Iran February 2024-

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Iran is home to one of the oldest empires in the world, the Achaemenid Empire, led by Cyrus the Great in 550 BC.
Iran Has 26 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
It is also one of the top ten countries to have the most number of World Heritage Sites. Out of 26 sites, two are natural:the Lut Desert in Kerman and Sistan and Baluchestan; and Hyrcanian Forests in Golestan, Mazandaran and Gilan. Other important heritage sites include Persepolis, the ancient capital of the Achaemenid Empire, in Fars and the Historic City of Yazd, the oldest earthen city.
Iran produces 88% of the world’s saffron. …the highest quality of saffron comes from Estahban in the Fars Province and Ghaenat in the Khorasan Province.

Facts You May Not Know About Iran
1. Iran is home to one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, Susa, which dates back over 6,000 years.
2. Iran boasts one of the world’s oldest monotheistic religions, Zoroastrianism, which dates back over 3,500 years and influenced the development of other major religions.
3. The city of Tabriz in Iran was the capital of the Mongol Ilkhanate in the 13th century and served as a major hub on the Silk Road.
5. The Iranian city of Isfahan was once one of the largest cities in the world and served as the capital of the Persian Empire under the Safavid dynasty.
6. Tehran, Iran’s capital, is the second-largest city in Western Asia, after Istanbul.
7. The ancient city of Yazd in central Iran is known for its unique wind towers, which have been used for centuries to provide natural ventilation in buildings.
8. Iran is home to one of the world’s oldest universities, the University of al-Qarawiyyin in Qom, founded in 859 AD.
9. Iran is one of the few countries in the world where women outnumber men in higher education, with more women enrolled in universities than men.
10. Iran has the highest number of female students studying engineering and science at the undergraduate level compared to any other country in the world.
11. Despite its largely desert climate, Iran is home to over 7,000 plant species, many of which are endemic to the region.
12. Iran has one of the world’s largest populations of Persian leopards, which are endangered and mainly inhabit the Alborz and Zagros Mountains.
13. Iran has a rich tradition of poetry, with poets like Hafez and Rumi being celebrated worldwide for their profound and lyrical verses.
14. Iran is home to one of the world’s oldest bazaars, the Grand Bazaar of Tehran, which dates back over 200 years and spans over 10 kilometers of labyrinthine alleys and bustling market stalls.

4-6 July
Iranian reformist wins presidency, beating a prominent hard-liner
Iran’s new president Masoud Pezeshkian campaigned on modest social reforms and engagement with the United States over the country’s nuclear program.
Who is Masoud Pezeshkian, Iran’s new president-elect?
(Reuters) Pezeshkian managed to win with a constituency – whose core was believed to be the urban middle class and young – that had been widely disillusioned by years of security crackdowns that stifled any public dissent from Islamist orthodoxy.
The 69-year-old cardiac surgeon has pledged to promote a pragmatic foreign policy, ease tensions over now-stalled negotiations with major powers to revive a 2015 nuclear pact and improve prospects for social liberalisation and political pluralism.
Centrist Masoud Pezeshkian will be Iran’s next president
Pezeshkian acknowledges ‘difficult path ahead’ after winning run-off election with 53.7 percent of the vote.
(Al Jazeera) Pezeshkian also hailed the relatively high turnout in Friday’s polls, promising to listen to the voices of the Iranian people and “fulfil all the promises” he made.
Seen as a centrist and reform-minded candidate, Pezeshkian secured nearly 16.4 million of the more than 30 million votes cast, ahead of Jalili who received some 13.5 million, according to the official count.
“By gaining [the] majority of the votes cast on Friday, Pezeshkian has become Iran’s next president,” the Ministry of Interior said in a statement.
Iranians vote in run-off presidential election amid widespread apathy
(Reuters) – Iranians will vote in a run-off presidential election on Friday amid voter apathy and heightened regional tensions.
The run-off follows a June 28 ballot with historic low turnout, when over 60% of Iranian voters abstained from the snap election for a successor to Ebrahim Raisi, following his death in a helicopter crash. The low participation is seen by critics as a vote of no confidence in the Islamic Republic.
Friday’s vote will be a tight race between low-key lawmaker Masoud Pezeshkian, the sole moderate in the original field of four candidates, and hardline former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.

