United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Gulf III: Iran’s Power in the Sea Lanes

Michael Connell

What is the record of interaction between the U.S. and Iranian navies in the Persian Gulf?
 
            The United States and Iran have never officially been at war, but several recent incidents between the U.S. and Iranian navies have had the potential to escalate into armed confrontations. In January 2012, three Revolutionary Guards speed boats harassed the USS New Orleans. The small craft came within 500 yards of the amphibious transport ship as it was transiting the Strait of Hormuz. On the same day, Iranian small boats also harassed the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Adak, operating east of Kuwait City.
 
      Most of the close encounters involved the naval arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which is distinct from the conventional Iranian Navy. In contrast, U.S. Navy commanders routinely say their interactions with the regular Iranian Navy are professional.
 
      The U.S. and Iranian navies had several hostile encounters in the 1980s. Iranian attacks on commercial shipping in the Persian Gulf triggered armed exchanges between their navies during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988). The United States responded in Operations Nimble Archer (October 1987) and Praying Mantis (April 1988).
 
What types of situations could spark a larger conflict?
 
            The United States and Iran are unlikely to initiate hostilities in the Gulf waters without provocation. But a minor incident between the U.S. and Iranian navies could flare into a major encounter. The other main danger is an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear sites, which could pull the United States into a wider conflict.
 
            If Israel strikes, the Iranians have pledged to retaliate by attacking U.S. forces in the region. Whether they would actually do so is debatable. The Iranians could simply be posturing to deter Israel and the United States. Regardless, the United States is likely to maintain a robust presence in the region to deter an Iranian attack or — should that fail — to respond militarily.
 
How might such a conflict be diffused?
 
            Various options have been proposed that could mitigate the danger of an unintended escalation after a maritime incident in the Gulf, beyond routine bridge-to-bridge communications. These include:
 
· Creation of common “rules of the road” to govern interactions between the U.S. and Iranian navies, something akin to the Incident at Sea (INCSEA) arrangement that the U.S. and Soviet navies had during the Cold War,
· Establishing a direct hotline between U.S. and Iranian commanders in the Gulf. In late 2011, military officials in Washington broached this idea, but Iranian regular and IRGC Navy commanders rejected it.
 
How are Iran’s naval forces deployed in the Gulf?
 
            Iran has two independent naval forces with parallel chains of command. The conventional navy is called the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy (IRIN). The second is the naval wing of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGCN). The two navies have overlapping functions and areas of responsibility, but they are distinct in terms of how they are trained and equipped— and more importantly also in how they fight.
 
      The backbone of the regular navy’s inventory consists of larger surface ships, including frigates and corvettes, and submarines. With its longer range surface assets, the IRIN is generally considered to be a conventional “green water” navy. It operates at a regional level, mainly in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman but also as far afield as the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.
 
      The Revolutionary Guards naval force has a large inventory of small fast attack craft, and specializes in asymmetric, hit-and-run tactics. It is more akin to a guerrilla force at sea. Both navies maintain large arsenals of coastal defense and anti-ship cruise missiles and mines.
 
            In 2007, the two navies underwent a major reorganization of their responsibilities, with the IRGCN assuming control over operations in the Persian Gulf and the IRIN mainly focusing its efforts outside the Gulf. Both fleets are organized on geographic lines, with district commands along Iran’s southern and northern littorals.
 
            The first naval district for both commands is co-located in Bandar Abbas, near the Strait of Hormuz, suggesting that both services have overlapping responsibilities in this strategically significant area. Recently, the Revolutionary Guards Navy set up an additional district command in Bandar Lengeh that is responsible for defending Iran’s numerous islands in the Gulf.
 
How do Iranian naval capabilities compare to U.S. naval capabilities?
 
            Iran’s military leaders recognize that the United States is a technologically superior adversary and that Iranian naval forces would suffer major losses in any conventional conflict. For this reason, they have developed an asymmetric strategy that plays to Iran’s strengths while taking advantage of their adversaries’ weaknesses, including the U.S. aversion to casualties.
 
            Geography plays a central role in this regard. The confined operating space in the Gulf and especially the narrow Strait of Hormuz complicates U.S. operations and mitigates some of the U.S. Navy’s technological advantages. In a conflict, Iran’s naval forces would seek to overwhelm their adversaries’ defenses with mines, coastal defense cruise missiles, and swarms of small boats. Submarines and frigates would form the outer ring of Iran’s layered defense strategy.
 
