Iran Rationalizes Russia’s Pro-Arab Position on Disputed Islands

Iranian graphic depicting the strategic location and Iranian control over Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tonb Islands.

“Russia seems to take for granted its relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Despite official warmth, Iran has reason to be suspicious of Russia, given Russia’s historic willingness to interfere in Iranian politics and/or infringe on Iranian sovereignty.[i] The excerpted opinion piece from Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-affiliated news outlet, highlights that one of the most sensitive sovereignty issues for Iran today revolves around three islands—Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tonb Islands—occupied by Iranian forces in 1971 to prevent the UK from transferring their control to the UAE. While international law sides with the UAE, Iran has been unwilling to return the islands due to their strategic importance overseeing the shipping lanes on the Persian Gulf side of the Strait of Hormuz. Indeed, Abu Musa has become home to a major IRGC base.[ii] The excerpted article seeks to rationalize Russia’s decision to side with the UAE over Iran on questions about the islands’ sovereignty. It argues the UAE is an important outlet for the Russian economy in an era of isolation and sanctions. Russian officials may also believe Tehran has become so dependent on Moscow that Iran has little choice but to accept Russia’s pro-UAE position on the matter. Regardless, short of civil war distracting Iran during any transition following Khamenei’s death, there is little possibility that the UAE could liberate its occupied territories or that Russia could compel Iran to abandon the three islands. Still, Iranians have long memories and are unlikely to forgive the Kremlin for what they see as a betrayal. Iran may tilt more toward China in the future or simply bide its time and lick it wounds. But, when Iranians feel the moment is right, they will use the Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tonbs episode to justify a future betrayal of Russia.


“Cherayi Mawzehgiri Russiyeh dar Khasus Jazair She Ganeh” (What Explains Russia’s Position with Regard to the Three Islands?),” (nominally independent web portal close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), 31 December 2023.

Russia is a country that does not make treaty of friendship with anyone but rather pursues only its own interests. To put it simply, from the Russian perspective, there are no strategic enemies or strategic friends. Russians… do not see everything as zero sum game. For example, Russia is now at odds with the West, but it has also maintained cooperation on some issues, openly or covertly.

With this brief preamble, we return to recent Russian behavior with regard to the three islands. First, we need to look at things globally. Everyone knows well that America’s power in the world, if not weak is waning. On the other hand, China, with its strong economic backing and lack of arrogance in the style of the West – now has a positive image in the world. By mediating between Iran and Saudi Arabia, China somehow announced its presence in the region, though it had been in place for many years as an emerging power in the world that is transforming from bipolar to multipolar….Perhaps one of the main reasons for Russia’s recent stance is the oil dollars of Arab countries, which have caught the eye of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and Russia under sanctions. Moscow is under severe pressure due to Western sanctions, so it seems that with full cooperation with Arabs on the issue of the three Persian Gulf islands, it intends on one hand to influence the circle of America’s Arab allies and on the other hand, take a realistic view of its national and financial interests…. Russia seems to take for granted its relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Since the West has no place in the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Kremlin officials have sided with Arab countries without worrying about Iranian reactions.


[i] For an earlier discussion of Iran’s the history and development of Iran-Russia relations, see: Michael Rubin, “Iranian Influence Extends to the Mediterranean,” OE Watch, September 2018.

[ii] For background on the island dispute, see: Michael Rubin, “Revolutionary Guard Chief Exacerbates UAE-Iran Island Dispute,” OE Watch, June 2012,

Image Information:

Image: Iranian graphic depicting the strategic location and Iranian control over Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tonb Islands.

Iran Hints It Will Supply Air Defense Weaponry to Palestinians

Iraj Masjedi, a Qods Force commander and former Iranian ambassador to Iraq, meets with Qassem Soleimani, the late leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qods Force.

“A day will come when… [Palestinians] will obtain air defense weapons.”

The advisor to the commander of the Qods Force, Iraj Masjedi, used the 3 January anniversary of the 2020 death of former Qods Force chief Qassem Soleimani to deride both the United States and Israel. The anniversary has become an annual commemoration in Iran.[i] Multiple Iranian politicians and military officers give speeches lionizing Soleimani and condemning the United States. While the Iranian population is inured to such bombast, the speech by Masjedi was noteworthy for its specificity about providing anti-air defenses to the Palestinians. In practice, support for Palestinians means support for Palestine Islamic Jihad and Hamas, both of which act as proxies for Iran.[ii] “A day will come when they [the Palestinians] will not allow bombardments by the Zionists and they will obtain air defense weapons,” he promised. Masjedi’s resume enhances the importance of his words. He was a former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) general, Soleimani’s top advisor, and a former Ambassador to Iraq who today serves as a supreme advisor to the IRGC-Qods Force. If Iran can smuggle anti-aircraft missiles into Gaza, Hamas could target Israeli aircraft engaging in the Gaza fight and endanger commercial traffic servicing Ben Gurion Airport, with approach and departure routes over the West Bank.


“Sardar Masjedi: Filistiniha beh Salah Pedafandi Dast Miyaband” (General Masjedi: Palestinians to Get Defensive Weapons),” (nominally independent web portal close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), 8 January 2024.

The supreme advisor to the commander of the Qods Force [Iraj Masjedi] said that the strength of the Islamic Resistance is increasing daily. He said, “The Palestinians are fighting with rockets today, but a day will come when they will not allow bombardments by the Zionists and they will obtain air defense weapons,” he added.

Referring to America’s evils in the region, Masjedi said, “What is the commander of CENTCOM doing in Israel?” American planes are regularly sending weapons and bombs to Israel. The United States claim to stand for human rights when in fact they are the parents of terrorism.

The Americans have the largest army in the world but I tell you, they do not base one division of it in the United States itself, and instead it is spread out in the world. What are U.S. bases doing in the region? By what right are they based all over the world? Armies are responsible for maintaining their own territorial security. Where in the world do the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Islamic Republic of Iran Army have military bases? In this situation, the Americans tell others that Iran is interfering in the world, but this is very shameful.

He also referred to the weakness of the Israeli army in confronting the Palestinian resistance, saying that the Israelis have a special force called the Golani Brigade, which is considered to be a special force to deal with the Palestinians, but this brigade was so badly hit by the resistance forces that it was ordered to withdraw and the other five brigades of the Israel Defense Forces were forced to withdraw.The Supreme Advisor to the commander of the Qods Force also emphasized that the regional resistance forces with the support of the Iranian resistance force will break the hands of the enemies.


[i] Against the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas war, this year’s commemorations of Soleimani’s death stretched on for a week with senior political and military  officials including, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, making statements testifying to Soleimani’s embodiment of the revolutionary values Iran seeks to espouse.

[ii] Iran initially embraced late Palestinian chairman Yasser Arafat and his Palestine Liberation Organization, the Iranian regime began to shift its support to Hamas following Arafat’s decision to begin negotiating with Israel at the end of the Reagan administration and largely broke with the PLO and the Palestinian Authority it dominated following the Oslo Accords. For an earlier discussion of Iran’s concept of strategic boundaries extending to its west, see: Michael Rubin, “Khamenei Speaks On Necessity Of Palestinian ‘Resistance,’” OE Watch, 06-2022.

Image Information:

Image: Iraj Masjedi, a Qods Force commander and former Iranian ambassador to Iraq, meets with Qassem Soleimani, the late leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qods Force. Source:

Spotlight on Vatanpour, Iran’s “Most Active” Airbase

Shahid [Martyr] Vatanpour Air Base, Isfahan

“If the army helicopters were not present, the costs in blood and treasure…would have been far greater.”