21-28 June
Iran presidential election 2024 live: Iranians vote to pick Raisi successor
There are four contenders to choose from: conservative Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf; hardliner Saeed Jalili; moderate Masoud Pezeshkian; and conservative Mostafa Pourmohammadi.
Parliament speaker. The Tehran mayor. A heart surgeon. The race is on for Iran’s next president
Six candidates have been approved by Iran’s theocracy to run in Friday’s presidential election to replace the late President Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash with several other officials in May.
Among them, Iran’s parliament speaker stands out as the most recognizable figure. A little-known politician and heart surgeon is also on the ballot. He is the only reformist while the others are more skewed toward hard-liners who back Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei without question and challenge the West.
And if previous elections are a guide to Iranian politics, several candidates could drop out in the final days before the vote to coalesce around a unity candidate.
21 June
Don’t be fooled by the ‘reformist.’ Iran’s presidential election won’t bring fundamental change.
By Holly Dagres
Elections aside, Iranians are drowning in hopelessness, prompted by multiple unsuccessful cycles of protests aimed at ending the Islamic Republic; a dire economic situation caused by systemic mismanagement, corruption, and, in part, US sanctions; and the brutal clampdowns on dissent.
(Atlantic Council) “Does the potential election of Masoud Pezeshkian in Iran provide a glimmer of hope for reform and a possibility of diplomacy in the region?” US Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA) posed this question on X on June 16. In recent days, reformist politicians, including former President Mohammad Khatami—relics of the past for many Iranians—began throwing their weight behind the sole reformist presidential candidate, Pezeshkian. The member of parliament representing the northwestern city of Tabriz is one of six candidates—the remainder are principalists (known in the West as “hardliners”)—partaking in the upcoming presidential election prompted by the death of then President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash on May 19.
The reformist faction has controlled major power centers in Iran, such as the presidency and parliament. However, despite their promises of “reform” and increased civil liberties, their rule was marked by bloody crackdowns, and Iranians are no longer fooled by such undeliverable and false promises.

25 June
Iran’s New Nuclear Threat
How Tehran Has Weaponized Its Threshold Status
(Foreign Affairs) As the world waited, the Iranian military commander in charge of defending the Islamic Republic’s nuclear sites publicly warned that if Israel attacked the sites, Tehran could revise its nuclear doctrine. This was a thinly veiled threat that Iran might build nuclear weapons in response.
Tehran has long used threats of nuclear expansion to reduce international pressure. But the military commander’s statement highlights a new and dangerous evolution in Iran’s strategy, which is to use the country’s enhanced ability to build a nuclear weapon as a deterrent. Most evidence suggests that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has so far put off building them because he sees the risks as outweighing the rewards. But in recent years, Iran has gradually acquired many of the key capabilities necessary to build a nuclear weapon, becoming a so-called threshold state. Iran can now, in a matter of days, produce enough highly enriched uranium to make a bomb.

9 June
Ghalibaf among six approved to run in Iran’s presidential election
Parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf and five other conservatives approved to run in snap vote on June 28.
(Al Jazeera) Six people, including parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, have been approved to run for the snap presidential election on June 28 following the death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash.
The Guardian Council, a constitutional vetting body, approved former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and Tehran Mayor Alireza Zakani to run, but 74 others were not.
Iran’s Guardian Council disqualifies most presidential hopefuls
Among the 585 other hopefuls who were disqualified by the council were supreme leader adviser and former parliament speaker Ali Larijani – a pragmatist conservative who has veered more to the centre in recent years – and current reformist First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri.
Former two-term President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was also, as expected by many, disqualified. While signing up, he said he would boycott the elections if he was prevented from running.

22 May
Ian Bremmer: What’s the fallout from the death of Iran’s president?
Not that much in the near term because he doesn’t actually run the country. There will be a new election in 50 days. It’ll be a hard-line or a loyalist to the Supreme Leader. Almost no one will turn out to vote because people don’t see this as legitimate. But the country is still a strong and repressive theocracy and that is not changing with or without President Raisi.

