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Subject: The Iran Situation

Hi Bart,
Continuing on from my scorecard on the MidEast I sent you a while ago:
There are several things to keep in mind with respect to Iran, and they all affect that situation.
Iran has a number of nearby states with nukes or the ability to build such in six months or so.  This would obviously 
include India, Pakistan, China and Russia in the first group, along with several of the old Soviet satellites.  Saudi Arabia 
could probably have nukes in six months to a year.  Israel won't admit to nukes officially, but they've got quite a few 
according to every serious source I could find.  And of course, Iraq is under the US nuclear umbrella now.  Consider
how the US nearly had a heart attack when missiles were found in Cuba.  Multiply that by about ten, and you've got 
the Iranian feeling about nukes.  I doubt it would matter who you asked in Iran, young or old, they'd probably say yes 
if the question was whether they thought Iran needed nuclear weapons for defense.
Consider also the unique status of Iran's government.  They are the only officially Islamic government in the world 
which has a Shiite cleric as the Constitutional formal head of the government, mandated to be such.  This Supreme 
Ayatollah appoints half the Guardian Council (which determines who gets to run for high office, what bills can 
become law, etc.) The President essentially runs things with a Congress and so forth, but the laws they pass have to 
pass muster with the clerics as well, or they have no chance. 
It should be noted here that the Supreme Ayatollah did issue a fatwa that nuclear weapons production, stockpiling 
or usage were not permissible under Islam.  I'm not sure of how much importance to lend to that, he can change 
his mind, or the next man in office can.
Then there is the oil price issue.  During the high oil prices of not long ago, the Iranian government spent money 
like water.  Now they are cutting back, that's not popular.  So the government is under stress from that direction as well.
And remember, they are Shiite, not Sunni.  The Sunni state of Saudi Arabia is just across the Persian Gulf.  They don't 
get along, to the extent that they are fighting on opposite sides in Yemen, with the Saudi's fighting the Iran backed Houthi 
in the North, while the Saudi funded (via the Wahabbi sect) Al-Qaeda groups are fighting the Yemen govt in the South.  
And finally, there are the youth.  The youth of Iran does not like the restrictions the government places on them in regards 
to dress or the internet or school curricula or a host of other matters.  The youth voted for a government overhaul, the election 
was very probably stolen (if not, someone has to explain how whole districts switched parties at a rate of 100% of voters, 
all of whom voted against someone from their own ethnic group) and they are furious about that.  Moreover, the young women 
are leading the rebellion, going so far as to take off their scarves and shake their hair loose in public, in front of TV cameras.  
This is very much equivalent to the bra burnings of the 60's, or perhaps goes even further, as the laws against that type of 
"indecency" are pretty strict in Iran.
All these tensions are leading up to a Shiite vs. Sunni war in the MidEast, and there doesn't seem to be much avoiding it.
And the Iranian government, as presently constituted, is unlikely to survive much longer.
The fall of that government won't release the tensions between Sunni and Shiite, though it may ease tension between 
Iran and the US.  It's unlikely to release the tensions with Israel either.  (Iranian law does require a member of each 
recognized minority religion in Iran to have a seat in Parliament, the current Jewish member is Ciamak Moresadegh.  
Be nice if we could get his opinion about all this.)  The Supreme Ayatollah will be stripped of his powers, almost 
certainly, and the government will become much less antagonistic towards the West.
That said, whoever takes power is still going to be looking at their neighbors, and they'll still want nukes.
Now, do I trust Iran with nuclear weapons, given that they already have the means to deliver them?  No, because the 
MidEast doesn't need another nuclear power along with the ones I named above.  Were I President, I'd be pretty 
serious about doing all I could to prevent them from getting nuclear weapons. 

That would make you, like me, - another Cheney :)

Do I think they'd attack Israel without provocation if they had nukes?  I seriously doubt it, however, the Israeli 
government seems sometimes to make a sport of provoking their neighbors, in that regards Lebanon complained 
just a few days ago that Israel is overflying their territory daily with military planes. 
Syria in particular, makes no secret of having thousands of rockets loaded with nerve gas aimed towards Tel Aviv, 
and they've said flatly that if Israel invades THEM, it's war to the knife.  Syria hasn't launched on Israel, and Israel 
seems unwilling to attack Syria, for whatever reason.
Now, as to what the current President of Iran will or won't do, I do not have a clue.  Frankly, he's a copy of George W Bush, 
only cut from Muslim cloth rather than Christian.  He has said a lot of crazy things in public, things that he may be hoping 
will reunite the country behind him.  For example, he's said the US is active in the MidEast to prevent the return of the Mahdi.  
That's equivalent to saying we are trying to prevent the return of Christ!  The man appears to have some serious problems dealing with reality.
That said, it's also true that most of the Arabic television translations come from an Israeli outfit named Memri, which used 
to have the statement that they supported Israeli Zionism on the front page of the site.  They aren't neutral in what they 
translate, they do intend to bend Western reporting in favor of Israel. 
Given the number of religious fanatics in the region, that's not hard.  One wonders if Pat Buchanan, Ralph Reed and 
GW are showing up on the Muslim websites and blogs as the pro Ayatollah factions translate the other way.
And that's how it looks from where I'm sitting.
Keep the hammer flying!

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