            While the U.S. Navy would almost certainly prevail in an extended conflict, Iran’s naval forces would likely seek to inflict enough casualties to raise the cost of victory to an unpalatable level.
 
Iran held a wide-ranging naval exercise in December 2012. What new capabilities did Iran demonstrate — and what was its message to its neighbors and the United States? 
 
            Velayat 91, a combined Iranian Navy and Air Force exercise, featured test launches of a variety of missile systems as well as naval and amphibious maneuvers. The extensive testing of anti-ship cruise missiles was particularly noteworthy. So were the testing of the new Ra’d air defense missile — an “optimized” version of the Russian S-200 — and several subsurface warfare drills. Iranian maneuvers also featured the IRIN’s new, domestically produced Tondar hovercraft.
 
            According to official statements, the exercise was intended to “send a message of friendship to neighboring countries.” But its primary purpose was undoubtedly to deter the United States and its allies from attacking Iran. Many of the weapons systems and platforms featured in the exercise play an important role in Iran’s anti-access, area denial strategy.

Read Gulf I: Iran's Power in the Air

Read Gulf II: Timeline of U.S-Iran Encounters
 
 
Michael Connell is director of Iranian Studies at the Center for Naval Analyses, a non-profit institution that conducts research and analysis in Washington D.C.
 
Photo Credit: Suspected small craft of the IRGCN 080106-N-0000X-005.jpg by Navy.mil on Jan. 6, 2008
 
Department of Defense photo of Kilo-class submarine via Wikimedia Commons
 
 
Online news media are welcome to republish original blog postings from this website in full, with a citation and link back to The Iran Primer website (www.iranprimer.com) as the original source. Any edits must be authorized by the author. Permission to reprint excerpts from The Iran Primer book should be directed to permissions@usip.org
 
 
 

Gulf II: Timeline of U.S.-Iran Encounters

Michael Connell
 

         Iranian and U.S. naval forces have had sporadic and sometimes hostile interactions since the 1980s.                 

·May 13, 1984: After repeated Iraqi attacks on Iranian shipping and refining facilities, Iran retaliated with attacks on neutral shipping. The tit-for-tat exchanges initiated the so-called Tanker War. The first vessel struck by Iran was the Kuwaiti tanker Umm Casbah. The United States responded by bolstering the capabilities of its Arab allies in the Gulf and increasing its own military presence in the region. Shortly afterward, Speaker of Parliament Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani declared, “Either the Persian Gulf will be safe for all or no one.”
 
·July 24, 1987: The United States began to reflag and escort Kuwaiti tankers to protect them from Iranian attacks. The operation, codenamed “Ernest Will,” was the largest of its kind since World War II. On the first escort mission, the Kuwaiti tanker al Rekkah, reflagged as the MV Bridgeton, struck an Iranian mine, suffering minor damage.
 
·Sept. 19, 1987: U.S. forces attacked and captured the Iranian logistical vessel Iran Ajr ( above), after it was caught dropping mines in the Persian Gulf.
 
·Oct. 19, 1987: U.S. naval forces destroyed two Iranian oil platforms in the Rostam Oil Field. The operation—codenamed “Nimble Archer”—was in retaliation for an Iranian attack on the Kuwaiti-owned, U.S.-flagged tanker, the MV Sea Island City.
 
·April 14, 1988: The U.S. frigate Samuel B. Roberts, which was escorting tankers in the Gulf, struck an Iranian mine. It suffered extensive damage. U.S. forces retaliated with Operation Praying Mantis, destroying two Iranian oil platforms—both of which were believed to be important Revolutionary Guards Navy staging bases—and disabling or sinking several Iranian regular navy surface assets.
 
·July 3, 1988: The USS Vincennes, a Navy guided missile cruiser, shot down Iran Air Flight 655, bound from Bandar Abbas to Dubai, with the loss of all 290 of its passengers and crew. According to U.S. officials, the crew of the Vincennes, who were operating in a warzone, mistook the airliner for a hostile Iranian aircraft. Tehran claimed that the downing was deliberate.
 