19-22 May
Iran Supreme Leader leads prayers at Raisi funeral as election looms
(Reuters) – Iran’s Supreme Leader led prayers in Tehran on Wednesday at the funeral of President Ebrahim Raisi as the clerical establishment hurried to organise the election of a successor, which could further erode its legitimacy amid growing public discontent.
The June 28 vote to replace Raisi, killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday, will need to galvanise a population that showed little interest in the 2021 ballot that gave the hardline cleric the presidency, a role that oversees day-to-day government.
Raisi died at a time of worsening strains between the clerical leadership and wider society, aggravated by tightening political and social controls and a declining economy.
What killed President Ebrahim Raisi? Iranians have theories.
Official silence on Raisi’s death in a helicopter crash has fueled wide speculation, none of it good for the regime.
(WaPo) Even though it appeared that the crash was a weather-related accident, few details were released to the public, naturally fueling wide speculation among observers. Iranian authorities’ track record of tampering with the crash sites of aviation disasters does little to instill confidence that they will be transparent in reporting their findings, which inevitably leads to more questions.
… the most probable cause of this fatal helicopter crash is the least fanciful and most damning: It was an accident that most likely happened because much in the Islamic republic is in an advanced state of decay.
Will Raisi’s death destabilize Iran?
Suzanne Maloney
(Brookings) His untimely death elevates first Vice President Mohammad Mokhber, former head of a massive state enterprise controlled by the Supreme Leader, to assume the president’s responsibilities. It will also precipitate new elections in 50 days, requiring unusually hasty improvisation by a regime that has become increasingly ossified and unpopular as it approaches its half-century mark.
This scenario poses real risks for a regime that had sought to engineer its transition from the original revolutionary generation to its uninspiring heirs. While the raucous contestation among the theocracy’s mandarins has been settled in favor of hardliners, infighting among the conservative camp remains intense and will escalate around new opportunities to seize the advantage.
Add to this challenge that Iran’s beleaguered representative institutions command little interest or respect from its citizenry, as evidenced by the record low turnout in recent parliamentary elections. Instead, Iranians have turned to the streets and the internet to express their political aspirations. An unexpected political opening may spark new activism against the regime, as highlighted by the scenes of Iranians celebrating the news of the crash that have begun to leak onto social media.
In divided Iran, president’s death met by muted mourning and furtive celebration
By Parisa Hafezi
(Reuters) – Iran proclaimed five days of mourning for President Ebrahim Raisi on Monday, though the muted atmosphere revealed little of the spectacular public grief that has accompanied the deaths of other senior figures in the Islamic Republic’s 45-year history.
While government loyalists packed into mosques and squares to pray for Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, both killed in a helicopter crash, most shops remained open and the authorities made little effort to interrupt ordinary life.
President Raisi Is Dead
The country’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, also died in the crash.
(NYT) President Raisi’s death was announced from the podium of Iran’s most revered Shia shrine, the mausoleum of Imam Reza, in his hometown of Mashhad. A large crowd of government supporters had gathered there overnight to hold a prayer vigil. People broke into loud shrieks and wails when the announcement was made.
President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran was killed along with the country’s foreign minister in a helicopter crash on Sunday in the country’s mountainous northwest, state news media reported on Monday, leaving the country without two of its most influential figures at a time of heightened foreign tensions and domestic discontent.
The death of Mr. Raisi, a conservative who violently crushed dissent and was widely viewed as a possible successor to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, comes during a particularly tumultuous period for Iran. During Mr. Raisi’s tenure the country had been roiled by protests and economic upheaval and engaged in a long shadow war with Israel, which burst into the open in an exchange of direct strikes last month.
Who Would Benefit From Ebrahim Raisi’s Death?
Many have anticipated a ferocious power struggle in Iran, but most expected it to follow Khamenei’s death. Now we are likely to see at least a dress rehearsal in which various factions will brandish their strength. As for the people of Iran, some have already started celebrating Raisi’s potential demise with fireworks in Tehran. Most Iranians barely feel represented by any faction of the Islamic Republic, and some might use a moment of political crisis to reignite the street protests that have repeatedly beleaguered the regime in the past. The country’s civic movements are exhausted following years of struggle…  Still, whatever shape the power struggle takes at the top, the people of Iran won’t receive it passively for long.
By Arash Azizi
(The Atlantic) Raisi ascended to the presidency in 2021, in what appeared to be the least competitive election Iran had held since 1997. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had made sure that all other serious candidates were barred from running. …
Raisi appeared to have been picked precisely because he could never be a serious rival to Khamenei. In 2017, he revealed himself to be utterly uncharismatic in electoral debates against then-President Hassan Rouhani. His time in office since 2021 also speaks not only to his sheer incompetence but also to his political irrelevance. Some call him the Invisible President. During the Women, Life, Freedom movement, which rocked Iran from 2022 to 2023, few protesters bothered to shout slogans against Raisi, because they knew that real power rested elsewhere.
For Khamenei, what mattered was that Raisi could be counted on to toe the regime’s line. Although competition is tight, Raisi may have more blood on his hands than any other living official of the Islamic Republic.
The same qualities that likely made Raisi seem like a safe regime choice for the presidency also made him a primary contender for succeeding Khamenei as the Supreme Leader. According to the Iranian constitution, only a cleric with serious political experience can become head of state. By now, many clerics who fit that description have died or been politically marginalized (many of them did not share Khamenei’s hard-line politics), leaving the field open to Raisi. In turn, many political observers expected that Raisi would be a weak supreme leader, allowing real power to flow elsewhere—to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), for example, or to other power centers around or ancillary to the regime. Who better for such a position than an unimpressive yes-man?
Helicopter carrying Iran’s President Raisi crashes, search under way
By Parisa Hafezi and Elwely Elwelly
Iranian TV blames poor weather for crash
Rescuers trying to reach crash site in rain
Oversaw crackdown on anti-government protests
(Reuters) – A helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his foreign minister crashed on Sunday as it was crossing mountain terrain in heavy fog.
The crash comes at a time of growing dissent within Iran over an array of political, social and economic crises. Iran’s clerical rulers face international pressure over Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme and its deepening military ties with Russia during the war in Ukraine.
Since Iran’s ally Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, provoking Israel’s assault on Gaza, conflagrations involving Iran-aligned groups have erupted throughout the Middle East.
…since taking office [in 2021, Raisi] has ordered a tightening of morality laws, overseen a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests and pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers.
In Iran’s dual political system, split between the clerical establishment and the government, it is Raisi’s 85-year-old mentor Khamenei, supreme leader since 1989, who holds decision-making power on all major policies.
…Raisi’s standing may have been dented by widespread protests against clerical rule and a failure to turn around Iran’s economy, hamstrung by Western sanctions.
Iranian President Raisi: a hardliner on morality, protests and nuclear talks
63-year-old is Khamenei protege and harsh critic of the West
As president, he has cracked down on dissent at home
Raisi pursued uncompromising stance in nuclear talks
Critics say Raisi played role in executions of 1980s
(Reuters) – Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, whose helicopter crashed in mountainous terrain on Sunday, has become a contender to be Iran’s next supreme leader with a clampdown on morality questions and a bloody crackdown on the nationwide protests it triggered.

