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.

[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.

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.
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.

[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.

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.

“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.

[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.

[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.

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.

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.

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.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.

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.

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

[iii] For more see: Lucas Winter. ”Growing Iranian Influence Near the Border with Israel in Southwest Syria,” OE Watch, March 2021.

[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,” (Syrian opposition news website) via The Syrian Observer (Syrian media aggregator), 9 August 2022. 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.

Image Information:

Image: A Druze man photographed in Suweida Syria, 2008.
Source: CharlesFred, Flickr,
Attribution: CC 2.0

Iran’s Supreme Leader Accuses West of Ukraine War Conspiracy

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Tehran, July 19, 2022.

“The Ukrainians fight and get killed so that weapons can be sold.”

When Russia invaded Ukraine, Iran initially professed neutrality; however, this official neutrality did not last long.[i] In July 2022, Putin visited Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Tehran. Khamenei unequivocally endorsed Russia’s invasion stating, “If you [Russia] had not taken the helm, the other side would have done so and initiated a war.” In the below-excerpted speech featured on Khamenei’s website,, the Supreme Leader provided more insight into his thinking about Ukraine. Khamenei sees the Ukraine war within the context of his own worldview in which all evils originate in the West. Specifically, he embraces the belief the military-industrial complex shapes all policy in Washington, stating: “The Ukrainians fight and get killed so that [American] weapons can be sold, so that Europe is forced to buy their [American] weapons, so the arms-producing companies can produce and sell weapons and fill their pockets.” Interestingly, his embrace of Russia weakens a main pillar of the Islamic Revolution during the Cold War, which is that Iran would rely on “neither East nor West,” both of which revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini believed to be equally exploitive. Instead, the tenet holds that Iran is best served by an independent foreign policy.[ii] Additionally, Khamenei asserted that the United States seeks to steal Syrian oil. He claimed: “A government like that of the United States is stealing oil from Syria and is doing it openly in plain view of everybody.” This assertion shows his embrace of another conspiracy theory and suggests that Iran could be an impediment to any reconciliation between the Syrian regime and the predominantly Kurdish Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) in whose territory the United States bases a small force. AANES currently controls many of Syria’s oil fields.


“Biyanat dar Didar Mobleghin va Talab-e Hawzehha-ye ‘Ilmeah Saresar Keshvar” (Statement to a gathering of seminary students and missionaries from across the country),” (official website of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei), 12 July 2023.

Today, they are willing to push the poor, helpless nation of Ukraine forward to fill the pockets of American arms-producing companies. That is what is happening. That is the case in Ukraine. The Ukrainians fight and get killed so that weapons can be sold, so that Europe is forced to buy their weapons, so the arms-producing companies can produce and sell weapons and fill their pockets. They are the same. They want to steal Syria’s oil and they are stealing it. People imagine a thief to be an inferior, lowly person. A government like that of the United States is stealing oil from Syria and is doing it openly in plain view of everybody! They are the same, they have not changed.


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

[ii] For example, see: Michael Rubin, “Will Iran Pivot to the East?” OE Watch, September 2018.

Image Information:

Image: Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Tehran, July 19, 2022.
Source : ?ts=1669631151000

Iran Promoting Medical Tourism To Generate Hard Currency

View of an Iranian medical examination room in July 2023.

“The quality of Iran’s medical education … has led to the discussion of increasing medical tourism in the country.”

