OE Watch Issue # 01, 2024

OE Watch, Vol 14, Issue 01, 2024; click image to download magazine

(Click image to download magazine.)


China Celebrates New Turbofan Engine Design as Giving It a Strategic Advantage
By Cindy Hurst

Chinese and Vietnamese Leaders Meet Over Tensions in South China Sea
By Alpha Ngo

Chinese Media Defends PLA Navy in Maritime Dispute With the Philippines
By Jacob Zenn

China Nears Completion of Large Port in Peru With Dual-Use Capabilities
By Ryan Berg


Russian Military Working To Respond to U.S. “Multi-Domain Operations”
By Chuck Bartles

Russia Details Plan To Overcome Military Drone Deficiencies
By Dodge Billingsley

Russia’s Federal Budget Puts Economy on War Footing
By Dodge Billingsley

Russian Arctic Naval Activity and Capability Continue To Expand
By Les Grau

Russia Denies that North Korea Is Supplying It With Weapons for Use in Ukraine
By Lionel Beehner


Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Seeks Dominant Role in Maritime Development
By Michael Rubin

Iran’s Supreme Leader Announces Maritime Development Strategy
By Michael Rubin

Iran Seeks To Assert Global Leadership in Determining International Cyber Policy
By Michael Rubin

Belarus and Iran Form Alliance Against the West
By Paris Gordon


Drug Trafficking a Prime Source of Financing for Venezuela’s Maduro Regime
By Ryan Berg

Syrian Regime, Opposition Wary of Hamas Despite Support for 7 October Attacks on Israel
By Lucas Winter

Fears of Gaza Violence Prompt Egypt To Reinforce the Sinai Border
By Lucas Winter

Pakistan Deporting Approximately 1.7 Million Undocumented Afghanis in Response to Terrorist Attacks
By Christopher Betts

Malian Coup Leader Faces Challenges Reconquering Kidal
By Jacob Zenn


Israel’s Operation in Gaza Compounding Logistical Delays for India’s Armed Forces
By Matthew Stein

Azerbaijan’s Joint Exercise With Turkey Sends Familiar Warning Message to Armenia
By Matthew Stein

African Government Support for Palestinian Territories Spreads
By Jason Warner

Ukraine Launches Counteroffensive in Sudan and Across Africa To Minimize Russian Influence
By Jason Warner

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. https://president.gov.by/ru/events/vstrecha-s-pervym-vice-prezidentom-irana-mohammadom-mohberom-1697531352

“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. https://www.mil.by/ru/news/162070/

“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. https://gosstandart.gov.by/lukashenko-i-raisi-podpisali-dorozhnuyu-kartu-vsestoronnego-sotrudnichestva-do-2026

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. https://www.isna.ir/news/1402081813261

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. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/what-iran-nuclear-deal

[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. https://www.aei.org/articles/evolution-of-iranian-surveillance-strategies-toward-the-internet-and-social-media/

[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. https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/m/oe-watch-articles-singular-format/329811

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.
Source: https://media.farsnews.ir/Uploaded/Files/Images/1402/08/18/14020818000284_Test_PhotoN.jpg
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),” Khamenei.ir (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. https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/m/oe-watch-articles-2-singular-format/379863

[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. https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/m/oe-watch-articles-2-singular-format/403778

[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. https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/m/oe-watch-articles-2-singular-format/42208

Image Information:

Image: Iran’s rugged but underdeveloped Makran coast littoral is pictured. Iran’s Supreme Leader has recently articulated a maritime development plan.
Source: https://www.ibena.ir/files/fa/news/1401/9/27/24702_342.jpg
Attribution: Ibena.ir

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. https://defapress.ir/fa/news/629041

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. https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/m/oe-watch-articles-2-singular-format/429284

[ii] For background on other aspects of IRGC-university partnerships, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran: Preparing for Zafar III Satellite Launch” OE Watch, July 2019. https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/m/oe-watch-articles-singular-format/312353

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.
Source: https://defapress.ir/files/fa/news/1402/8/17/2245434_929.jpeg
Attribution: Defapress.ir

Legacy Articles On Iran

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 Demands Disarmament Of Kurdish Dissidents In Iraq

Mohammad Bagheri, chief-of-staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, speaks by phone with Türkiye’s Minister of Defense Yaşar Güler with regard to events in the Gaza Strip, 20 October 2023.

