United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Students Call on Soleimani to Defend Kobane

            On October 9, the Basij Student Organization called on Revolutionary Guards Qods Force Commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani to defend the Syrian town of Kobane from Islamic State militants. The Basij is a volunteer paramilitary organization divided into various branches across Iran. Its student branch warned in a letter to Soleimani that inaction by Iran would result in the slaughter of Kobane’s inhabitants. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was also copied.
             The Islamic State has been trying to take the Kurdish town for three weeks. U.S. airstrikes and Kurdish fighters on the ground have slowed the Islamic State’s advance, but its fighters reportedly penetrated part of the town as of October 6. The following is a translation of the student organization’s letter published by Fars News Agency.  

Dear Commander of the Qods Force,

Greetings and respect;

As you are aware, the long-oppressed people of Kobane are surrounded by Daesh [Islamic State] forces. The latest news is that half of the Kurdish city has been captured by these barbarians and criminals. If the diplomatic apparatus and Iranian military are silent and inactive on this issue, the complete capture of the city and the killing of its people are possible. Please take advantage of and use all the capabilities of the foreign ministry and the Qods Force to prevent this crime. We ask God for enduring success in serving the world’s oppressed people.

 

Report: Iran's Media on Syria Conflict

            Iranian media coverage of the Syria conflict propagates official state policy and emphasizes the legitimacy of the Syrian state, according to a study by the Syria Research and Evaluation Organization. The subjective nature of this media content, however, “serves to undermine the legitimacy of such coverage, and thus begs the question of its reception among the reading public in Iran.” The report analyzes 219 news articles from October 2013 to March 2014, using quantitative and qualitative methods to identify patterns and themes in how the conflict is portrayed in Iranian news media.

Mainstream Iranian Press Coverage of the Syrian Conflict

Supreme Leader on Chemical Weapons

            Iran’s supreme leader has taken to social media to condemn chemical weapons used against Iran nearly three decades ago. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s office released an infographic on the 27th anniversary of Iraq’s use of mustard gas and nerve agents near the village of Sumar, Iran. The infographic on Khamenei's Facebook page states:

•Iraq launched more than 570 chemical attacks on Iran from 1983 to 1988.
•Some 1 million people exposed to chemical fumes.
•Some 100,000 Iranians still suffer from acute complications as a result of exposure.
•Western companies provided Saddam Hussein with the material to produce the weapons.


           
War is tough and unfavorable but even war has its own rules.
 #Islam orders us to observe human values during wars.
            In 1980-88 war, #Iran was bombarded with Saddam’s chemical weapons for about 6 years and the UN was only a bystander to this crime.
           
Which countries provided Saddam’s arsenals with chemical weapons which he used against the Iranians for several years? 
             The arrogants knew Saddam would use chemical weapons on Iranian women and kids but they armed him with illegal weapons.
             Ayatollah Khamenei, 7/23/1997             

             The following is a list of instances of chemical weapon use by Iraq from the U.S. government*:
 
Use in Iran-Iraq war, 1983-1988 
 
  • August 1983 Haij Umran
 
Mustard , fewer than 100 Iranian/Kurdish casualties
  • October-November 1983 Panjwin
 
Mustard, 3,000 Iranian/Kurdish casualties
  • February-March 1984 Majnoon Island
 
Mustard, 2,500 Iranian casualties
  • March 1984 al-Basrah
 
Tabun, 50-100 Iranian casualties
  • March 1985 Hawizah Marsh
 
Mustard & Tabun, 3,000 Iranian casualties
  • February 1986 al-Faw
 
Mustard & Tabun, 8,000 to 10,000 Iranian casualties
  • December 1986 Um ar-Rasas
 
Mustard, 1,000s Iranian casualties
  • April 1987 al-Basrah
 
Mustard & Tabun, 5,000 Iranian casualties
  • October 1987 Sumar/Mehran
 
Mustard & nerve agent, 3,000 Iranian casualties
  • March 1988 Halabjah& Kurdish area
 
Mustard & nerve agent, 1,000s Kurdish/Iranian casualties
  • April 1988 al-Faw
 
Mustard & nerve agent, 1,000s Iranian casualties
  • May 1988 Fish Lake
 
Mustard & nerve agent, 100s or 1,000s Iranian casualties
  • June 1988 Majnoon Islands
 
Mustard & nerve agent, 100s or 1,000s Iranian casualties
  • July 1988 South-central border
 
Mustard & nerve agent, 100s or 1,000s Iranian casualties
*Numerous other smaller scale chemical weapons attacks occurred.
 

 

Report: Iran’s Evolving Rockets & Missiles

             Iran is developing more advanced rockets and missiles to compensate for shortcomings in its conventional forces, according to a new report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Most of Tehran’s current arsenal suffers from poor accuracy and reliability. But Iran is improving its guidance systems. Future development of booster systems “might give Iran the ability to strike at targets throughout Europe and even in the US,” warns Anthony Cordesman. The following are excerpts from the report.

             Iran’s rocket and missile forces serve a wide range of Iranian strategic objectives. Iran’s forces range from relatively short-range artillery rockets that support its ground forces and limit the need for close air support to long-range missiles that can reach any target in the region and the development of booster systems that might give Iran the ability to strike at targets throughout Europe and even in the US.
 