·June 21, 2004: IRGC naval forces captured six British Royal Navy sailors and two Royal Marines in the disputed waters of the Shatt al-Arab, along the southern boundary between Iran and Iraq. Tehran claimed that the British had strayed into Iranian waters. The captured sailors and marines were released following negotiations. The British personnel had been operating as part of a U.S.-led naval coalition in the Gulf.
 
·March 23, 2007: Revolutionary Guard Navy forces seized 15 British Royal Navy personnel while the latter conducted a routine boarding of merchant vessels off the coast between Iraq and Iran. Britain claimed its personnel were operating in Iraqi territorial waters. But the Iranians claimed the British had illegally entered their territorial waters. The British personnel were released after 13 days.
 
·Jan. 6, 2008: Five high-speed Revolutionary Guard boats engaged in aggressive maneuvering against three U.S. vessels in the Strait of Hormuz. During the incident, one of the small boats placed what appeared to be small white boxes in the path of the three U.S. vessels. A threatening radio transmission also was heard on a commonly used maritime frequency. It was subsequently determined that the radio transmissions probably came from a third-party heckler, a concept known to mariners as the “Filipino Monkey.”
 
·Jan. 6, 2012: IRGC Navy small boats harassed the USS New Orleans, an amphibious transport ship, while the latter was transiting the Strait of Hormuz. On the same day, Iranian small boats also harassed the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Adak, which was operating 75 miles east of Kuwait City. U.S. Navy officials said the small boats came within several hundred yards of both vessels and did not respond to queries or whistles, as is standard for maritime protocol.
 
·Nov. 1, 2012: Iranian Air Force fighter jets fired on a U.S. Predator drone over the Gulf, but failed to bring it down. Iranian officials claimed that the Predator was conducting a reconnaissance mission near Bushehr, the site of Iran’s only nuclear power plant.
 
 
Michael Connell is director of Iranian Studies at the Center for Naval Analyses, a non-profit institution that conducts research and analysis in Washington D.C.
 
Photo Credit: Ajr mine laying ship by Service Depicted, Command Shown: N1601 Camera Operator: PH3 CLEVELAND (ID:DNSC8712581) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
 
Online news media are welcome to republish original blog postings from this website in full, with a citation and link back to The Iran Primer website (www.iranprimer.com) as the original source. Any edits must be authorized by the author. Permission to reprint excerpts from The Iran Primer book should be directed to permissions@usip.org
 

Gulf I: Iran’s Power in the Air

Michael Elleman

What are Iran’s missile assets?
 
            Iran has the largest and most diverse inventory of long-range artillery rockets and ballistic missiles in the Middle East. It is estimated to have between 200 and 300 Scud-B and Scud–C missiles, which Iran has renamed the Shahab-1 and Shahab-2. It also owns hundreds of Zelzal rockets and Fateh-110 semi-guided rockets (see below). 
 
      These systems allow Iran to threaten targets throughout the Gulf littoral, but they are not accurate enough to be decisive militarily. Iran would need at least 100 missiles armed with 500-kg conventional warheads — and potentially many more — to destroy a specific target with a moderate level of confidence.
 
            If fired in large numbers, Iranian missiles might be able to harass or disrupt operations at large U.S. or GCC military targets, such as airfields, naval ports or fuel depots. But such attacks are unlikely to not halt activities for a significantly long time.  
 
            Iran is also unlikely to be able to improve the accuracy of its short-range missiles for at least the next five to ten years.  The addition of more sophisticated inertial guidance units — or Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers — could improve accuracy by only 25 percent if properly incorporated into a Shahab or Fateh-110 missile, and then thoroughly tested.
 
            To further enhance its accuracy, Iran would have to develop the capacity to terminate missile thrust precisely or add correction systems for the post-boost phase.  But adding these mechanisms would also require flight testing likely to take four years or longer. 
 
            Iran’s longer-range missiles — the Shahab-3 and Ghadr-1 — are capable of striking targets throughout the Middle East, including Israel, as well as portions of southeastern Europe. But these missiles are highly inaccurate. And Iran’s stockpile likely totals less than 100. 
 
            This could change once Iran completes development of the solid-fuelled Sajjil-2 missile. Iranian engineers are widely believed to have the capacity to manufacture this system, although they still rely on foreign sources for fuel-production ingredients. Development may have stalled, however, since Iran has conducted only one flight test since 2009.
 