Iran is facing a hard currency crunch. The excerpted article from Iranian Students’ News Agency focuses on the Iranian government’s desire to promote medical tourism to raise new hard currency.[i]. Over the past year alone, the Iranian government says the industry has netted $1 billion for the Iranian economy. On 3 July 2023, Mahdi Safari, Deputy Foreign Minister for Economic Diplomacy, said the Foreign Ministry hoped to attract 6 million medical tourists to Iran annually. Health Minister Bahram Einollahi said Iran expected 240 hospitals to accept medical tourists. The lack of international accreditation for Iranian hospitals, however, puts Iran at a disadvantage in comparison to Turkey and India, its two nearest competitors in the field. Nevertheless, as the regime looks for more hard currency, it seeks to overcome such challenges. On 22 July 2023, for example, Einollahi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, and Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts Minister Ezzatollah Zarghami gathered to discuss the industry jointly in a roundtable with parliamentarians. Advertisements by medical tourism companies promise not only visa services, but also interpreters and hotel bookings, all of which require coordination between ministries. There are also security and military aspects to the development of the medical tourism industry. First, while Iran’s foreign ministry officially issues visas, the intelligence ministry must approve visa applications. Although Iranian medical tourism companies claim that the foreign ministry will allow Americans, British, and Canadians to purchase medical tourism packages, it is unclear the extent to which Iranian security services will view this as a backdoor for Iranian adversaries to access the country. Given the long history of Iranian hostage-taking, Western tourists might become prime targets. Second, it remains unclear how the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) will address the issue. Khatam al-Anbiya, the IRGC’s economic wing, controls up to 40 percent of the Iranian economy and tends to focus its energy on industries that allow it to access hard currency.[ii] While it will be difficult for the IRGC to involve itself in medical tourism, the potential growth of the sector into a multi-billion dollar income stream means it will either find a creative way or, as money often equates to power, find a way to shut down the industry to preserve its own privileged position.


“Kifiyat-e Amuzesh-e Pezeshki Iran Movajeb Tawseah-e Turizm Darmani Shodeh Ast” (The Quality of Medical Education in Iran has led to the Development of Medical Tourism),” Iranian Students’ News Agency (an ostensibly private news agency close to Iran’s security and intelligence apparatus), 8 July 2023.

The deputy minister of health for education announced the call for 3,000 staff members and said, the call will be made in several stages in different regions, each according to its need. Dr. Abulfazl Bagheri Fard, in a meeting with faculty members of Hormozgan University of Medical Sciences this morning, pointed out the increase in the number of available residency slots in this year’s exam, and the improvement in their pay, he noted, in the 13th government [led by President Ebrahim Raisi], a plan was presented to the Planning and Budget to increase the salaries of medical residents so that they would receive the same salary as general practitioners… He noted, “The quality of Iran’s medical education is both a source of pride and has led to the discussion of increasing medical tourism in the country. Training should be dynamic and up-to-date, and regulations should be revised based on conditions. For example, this topic was used to increase the number of available fellowships in 2022 based on structured interviews. He mentioned the inclusion of cardiac and thoracic surgery in the residency exam, and the ability to participate in the emergency medicine and anesthesiology residency exam without submitting a [broader] plan….The Deputy Minister of Health for education referred to the review of the regulations on the promotion of faculty members based on their performance and impact in training and strengthening the position of the university, and added that the launch of the disciplines was also decided based on the needs of the country and with the advice of the board members.


[i] While Iranian officials often blame their country’s dire financial situation on sanctions, structural problems within the Iranian economy take a greater toll. The IRGC dominates certain industries, for example, and often refuses to subject itself to basic laws and regulations. The lack of commercial law and interference by an ever-shifting array of power centers hampers foreign direct investment. For these reasons, many contracts go unfulfilled. Rampant inflation and continued subsidies for bread, electricity, and gasoline hemorrhage hard currency. The opacity of spending, especially by the IRGC, and the arbitrariness of figures published by the Central Bank increases uncertainty about Iran’s hard currency reserves at any given time.

[ii] See: Michael Rubin, “IRGC Wins Multibillion Dollar Economic Projects” OE Watch, August 2018.

Image Information:

Image: View of an Iranian medical examination room in July 2023.
Attribution: Tasnim News Agency

Iran’s Supreme Leader Warns of Declining Fervor of New Generation

Seminary students listen to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on 12 July 2023.

“One front is the Islamic system… The other front is the deceptive front that calls itself liberal democracy.”

Within the discourse of Iran’s top religious leadership, two interlinked themes regularly surface. First is concern about decreased fertility and second is unease with the younger generation’s declining fervor. In the excerpted speech published on his official website, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei warns assembled Islamic seminary students and missionaries about declining fervor among the youth and the sources to which they turn for religious education.[i] While Khamenei has previously lamented the decline of the “culture of martyrdom” among Iran’s youth, the excerpted speech goes much further into his thinking about its cause.[ii] Khamenei recognizes that young Iranians learn more about religion from their parents than from the state. This is an acknowledgment that Iran’s earlier educational revolution as well as such organs as the Islamic Propagation Organization have failed. It also suggests that the problem is not only the youngest generation but their parents as well. While Khamenei continues to embrace the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and paramilitary Basij, his broader frustration at the youth signals a growing divergence between those with elite military service and the broader population whose experience might only be as conscripts fulfilling mandatory military service.

