of dead men. His actions show me that he has done this in the past before, or got information on how to do this from some very sick website or book. I am deeply offended at Fox News for not reporting the news, endangering the general public and spreading more misinformation. This sort of reporting is despicable and dishonest. Below is a (very detailed) criminal report by the two men found alive in Lanphear's home, including the sexual assault details. See HERE.



GAS PRICES
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