            The utility of Iran’s ballistic missiles is likely to remain weak for years, yet they could be used effectively as a psychological weapon on population centers. The most vulnerable cities are Baghdad, Kuwait City and Dubai, since they are within range of the Zelzal rockets that Iran has in large quantity. Abu Dhabi, Manama, Doha and Saudi coastal cities are far enough to require the longer-range Shahab-1 and -2 missiles, which are in shorter supply. 
 
What are Iran’s air force capabilities? And how do they compare to the U.S. air forces in the Gulf?
 
            The Islamic Republic’s air forces and ground-based air defense systems offer limited protection of Iranian air space. They are no match for the combined capacity of the United States and its six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) allies. In a prolonged and intensive conflict involving the United States, Iran would have difficulty protecting its strategic assets, including its nuclear facilities, air bases, and command-and-control centers. 
 
            An integrated U.S. air defense network would probably prevent Iranian pilots from reaching many military targets within GCC territory, although limited air raids might have some success in the opening days of a conflict. (The GCC includes six sheikhdoms — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman — that make up most of the Arabian Peninsula.)
 
            Most of Iran’s aircraft were purchased before the 1979 Islamic Revolution and are widely considered obsolete. Even Iran’s Russian-made MiG-29 and Su-24 fighter-jets, acquired more recently, lack the modern avionics and air-to-air missiles needed to compete with the U.S. and GCC air forces.
 
      In January, Iran unveiled a new stealth fighter-jet (see left). But the presented craft is clearly a model, or mock-up. It is quite small as well, judging from the size of the pilot seated at the controls. The Qaher F-313 appears to be an aspirational system, which is many years from reality. But it does indicate Iran’s ambitions.
 
      Iran also lacks sophisticated airborne command-and-warning assets, as well as the secure communications network needed to relay vital threat and targeting information. These deficiencies place Iranian pilots at a severe disadvantage when engaging hostile air forces armed with a complete picture of the airspace. 
 
            Perhaps Iran’s most significant shortcoming is its limited capacity to maintain airplanes and generate anything beyond one sortie per day for each fighter jet. Iran has a very limited ability to surge its air forces. It would probably be quickly overwhelmed by a combined attack by U.S. and GCC forces.
 
            Despite these and other shortcomings, Iran’s air forces and air defenses can still inflict loses on allied air forces, albeit at a minimal rate. Tehran also claims to have mated C-701 and C-801 anti-ship cruise missiles to its F-4 aircraft. If true, these stand-off weapons would allow Iran to attack U.S. warships and commercial vessels in the Gulf with some success. 
 
            If Iran modified anti-ship missiles for land attacks, it could target key infrastructure assets located along the Gulf littoral, although the small warheads carried by these missiles would limit the damage.
 
What are the defense options against Iran’s missiles?
 
            Theater missile defenses flooding into the region could blunt the political and psychological effect of Iran’s offensive-missile threat. The United States already deploys Patriot, SM-3 and other missile interceptors in the region. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have older-generation Patriot batteries. Both countries are in the process of upgrading their defenses with more capable systems. The United Arab Emirates leads in acquisition of missile and air defense; it is currently procuring a sophisticated suite of systems, including advanced Patriot and THAAD batteries.
 
            No defensive system is leak-proof. But the anti-missile capabilities acquired by the United States and its GCC allies have proven their efficacy during development and testing. They should help minimize public fear. 
 
            Iran might try to overwhelm these defenses by firing missiles in large salvos, as it does during annual military exercises. This tactic might allow a few warheads to reach their destinations, but interceptor missiles would probably protect the most critical targets. An integrated missile defense architecture, if implemented across the GCC in a coherent way, would further reduce vulnerability to salvo tactics.   
 
Iran has claimed it can arm drones with missiles. Is this a significant advancement?
 
            Iran is developing a wide-range of unmanned aerial vehicles. Most of the systems seen so far are slow, have limited maneuverability, and carry small payloads, so are used primarily as reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering platforms. 
 
            One notable exception is the Karrar, also known as the “ambassador of death.” The Karrar is based on target-drone technology, which was originally used for training air-defense crews. Nonetheless, it carries 500-kg gravity bombs and presents yet another means of delivery that American and GCC forces must track and, if necessary, defeat. 
 