When the Iranian Air Force makes news, it is often for bad reasons, such as when its aging jets crash.[i] The excerpted article from Iranian news outlet features the Shahid Vatanpour Army Air Base south of Isfahan, providing some previously under-reported detail on the fact that it is a logistics and training base.[ii] The article also provides insight into activity and flight hours flown at Vatanpour and other air bases. For instance, the 168-fold difference in hours flown between Vatanpour and the Tehran Army Air Base is striking (366,477 vs. 2,177 hours). As a training base, it makes sense that there would be many flight hours logged at Vatanpour. However, delegation may be part of the enormous number of hours flown out of the base with Vatanpour being more central, less congested, and better suited as a logistical hub. Additionally, the metrics may be somewhat skewed because Iran stations certain F-14s at Tehran’s Mehrabad International Airport rather than at the Army Air Base, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) operates airliners for military transport and logistics under the guise of passenger and cargo planes.

The aircraft themselves also tell a story. The short number of flight hours for the Chinooks stationed at Vatanpour may reflect, both the small number of Chinooks that remain in service and their poor condition.[iii] The inventory of Bell Helicopters has likewise shrunk, though the smaller platform and easier access to spare parts enables greater flight time.[iv] The excerpted article itself may serve another purpose as well. While the IRGC can rely on its many business interests to increase its official budget by more than an order of magnitude,[v] the regular Army has no such recourse. Even with the end of many international sanctions, funding remains limited. By highlighting the importance of Vatanpour, the IRGC may be seeking to protect the base should the Army’s top brass be considering an Iranian equivalent of a base realignment commission.


“Paygah-e Isfahan: Fa’altarin Paygah-e Havaniroz Artesh” (Isfahan Base: The Army’s Most Active Air Force Base),” (official news agency of Iran’s defense ministry), 14 January 2024.

The Army Ground Forces are among the most influential forces that comprise the armed forces of our country. Within the ground forces is the Islamic Republic of Iran Army Aviation, colloquially known as “Havaniruz,” that has performed many missions in its existence, especially since the victory of the Islamic Revolution when it participated prominently in battle, security, and relief operations. In many cases, if the army helicopters were not present, the costs in blood and treasure we may have paid would have been far greater. The pilots of the Islamic Republic of Iran Army Aviation carry out both helicopter and fixed wing missions. The Chinook pilots have the least numbers of flights, and the [Bell] 209 [Cobra], [Bell] 205, [Bell] 206, and [Bell] 214 pilots the most flight hours. The fixed-wing pilots also fly with [Dassault] Falcons, [Fokker F-27] Friendships and [Rockwell 690] Turbo Commander jets from Iran Army airbases in Tehran, Mashhad, Abyek [Qazvin], Masjid Suleiman, Khuzestan, Kerman, Kermanshah and the general support group and Vatanpour training center in Isfahan…. In the fixed-wing sector, Falcon jet pilots have the lowest number of flights and Turbo Commander pilots have the highest number of flights.In addition, the pilots assigned to the Islamic Republic of Iran Army Air Force base in Tehran recorded the least flight time with 2,177 hours, while the pilots assigned to the Shahid Vatanpour base in Isfahan recorded the highest amount, with 366,477 hours.


[i] For previous discussion of Iranian fighter jet crashes, see: Michael Rubin, “Iranian F-14 Crash Highlights Iran’s Need for New Fighter Contract” OE Watch, 08-2022.

[ii] The Iranian air forces are often subordinate to other branches of the Iranian military. Within both the regular Army and in the IRGC, the ground forces and navy are more prominent. In 2008, the Air Defense Force split from the Army’s Air Force to become its own distinct military branch focused on anti-aircraft capabilities. The IRGC, meanwhile, folds the role of its air force into the strategic missile and space forces, both of which outshine Iran’s aging jetfighters and other military aircraft. While Tehran spotlights its satellite launches and precision missiles, the bulk of its manned air force dates from prerevolutionary days with most aircraft more than a half century old.

[iii] Prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran’s Chinooks numbered more than 100. They were once a workhorse for the Iranian Army. Famously, less than a year before the Islamic Revolution, four Iranian Chinooks strayed into Soviet airspace during a training mission, leading to the downing of two, with eight fatalities. Today, the Iranian Army Air Force may have at most two in service, the rest destroyed during the Iran-Iraq War, through attrition, or cannibalized for spare parts.

[iv] For background into Iran’s efforts to keep its helicopter fleet flying, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran: Reconstruction and Overhaul of Helicopters” OE Watch, March 2021.

[v] For background about the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ economic interests, see: Michael Rubin, “The IRGC Wins Multibillion Dollar Economic Projects” OE Watch, August 2018.

Image Information:

Image: Shahid [Martyr] Vatanpour Air Base, Isfahan

China’s Economic Interests at Risk With Rise of Houthi Shipping Attacks

Chinese container ship off the coast of Los Angeles, California.

China is the customer for 90% of the oil exported by Iran. The chances of the Houthis firing on ships of a state-owned Chinese company are therefore very low, raising questions about the reasons for COSCO’s decision”

The Israel-Hamas conflict and the conflict’s subsequent spread to Yemen and the Red Sea is challenging Chinese economic interests and policy in the region. In early January, Chinese shipping giant China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) and Hong Kong–based subsidiary Overseas Orient Container Line announced that they would cut service to Israeli ports in response to Houthi attacks on ships destined for Israel. According to the first excerpted articles from the Israeli business news publication Globes, China has in effect sacrificed trade with Israel to maintain shipping access to the Red Sea. While the article vilifies the Chinese position, China is in a bind because both Israel and Iran are significant regional trading partners with China. The Houthis are militarily and diplomatically supported by Iran. China must balance its priorities in the region between Iran and Israel—and any regional war would be bad for China’s Middle East interests.[i] In the second excerpt, taken from a speech delivered by China’s UN Ambassador less than a week after the COSCO announcement, the Ambassador noted that “the waters of the Red Sea are an important transportation channel for goods and energy” and called on the Houthis to “to immediately stop harassing merchant ships and respect the navigation rights of merchant ships from all countries in the Red Sea waters, in accordance with international law.”[ii] Not long after, a Houthi official interviewed by Russian news source Izvestia stated that all Russian and Chinese ships would be safe navigating the Red Sea but that ships aligned with Israel would be subject to targeting. The Houthi spokesman continued “Our goal is to raise the economic costs for the Jewish state to stop the carnage in Gaza.” However, despite these assurances, any economic pain that Israel might feel because of reduced shipping to its ports also transfers to China, complicating its economic strategy in the Middle East.


“Chinese shipping giant COSCO to stop visiting Israeli ports,” Globes (Israeli business news), 7 January 2024.

Chinese state-owned shipping giant COSCO Shipping has stopped visiting Israeli ports, “Globes” has learned. The company, the fourth largest container shipping line in the world, with about 11% of world trade, decided on this step even though it is not much threatened in the Red Sea, because of the very fact that it is Chinese, and because of China’s ties with Iran, the patron of the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Besides the effect on trade between the Far East and Israel, COSCO’s decision is significant because it cooperates with Israeli shipping line ZIM, which will have to operate more ships on the Far East routes, which is liable to will lead to higher shipping costs, since XIM will be short of ships.