Khamenei further blames social media and apps for providing unvetted information. Ironically, he calls out Twitter (now ‘X’), a platform he himself uses. At issue for Khamenei is not just the fact that they might provide faulty information, but that they do so purposely. He suggests social media is not simply a platform upon which individuals might communicate organically, but rather that they are the tip of a vast conspiracy designed to wage ideological war on Iran. Such a belief conforms broadly with an intellectual trend that predates the Islamic Revolution. This is best encapsulated by the late Iranian novelist Jalal Al-e Ahmed who, in 1962, published Occidentosis: A Plague from the West that critiqued Western technology and its impact on Iran. Revolutionary Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini himself seemed to build on Occidentosis (sometimes translated from Gharbzadegi as ‘Westoxification’) by suggesting that the antidote must be his vision of Shia Islam. Khamenei’s speech provides further insight into the intellectual and cultural battle in which he believes Iran now finds itself. He defines two fronts: Western liberalism and the Islamic system, and argues liberalism is both hypocritical and corrupt. Given his position at the helm of the Iranian regime and above that of any elected official, his castigation of liberalism signals very limited tolerance for those seeking to reform or democratize the Iranian regime.


“Biyanat dar Didar Mobleghin va Talab-e Hawzehha-ye ‘Ilmeah Saresar Keshvar” (Statement to a gathering of seminary students and missionaries from across the country),” (official website of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei), 12 July 2023.

Parents teach many things to their children. Many of our people, perhaps even the majority, have gained their information and knowledge about religion from the words and behavior of their parents. Their voices have become weak today. In the commotion caused by the media pluralism, this voice has been drowned out….

In the past, we would counsel the youth and warn them to stay away from bad friends and companions. Now such bad companions are there right inside their pockets! They have a screen of bad companions right before their eyes and everything is in it. If our Islamic propagation material and methods do not suit our audience’s situation, we will not succeed….

If this proactive approach is to be truly realized, it is necessary to know the situation. You must know who you are up against when you are confronted with a large number of doubts in the minds of young people. Who are we up against? Now suppose that a certain editorial writer, a certain columnist for some newspaper, or a certain Tweeter posts something on a social network. Who are we up against? Who is this? Is the person doing this him or herself? It is highly likely that this is not the case. It is highly probable that something is going on behind the scenes. Who is behind the scenes? We should know who they are….

Today, another confrontation exists, a confrontation between two fronts. If we know these two fronts, then we can determine if the phenomenon that has arisen against us is independent or dependent on the opposing front. What are these two fronts? One front is the front of the Islamic system, which I will speak about briefly. The other front is the deceptive face that calls itself “liberal democracy.” But, actually, it is neither liberal nor democratic! They are lying when they say they are a liberal democracy. If you are liberal, why did you colonize others whether through traditional colonialism, modern colonialism, or neocolonialism? What kind of liberals are you? What kind of freedom-seekers are you? And what kind of free-thinkers are you that you colonized a country such as India that had a population in the millions and took control of it for over a century? You siphoned off their assets and turned them into a poor nation.


[i] For previous discussion of demography and fertility, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran: We Have Five Years to Grow the Population” OE Watch, December 2020.; and Michael Rubin, “Khamenei Speaks on Demography” OE Watch, December 2013.

[ii] For previous discussion of revolutionary fervor, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran’s Supreme Leader Speaks on Martyrdom” OE Watch, December 2021.; and Michael Rubin, “Khamenei Warns Veterans of Declining Revolutionary Fervor” OE Watch, February 2020.

Image Information:

Image: Seminary students listen to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on 12 July 2023.


Requirements for Desirable Iranian Oil Ministry Jobs Revealed

Perspective employees take an exam to qualify for jobs in Iran’s Ministry of Petroleum.

“The children of martyred veteran’s quota will be 25 percent.”