“The main agreement was not their displacement but rather their complete disarmament.”

Kurdish separatist groups in Iran and neighboring countries have been a scourge to Iran for decades.[i] However, over the past two years, the Iranian government has become much more assertive in demanding that Iraqi Kurdish authorities dismantle Iranian Kurdish bases inside Iraqi Kurdistan.[ii] In a series of recent meetings, Iranian officials have demanded that Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdish authorities completely disarm and relocate Iranian Kurdish separatist groups away from the Iranian border. In the excerpted article from the Mehr News Agency, Mohammad Bagheri, an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) general who serves as the Iranian military’s chief-of-staff, argues  for  a complete elimination of Kurdish safe havens inside Iraq. Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdish authorities suggest that Turkey’s establishment of a de facto buffer zone against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) along the Iraq-Turkish frontier, combined with Turkey’s frequent bombing of alleged PKK targets in both Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdish territory, motivated Iran to request similar privileges along Iraq’s eastern frontier. It is unclear if Iraq will act on Iran’s demands, but the possible creation of dual Turkish and Iranian buffer zones raises the prospect of the two countries fighting by proxy inside Iraq.


“Bagheri: Iraq Bayad Tajziyeh Taliban ra Tabegh Tavafegh ba Iran Haleh Saleh Konad” (Bagheri: Iraq Should Disarm the Separatists According to its Agreement with Iran),” Mehr News Agency (semi-official news agency owned by Iranian government’s Islamic Development Organization), 7 October 2023. https://www.mehrnews.com/news/5904819

[Mohammad] Bagheri [chief-of-staff of the Iranian Armed Forces] continued, “The countries of Southwest Asia, especially the Islamic Republic of Iran, are exceptional and unique due to having strategic and political geography, sitting astride the world’s communication highway and the strategic strait [of Hormuz]. They have rich mineral resources and fossil fuel resources, are home to the great heavenly religions, including the existence of the Qibla [in Mecca] and the shrine of the holy Imams of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and various other factors.”

He emphasized that the rich resources of the West Asian region and the special place of this region have always been coveted by the powers; our region is constantly witnessing foreign interference and discord among nations and governments.

He said, “We see that the enemies are always trying to create differences between countries in the region between ethnicities, tribes and religions and by weakening the legal sovereignty of countries, they constantly engage the region so that they can justify their aggressive presence due to the they create. A clear example of this was the creation of the Islamic State, which even to the leaders of the oppressive American state admitted was created by them….”He said, “The problem of the borders of Iran and our neighbors and the insecurities we have on our borders is an investigative and extremely important issue.” Referring to the movements of terrorists from across the borders of Sistan and Baluchestan [with Pakistan] and the [Iraqi] Kurdistan Region, Bagheri said, “What does it mean for Iranian separatist groups to be based in Iraqi Kurdistan and carry out all kinds of terrorist acts in our country? And we have to keep a lot of forces at the border. Iraqi officials also confirm that this issue must be resolved definitively. Last month, an agreement was reached between the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran and the national security advisor of Iraq to complete disarmament within six months. In recent weeks, the Iraqi government and all the dear officials who are trying there have made some efforts. They have moved these groups from bases near our border, The main agreement was not their displacement of separatist forces but rather their complete disarmament.


[i] Iranian Kurdish insurgency predates Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. Kurdish tribal revolts spanned the Ottoman-Persian frontier in the late 19th century. In the wake of both World War I and World War II, Iranian Kurds sought to assert local autonomy to fill the vacuum left by weak central government. This culminated in the 1946 establishment of the Mahabad Republic. In the years after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution, Kurds again rose in revolt, upset not only by traditional Persian ethnic condescension, but also by the Shi’ite Islamist regime’s new layer of sectarian discrimination against the largely Sunni minority. For background into these Kurdish tribal revolts, movements, and secessionist groups, see: Michael Rubin, Kurdistan Rising? Washington: AEI Press, 2016.