The second direct effect will be on the Haifa Bayport, which is operated by another state-owned Chinese company, SIPG. The port is dependent on the many COSCO ships that visit it.

The Houthis are threatening to attack vessels of any company that sails to Israel, but China is the customer for 90% of the oil exported by Iran. The chances of the Houthis firing on ships of a state-owned Chinese company are therefore very low, raising questions about the reasons for COSCO’s decision, of which international shippers have yet to be notified.

A pointer to COSCO’s step was the recent announcement by its Hong Kong-based subsidiary OOCL that it was ceasing to sail to Israel because of “operational problems”. That announcement, intended to enable it to sail in the Red Sea without interference by the Houthis, led to wide criticism. In the end, the company caved in, like Singapore-based shipping line ONE (Ocean Network Express).

“常驻联合国代表张军大使在安理会红海局势紧急公开会上的发言 (Speech by Ambassador Zhang Jun, Permanent Representative to the United Nations, at the Security Council’s emergency public meeting on the Red Sea situation),” PRC Permanent Mission to the United Nations, published by Ministry of Foreign Affairs People’s Republic of China, 12 January 2024.

Mr. President: China thanks Russia for its initiative to hold this emergency meeting and thanks Assistant Secretary-General Kyali for his briefing. The United States, Britain and other countries have carried out air strikes on targets in Yemen, further escalating tensions in the Red Sea region. China expresses serious concern about this.

The waters of the Red Sea are an important transportation channel for goods and energy. For some time, the Houthi armed forces have repeatedly attacked and seized merchant ships in the Red Sea waters, disrupting international trade order and not conducive to regional stability. China has repeatedly called on the Houthis to immediately stop harassing merchant ships and respect the navigation rights of merchant ships from all countries in the Red Sea waters in accordance with international law. China also calls on all parties, especially influential major powers, to play a constructive and responsible role in jointly safeguarding the safety of waterways in the Red Sea.

We regret to see that the brazen military actions taken by relevant countries against Yemen not only caused infrastructure damage and civilian casualties, but also aggravated security risks in the Red Sea waters and did not help protect the safety of commercial ships and freedom of navigation. Relevant military actions may also impact the political process in Yemen. We fail to see how such a military operation could achieve the stated intended objectives.

It must be noted that the Security Council has never authorized any country to use of force against Yemen. The military actions taken by relevant countries run counter to the purpose of Resolution 2722 just adopted by the Security Council. China reiterates that no country shall misinterpret or abuse international law and Security Council resolutions to create new tensions in the Red Sea waters.

Mr. President: The current tensions in the Red Sea are one manifestation of the spillover effects of the conflict in Gaza. Letting the conflict in Gaza prolong while hoping that the conflict will not expand may be wishful thinking. It is even more contradictory and irresponsible to advocate preventing conflicts from spilling over, while at the same time adding fuel to the fire and provoking military confrontation. The Middle East is already on the brink of extreme danger. What we should avoid most at the moment is reckless military adventurism. What we need most is calmness and restraint to prevent further expansion of conflicts. We urge all relevant parties, especially the influential powers, to abide by the UN Charter and international law, adhere to the correct direction of dialogue and consultation, and make practical efforts to maintain peace and stability in the Red Sea and the Middle East. Thank you, Chairman.

В «Ансар Аллах» гарантировали безопасность судам РФ и КНР в Красном море (Ansar Allah guaranteed the safety of Russian and Chinese vessels in the Red Sea),” Izvestia (Russian news source), 19 January 2024. В «Ансар Аллах» гарантировали безопасность судам РФ и КНР в Красном море | Новости мира | Известия | 19.01.2024 (

Representative of the al-Buheiti movement: the Houthis will not attack Russian and Chinese ships

The Yemeni Houthi movement Ansar Allah is attacking US and British ships in the Red Sea; as for other countries, including Russia and China, their shipping in the region is guaranteed safety. A member of the Ansar Allah Politburo, Muhammad al-Buheiti, stated this on January 19 in an interview with Izvestia.

“As for all other countries, including Russia and China, their shipping in the region is not threatened. Moreover, we are ready to ensure the safety of the passage of their ships in the Red Sea, because free navigation plays a significant role for our country,” Al-Buheiti noted.

The politician also added that any Israeli ships or those connected with Israel will not have the slightest opportunity to sail through the Red Sea – attacks on them will continue.

“Ansar Allah does not pursue the goal of capturing or sinking this or that sea vessel. Our goal is to raise the economic costs for the Jewish state to stop the carnage in Gaza. If the crews of the ships that came under our fire had not ignored our warning signals and changed their direction, the further escalation that the American side caused in the interests of protecting Israel could have been avoided,” he said.

Earlier, on January 17, the military representative of the Ansar Allah movement, Yahya Saria, said that it launched a missile attack on the American ship Genco Picardy in the Gulf of Aden. According to him, the Houthis recorded a direct hit on the ship.

On the same day, the UK Navy’s Maritime Trade Coordination Center (UKMTO) reported that a drone attacked a ship off the coast of Aden, Yemen, which led to a fire on board the ship. A previous attack on a ship in the Red Sea was reported the day before. The Houthis then took responsibility for it and confirmed the fact of a missile attack on the bulk carrier Zografia, which was flying the Maltese flag.The Houthis began attacking shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden from November 2023 to protest Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip…


[i] For a previous perspective on the conflict in Gaza’s impact on China interests in the region see: “Israel’s close economic ties with China worked well – until the Gaza conflict,” South China Morning Post, 2 November 2023.

[ii] A wide range of global reporting has indicated that China is also said to have put pressure on Iran to rein in the Houthis, while the United States has asked China to take more of a role in mediating the conflict in Israel.

Image Information:

Image: Chinese container ship off the coast of Los Angeles, California.
Source: Corey Seeman
Attribution: CC By-NC-SA 2.0

Belarus and Iran Form Alliance Against the West

Our answer is one: we must work closely with one another and cooperate together to resist these attacks.

In response to perceived Western aggression, Belarus and Iran have deepened their pre-existing relationship into a strategic alliance that now includes a developing partnership in military, economic, and political affairs. According to the excerpted press statement published by The Press-Service of the President of Belarus, the goal of the alliance is to “work closely with one another and cooperate together to resist…attacks.” In an additional press statement featured on the Belarus Ministry of Defense website, Lieutenant General Viktor Khrenin, stated “from the beginning of the victory of the Islamic Revolution, the coalition of Western states, led by the United States, has always tried to hinder the development and prosperity of Iran. But, despite the imposed eight-year war, numerous territorial acts, unprecedented sanctions and political pressure, Iran has built a strong and independent government.” Underscoring this alliance, earlier this year the two nations signed a comprehensive cooperative roadmap that runs through 2026.[i] Prospective discussions between the two Ministries of Defense see the possibility of collaborative military training as well as bilateral cooperation of their Armed Forces. Through their alliance, Belarus and Iran seek to strengthen their military position in response to perceived threats from the West. This could indicate the possibility that Belarus and Iran are actively preparing for a military engagement, fueled by shared feelings of Western aggression. The new agreement has set a precedent for military resources and information to be shared openly and freely, as we have seen from the discussions by the Defense Ministers about beginning joint field training. This new alliance strengthens the two nations through political, military, and economic preference and support on the perceived hostile global stage. From this accord, each nation has now gained a resource to increase their resiliency both in and out of military conflict. Iran and Belarus mutually benefit from sharing military training to increase proficiency, and outside of wartime, they each have a partner in economic and political growth globally.