While oil accounts for approximately 20 percent of Iran’s GDP, it funds 30 percent of the government’s official budget, and accounts for far more if oil smuggling by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is included. In Iran, the Ministry of Petroleum is considered more prestigious than the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Ministry of Energy, and the Ministry of Industry. The Petroleum Ministry’s staffing requirements have been long been opaque. The current Petroleum Minister Javad Owji has a background in oil engineering and subsequently led the National Iranian Gas Company, but he is the exception: many previous petroleum ministers have been IRGC officers.[i]

The excerpted article from a semi-official Iranian Students’ News Agency sheds light on the ministry’s hiring process, to include necessary exam scores and required documents for the interview phase. A quota system illustrates the segments of society the government seeks to favor, promote, or reward. The importance of the military in Iranian society is clear: candidates should demonstrate military service, be it through conscription or in more elite units like the Revolutionary Guards. There are also specific set-asides—almost one-third of the available positions—for those who are children of Iranian soldiers or paramilitary “volunteers” who died in the Iran-Iraq War or other military operations. This reflects the promotion of the culture of martyrdom and sacrifice that continues to permeate Iranian ideology.[ii] While the Iranian government is notoriously poor at veterans’ services, the high quota for children of those killed in service signals the government’s desire to take care of their posterity.

The need to photocopy both sides of the national identity card likely is part of a loyalty test. The Iranian regime uses periodic elections to prove its legitimacy through popular participation at the ballot box. Outside of the major cities and especially in regions with large ethnic or sectarian minorities, access to civil service jobs and various social services requires demonstrating proof of participation in such elections. Accordingly, Iranians in these areas often ask election workers to stamp their identity cards. (Those who do not wish to endorse the regime then spoil their ballots).[iii] Finally, the requirement to prove residence for a decade reflects a distrust of the Iranian diaspora whose departure is seen as evidence of an unwillingness to sacrifice, or insufficient loyalty, to the Islamic Revolution’s principles. This distrust also explains in part the purpose for the more subjective psychological interviews.


“Karnameh va Barnameh-e Da’vat beh Mosahebeh Estikhodami Azmun Viarat-e Naft ‘Alam Shod” (Exam Scores and the Invitation to Interview for Oil Ministry Employment Announced),” Iranian Students’ News Agency (an ostensibly private news agency close to Iran’s security and intelligence apparatus), 23 July 2023.

The country’s education testing organization announced the schedule for the invitation to job interviews with the Ministry of Petroleum in 2022. Candidates can access their records via the / address. The first candidates of the recruitment test for the subsidiaries of the Ministry of Oil for 2022 must carry out the interview process with the following documents….

1) Original and legible image of all birth certificate pages.

2) Original and scanned image of national ID card (front and back)

3) The original and legible copy of both sides of the conscription card or permanent legal exemption or valid certificate showing elite service.

4) Principle and legible image of the required valid educational degree (with mention of grade, major, grade point average and date of graduation)

5) An original and legible copy of self-sacrifice [martyrdom] documents for those seeking qualification to the [children of] martyred veteran’s quota of 25 percent or the martyred volunteer [Basij] quota of five percent. 6) Original and legible image of valid disability certificate with the type of disability (only for candidates participating in the quota of three percent for disabled people)7) The original and legible copy of all pages of the birth certificate of the child or children for those seeking to benefit from the youth law.8) The original completed and verified residence declaration form stamped with the seal of the post office or local police station (for candidates who have resided for 10 years at their residence in Iran)9) The original certificate of education from elementary, middle and high school or the first or second year of high school with the approval of the education department of the relevant province or city with regard to the ten-year history of residence, on the condition of providing a local certificate of the person’s current residence in the province or city where the application is made. 10) Dissertation (only for participants with a master’s degree)The schedule cannot be changed/extended and failure to attend in the assigned time will be considered as a definite withdrawal. A valid invitation is necessary when attending the interview. The supplemental assessment consists of two sections of technical-specialized and psychological interviews, and the participation of volunteers in both sections is mandatory….


[i] The Petroleum Ministry’s vital role makes it an important partner for the IRGC whose economic wing, Khatam al-Anbiya, regularly receives no-bid, single-source contracts from the Petroleum Ministry. The United States has sanctioned the government-owned National Iranian Oil Company used by the Ministry of Petroleum to distribute Iranian oil for its IRGC links.

[ii] See: Michael Rubin, “Khamenei Warns Veterans of Declining Revolutionary Fervor” OE Watch, February 2020.

