Calm returned to central Tehran on Oct. 4, a day after it was rocked by unprecedented protests over Iran's plunging currency. All money-changers and most shops were closed, and the Grand Bazaar—the normally bustling commercial heart of the city—was mostly shuttered, with only a few streetside shops open. In the nearby traditional money-changing district, police patrolled past closed exchange outlets. The previous day, hundreds of police and security personnel flooded central Tehran, arresting unlicensed money changers—part of efforts by authorities to halt the dive of the rial, which is at an all-time low against the dollar. Scuffles broke out with stone-throwing men, and trash dumpsters were set alight. Opposition website Kaleme.com said slogans included "Allahu akbar!" (God is great, associated with the 1979 revolution) and "Leave Syria alone, instead think of us!" (Middle East Online, World Bulletin, Turkey, Oct. 4)
We have long been skeptical about incessant predictions from the Chicken Little crowd of an imminent US or Israeli attack on Iran. We've heard these predictions for years, and it still hasn't happened—yet none of those making the predictions ever seem to eat crow. And there has been plenty of evidence that the whole thing is a game of brinkmanship aimed at keeping Iran intimidated. But in recent weeks we have started to fear that the new circumstances in the Middle East may indeed be compelling the West towards war with Iran. Now, with two US warships headed for Libya, 25 nations led by the US are converging on the strategically vital Strait of Hormuz for naval maneuvers on an unprecedented scale. The idea seems to be to prevent Iran from closing off the strait in the event of war. Prominent partners in the 12-day exercise are the UK, France, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. (The Telegraph, Sept. 15)
Now here's a delicious irony. The New York Times reports that US officials say Iran is supplying Syria with arms through Iraqi airspace, and Washington is quietly putting pressure on Baghdad to shut the air corridor down. We noted last year that the Iraq pull-out (which is largely fictional anyway) could paradoxically lead to war with Iran: the Bush/neocon strategy of playing a Shi'ite card against Iraq's Sunni jihadists and Baathists has resulted in a state as much in Tehran's orbit as Washington's. So holding on to Iraq (with its decisively critical oil reserves) as a US client state could necessitate a severe humbling (at least) of Iran. Now the Syria crisis ups the ante further. We've already noted that the US and UK have established an office block in Istanbul to jointly coordinate aid to the Syrian rebels. Now Reuters reports that France is supplying "aid and money" to rebel-controlled "liberated zones" in the northern provinces of Deir al-Zor, Aleppo and Idlib. (See map.) Just as the US is supposed to be drawing down its military commitments in the Greater Middle East, the Syrian dilemma could be propelling the West towards a virtual reconstitution of the Seleucid Empire, which in the Third Century BCE ruled over Syria, Babylon (Iraq), Parthia (Iran) and Bactria (Afghanistan). Only this time, of course, under US-led multinational rule, not Greek.
Families of murdered Iranian nuclear scientists told reporters at a press conference on Aug. 15 that they have filed lawsuits against the US, UK and Israel for their governments' alleged involvement in the assassinations. The father of one of the scientists revealed that the families would ask Iran's judiciary to pursue their complaint internationally. At least five nuclear scientists have been murdered since 2010. Iranian authorities announced earlier this month that 14 individuals have given confessions in association with the killings and that some had confessed to being trained in Israel. The US and UK have repeatedly denied involvement in the killing of the nuclear scientists despite their objections to Iran's nuclear program.
Oil prices rose by over dollar to approximately $103 a barrel July 16 after a US Navy ship fired at a fishing boat off the United Arab Emirates (UAE), killing one on board and injuring three. The fishing boat reportedly failed to heed warnings. No link to Iran was claimed in the incident, but it came two days after an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps naval commander boasted that Iran has the capability to blockade the Strait of Hormuz. Iran's parliament is currently considering a bill calling for the strait to be closed until sanctions are lifted. (Reuters, The Nation, Pakistan, July 16) The UAE has meanwhile just completed a new overland pipeline that strategically bypasses the Strait of Hormuz. Abu Dhabi, one of the UAE states, has started exporting its first crude from the new pipeline, shipping the oil from the sheikhdom of Fujairah to a refinery in Pakistan. (Bloomberg, July 16) (See map.)
A meeting of 60 Iranian trade unionists was raided by security forces June 17 in the northern city of Karaj, and all were arrested. Most were members of the Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers' Organizations, including longtime labor activist Mahmoud Salehi. Most were released the following day, including Salehi, but nine remain in the custody and have been transferred to the special Intelligence Office in the city of Rasht. Advocates note that the meeting was peaceful, and authorities showed to warrants for the arrests.
From the International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran (IASWI), Feb. 14:
Resolution against the economic sanctions and threat of war on Iran
The International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran (IASWI) strongly condemns militaristic policies of capitalism. IASWI is a part of the anti-capitalist movement, of the working class global front and the 99% of the world's population, for a real and enduring peace based on freedom, equality, social and economic justice and the abolition of exploitation.
Protesters took to the streets of Tehran Feb. 14, one year after opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi were put under house arrest for supporting Iran's last protest wave. Since their detention, their whereabouts have not been known. The opposition website Kaleme, which supports the opposition Green Movement, reported convergences of protesters at several points around the capital, holding generally silent marches, despite a heavy presence of riot police. (BBC News, DPA, Feb. 14)