“Встреча с первым вице-презмдентом Ирана Мохаммадом Мохбером (Meeting with the First-Vice President of Iran Mohammad Mokhber),” Пресс-служба Президента Республики Беларусь (The Press-Service of the President of Belarus), 17 October 2023.

“I hope that you will not be disappointed with your visit. There are a lot of questions to discuss. Therefore, I also hope that our conversation will have a good practical result,” the head of state welcomed the Iranian guest. “You know the situation that Belarus is in. It is a similar situation to your own. Pressure, exerted on our states, without precedent, but you have already learned to resist it somewhat, and your experience for us is most important”…Alexander Lukashenko remarked that the situation in the world is heating up, and the crisis in the Middle East contributes to the fact that unfriendly Western states, led by the United States, are constantly directing this conflict against Iran. “You feel it better. Our answer is one: we must work closely with one another, and cooperate together to resist these attacks,” stated the President (Lukashenko).

“Официальный визит Министра обороны Беларуси в Исламскую Республику Иран (дополнено) (Official Visit of the Minister of Defense of Belarus to the Islamic Republic of Iran (Updated)),” Министерство Обороны Республики Беларусь (The Ministry of Defense of Belarus), 01 September 2023.

“The history of relations between Belarus and Iran has shown, that our people know how to be friends and highly value the relationship between our countries, built on the principles of mutual respect and common values,” stated the Minister of Defense of the Republic of Belarus Lieutenant General Viktor Khrenin during the meeting with the Minister of Defense and Support of the Armed Forces of Iran Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani.  

Lieutenant General Viktor Khrenin also noted that from the beginning of the victory of the Islamic Revolution, the coalition of Western states, led by the United States, has always tried to hinder the development and prosperity of Iran. 

But, despite the imposed eight-year war, numerous territorial acts, unprecedented sanctions and political pressure, Iran has built a strong and independent government. “And in this our nations are similar. We, like you, clearly and consistently defend our sovereignty and independence. We are brought together by the similarity of our positions in many international issues. It is not only the independent and pragmatic political leadership of our governments but the unity of views on the establishment of a just world order based on the development of multipolarity and non-interference in internal affairs. Our nations together defend the inviolability of international law,” noted the Minister of Defense…The parties discussed the state and prospects for bilateral cooperation in field training and usage of the Armed forces, also further steps were planned to deepen and intensify bilateral collaboration.


[i] For a more comprehensive understanding of the types of cooperation, military and other, that Belarus and Iran have agreed upon, see: “Лукашенко и Раиси подписали дорожную карту всестороннего сотрудничества до 2026 года (Lukashenko and Raisi sign roadmap of comprehensive cooperation until 2026),” Gosstandart (Belarussian State Media), 13 March 2023.

Iran Seeks To Assert Global Leadership in Determining International Cyber Policy

Mostafa Izadi, the Iranian Armed Forces’ commander for cyber threats, speaks at a conference in Gilan, 8-9 November 2023. Izadi is now making the case for Iran’s leadership in cyber and AI technology.

“If we can dominate the field, we can influence the whole world.”

Iran has sought leadership roles at the UN and other international organizations on issues relating to human rights and crime prevention, and now it seeks to shape international cyber policy. The Iranian regime has looked at internet and cyber access as its Achilles’ heel through which Western powers could influence and corrupt Iranian youth. However, Iranian officials appear ready to go on the offensive as regime confidence grows following the suppression of the 2022-2023 “Woman, Life, Freedom” protest movement and the expiration of some sanctions associated with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.[i]

According to the excerpted article from the government-affiliated Iranian Students’ News Agency,Mostafa Izadi, a previous IRGC ground forces general who heads a new headquarters to address cyber threats, argued that Iran should lead cyber policy to increase its influence in the world rather than seek to isolate itself from the internet.[ii] His comments may signal the abandonment of Iran’s effort to cut itself off from the world, and a belief that it should instead seek to sway audiences abroad.[iii] Izadi cites the information operations accompanying the 7 October 2023 Hamas attack on Israel to underline the power of the internet when harnessed in Iran’s favor. Subsequent demonstrations in favor of Hamas against Israel and the West not only in the Global South but also in Europe and the West seem to have given Izadi confidence. Izadi’s argument conforms to a historical pattern in which Iranian leaders, after trying and failing to suppress new communication technologies, instead seek to co-opt them. Today Iran translates Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s website into ten languages ranging from Hindi to Russian to Spanish while state-owned and operated English-language PressTV pushes Iranian propaganda globally. Izadi’s discussion of artificial intelligence (AI) is also worth noting. While AI is a topic within regime rhetoric, Izadi’s discussion of its role in the fight for hearts and minds and his new role focusing on countering cyber and new threats suggests that the IRGC now actively seeks to utilize AI to counter liberalism and advance Iran’s line at home and abroad.


“Izadi: Hakmiyat bar Fezaye Sybari Ya’ani Tasirgozari bar kol Jihad” (Izadi: Sovereignty over cyber space means influencing the whole world),” Iranian Students’ News Agency (an ostensibly private news agency close to Iran’s security and intelligence apparatus), 9 November 2023.

The commander for cyber and new threats at the central headquarters for Khatam al-Anbiya of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, referring to the creation of new intellectual space in the field of cyber governance, said, “To fight the enemy’s artificial intelligence and cognitive warfare, it is necessary to address the needs of the day.” Major-General Mostafa Izadi, commander of the new command for cyber and new threats, said at the conclusion at the conclusion of the national conference on emerging maritime opportunities and threats in Gilan, stated that the country’s scientific progress in various fields has led to the strengthening of the holy system of the Islamic Republic, and stated, “Physical, informational and artificial intelligence issues have entered a new space in the world, and America has launched a cognitive war to penetrate different countries.”

Referring to the creation of a new intellectual space in the field of cyber governance, he said, “Governance in cyber space presents an opportunity for our country to achieve great success across a variety of fields….” Emphasizing the need to pay attention to the enemy’s cognitive warfare across politics, the economy, and culture, he stated, “But piety is the secret to our success.”Izadi added, “Today, our country is facing a hybrid war, and cyber, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and cyberspace have created a special situation that affects time, place and borders. If we can dominate the field, we can influence the whole world.


[i] The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, is the agreement reached in summer 2015 between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus the European Union restricting Iran’s nuclear program. For more information on the JCPOA see: “What is the Iran Nuclear Deal,” Council on Foreign Relations, last updated 27 October 2023.

[ii] The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and security forces initially sought to regulate the internet in Iran, banning VPNs, slowing access, and demanding all social media operators maintain servers inside Iran. For an overview of Iranian strategies toward the internet, see: Michael Rubin, “Evolution of Iranian Surveillance Strategies Toward the Internet and Social Media” in Munir Khasru and Riasat Noor, eds. The Digital Age, Cyber Space, and Social Media: The Challenges of Security & Radicalization. Dhaka: Institute for Policy, Advocacy, and Governance, 2019.

[iii] The IRGC later offered to operate a national intranet, firewalling Iran from the outside world. For background on the national intranet project, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran- Armed Forces Ready to Take Over National Intranet Project” OE Watch, October 2019.

