Some Quick Thoughts On Iran

Looking around the world, there are some potentially interesting ebbs and flows in data in various regions. Interestingly enough, all of them have ties to China. I’m leaving out The Hermit Kingdom, as the black hole that is still semi-operational has a lot to do with internal, and there seems to be some confirmation that it may have indeed been an effort to see who was disloyal and/or who the rest of the world sees as replacing him. In the past, those speculated upon usually met grim fates, remains to be seen what happens this time.

I’m going to start looking at some of these interesting places with odd data by focusing a bit on Iran. The mullahs are hanging on, though it may well be by the fingernails. The economy is shattered, COVID has run rampant, and they have so far not been successful in their effort to force the return of the Hidden Imam.

Many in the West, particularly politicians, fail to grasp how important that last fact is to the mullahs. It is both a case of mores, the cultural blinders we all wear though some seem to never take them off, and of a mindset that equates religion with superstition. For progressive and related belief systems, religion is foolish and something to which only lip service should be paid because it is important to the stupid proles. For them, their mores don’t allow them to consider that the mullahs, and many others, take it very seriously and aren’t simply using religion to gain temporary power.

The fact is, the mullahs and those who support them see the power they now have as temporary. The solution lies in past prophecies that state when the Hidden Imam/13th Imam returns, their power will not only be greater, but permanent as his return will usher in a golden age of a world-wide caliphate. Yes, that’s a simplistic statement of the view, but it is accurate for this discussion.

The Iranian Revolution was not just about Islamism, it was an effort to gain the power needed for a particular sect of Shia to bring about the conditions for the return of the Hidden Imam. It has been a driving force behind all efforts, as the right set of conditions has to be in place for that to happen.

What conditions? There are several, but the key one is, there has to be their version of Armageddon. There has to be a major war that sets the mullahs against all other religions. There is a reason the mullahs refer to the United States as The Great Satan.

They need the war, but also don’t want to lose. If they can be attacked, hold their own or not get wiped off the map immediately, then those conditions will bring the return, and the Imam will lead them to victory despite the odds. Again, I’m simplifying things, but it is accurate for these purposes.

Now, nevermind if they provoke the attack, for any response to anything they do counts as an unprovoked attack. Don’t ask me to explain that, it is twisted but it is how they think. I really wish I had been able to get back from Iraq with some of the artwork related to this that we captured on a raid. It would convey a lot if I still had it.

Thus, we have everything from the Embassy Takeover to the efforts to develop nuclear weapons. It is also the reason for the provocations in the Straights; and, it is the reason for the extensive clandestine network and operations that now span the Middle East, parts of Africa, and even into Asia. $130 billion buys you a lot of clandestine activity…

Ironically enough, there is reason for me to believe that COVID came into Iran not by an innocent merchant, but through that clandestine network. Without going into some details, consider a hypothetical.

You are working on nuclear and other weapons, but have been having a rough go of it. Your rockets don’t work reliably and don’t perform as advertised. Your nuclear program has been thwarted, or seriously delayed, by actions from Israel and the United States. Your population is restless, and quite a few of your non-covert operations have ended badly. You need help, and help from an almost neighbor on the nuclear part has, to some extent, dried up. What do you do? Where can you go for help on all the technical and production issues?

Where indeed. Wouldn’t it be very ironic if you had people in for meetings and more in a country where a major epidemic has broken out? And wouldn’t it be even more ironic if your (semi) clandestine air flights brought back more than your people and items?

Is there reason to believe that this could have happened? Yes. Amazing how much info on flights there is out there in the open through sites that track pretty much all flights that leave the ground; and, there is other open-source intelligence as well. Good enough to take to court? No, but interesting none-the-less. Keep in mind that we are limited on humint from China, indeed we have effectively none right now, because the Chinese hacked the allegedly secure server that they were using to communicate with the CIA. They were rolled up and pretty much all are presumed dead at this point.

Now, for fun, look at the spread of COVID-19 from Iran via that same semi-clandestine airline and from covert meetings. As I noted a while back, a good counter-intel type could have a field day with that.

Now, not for fun, look at some sudden improvements to missile and other technology that has come out recently. The largest being that the Iranians just put a satellite into orbit. Why is that important?

First, any rocket that can put a satellite into orbit is by definition an ICBM that can hit almost anywhere in the world. If you start producing large numbers of them, you have a way to deliver nuclear weapons to any target almost anywhere in the world. You are no longer limited the near neighborhood.

Second, you also now have the means to deliver a FOBS strike. The nightmare for most of the Cold War was having a nuclear weapon disguised as a satellite launch exploding over the middle of the United States at high altitude. The resulting EMP burst would disrupt or destroy the electrical grid, most civilian electronics, more military electronics than anyone still wants to admit, wipe computer records even as it destroys the computers. With communications, command, and control severely damaged or destroyed, a first strike would be devastating.

Now, think about how much damage such a strike could do in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Now, spend a moment thinking about how much more our world depends on advanced electronics, communications, and computing power for everything from our phones and cars to financial markets. Computers run a good bit of our manufacturing, logistics, and even farm operations. Not sure there is a good word other than devastating, but also feel it needs to be taken up a few orders of magnitude.