[ii] For previous discussion of Iranian impatience with Iraqi Kurdistan providing a safe-haven for Iranian Kurdish dissidents, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran Vows Action Against Iraqi Kurdistan-Based Insurgents,” OE Watch, November 2021. https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/m/oe-watch-past-issues/397213/download

Image Information:

Image: Mohammad Bagheri, chief-of-staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, speaks by phone with Türkiye’s Minister of Defense Yaşar Güler with regard to events in the Gaza Strip, 20 October 2023.
Source: https://img9.irna.ir/d/r2/2023/10/20/4/170678817.jpg?ts=1697791786262
Attribution: Islamic Republic News Agency

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. https://www.tasnimnews.com/fa/news/1402/07/30/2976015

[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. https://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/A-short-history-of-the-Iranian-drone-program.pdf?x91208

[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. https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/m/oe-watch-past-issues/195613/download

[iii] For previous mention of Alireza Sabahi-Fard, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran Unveils New Bahman Radar System,” OE Watch, April 2021. https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/m/oe-watch-past-issues/374628/download

Image Information:

Image: Launch of a Karrar drone modified to carry the Majid heat-seeking missile on 21 October 2023.
Source: https://newsmedia.tasnimnews.com/Tasnim/Uploaded/Image/1402/07/13/1402071309480492128494654.jpg
Attribution: Tasnimnews.com

Iran Announces Integration Of Artificial Intelligence Into Drone Fleet

Hossein Salami, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, describes new military capabilities of supposed artificial intelligence-directed drones during a 4 October 2023 conference of medical students.

“Anyone who wants to harm our country… will be eliminated.”

Iranian drone development could threaten the blue water navies of its adversaries at extended ranges. According to a statement by General Hossein Salami, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), published by the state-run Fars News Agency, Iran has successfully integrated artificial intelligence into its drone fleet.[i] While the statement appears aspirational, Iranian tactics have indeed evolved from the pinpoint use of drones to the use of drone swarms.[ii] Simultaneously, Iran has increased drone range by switching from line-of-sight to global positioning system navigation. Iranian strategists realize adversaries will likely apply the same long-range swarming tactics the IRGC now utilizes. In response, the IRGC is seeking a way to counter this innovation by having drones “decide” which enemy drones and other targets to destroy without human input. Given technological advances, and the global proliferation of artificial intelligence applications, it is only a matter of time until Iranian aspirations about artificial intelligence-infused drones become fully realized. When this happens, it will change the maritime operational environment in the region. While the Iranian Navy has invested in new ships, its blue water capacity remains limited.[iii] For their part, long-range, autonomous drones will be able to leapfrog over this naval deficit to project power hundreds of miles offshore where more advanced navies can operate but Iranian power is minimal. As such, artificial intelligence-infused drone operations could ultimately rectify a major Iranian capability gap.


“Sardar Salami: Pehpadha-ye ma Qadarand dar Fasleh Chand Hazar Miley Shanavarha ra Hadef Qarar Dehand (General Salami: Our Drones are Capable of Targeting Vessels Several Thousand Miles Away),” Fars News Agency (news agency closely affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), 4 October 2023. https://www.farsnews.ir/news/14020712000483

“Our country is progressing, but our enemies don’t want us to build the future of our country with the blossoming minds of our youth.” Today, our country is equipped with new technologies, artificial intelligence and a variety of emerging phenomena in biochemistry, biophysics, and genetics and so on. We have something to say and we are growing…. Many people tell us that the enemy is just an illusion of the mind, but it is not an illusion; it is reality. Our youth must build the future of our country, Western countries have no rights in our country. Anyone who wants to harm our country and our youth will be eliminated….”The Commander-in-Chief [of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Hossein Salami] continued, “In the unmanned arena, you see that with the help of Artificial Intelligence, today we have the capability that our drones can target any moving vessel a few thousand miles away and even assess the extent of destruction.”