Image Information:

Image: Mostafa Izadi, the Iranian Armed Forces’ commander for cyber threats, speaks at a conference in Gilan, 8-9 November 2023. Izadi is now making the case for Iran’s leadership in cyber and AI technology.
Attribution: Fars News Agency

Iran’s Supreme Leader Announces Maritime Development Strategy

Iran’s rugged but underdeveloped Makran coast littoral is pictured. Iran’s Supreme Leader has recently articulated a maritime development plan.

“It is necessary to make use of the coasts, offshore areas, and the seas effectively.”

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei recently announced a new, multi-decade approach to develop Iran’s coasts. While it is unclear if and how fast Iran might reconfigure or reorient its economy towards a maritime development strategy, the ambition of the maritime plan and its announcement by Khamenei set it apart from previous Iranian economic strategies and proposals.[i]

As per the excerpted article from the official web portal of the Iranian Supreme Leader, Khamenei called for a whole-of-government approach in his nine-point directive, with the formation of new bodies and government reorganization to accomplish the ambitious plan. Khamenei does not describe where Iran will acquire the billions of dollars needed to actualize this plan. Regardless, he provides the clearest indication to date that Iran seeks to develop the Makran Coast beyond the port of Chabahar, and that Khamenei envisions greater ties to Pakistan and Azerbaijan, two traditional rivals.[ii] Khamenei’s statement also provides diplomatic endorsement for ambitious north-south and east-west commercial corridor schemes involving trade across Iran to Russia through Azerbaijan and from China through Pakistan.[iii] Though his call to defend maritime resources from exploitation from other countries may signal a subtle warning about China, a country with whom Iran has developed warm diplomatic relations.[iv] Among Indian Ocean littoral states, China has a record of overfishing and illegally exploiting other country’s maritime resources. While Khamenei signals that Iran seeks to become a regional hub for commerce, his emphasis that any development should conform to Islamic-Iranian values might undercut the attractiveness of foreign investment, especially among Iran’s non-Persian, non-Islamic neighbors. Still, Iran’s attempts to reorient its economy bear watching and, if even partly successful, this regional economic integration can have great impact on the operational environment.


“Ablagh-e Siyasatha-ye Kali Tawse’ah-e Darya Mahavar” (Communicating Sea-Oriented Development Policies),” (official web portal of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei), 7 November 2023.

The oceans are divine gifts with rich reserves and resources for the development of science and technology, for achieving job growth and increased wealth, for the provision of vital needs, and for increasing the country’s strength. Since Iran has a privileged geographical position and is located between two seas with thousands of kilometers of beaches as well as islands, many of which remain untouched, it is necessary to make use of the coasts, offshore areas, and the seas effectively…. Accordingly, we have determined General Sea-based Development Policies as follows:

 1. The establishment of an integrated policy for sea-based affairs, for the division of work at the national level, and for an active, efficient management of the sea in order to make maximum use of the sea’s capacities to attain a fitting global position and to reach a top position in the region.

2. The development of sea-based-economic activities and the creation of advancied sea-based development centers to speed growth on the coasts, islands, and hinterlands in such a way that sea-based economy will always be at least twice the country’s economic growth rate over the next ten years.

3. The facilitation and development of domestic and foreign investments and partnerships by creating the necessary legal, economic, and security frameworks.

4. The formulation of a comprehensive sea-based development plan that includes zoning of the sea, the coast, and the backshore… with emphasis on an Iranian-Islamic identity….

5. Maximum, optimal utilization of the capacities, resources, and reserves of the marine ecosystem by preventing the destruction of the marine environment, especially by other countries.

6. The provision and advancement of committed, efficient human capital and management….

7. The expansion of economic and commercial cooperation…with neighboring and other countries….

8. Increasing the country’s share in sea-based transport and transit by establishing and strengthening a combined transport network.9. Supporting native and local investors in development projects… and also backing small and medium enterprises in local communities in various areas including fishing, agriculture, industry, and tourism.


[i] Across the Middle East, populations settled and cities grew alongside coastlines and rivers. See: Baghdad, Beirut, Benghazi, Cairo, Casablanca, Tel Aviv, Tunis, and Tripoli for example. Iran has been the exception. Cities developed across the Iranian plateau, separated from the Persian Gulf, Caspian Sea and Indian Ocean by mountain ranges or inhospitable badlands. While the 20th century oil boom brought some development to the Persian Gulf coast, nine of Iran’s top ten cities by population are landlocked, with Ahvaz connected to the Persian Gulf by the Karun, Iran’s only navigable river.

[ii] For previous discussion of Chabahar development, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran: Construction Begins on the Chabahar-Zahedan Railway” OE Watch, December 2020.

[iii] For background into Iran’s developing ties with Azerbaijan, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran Agrees To Gas Swap with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan” OE Watch, 01-2022.

[iv] For background about Iran-China economic ties, see: Michael Rubin, “Iranian Trade With China Is Up, but So Is Political Risk” OE Watch, 08-2022.

Image Information:

Image: Iran’s rugged but underdeveloped Makran coast littoral is pictured. Iran’s Supreme Leader has recently articulated a maritime development plan.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Seeks Dominant Role in Maritime Development

Maj.-Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, speaks about Iran’s new maritime strategy on the sidelines of a conference in Gilan on 8 November 2023.

“This scientific work of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Navy will be important for other organizations involved in the maritime sector.”

In November 2023, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei announced a new maritime development plan to jumpstart Iran’s “sea-based economy.” The next day, according to the excerpted article from the Iranian Ministry of Defense’s Holy Defense News Agency, former Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander and senior advisor to the Supreme Leader, General Yahya Rahim Safavi, expressed at a maritime conference the value of Iran’s coastline and sea resources. His comments reflect how the IRGC will likely seek a central, organizing role in the implementation of the maritime scheme.[i] Safavi understands that government contracts to build ports, lay highways and railroads, and erect apartment blocks will funnel tens of billions of dollars into IRGC coffers. The participation of both civilian and military universities at the conference highlights academia’s close cooperation with the IRGC, which includes collaboration on Iran’s ballistic missile and unmanned aerial vehicle programs.[ii] Safavi also noted that the IRGC Navy (IRCGN) would play an increased role in offshore scientific missions, conducting operations in the strategic Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf, where Iran’s oil and gas interests lie. The regular Iranian Navy, in contrast, focused on blue water operations in the northern Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden, and further afield. For the IRGCN to take the lead on scientific missions gives it a reason to encroach on the regular Navy’s traditional area of operation in a way that may complicate the operational environment for other navies in the region. After all, the regular Iranian Navy tends to maintain professional relations, even with ships from countries with which Iran has no diplomatic relations.


“Major-General Safavi: ‘Eghtesad-e Daryamahavar’ az bistarha-ye Tahaval-e Navin-e Eghtesad ast” (Commander Safavi: The ‘Sea-Oriented Economy’ is One of the Foundations of the New Evolution of Iran’s Economy),” Holy Defense News Agency (official news agency of the Iranian Ministry of Defense), 8 November 2023.

Major General Sayyid Yahya Safavi, senior advisor to the Supreme Leader, stated shortly before noon on Wednesday [8 November 2023], on the sidelines of the national conference on “Emerging Maritime Opportunities and Threats,” told journalists, “This conference has been organized by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy with the cooperation of several civilian and military universities and will continue for two days in Gilan. It is the culmination of a year of scientific study and research. About 300 papers were submitted from public universities and both military and governmental organizations, of which 30 were selected.