13 May
Iranian film director Mohammad Rasoulof flees Iran to avoid prison
Director had been sentenced for ‘collusion with the intention of committing a crime against the country’s security’
(The Guardian) …Rasoulof has secretly fled Iran after he was sentenced to prison amid pressure over his latest film, The Seed of the Sacred Fig, which is due to premiere at the Cannes film festival this week.
Jean-Christophe Simon, CEO of Films Boutique and Parallel45, distributors of the film, confirmed on Monday that Rasoulof had fled Iran for Europe. “We are very happy and much relieved that Mohammad has safely arrived in Europe after a dangerous journey. We hope he will be able to attend the Cannes premiere,” he said.
Rasoulof, 52, one of Iran’s leading directors, has won a string of international prizes at festivals even though his films have been banned in Iran

11 May
A parliamentary election runoff puts hard-liners firmly in charge of Iran’s parliament
(AP) — Iran’s hard-liners won most of the remaining seats in an election run-off to give them full control over the country’s parliament, authorities said Saturday, while not sharing any details on the turnout.
The result, and that of the previous vote in March, gives hard-liners 233 of the 290 seats in Iran’s parliament, according to an Associated Press tally.
Hard-liners seek more cultural and social restrictions based on Islamic sharia, including demanding that women wear the Islamic veil in public. They also express enmity toward the West, particularly the United States.
Those politicians calling for change in the country’s government, known broadly as reformists, were generally barred from running in the election. Those calling for radical reforms or for abandoning Iran’s theocratic system were also banned or didn’t bother to register as candidates.