[i] For previous discussion of the Iranian military claiming to enhance its arsenal with artificial intelligence, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran Claims Development Of Cruise Missiles Guided By Artificial Intelligence” OE Watch, 08-2023. https://fmso.tradoc.army.mil/2023/iran-claims-development-of-cruise-missiles-guided-by-artificial-intelligence/

[ii] For background on Iranian drone developments and strategies, see: Michael Rubin, “A Short History of the Iranian Drone Program,” American Enterprise Institute, August 2020. https://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/A-short-history-of-the-Iranian-drone-program.pdf?x91208

[iii] For background into the Iranian Navy’s problems operating in the open ocean, see: Michael Rubin, “Khamenei Orders Investigation into Naval Accident” OE Watch, June 2020. https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/m/oe-watch-past-issues/336632/download

Image Information:

Image: Hossein Salami, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, describes new military capabilities of supposed artificial intelligence-directed drones during a 4 October 2023 conference of medical students.
Source: https://media.farsnews.ir/Uploaded/Files/Images/1402/07/06/14020706000363_Test_PhotoN.JPG
Attribution: FarsNews.ir

Russian Influence Fades in Southern Syria

A Druze man photographed in Suweida Syria, 2008.

“In the last two years, the decline of the Russian role within Syrian territories has become clear…”

Russia’s fading presence and loss of influence in southern Syria was on display during recent antiregime protests by the ethnoreligious Druze minority group in the Syrian province of Suweida.[i] As of mid-September, the protests had been going on for over a month. Russia, which had previously mediated between the regime and the Druze, was nowhere to be seen.[ii] Suweida’s protest movement—which has ebbed and flowed throughout the civil war—was motivated by longstanding deterioration in living conditions.

A prominent Druze leader, speaking to protesters who had been injured by regime forces in mid-September, placed blame for the unrest on local Iranian agents and allies. As reported in the first excerpt, from the Lebanese news website al-Modon, he accused them of stealing Syrian wealth and brainwashing its citizens with a “subversive” ideology. Russia’s absence from the volatile situation in Suweida is as noteworthy as are the strident accusations made against Iran and its local allies. In 2018, Russia had established itself as an effective mediator between the Syrian regime and Sunni rebels from Daraa, the province immediately to the west of Suweida. Russia did so by bringing rebel factions into a Russia-controlled proxy force known as the “5th Corps.” Two years ago, as reported in the second accompanying excerpt, from Qatar’s al-Jazeera, Russia began handing control of its southern proxies to the Syrian regime, and Iran took advantage of this situation through its influence in Syrian Military Intelligence and the Syrian Army’s 4th Division.[iii] Druze discontent with Iran’s influence rose due to Iranian proxies and allies in the regime extracting scarce resources from Suweida’s economy—including lucrative cross-border smuggling routes into Jordan and the Gulf. In 2022, a group of Druze leaders sought Russian assistance in curbing Iran’s local influence, on the assumption that Russia maintained sway in this part of Syria. In response, Russia sent a group of lowly military police with no decision-making powers, in what was a clear hint of waning Russian influence.[iv] The situation has only become starker with the Suweida protest movement. Indeed, as of mid-September, the Kremlin had made no official statement on the protests in Suweida, and Russian government-linked media blamed them on the United States, as noted in the third accompanying excerpt, also from al-Modon. The Kremlin is no longer able to provide even the illusion of influence in this part of Syria. Iran, for its part, appears to have solidified its influence in the south, but in doing so has made itself increasingly unpopular.


“السويداء:الهجري يدعو للجهاد ضد إيران وميليشياتها..بعد استهداف المتظاهرين بالرصاص

(Suweida: al-Hajiri calls for jihad against Iran and its militias… after protesters shot at),” al-Modon (Lebanese news website), 13 September 2023. https://www.almodon.com/arabworld/2023/9/13/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%88%D9%8A%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%A1-%D8%B9%D9%86%D8%A7%D8%B5%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D8%B9%D8%AB-%D8%AA%D8%B7%D9%84%D9%82-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%86%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%89-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AA%D8%B8%D8%A7%D9%87%D8%B1%D9%8A%D9%86-%D9%88%D8%AA%D9%88%D9%82%D8%B9-%D8%A5%D8%B5%D8%A7%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%AA

He considered that the “security movement” that opened fire on demonstrators in Suwayda was the product of the “corrupt” security services that have been tampering with Syria for years, stressing that the demonstrators should not be drawn into the plan of these agencies to attack the people of Suwayda…

He considered that the authority in Iran is “racist and corrupt” and entered Syria in order to “steal the country and its wealth and change people’s minds in a direction they are not convinced of,” stressing that Iran, its militias, and the Lebanese Hezbollah are “occupiers and we do not accept their presence in Syria…and we announce this publicly.”