General Safavi, with reference to the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic’s emphasis on maritime policies, stated, “Iran is blessed with a coastline of 2,700 kilometers [1,680miles] in the south and along the Caspian Sea. There are 20 islands, and these islands provide a great opportunity for economic development, paying attention to the maritime economy, resolving economic bottlenecks, and solving the problems of the water crisis and producing renewable energy….”

The advisor to the Supreme Leader added, “We hope that by announcing the policies with a ten to 20-year plan, we can better focus on augmenting the private sector, encourage academic study, and adjust foreign policy to better attract investment in Iran. By having a codified plan to use the scientific capacities of the country, we can solve people’s problems according to the values and natural blessings of our country.Emphasizing the necessity of maximizing capacity of the North-South and East-West transit corridors through Iran, he added, “Producing renewable energy and bringing fresh water from the shores of the Oman Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea to the central plateau of Iran are other goals that will be pursued. This scientific work of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps- Navy will be important for other organizations involved in the maritime sector.”


[i] IRGC firms dominate Iran’s construction industry, road building, and port operations. For discussion about the IRGC’s economic work, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran’s Proposal To Build Railroads and Housing in Syria Could Enrich IRGC” OE Watch, 11-2022.

[ii] For background on other aspects of IRGC-university partnerships, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran: Preparing for Zafar III Satellite Launch” OE Watch, July 2019.

Image Information:

Image: Maj.-Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, speaks about Iran’s new maritime strategy on the sidelines of a conference in Gilan on 8 November 2023.

Legacy Articles On Iran

2024-04-15 Spotlight on Vatanpour, Iran’s “Most Active” Airbase (Michael Rubin)
2024-04-15 Iran Hints It Will Supply Air Defense Weaponry to Palestinians (Michael Rubin)
2024-04-15 Iran Rationalizes Russia’s Pro-Arab Position on Disputed Islands (Michael Rubin)

2024-03-01 Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Seeks Dominant Role in Maritime Development (Michael Rubin)
2024-03-01 Iran’s Supreme Leader Announces Maritime Development Strategy (Michael Rubin)
2024-03-01 Iran Seeks To Assert Global Leadership in Determining International Cyber Policy (Michael Rubin)
2024-03-01 Belarus and Iran Form Alliance Against the West (Paris Gordon)

2024-01-03 Iran Announces Integration Of Artificial Intelligence Into Drone Fleet (Michael Rubin)
2024-01-03 Iran Equips Drones With Heat-Seeking Missiles (Michael Rubin)
2024-01-03 Iran Demands Disarmament Of Kurdish Dissidents In Iraq (Michael Rubin)

2023-11-08 Iran Promoting Medical Tourism To Generate Hard Currency (Michael Rubin)
2023-11-08 Iran’s Supreme Leader Accuses West of Ukraine War Conspiracy (Michael Rubin)

2023-10-03 Iran Claims Development of Cruise Missiles Guided by Artificial Intelligence (Michael Rubin)
2023-10-03 Requirements for Desirable Iranian Oil Ministry Jobs Revealed (Michael Rubin)
2023-10-03 Iran’s Supreme Leader Warns of Declining Fervor of New Generation (Michael Rubin)

2023-08-25 Iran Claims New Flight Simulator Will Enhance National Power (Michael Rubin)
2023-08-25 Iran’s Simorgh Transport Plane Makes Maiden Flight (Michael Rubin)
2023-08-25 Iran Indicates Plans To Commercialize Nuclear Technology, Sell Heavy Water (Michael Rubin)
2023-08-25 Iran’s Persistent and Growing Influence in Latin America (Ryan Berg)

2023-06-01 Iran Unveils New Thermobaric Warhead (Michael Rubin)
2023-06-01 Iran Opens New Helicopter, Drone Base in Southeastern Provincial Capital (Michael Rubin)
2023-06-01 Iran Ready To Help Syria Rebuild Its Defense Infrastructure (Michael Rubin)

2023-05-01 Iran Installs New Precision Missiles on Army Helicopters (Michael Rubin)
2023-05-01 Iran Seeks To Reestablish Embassy and Consulate in Saudi Arabia Before Hajj (Michael Rubin)
2023-05-01 Iran Considers Rapprochement With Pakistan (Michael Rubin)

2023-04-01 Iran Unveils Updated Yasin Training Jet With Possible Close Combat Applications (Michael Rubin)
2023-04-01 Iran’s Increased Defense Budget Leading to More Arms Exports (Michael Rubin)
2023-04-01 Iran Capitalizing on Post-Earthquake Conditions To Deepen Influence in Syria (Lucas Winter)

2023-03-01 Iran Praises Revolutionary Guards’ Proxy Afghan Brigade (Michael Rubin)
2023-03-01 Iran Profiles the Female Police Seeking To Quell the Women’s Protests (Michael Rubin)

2023-02-01 Iran Moves Sea-Borne Drone Fleet Closer to Reality (Michael Rubin)
2023-02-01 Iranian General Reiterates Goal To Expel United States From Region (Michael Rubin)
2023-02-01 Iran Fires Indigenous Torpedoes From Submarines for First Time (Michael Rubin)

2023-01-01 Iran Asks Tajikistan Not To Use Iranian Drones in Dispute With Kyrgyzstan (Michael Rubin)
2023-01-01 Iran Claim of Hypersonic Missile Capability Probably Exaggerated (Michael Rubin)

2022-11-01 Iran Vaunts Persian Language as Marker of National Identity Despite Country’s Ethnic Diversity (Michael Rubin)
2022-11-01 Iran’s Proposal To Build Railroads and Housing in Syria Could Enrich IRGC (Michael Rubin)
2022-11-01 Iran Lauds Air Defense, Claims Sepehr Radar Will Soon Be Operational (Michael Rubin)

2022-10-01 Iran Wants Sukhoi-35 Fighters From Russia (Michael Rubin)
2022-10-01 Iran Intercepts Crystal Meth Shipment From Afghanistan (Michael Rubin)

2022-09-01 Iran Reportedly Using New Carrier, Submarines To Expand Reach of Drones (Michael Rubin)
2022-09-01 Iran Unveils Stealth Speedboats (Michael Rubin)
2022-09-01 Iran’s Flawed Statistics and Growing Drug Addiction (Michael Rubin)

2022-08-01 Iranian F-14 Crash Highlights Iran’s Need for New Fighter Contract (Michael Rubin)
2022-08-01 Iranian Trade With China Is Up, but So Is Political Risk (Michael Rubin)
2022-08-01 Iran’s Revolutionary Guards To Expand Drug Treatment Center (Michael Rubin)
2022-08-01 Iran Believes Turkey’s Rapprochement With Israel and Saudi Arabia Is a Threat (Ihsan Gunduz)

2022-07-01 Iran Unveils New Drone-Fired Cruise Missile (Michael Rubin)
2022-07-01 Iran Opens New Drone Plant in Tajikistan (Michael Rubin)
2022-07-01 Iran Warns UAE Against Allowing Israel in the Persian Gulf (Michael Rubin)

2022-06-01 Khamenei Speaks on Necessity of Palestinian “Resistance” (Michael Rubin)
2022-06-01 Iran Initiates and Defends New Bread Subsidies Amid Deteriorating Economy (Michael Rubin)
2022-06-01 Iran Seeks To Counter Misinformation Circulating on Social Media (Michael Rubin)