16 April
What was Iran thinking? Maybe not what you think.
By Jason Rezaian, served as The Post’s correspondent in Tehran from 2012 to 2016. He spent 544 days unjustly imprisoned by Iranian authorities until his release in January 2016. He is a CNN contributor.
(WaPo) Deciphering what the Iranian regime’s dramatic weekend air assault on Israel means is not as difficult as most observers are making it. There are really only two possible scenarios: Either the Islamic republic’s aim was not to inflict major damage on Israeli targets, or its aim was but it was incapable of doing so.
The clear message seems to be that the regime, its bluster notwithstanding, is weak. Iran’s economy is in tatters, and the government has no credible remedies for people’s woes. Protests against the clerical system have grown in recent years.
Less obvious is the regime’s fear of a conflict that bleeds into Iranian territory. A direct, protracted war with Israel is not something Iran is equipped to fight. For context, Iran, a country of nearly 90 million people, spent roughly $7 billion on its military in 2022. Israel, with a population of about 9 million, spent more than $23 billion. As Iran’s currency spirals downward in value (reaching an all-time low after the weekend attack), it’s difficult to envision how the country could ever catch up to Israel’s military capabilities.
Just as critical, though, is the fact that since its devastating eight-year war with Iraq ended in 1988, the Islamic republic has been able to keep the country mostly safe from external military strikes. It’s one of the few arguments the regime can make to the people about its success. Yet suddenly — and ironically, if it wanted to avoid provocation — that promise of continued internal security feels very flimsy.
… Abductions and assassinations, which are unpredictable and cheap compared with military operations, seem far likelier in the days and weeks ahead than Iran wanting to engage in a kinetic war that would result in heavy domestic casualties.

14 April
Iran is trying to create a new normal with its attack.
Setting a precedent
(Atlantic Council) Strategically, Tehran also sought to establish a novel precedent that will shift the nature of the ongoing conflict with Israel to its further advantage. The precedent is that Iran can attack Israel directly, that it can do so from Iranian soil, and that it can target civilians inside Israel. Iran is thus following a playbook that it has honed for decades: experimenting with a new set of malign actions, assessing the response from adversaries, and, if those responses are deemed either minimal or temporary, establishing those actions as a new normal that then becomes accepted implicitly. This pattern is how Iran became the only country in the world that routinely gives precision weapons to non-state proxies and instructs them to target civilians across borders—and how the rest of world became so inured to this reality that it is now barely even remarked upon.
In recent months, Iran has already successfully established several “new normals” that work to its long-term advantage: Through the Houthis, it has demonstrated a newfound ability to shut the Bab el-Mandeb Strait whenever it wants and to whomever it wants; through Hezbollah, it has demonstrated its ability to threaten Israelis at home and now force massive internal displacements; and through its own actions, it has demonstrated once again its capacity to commit piracy near the Strait of Hormuz and attract little in the way of international condemnation for doing so. If Tehran is similarly successful in establishing the precedent that it can directly target Israelis from Iran, the resulting new normal would become especially valuable after Tehran becomes a declared nuclear-weapons power.
Diplomatically, Iran also hoped to demonstrate both the limits of US power and the reliability of its own. The United States has been committed to Israel’s security for decades and President Joe Biden has personally demonstrated his own dedication to that goal. And yet Iran is nevertheless able to directly threaten Israel without triggering a US military response—or so it hopes. With this weekend’s attack, Iran likely intends that Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab governments take away the lesson that they shouldn’t depend on an unreliable and ineffectual US security umbrella, and especially not if that’s the benefit on offer for normalizing relations with Israel. Similarly, Iran hopes to encourage its ally-in-all-but-name Russia and its major economic partner China to blame Israel for the escalation in tensions and to protect it at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). This is likely to be a successful strategy; after six months, the UNSC still hasn’t been able to clearly condemn Hamas for its terrorist attacks against Israel, so the odds are that the UNSC will not pass a resolution that plainly condemns Iran for its actions.
Thomas L. Friedman: Iran Just Made a Big Mistake. Israel Shouldn’t Follow.
Iran just unwittingly revealed to the whole world that Iran’s government is so penetrated by Western espionage agencies (because so many Iranians hate their own government) that President Biden was able to predict almost the exact hour of attack over a day in advance, and it showed the whole world that Israel and its Western allies have far superior antimissile capabilities than Iran has missile capabilities.
There now needs to be a massive, sustained, global initiative to isolate Iran — not only to deter it from trying such an adventure again but also to give reason to Israel not to automatically retaliate militarily. That would be a grievous error, too. Iran has a regional network, and Israel needs a regional alliance, along with the U.S., to deter it over the long run.