            The larger concern, however, is Iran’s large arsenal of anti-ship cruise missiles acquired from China. These weapons pose a significant threat to Gulf shipping as well as navies operating near the Strait of Hormuz. Iranian use of anti-ship missiles would significantly escalate any conflict, so Tehran would probably use them only if the regime felt threatened. But their mere existence — and the threat they pose — offers Tehran an effective component for deterring attack by others.
 

Read Michael Elleman's chapter on Iran's missile program in "The Iran Primer"

Michael Elleman, senior fellow for missile defense at the International Institute for Strategic Studies and a former U.N. weapons inspector, is co-author of “Iran's Ballistic Missile Capabilities: A Net Assessment.”
 

Photo Credits: Fateh-110 missiles by M-ATF, from military.ir and iranmilitaryforum.net [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons and Qaher F-313 via President.ir

Online news media are welcome to republish original blog postings from this website in full, with a citation and link back to The Iran Primer website (www.iranprimer.com) as the original source. Any edits must be authorized by the author. Permission to reprint excerpts from The Iran Primer book should be directed to permissions@usip.org

 

Latest on the Race: Rouhani Declares Candidacy, Rezaei Condemns Opposition

            On March 11, the Moderation and Development Party announced Hassan Rouhani’s candidacy for president. He is a senior member of the Expediency Council, a powerful government body that resolves disputes between parliament and the Guardian Council. Rouhani is also a former head of the Supreme National Security Council and the former lead nuclear negotiator. The conservative cleric is the fourth candidate to enter the race, after Ali Fallahian, Manoucher Mottaki and Mohsen Rezaei.

            Mohsen Rezaei, the secretary of the Expediency Council, condemned the reformist candidates from the disputed 2009 election. The candidate called Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi “U.S. agents” on March 13, according to Iranian news media. “Some may say that such a comment came late, but no one took [a] position against the intrigue leaders as I did,” he said. Rezaei is optimistic about the upcoming race, and said it will be different than the 2005 and 2009 elections, which he lost. The following are recent remarks by Rezaei and Rouhani.

Hassan Rouhani
            “[Those] making important decisions will encounter serious problems if parties are not empowered and do not find their [rightful] place… Parties can play a valuable role in the society.” March 10, according to Iranian news media
 
            “The new government will have many challenges and the new president’s job will be very tough… At least in the area of economy, the new government will face great problems.”
            “Anybody who wants to stand as a candidate in the upcoming presidential election should work out a solution and present practical plans for these problems… In many elections, especially presidential elections, the campaign climate have been bipolar but this time it will definitely be multi-polar.” January 22, in an interview with Mehr News Agency
 
Mohsen Rezaei
            “I see them [Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi] as U.S. agents and I said on February 15, 2011 that if these two do not apologize before the nation, people could arrest them…”
            “Some may say that such a comment came late, but no one took [a] position against the intrigue leaders as I did. I do believe that I must have expressed myself on this matter in the right time for more effectiveness, and the right time was when it lead to their detention.” March 13, according to the Young Journalists Club
 
See the articles below for recent coverage of the 2013 presidential election:
 
 
Tags: Iran, Rezaei

U.S. Intelligence: Iran’s Nuclear Policy Depends on Political Will

            Iran has the “scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons,” according to the U.S. intelligence community’s new worldwide threat assessment. But the decision to build or not build a weapon depends on Iranian “political will”  and a cost-benefit analysis. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper delivered the report to the Senate on March 12.

            The threat assessment warned that “Iran is growing more autocratic at home and more assertive abroad as it faces elite and popular grievances, a deteriorating economy, and an uncertain regional dynamic.” The worsening economic situation has prompted public frustration with the government. But widespread political unrest has not broken out, probably due to “pervasive fear of the security services and lack of effective opposition organization and leadership,” according to the report.

            The U.S. intelligence community also noted Iranian efforts to gain influence abroad. Tehran is also taking advantage of U.S. withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan. The following are excerpts from the report on Iran, followed by a link to the full text.