2022-05-01 Iran Digs into Central Syria, Filling Vacuum Left by Russia (Lucas Winter)
2022-05-01 Iran Tries To Justify Abstention in UN Vote Condemning Russian Invasion of Ukraine (Michael Rubin)
2022-05-01 Iranian Navy Joins Indian Naval Exercises (Michael Rubin)
2022-05-01 Iran’s New Damavand Destroyer Set To Join Navy (Michael Rubin)

2022-04-01 Iran: Emphasizing Religiosity in Regular Army Promotions (Michael Rubin)
2022-04-01 Iran Uses Online War Games To Teach Younger Generation of Officers (Michael Rubin)
2022-04-01 Iran’s Supreme Leader Condemns Alleged Corruption of the West (Michael Rubin)
2022-04-01 Iran Repositions Its Proxies in Syria as Russia Turns Focus to Ukraine (Lucas Winter)

2022-03-01 Iranian Authorities Arrest Alleged Deputy Leader of Royalist Terrorist Group (Michael Rubin)
2022-03-01 Iran’s Prosecution of Arab Separatist Highlights Supposed Saudi Ties (Michael Rubin)
2022-03-01 Russia and China To Help Iran Build New Airports (Michael Rubin)

2022-02-01 Iran and Syria Discuss Transportation Cooperation (Michael Rubin)
2022-02-01 Iran’s Purported Counter-Hijacking Record (Michael Rubin)
2022-02-01 Iran Busts Weapons and Ammunition Smuggling Ring (Michael Rubin)

2022-01-01 Iran-Pakistan Bolstering Naval Cooperation (Michael Rubin)
2022-01-01 Iran Agrees To Gas Swap with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan (Michael Rubin)
2022-01-01 Iran and Syria Seek To Jumpstart Economic Ties (Michael Rubin)

2021-04-01 IRAN Unveils New Baman Radar System (Michael Rubin)
2020-10-01 Iran Stockpiling Supplies through Chahbahar (Michael Rubin)

2020-09-01 More Iran in Venezuela (Geoff Demarest)
2020-09-01 Iran Increases Range of Smart Bombs (Michael Rubin)
2020-09-01 Iran: Passive Defense Organization and Basij Sign Memorandum of Understanding (Michael Rubin)
2020-09-01 Iran: Khamenei Speaks on Sanctions, Enmity toward America, and Nuclear Power (Michael Rubin)

2020-08-01 Iran: Khamenei Speaks on Corruption (Michael Rubin)
2020-08-01 Iran: What’s Behind the Government’s Secrecy on Handing Over Kish Island to Chinese? (Michael Rubin)
2020-08-01 Iran Eager to Enter the Global Market as a Military Equipment Exporter (Jerrilee Plude)
2020-08-01 China and Iran Announce $400 Billion Trade Deal (Peter Wood)

2020-07-01 Russian Arms Sales to Iran? (Ray Finch)
2020-07-01 An Afghan Perspective: A New Phase in Afghanistan-Iran Relations (Michael Rubin)
2020-07-01 More Iran in Venezuela (Geoff Demarest)
2020-07-01 The Three Main Missions of the Army of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Michael Rubin)

2020-06-01 Iran: Prosecute Cybercriminals (Michael Rubin)
2020-06-01 Iran Improves its UAV Technology (Robert Bunker and Alma Keshvarz)

2020-05-01 Iran: Khamenei on Power and Patience (Michael Rubin)
2020-05-01 Iran Unveils Ghadir Submarine Upgrades (Michael Rubin)
2020-05-01 India Evacuates its Citizens from Iran (Michael Rubin)
2020-05-01 Iran Announces Mass Production of COVID-19 Test Kits (Jerrilee Plude)

2020-04-01 Israel Establishes New ‘Strategy and Iran Directorate’ Under General Staff (Zachary Fesen)
2020-04-01 Iran: Sanctions Don’t Impact Military Spending (Michael Rubin)
2020-04-01 Iran: IRGC Establishes Biological Defense Headquarters (Michael Rubin)

2020-03-01 Counterfeit Bank Notes Seized in Iran (Michael Rubin)
2020-03-01 Iran-Increasing Domestic Production of Rare Earth Elements (Michael Rubin)
2020-02-01 Iran to Send Astronaut into Space? (Michael Rubin)

2020-01-01 Iran: Identity Theft and Extortion in Isfahan (Michael Rubin)
2020-01-01 Iran and Russia to Establish Visa Waivers (Michael Rubin)
2020-01-01 Iran: Use Suicide Drones as Air Defense (Michael Rubin)
2020-01-01 Iran, China, and Russia Plan Joint Naval Drills in Indian Ocean (Zachary Fesen)

2019-12-01 Iran- Khamenei Speaks on America (Michael Rubin)
2019-12-01 Iran Establishes Official VPN Operators (Michael Rubin)

2019-11-01 Iran and Turkey- Friend or Foe (Ihsan Gunduz)
2019-11-01 Iran Opens Persian Gulf Air Defense Command Center (Michael Rubin)
2019-11-01 Iran- Mobile Rocket Systems and Underground Tunnels (Michael Rubin)
2019-11-01 Iran Announces Dome Defense against Drones (Michael Rubin)

2019-10-01 Iran- Khamenei Speaks on Kashmir (Michael Rubin)
2019-10-01 Iran- Armed Forces Ready to Take Over National Intranet Project (Michael Rubin)
2019-10-01 Israel- Iran’s Military Entrenchment in Iraq Poses Threat (Karen Kaya)

2019-09-01 Iran Warns of Phone and Text Scams (Michael Rubin)
2019-09-01 Iran – Mohajer-6 UAV Strikes Targets in Iraq (Michael Rubin)
2019-09-01 Iran’s Negotiations with Domestic Kurdish Opposition Groups (Ihsan Gunduz)
2019-08-01 Iran: Optoelectronic Military Developments (Michael Rubin)

2019-07-01 Iran: Progress on National Intranet (Michael Rubin)
2019-07-01 Iran: Nationwide Curriculum for Computer Programming (Michael Rubin)
2019-07-01 Iran: Preparing for Zafar III Satellite Launch (Michael Rubin)
2019-07-01 Iran: Admiral Fadavi Selected as Revolutionary Guards Deputy (Michael Rubin)
2019-06-01 The Dynamics of Trilateral Relations between Turkey, Russia, and Iran (Ihsan Gunduz)

2019-05-01 Iran Cements its Presence in Syria (Lucas Winter)
2019-05-01 Iran: Khamenei Threatens to Use Precision Missiles (Michael Rubin)
2019-05-01 Iran Conducts its Largest UAV Exercise (Michael Rubin)

2019-04-01 Iran: Hovercraft successfully fires cruise missiles (Michael Rubin)
2019-04-01 Iran Diverting Money from Development to Military (Michael Rubin)
2019-03-01 Iran Builds Up Syrian Proxies on the Western Banks of the Euphrates (Lucas Winter)
2019-02-01 IRGC: Iran Can Extend Ballistic Missile Range (Michael Rubin)

2019-01-01 Iran’s Basij in Cyberspace (Michael Rubin)
2019-01-01 Iran Unveils JDAMs? (Michael Rubin)
2019-01-01 China, Russia and Iran Seek to Revive Syrian Railways (Lucas Winter)