10 April
Four ways Iran could retaliate against Israel’s latest strike
By Jonathan Panikoff, director of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative
(Atlantic Council) Iran is vowing to respond to Israel’s strike last week that killed seven Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) officials, including Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi. Zahedi was not just another senior Iranian official. Reportedly the commander of the IRGC’s overseas paramilitary organization, known as the Quds Force, in Syria and Lebanon, he was among the most prominent and important Quds Force leaders—and one of Hezbollah’s primary interlocutors.
…some response—unlike with the deaths of previous IRGC officials—is almost certain to occur, or Tehran would be risking its credibility given how loudly it has been saber-rattling about retaliation. …
The big question is: Does Iran want to retaliate in a manner that is equivalent to the loss of Zahedi? Or does Tehran want the appearance of retaliation, sufficient to claim it responded appropriately but with a goal of avoiding an Israeli counter-response that could lead to a regional war?
The answer to that question will determine what happens next. Four broad scenarios are most realistic—with others, such as Iran using this episode as an excuse to race for a nuclear weapon, plausible but unlikely.

8 April
Iran’s Order of Chaos
How the Islamic Republic Is Remaking the Middle East
By Suzanne Maloney
(Foreign Affairs May/June 2024) The Israel-Hamas war—and the possibility that it may explode into a wider conflagration—has upended the determined efforts of three U.S. presidents to pivot American resources and focus away from the Middle East.
…the quagmire in the Middle East presents an opportunity for a breakthrough in a four-decade strategy by Tehran to debilitate one of its foremost regional adversaries, Israel—and to humiliate the United States and drastically diminish its influence in the region.
Iran’s Islamic regime aimed to inspire copycat religious uprisings after its own 1979 revolution, and to many observers, it may appear to have failed. Indeed, the conventional wisdom in Washington and elsewhere has often held that Iran has become contained, even isolated. But this was never true. Instead, Tehran developed a calculated strategy to empower proxy militias and to influence operations in its neighborhood while maintaining plausible deniability—a scheme whose canniness was vindicated by the devastating scope of Hamas’s assault and subsequent attacks by Iranian-affiliated militias in Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen.
The post–October 7 strategic landscape in the Middle East is one that was largely created by Iran and that plays to its strengths. Tehran sees opportunity in chaos. Iranian leaders are exploiting and escalating the war in Gaza to elevate their regime’s stature, weaken and delegitimize Israel, undermine U.S. interests, and further shape the regional order in their favor. The truth is that the Islamic Republic is now in a better position than ever to dominate the Middle East, including by attaining the ability to disrupt shipping at multiple critical chokepoints.
Left unchecked, the dramatic expansion of Iran’s influence would have a catastrophic impact on Israel, the wider region, and the global economy. To disrupt this amplification of Iranian power, Biden urgently needs to articulate and then implement a clear strategy to protect Palestinian civilians from bearing the brunt of Israel’s military operations, counter Iran’s corrosive war-by-proxy strategy, and blunt the capabilities of Tehran’s accomplices.

1 April
Israeli airstrike on Iran’s consulate in Syria killed two generals, Iranian officials say
(AP) — An Israeli airstrike that demolished Iran’s consulate in Syria on Monday killed Gen. Ali Reza Zahdi, who led the elite Quds Force in Lebanon and Syria until 2016, according to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. It also killed Zahdi’s deputy, Gen Mohammad Hadi Hajriahimi, and five other officers, according to Syrian and Iranian officials. The strike appeared to signify an escalation of Israel’s targeting of military officials from Iran, which provides money and weapons to Hamas and other militants responsible for the Oct. 7 attack against Israel.

4 March
Hard-liners dominate Iran’s parliamentary election after record-low turnout
It remains unclear whether turnout was depressed by voter apathy or an active desire to send a message to Iran’s theocracy.
Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said the vote saw 25 million ballots cast — a turnout of just under 41 percent. The lowest previous came in the last parliamentary election in 2020, which saw a 42 percent turnout.
“The Friday elections appear to have reaffirmed that Iranian policies will not change in the foreseeable future, but the vote demonstrated the Iranian public is broadly dissatisfied with the course the Islamic Republic is taking,” the New York-based Soufan Center think tank said in an analysis Monday.