             They are steadily evolving. While the lethality of most current systems is limited by a reliance on conventional warheads, poor accuracy, and uncertain reliability; Iran is developing steadily improved guidance systems, attempting to improve the lethality of its conventional warheads, and has at least studied arming its missiles with nuclear warheads.
 
The Broader Strategic Value of Iran’s Short Range Rockets and Missiles
             Iran has shown that even short-range artillery rockets can have a strategic impact and be used in irregular warfare and as an indirect form of power projection. Iran has played a major role in helping Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad create a major pool of steadily improving rockets that it can conceal, disperse and fire against Israel, and that Israel cannot easily seek out and destroy even in a land invasion.
 
The Near-Term Impact of the Iranian Missile Threat
             Iran’s existing missile forces give it the capability to attack targets in the Gulf and near its border with conventionally armed long-range missiles and rockets, and Iran can attack targets in Israel, throughout the region, and beyond with its longest-range ballistic missiles. However, the shortterm risks posed by Iran’s current conventionally armed rockets and missiles should not be exaggerated.
 
Shaping the Future Threat: Nuclear Warheads vs. Precision Conventional Warheads
             The Iranian missile threat may become far more serious in the future. Left to its own devices, Iran would probably deploy both nuclear-armed missile and highly accurate missiles with conventional warheads. Iran has powerful military incentives to deploy nuclear weapons, and Iran’s missile forces give it the potential ability to develop a major nuclear strike force.
 
Missiles, Political and Psychological Warfighting, and Wars of Intimidation
             At a minimum, Iran’s growing missile forces increase its deterrent and defensive ability to deter attack on Iran and compensate for its weaknesses in airpower. More broadly, Iran can use its missiles politically and strategically, and not simply to damage targets. Selective firings and “volleys” of conventionally armed, unguided long-range missiles and rockets can be used as political symbols or terror weapons.
 
Putting Iran’s Missile and Nuclear Programs in Perspective
             It is difficult to predict how aggressive Iran would become in exploiting its nuclear capability if Iran did acquire nuclear-armed missiles. Iran has so far been cautious in initiating any use of force that might threaten the survival regime. Its best strategy would be to limit its use of nuclear missile forces to pressure, deter, and intimidate.
             Iran is, however, clearly involved in an active competition with the US and with its Arab neighbors in an effort to win strategic influence and leverage. Iran faces US and Arab competition for influence and control over Iraq, the emerging threat of the Islamic State, and growing uncertainty over the future of its alliance with the Assad regime in Syria and the Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran also still seems to see American influence behind all of these steadily growing pressures.
 
The Mid and Longer Term Risk of an Iranian Nuclear Weapon and a Nuclear-Armed Missile Threat
             It must be stressed that Iran cannot deploy either nuclear-armed missiles or precision strike missiles in a military vacuum where its neighbors and the US do not respond. If Iran does go nuclear, this decision will impact on a region that is already involved in a nuclear arms race. The prospect of combined Iranian missile and nuclear threat has already posed risks that have affected every aspect of US, Arab, Israeli and other military competition with Iran for at least the last decade. This competition has increasingly focused them on responding with on options like preventive strikes, proliferation, and extended deterrence as Iran has made enough progress towards a nuclear weapons capability so that there is a real prospect that Iran could acquire nuclear weapons and arm its missiles and aircraft with nuclear weapons within the next three to five years.
 
Click here for the full text.
 
Anthony H. Cordesman holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
 
Click here to read his chapter on Iran’s conventional military.
 

Rouhani Calls for Academic Freedom

      On October 7, President Hassan Rouhani warned that restrictions on academic freedom stifle innovation and lead to brain drain. “Let's let people express themselves,” he said at Tehran University during a ceremony marking the start of the new academic year. The president also highlighted the importance of expanding interaction with the outside world for the sake of scientific progress. Rouhani's efforts to open up universities have been stymied by hardliners in parliament, which impeached the reformist minister of higher education in August. Another reformist has been appointed in the interim. The following are quotes from Rouhani’s address.

            “Irrelevant restrictions will lead to lack of tolerance, the departure of honest, competent individuals and the promotion of ingratiating people.”
            “Let's not create a climate of flattery in the university… We should not be concerned about the expression of diverse views by university professors.”
            “I am here to listen, not to make a speech. It is a matter of regret that there was no speech by a student association representative in today's program.”
            “Governing and administering the country is not possible without tolerance. Let's let people express themselves.”
            “The interaction with the world is not limited to the foreign policy. It should also include economy as well as science and technology.”
            “Some people say that if we have contact with the outside world, if our teachers go abroad and their professors come here, maybe someone will be a spy among them. Stop making excuses!”
            “Our universities have empty seats in certain subjects. We either have to make them smaller or invite foreign students.”
            “I’m not saying let's start from those places that are scary to some people. I mean let's just start with our neighbors.”
            “Let our students go abroad for a term. At least create one university that has English as the main language so that we can attract foreign students.”
            “The administration is not subject to any constraints on funding research activities, either in the field of applied research needed by the country or in the field of research at the boundary of knowledge, which is necessary for the country.”
 
Translations via Reuters, AP and President.ir

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