2018-11-01 Iran to Build New Missile System? (Michael Rubin)
2018-11-01 Supreme Leader’s Advisor- United States Common Enemy of Iran and China (Michael Rubin)
2018-09-01 Will Iran Pivot to the East (Michael Rubin)
2018-09-01 Iran: IAEA Shouldn’t Inspect Universities (Michael Rubin)
2018-09-01 Russia and Iran Hamper Turkey’s Aspirations to Become Energy Hub (Ihsan Gunduz)

2018-08-01 Questions on Shortfalls in Electricity Generation in Iran (Michael Rubin)
2018-08-01 Achieving Gasoline Self-Sufficiency in Iran (Michael Rubin)
2018-08-01 Visit of Chinese Military Delegation to Iran (Michael Rubin)
2018-08-01 Iran to Re-Launch “Helicopter Carrier” (Michael Rubin)
2018-08-01 Iran Preparing to Host Nanotechnology Festival (Michael Rubin)
2018-08-01 Iran to Launch New Satellite by Year’s End (Michael Rubin)

2018-07-01 Group Planning to Hack Bank in Iran Arrested (Michael Rubin)
2018-07-01 Who Took $30 Billion out of Iran? (Michael Rubin)
2018-07-01 Iran to Attend Russian Military Trade Show (Michael Rubin)
2018-07-01 Iran Cracks Down on Internet Café VPNs (Michael Rubin)

2018-06-01 Iran, Russia to Jointly Manufacture Helicopter (Michael Rubin)
2018-06-01 Iran Unveils New Unmanned Helicopter (Michael Rubin)
2018-06-01 Russia and Iran Compete for Syria’s Phosphates (Lucas Winter)
2018-06-01 Is Iran Ready to Send Its Navy to Japan (Michael Rubin)

2018-05-01 Iran and Russia Compete for Influence in Syria (Lucas Winter)
2018-05-01 Will Iran Interfere in Kashmir? (Michael Rubin)
2018-05-01 Iran and Russia Compete for Influence in Syria (Lucas Winter)
2018-05-01 Iran and Russia Compete for Influence in Syria (Lucas Winter)
2018-05-01 Will Iran Interfere in Kashmir? (Michael Rubin)
2018-05-01 Iran and Russia Compete for Influence in Syria (Lucas Winter)

2018-04-01 13 Million Users of Domestic Messaging Apps in Iran (Michael Rubin)
2018-04-01 Iran: Supreme Leader Advisor Lauds Russian Strategic Ties (Michael Rubin)
2018-04-01 Iran: Muslims Supported by US, UK are Illegitimate (Michael Rubin)
2018-04-01 Iran: Israel’s Missile Defense Can Be Overwhelmed (Michael Rubin)
2018-04-01 Iran Unveils New Anti-Armor Missile (Michael Rubin)

2018-03-01 Iran: Warship Sinks after Mishap (Michael Rubin)
2018-03-01 Iran: Winning Hearts and Minds in Deir Ezzor (Lucas Winter)
2018-03-01 Iran Develops UAS with “Smart Bomb” Capability (Alma Keshavarz and Robert Bunker)
2018-03-01 Iran: US Sponsoring Islamic State in Afghanistan (Michael Rubin)
2018-03-01 Iran: Winning Hearts and Minds in Deir Ezzor (Lucas Winter)
2018-03-01 Iran: Telegram Giving Data to US and Israel (MIchael Rubin)

2018-02-01 A Malaysian Perspective on US-Iran Relations (Jacob Zenn)
2018-02-01 Turkish Perspectives on Iran (Karen Kaya)
2018-02-01 Iran: Was America Behind Uprising? (Michael Rubin)
2018-02-01 Iran: Lifting the Ban on Instagram was Illegal (Michael Rubin)

2018-02-01 Iran Approaches the Syria-Jordan Border (Lucas Winter)
2018-02-01 Indonesian Perspectives on the Iran Protests (Jacob Zenn)
2018-02-01 India’s Interest in Stability in Iran (Matthew Stein)
2018-02-01 China Limits Internet Exposure to Iran Protests (Jacob Zenn)
2018-02-01 Saudi-Iran Tensions Seen in Nigerian Crackdown on Shia Group (Jacob Zenn)

2018-01-01 Iran: New Military Budget Proposed (Michael Rubin)
2018-01-01 Iran-Khamenei Speaks on Views toward America (Michael Rubin)
2018-01-01 Iran’s Amphibious Aircraft from Russia (Michael Rubin

Iran Equips Drones With Heat-Seeking Missiles

Launch of a Karrar drone modified to carry the Majid heat-seeking missile on 21 October 2023.

“The Karrar UAV is equipped with a heat-seeking missile.”

Iran’s growing drone fleet is a pillar of its weapons arsenal and military strategy. In recent years, the Iranian military as a whole has expanded both the number of drone models and capabilities at its disposal.[i] In the excerpted article from the IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News Agency, Brigadier General Alireza Sabahi-Fard, commander of the regular Iranian Army’s Air Force, announced the successful upgrade of the Karrar platform[ii] to carry short-range heat-seeking missiles that he claimed had been used successfully to shoot down other UAVs in tests.[iii] General Sabahi-Fard noted that the modified Majid surface-to-air missile is now used on its Karrar [RG1] drone platform. While the Majid missile’s five-mile range is not impressive, the Karrar/Majid combination gives Iran a relatively inexpensive counter-drone capability as Iran looks for less expensive alternatives to surface-to-air missiles to engage enemy drones. Finally, General Sabahi-Fard highlighted Iran’s increasing role as a drone-exporting power, implying that Iran will continue to encourage the proliferation of its drones for both economic profit and to tilt the battlespace and operational environment to its advantage.


“Tajiz-e Karrar beh Mushak-e Majid ba Bared 8 Kilometr baraye ahdaf-e havaye” (Equipping Karrar [drone] with Majid [missile] with an 8 kilometer range for aerial targets),” Tasnim News Agency (news agency affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), 22 October 2023.

[Brigadier General Alireza] Sabahi-Fard continued, “The Rasul [Prophet] UAV project has followed nine stages of field and operational tests and extensive and sensitive flights, which is one of the most important points in conducting various flight tests, deep and effective cooperation of all sectors.

The commander of the Army Air Defense Force added, “In this plan, using UAVs upgraded to carry indigenous air-to-air missiles with the ability to track and engage against any hostile aerial targets in the operational range has been achieved….Sabahi-Fard said that in this project, the Karrar UAV is equipped with a heat-seeking missile with a range of eight kilometers, adding, “After over a year and a half of extensive research and field tests to determine which missiles to install on the Karrar UAV, we finally the Majid’ surface-to-air missile after we made technical changes in in order to enable it to fire from the air.”


[i] For background on Iranian drone developments and strategies, see: Michael Rubin, “A Short History of the Iranian Drone Program,” American Enterprise Institute, August 2020.

[ii] In 2009 the Iranian Defense Ministry unveiled the Karrar (Striker) prototype. Within a year, it was mass-producing the model that it claimed to have a 600-mile range. Press accounts at the time said that Iranian forces could configure the Karrar to either launch two C-705 cruise missiles or carry 500-pound guided bombs. Shortly after, Hezbollah used a Karrar as a kamikaze drone. For previous discussion of the Karrar UAV, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran’s Combat Drones Fitted with Missiles” OE Watch, September 2012.

[iii] For previous mention of Alireza Sabahi-Fard, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran Unveils New Bahman Radar System,” OE Watch, April 2021.

Image Information:

Image: Launch of a Karrar drone modified to carry the Majid heat-seeking missile on 21 October 2023.