27 February
Iranian election turnout could set new record low
Iran may be quiet, but it’s a powder keg that could go off at any time.
Eurasia Group analyst Greg Brew explains the significance of this week’s polls.
(GZERO media) Is the sense of public alienation toward the regime growing?
Dissatisfaction with the regime is currently very high, owing to a variety of factors that include a weak economy, high inflation, widespread corruption, and ongoing and intensifying political repression. The fact that elections are now carefully managed by authorities has produced a broad view that they are sham affairs: as a result, participation in elections has dropped from over 70% to roughly 50%. It is expected to be even lower this year, perhaps the lowest on record. While the regime likely retains the support of some of the population, most Iranians view the Islamic Republic as an illegitimate government.
So, is there a chance of unrest around the vote?
Despite this widespread dissatisfaction, the circumstances don’t seem conducive to the kind of public protest that occurred in 2022, when thousands took to the streets following the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the morality police.
How worried is the regime about its legitimacy?
The Islamic Republic has held power for more than forty years. It possesses a large and sophisticated security apparatus and a toolkit of repressive measures that it uses to suppress public dissatisfaction. It is a government has proven, time and again, that it is willing to kill its own people in large numbers in order to remain in power.
That said, the regime has reasons to be worried about its position. Its credibility on a number of important issues, from the economy to terrorism, water scarcity and inflation, is in serious question. It is defined by self-dealing, with more and more of the nation’s wealth flowing to a small elite, particularly senior officers in the IRGC. Millions of Iranians are trying to leave the country, particularly educated members of the middle class.
What are the prospects for political change in the mid-to-long term?
The regime is confident it can hold on to power. It’s fixated on a potential succession crisis, given that Khamenei is eighty-four and in poor health, and the reason for stage-managed elections has been to ensure there’s a smooth transition from the current leader to a Khamenei 2.0. That’s why reformists and moderates have been squeezed out, with even former president Hasan Rouhani denied the opportunity to run for a seat on the Assembly of Experts. There’s virtually no chance the regime permits any reforms or positive political changes, at least not until after succession.
But this policy comes with its own dangers. The Iranian public appears unwilling to resume protests for the moment, but that could change. By refusing to reform, the regime has further undermined its legitimacy, and the transition to a new, similarly conservative Supreme Leader will only harden public dissatisfaction. Iran may be quiet, but it’s a powder keg that could go off at any time.

26 February
‘Become stronger’: Iranians urged to vote as Mideast tensions soar
Qom (Iran) (AFP) – In the Iranian shrine city of Qom, huge street banners remind voters to head to the polls in Friday’s parliamentary elections, held as the Gaza war stokes Middle East tensions.
Regional tensions have soared since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, also drawing in Iran-backed militant groups in Syria and Iraq.
Iran has repeatedly said it does not seek an “expansion” of conflict.

22 February
Iran starts first election campaign since the 2022 mass protests over Mahsa Amini’s death in custody
(AP) — Candidates for Iran’s parliament began campaigning Thursday [February 22] in the country’s first election since the 2022 crackdown on nationwide protests that followed the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody.
Iran’s state television said 15,200 candidates will compete for a four-year term in the 290-seat chamber, which has been controlled by hard-liners for the past two decades. It’s a record number and more than twice the candidates who ran in the 2020 election, when voter turnout was just over 42%, the lowest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Amini died in September 2022, after she was arrested by Iran’s morality police for allegedly violating the country’s strict headscarf law that forces women to cover their hair and entire bodies. The protests quickly escalated into calls to overthrow Iran’s clerical rulers. In the severe crackdown that followed, over 500 people were killed and nearly 20,000 were arrested, according to human rights activists in Iran.
It’s election season in Iran
(GZERO) The 2020 election saw Iran’s lowest-ever turnout of 42%, and higher ups in Tehran are worried about an even more embarrassing figure next month. The regime’s legitimacy has suffered so much, according to Eurasia Group Iran expert Greg Brew, that there’s talk of straight-up fudging the numbers, which has not been common practice until now.
But given that election authorities sidelined all but a handful of reformist politicians – not to mention the violent crackdown on protesters in the wake of Mahsa Amini’s death – many voters are likely to stay home to express their discontent.
The real question: Who will succeed Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the real center of power, who’s now 84 years old? There’s no clear answer, but Brew says the establishment’s goal in these elections is “to maintain hardliner control over the key aspects of government to create as much consistency as possible, so that when a succession crisis happens it can be handled with a minimum of disruption.”