كعكة الأسد.. هل يقوي مقتل بريغوجين نفوذ إيران في سوريا؟

(Assad’s cake… will the killing of Prigozhin strengthen Iranian influence in Syria),” al-Jazeera (Qatari news outlet), 6 September 2023. https://www.aljazeera.net/midan/reality/politics/2023/9/6/صراع-حول-كعكة-الأسد-هل-يقوي-مقتل

In the last two years, the decline of the Russian role within Syrian territories has become clear. This was not limited to the disappearance of Russian hopes for reaching a political solution to the war that has been going on for more than ten years, but it also amounted to cutting off Russian support for many of Moscow’s agents in Syria…

The Iranians took advantage of this opportunity in order to remove Russia relatively from the scene and capture former proxies whom the Kremlin could no longer support militarily and financially. This happened with the Syrian regime’s Eighth Brigade, one of the most loyal units to Russia within the armed forces in southern Syria, which was reduced. Russia halved the salaries of its members, and in 2022 it completely stopped communicating with the brigade, which prompted the brigade to work for the Syrian Military Intelligence Directorate, one of Iran’s most powerful agents. At the same time, the National Defense Forces militias east of Deir ez-Zor, led by Hassan al-Ghadhban, separated from Moscow. In favor of the Iranian-backed Fourth Division, after Moscow failed to pay the salaries of the members for a full six months.

“موسكو تقرأ إنتفاضة السويداء..من لبنان

(Moscow reads the Suweida uprising… from Lebanon),” al-Modon (Lebanese news website), 5 September 2023. https://www.almodon.com/opinion/2023/9/5/%D9%85%D9%88%D8%B3%D9%83%D9%88-%D8%AA%D9%82%D8%B1%D8%A3-%D8%A5%D9%86%D8%AA%D9%81%D8%A7%D8%B6%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%88%D9%8A%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%A1-%D9%85%D9%86-%D9%84%D8%A8%D9%86%D8%A7%D9%86

Although more than two weeks have passed since the Suweida uprising, the Kremlin remains silent about it. 

What is relatively new this time in accusing the West of being behind the Suweida uprising is the claim of an American plan to destabilize the region by controlling the network of financial flows linked to the crisis in the Lebanese banking system…

On the first of this month, the Topwar website, which is linked to the Russian Ministry of Defense, published a text regarding the Suwayda uprising entitled “The Syrian Protests and the US Strategy in Lebanon”…


[i] The Druze are an esoteric, monotheistic ethnoreligious group that constitute 3 percent of Syria’s population, concentrated in Suweida Province. There are also Druze communities on the Syria-Israel border and in Lebanon. Unlike neighboring Sunni-majority Daraa Province—the heartland of Syria’s rebellion—the Druze-majority province of Suweida carved out an effective position of neutrality in Syria’s civil war. By staking out a neutral position, the Druze effectively became “strategic bedfellows” of the Assad regime. See: Fabrice Balanche. “The Druze and Assad: Strategic Bedfellows,” The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 20 October 2016. https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/druze-and-assad-strategic-bedfellows

[ii] See for instance: “Syrian government releases detainees with Russian mediation in Syria’s Suwayda,” North Press Agency, 11 July 2020. https://npasyria.com/en/44220/

[iii] For more see: Lucas Winter. ”Growing Iranian Influence Near the Border with Israel in Southwest Syria,” OE Watch, March 2021. https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/m/oe-watch-past-issues/368233

[iv] Key Druze leaders refused to meet with the powerless Russian delegation, which consisted of military police. See: Sources: Eight Demands to Russian Delegation in Suweida,” al-souria.net (Syrian opposition news website) via The Syrian Observer (Syrian media aggregator), 9 August 2022. https://syrianobserver.com/news/77992/sources-eight-demands-to-russian-delegation-in-suweida.html and

السويداء: حركة رجال الكرامة ترفض استقبال وفد روسي

“Suweida: Men of Dignity refuses to meet Russian delegation,” al-Araby al-Jadeed (Qatari-aligned daily), 10 August 2022. https://tinyurl.com/4tsmy3t2

Image Information:

Image: A Druze man photographed in Suweida Syria, 2008.
Source: CharlesFred, Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/charlesfred/
Attribution: CC 2.0