[iii] For example, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran’s Supreme Leader Explains Spoilt Ballots” OE Watch, August 2021.

Image Information:

Image: Perspective employees take an exam to qualify for jobs in Iran’s Ministry of Petroleum.
Attribution: Iranian Students’ News Agency

Iran Claims Development of Cruise Missiles Guided by Artificial Intelligence

Defense Minister Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, Alireza Tangsiri, commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps- Navy, and regular Navy Commander Shahram Irani at a ceremony unveiling the Abu Mahdi cruise missile.

“This system is strategic and, in fact, we can say it has no equal.”

The excerpted article from Iran’s Fars News Agency claims that Iran is developing a cruise missile guided by artificial intelligence (AI). While Iran has a long history of claims that never materialize, these announcements do reflect the emphases of Iranian military thinking and the trajectory of Iranian military investment. Frequent announcements about drones and precision missiles, for example, reflect the growing arsenal of both, even though capabilities fall short of Tehran’s claims.

Iran’s desire to expand the capabilities of its cruise missile arsenal poses a real and growing threat to shipping in the Persian Gulf and northern Indian Ocean. Still, when Iranian military leaders first announced that they would field the Abu Mahdi cruise missile on naval vessels three years ago, they made no mention of AI.[i] Likewise, a claim by the Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Navy that the Abu Mahdi cruise missile can turn “American aircraft carriers into metal scrap” is almost certainly bluster. Nevertheless, the announcement of AI-guided cruise missiles and the targeting of American shipping reflect both the hostility and ambition of the Iranian military industry. The name “Abu Mahdi” also reflects anti-American sentiment, given the United States was responsible for the death of Iraqi Popular Mobilization Unit commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in the same 3 January 2020 strike that killed Iranian Qods Force Chief Qassem Soleimani. As AI technologies become more accessible, it is inevitable that the Iranian military will try to incorporate elements of autonomous decision-making into targeting. Iranian military industries will likely be able to incorporate AI rapidly because so much AI remains open source and Iran has a large diaspora studying computer science and engineering in India, Russia, and Europe.. The greatest impact on the operational environment may be in allowing Iran’s missile arsenal to more broadly evade anti-aircraft defenses or strike targets of opportunity in dense maritime or urban settings.


“Behregiri Mushak-e Kruz Abu Mahdi a Hush-e Mosnava’i” (Abu Mahdi Cruise Missile Uses Artificial Intelligence),” Fars News Agency (news agency closely affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), 25 July 2023.

Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, Minister of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, participated this morning transferring the Abu Mahdi cruise missile to both the regular Navy and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Navy. He said, “By the grace of God, and in line with the defense doctrine of the Islamic Republic of Iran to improve missile power for defense, today we are witnessing the ceremony for the Abu Mahdi long-range cruise missile joining the arsenal. This system is strategic and, in fact, we can say it has no equal. He added, “This system has special features, including a range of 1,000 kilometers [621 miles] which will increase the range of our naval defense several times. It is a very important point.”

Referring to other aspects of the Abu Mahdi missile, the Minister of Defense said, “Other features include pinpoint accuracy, high destructive power, the ability to maneuver around geographic obstacles, and cruising at a very low altitude.” He added, “The Abu Mahdi cruise missile can confront electronic warfare, evades radar systems and has utilized artificial intelligence to chart its optimal flight path.Ashtiani said, “We will be able to produce Abu Mahdi missiles.”


[i] For previous mention of the Abu Mahdi cruise missile, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran Navy Soon to Field Abu Mahdi Cruise Missile” OE Watch, November 2020.

Image Information:

Image: Defense Minister Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, Alireza Tangsiri, commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps- Navy, and regular Navy Commander Shahram Irani at a ceremony unveiling the Abu Mahdi cruise missile.

Iran Indicates Plans To Commercialize Nuclear Technology, Sell Heavy Water

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei addresses nuclear scientists and engineers, 11 June 2023.

“If we wanted to build nuclear weapons, we would do it, and they know it.”