You want to kick off Armageddon and cripple your enemy with the first blow? FOBS will do it. Provoke an incident in the Straights (or elsewhere), get hit, and retaliate for the unprovoked attack by the Great Satan in a way that could put us back several hundred years in one blow. And, in the process, set the conditions for the return of the Hidden Imam.

What could China gain from helping Iran? Keep in mind, they declared a People’s War against us more than a year ago. If you clandestinely help an enemy of your enemy, surely you can’t be directly blamed for what they do with suddenly improved tech in several sectors.

How likely are the two paragraphs above? They are not improbable. In fact, on some levels they make almost too much sense. Is this what is going on? That remains to be seen. Right now, there is just some strange ebbs and flows in locations on the moving picture of the world. It remains to be seen what happens, but it needs to be watched.

Moroccan Stew

I’ve bought a pressure canner to do some canning this summer, and one of the things I want to can are what I call complete meals. That is, they have everything in them for a complete meal. I’ve also been wanting to play around with some spice mixes that came my way: berbere and Ras El Hanout.

Berbere is Ethiopian and there are possibly thousands of variations. The one I got is not as hot as some, but does pack some nice warmth if not heat on top of some interesting flavors. Ras El Hanout is a Moroccan spice blend (though an Algerian-born acquaintance swears it is Algerian). It has a little bit of warmth to it, and some amazing and exotic (to American palates) flavors.

I’d experimented a small bit with them, when the idea of doing a stew popped into my head. Thus, I did a trial run this weekend and have very much enjoyed the results.

I started by cutting chicken thighs up into cubes, coating them with olive oil, then hitting them with salt, pepper, and a healthy dose of the berbere mix. They went on skewers and into my smoker at 350 degrees to roast.

While that was going on, I diced up a yellow onion and began sweating it in the pot. Once it got where I wanted it (translucent for the most part, bit of caramelization), I added in dice portobello mushrooms, diced zucchini, and diced fire-roasted tomatoes. I then added salt, pepper, and several tablespoons of the Ras El Hanout mix.

Most of the chicken then came off the skewers and into the pot. No, not all of it as I did some quality control, in fact a bit more than normal as it was very, very good. Once in, I let it simmer for a while.

I had it for dinner last night, and it was delicious. Rich, full of flavor, and a decent amount of heat that helped the other flavors pop without being too hot if I share any of it. Three containers (potentially up to six single servings) in the freezer.

The only thing I think I would do differently is to add crushed/minced garlic to the onion as it was sweating. The garlic should work well with both spice blends, and add a bit more depth to an already rich dish.

For now I’m calling it Moroccan stew, but since it is a blend of Moroccan and Ethiopian, need to come up with a better name. Maybe next time inspiration will strike with a name to go with the recipe.

My Personal Decoupling From China

Like many, I’ve made the decision to decouple from China. I’ve avoided food products, human and pet, for years given the plasticized pooches and what a scientist who tested such products told me they had found in almost everything.

The fact is, taking it to the level I want to is not going to be easy. The variety of products, from cooking utensils to electronics, produced in China is staggering. Some of what I’ve done recently is do some research window shopping. Many/most of the cooking utensils and household goods in the kitchen section of the brand-name grocery store come from China. Almost all the linens and related items at one big box store come in whole or in part from China. I was glad to find out that the rival big box store features linens and related from India.

I’ve also discovered that either made in China or made with materials from China can be hard to determine. In fact, where such a label is required, there is no requirement that it be easy to find. Some seem to take great delight in trying to make that as hard as possible.

Finally, the fact is that if you have to buy electronics right now, pretty much everything comes in whole or in majority from China. This will change, but for now, if you want to avoid Chinese products, it will be hard.

Hard, however, is not impossible. I know I really need to upgrade my phone, so I’ve made the decision to buy a used phone. This way, the money does not go to any multinational corporation, but a locally-owned small business (already have one in mind). Barring misfortune, I wait another year or two to upgrade my laptop; but, if not, used.

If enough people do the same, and also let the major computer/electronics businesses know what we are doing and why, they will get the hint. Some are already looking to at least move assembly to other countries around the world, and it’s a start. Bet it accelerates if new products stall and the used market booms.

For everything else, I’m doing my best not to buy Chinese. In fact, what I am doing is buying products made in Taiwan as often as I can. It’s a way to support them, and hopefully expand their market here. Again, one person won’t make that much difference, but if enough people start doing it and letting retailers know that we won’t buy Chinese but will buy Taiwanese…

The only way I plan to buy anything from China is if it is an emergency (can’t live/work without said products) and there is no other source. I will pay more to not buy Chinese at need. Note the parenthetical phrase — emergency, not inconvenience.

Yes, I know that for now I will end up having to buy some things from China, simply because there is no other source for some things. But, I will keep it to a minimum and push for retailers and others to find other sources.

Again, if enough of us do it…