21 February
Ian Bremmer: Why Iran is pulling back from the brink
As Israel threatens an offensive into Rafah, its regional nemesis Iran is pulling itself away from the brink of war – and may even welcome a cease-fire in Gaza.
Since an attack by one of its Iraqi proxies killed three American servicemen in Jordan on Jan. 28, Iran has been signaling its allies in the Resistance Front to cool it and avoid actions that might prompt retaliation from Israel or the United States.
The commander of Iran’s Quds Force, the elite branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, traveled to Iraq in January and ordered Iran’s allies there to hold off on attacking US forces. The pressure from their patron in Tehran seems to have worked, at least for now: Since Feb. 4, no US troops have been targeted in militia attacks. Iran has also told its closest ally, Hezbollah, to avoid provoking Israel at a time when tensions on Israel’s border with Lebanon remain high.
While the Houthis, Iran’s ally in Yemen, have continued their attacks on commercial shipping, Iran took a notable step to protect its own assets in the Red Sea. The Iranian observation ship, the MV Behshad, widely believed to be assisting Houthi targeting, has dropped anchor near a Chinese squadron in Djibouti and isn’t actively involved in Houthi operations anymore. There’s even been tentative signs that Iran’s enrichment of uranium has slowed a little – though Iran continues to enrich at a rapid pace, it doesn’t seem as interested in building a bomb as it once was.
Iran continues to talk tough, but actions speak louder than words. And for the moment at least, those actions seem geared toward keeping the Middle East conflict from spreading any further than it already has.
Though it’s hard to know for sure what’s going on inside the head of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, my bet is Iran’s moves are down to self-preservation and risk management. As is often the case, the leadership of the Islamic Republic is worried first and foremost about its own survival. While it’s made some gains from the crisis so far, Iran is now trying to avoid a bigger fight that could endanger its regional position and put more pressure on its own shaky domestic security.

26 January
China presses Iran to rein in Houthi attacks in Red Sea, sources say
Iran-backed Houthis attacking commercial ships in Red Sea
Trading powerhouse China has called for attacks to stop
Oil trade gives China leverage over Iran, analysts say
Iran cares about China but weighs other priorities – sources
(Reuters) – Chinese officials have asked their Iranian counterparts to help rein in attacks on ships in the Red Sea by the Iran-backed Houthis, or risk harming business relations with Beijing, four Iranian sources and a diplomat familiar with the matter said.
The discussions about the attacks and trade between China and Iran took place at several recent meetings in Beijing and Tehran, the Iranian sources said, declining to provide details about when they took place or who attended.

30 January

Iran has so far resisted direct involvement in the Gaza war, but is that changing?
James Devine, Associate Professor Politics and International Relations, Mount Allison University
(The Conversation) Iran has tried to keep the war in Gaza at arm’s length by providing support for Hamas through armed groups it backs in Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq.
The Islamic Republic has indicated it wants neither to get directly involved in the fighting nor see the conflict escalate across the region. But as illustrated by the recent drone attack by pro-Iranian militias in Jordan that killed three American soldiers, the violence is spreading. Tehran may not be able to sustain its strategy much longer.
Tehran’s support for Hamas dates back to the 1990s, though the two have never been a perfect ideological match. Hamas comes from the Sunni sect of Islam, identifying more closely with the Muslim Brotherhood than it does with Shi’a Iran.
Iran does not appear to have been involved in the planning or execution of Hamas’s Oct. 7, 2023 attack on Israel. Indeed, United States intelligence reported Tehran was surprised by events.
Nevertheless, as the Gaza war continues, Iran is playing an important role. Tehran provides Hamas with rhetorical support and indirect military backing through the other members of the Axis of Resistance. While not tilting the balance of power in Gaza, this has signalled to the West and Israel that the campaign against Hamas will have a cost, particularly if it escalates.
Nevertheless, Tehran’s message that it does not intend to get directly involved in the fighting has been relayed directly to Hamas by the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and to the U.S. privately through intermediaries.
Tehran’s stance is evident in the particular way military force has been employed. Hezbollah’s attacks have been limited in size and restricted to the area around the Lebanese border — significant enough to indicate support for Hamas, but not threatening enough to justify Israel opening a second front. 30 January 2024

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