In the accompanying excerpted speech from the official website ( of the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei addresses Iran’s nuclear program. Khamenei makes a public call to commercialize Iran’s nuclear progress. Specifically, he suggests selling heavy water and nuclear isotopes. Heavy water is a type of water with specific atomic properties useful in the production of nuclear weapons and power. This follows a pattern in which Iran has sought to leverage its indigenous military industry to wean Iran off reliance on outside powers, turning it into a source of hard currency and influence.[i] While Western officials worry about Iran’s military exports—for example, the sale of its drones to Russia and elsewhere—[ii]the proliferation of nuclear goods would raise concern to a new level. Khamenei’s suggestion that Iran make such sales to countries that are its allies would only enhance this concern. Many Iranian allies are either U.S.-designated state sponsors of terrorism, such as Syria, or revisionist states that reject the post-World War II liberal order, such as Cuba and Venezuela.  Syria in 2007 sought to build a plutonium processing plant, allegedly with North Korean assistance. Iranian provision of nuclear goods would complicate operations should Syrian ambitions remain. Iranian export of enriched uranium will increasingly raise the specter of adversarial state and nonstate forces using dirty bombs. Khamenei’s speech also touches on past themes including linking Iran’s prestige to its nuclear program and denying that Iran intends to build nuclear weapons, even though he also acknowledges that Iran could develop nuclear weapons should he make the decision to do so.


“Biyanat dar Didar Daneshmandan, Motakhsasan, Karshenasan va Mosa’valan Sana’at Hasteha-ye Keshavar” (Statements in the meeting of scientists, specialists, experts and officials of the country’s nuclear industry),” (official website of the Iranian supreme leader), 11 June 2023.

… I am truly grateful to the scientists, officials and activists of this industry who prepared this great meeting and this great exhibition for us today; it was a very good exhibition, it was pleasing, encouraging and redeeming. I have prepared a few remarks for you…. The first is about the importance of the nuclear industry. Of course, you know and you know the importance of this industry, but many people do not know the value of the nuclear industry, the various and extensive dimensions of this industry, and its impact on people’s lives and in the progress of the country…. This industry is important to the country’s progress and to the country’s capabilities in sectors such as technology, economy, and health. It brings honor to the country and makes life better for the people, and brings great international prestige to the country. At the same time, the enemies are afraid that other nations might follow the path and the forward-looking mindset of the Iranian nation. In light of these aspects, everyone should acknowledge that the nuclear industry is one of the fundamental and important components of the country’s credibility and the strength and power of the country…. This is also why the enemies are focused on nuclear energy; the reason that we have been challenged for 20 years… They know that we are not looking for nuclear weapons… We oppose mass murder. It is against Islam, whether it is atomic, chemical, or by other means. In the wars of the time of the Prophet, the commander of the faithful, and in early Islam, it was advised to make sure that the water was neither denied to the [enemy] people nor spoiled… [but] if we wanted to go nuclear, they would not be able to stop it, just as they have not been able to stop our nuclear advances so far. If we wanted to build nuclear weapons, we would do it, and they know it…. Today our nuclear facilities and progress are more than a hundred times more than 20 years ago…. Another recommendation is to commercialize nuclear products and services. These developments have good markets in the world and can really benefit the country’s economy and income. Cooperation should be made with countries that do not have a conflict with us in this regard.

“Cheshmandaz Sazman-e Enerzhi Atomi Tajari Kardan Sana’at Hasteha-ye Ast (The Vision of the Atomic Energy Organization [of Iran] is to Commercialize the Nuclear Industry),” Holy Defense News Agency (official news agency of Iran’s Defense Ministry), 12 June 2023.

[Behrouz] Kamalvandi said, “Our vision is to have a strong organization that will take research to the industrial stage and then bring the industry to commerce. The cycle is to research and once research begins, it can’t stop. Following research comes a semi-industrial pilot project, then an industrial project, and then a commercial industry. When we say commercial, this means delivery to the market, whether domestic or international. We now have a good market in “heavy water.” Many companies from different countries want Iranian heavy water and its derivatives, and they are queuing to buy this product.


[i] For example, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran Increased Defense Budget Leading to More Arms Exports,” OE Watch, 04-2023.

[ii] For example, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran Asks Tajikistan Not to Use Iranian Drones in Dispute with Kyrgyzstan,” OE Watch, 01-2022.

Image Information:

Image: Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei addresses nuclear scientists and engineers, 11 June 2023.