 
Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime

            Terrorist threats are in a transition period as the global jihadist movement becomes increasingly decentralized. In addition, the Arab Spring has generated a spike in threats to US interests in the region that likely will endure until political upheaval stabilizes and security forces regain their capabilities. We also face uncertainty about potential threats from Iran and Lebanese Hizballah, which see the United States and Israel as their principal enemies…
 
            The failed 2011 plot against the Saudi Ambassador in Washington shows that Iran may be more willing to seize opportunities to attack in the United States in response to perceived offenses against the regime. Iran is also an emerging and increasingly aggressive cyber actor. However, we have not changed our assessment that Iran prefers to avoid direct confrontation with the United States because regime preservation is its top priority.
 
Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation
 
            We assess Iran is developing nuclear capabilities to enhance its security, prestige, and regional influence and give it the ability to develop nuclear weapons, should a decision be made to do so. We do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.
 
            Tehran has developed technical expertise in a number of areas—including uranium enrichment, nuclear reactors, and ballistic missiles—from which it could draw if it decided to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons. These technical advancements strengthen our assessment that Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons. This makes the central issue its political will to do so.
 
            Of particular note, Iran has made progress during the past year that better positions it to produce weapons-grade uranium (WGU) using its declared facilities and uranium stockpiles, should it choose to do so. Despite this progress, we assess Iran could not divert safeguarded material and produce a weapon-worth of WGU before this activity is discovered.
 
            We judge Iran’s nuclear decisionmaking is guided by a cost-benefit approach, which offers the international community opportunities to influence Tehran. Iranian leaders undoubtedly consider Iran’s security, prestige and influence, as well as the international political and security environment, when making decisions about its nuclear program. In this context, we judge that Iran is trying to balance conflicting objectives. It wants to advance its nuclear and missile capabilities and avoid severe repercussions—such as a military strike or regime threatening sanctions.
 
            We judge Iran would likely choose a ballistic missile as its preferred method of delivering a nuclear weapon, if one is ever fielded. Iran’s ballistic missiles are capable of delivering WMD. In addition, Iran has demonstrated an ability to launch small satellites, and we grow increasingly concerned that these technical steps—along with a regime hostile toward the United States and our allies—provide Tehran with the means and motivation to develop larger space-launch vehicles and longer-range missiles, including an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
 
            Iran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East, and it is expanding the scale, reach, and sophistication of its ballistic missile arsenal. Iran’s growing ballistic missile inventory and its domestic production of anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM) and development of its first long-range land attack cruise missile provide capabilities to enhance its power projection. Tehran views its conventionally armed missiles as an integral part of its strategy to deter—and if necessary retaliate against—forces in the region, including US forces.
 
Iran Overview
 
            Iran is growing more autocratic at home and more assertive abroad as it faces elite and popular grievances, a deteriorating economy, and an uncertain regional dynamic. Supreme Leader Khamenei’s power and authority are now virtually unchecked, and security institutions, particularly the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), have greater influence at the expense of popularly elected and clerical institutions. Khamenei and his allies will have to weigh carefully their desire to control the 14 June Iranian presidential election, while boosting voter turnout to increase the appearance of regime legitimacy and avoid a repeat of the disputed 2009 election. Meanwhile, the regime is adopting more oppressive social policies to increase its control over the population, such as further limiting educational and career choices for women.
 
            Iran’s financial outlook has worsened since the 2012 implementation of sanctions on its oil exports and Central Bank. Iran’s economy contracted in 2012 for the first time in more than two decades. Iran’s access to foreign exchange reserves held overseas has diminished, and preliminary data suggest that it suffered its first trade deficit in 14 years. Meanwhile, the rial reached an all-time low in late January, with the exchange rate falling from about 15,000 rials per dollar at the beginning of 2012 to nearly 40,000 rials per dollar, and inflation and unemployment are growing.
 
            Growing public frustration with the government’s socioeconomic policies has not led to widespread political unrest because of Iranians’ pervasive fear of the security services and the lack of effective opposition organization and leadership. To buoy the regime’s popularity and forestall widespread civil unrest, Iranian leaders are trying to soften the economic hardships on the poorer segments of the population. Khamenei has publicly called on the population to pursue a “resistance economy,” reminiscent of the hardships that Iran suffered immediately after the Iranian Revolution and during the Iran-Iraq war. However, the willingness of contemporary Iranians to withstand additional economic austerity is unclear because most Iranians do not remember those times; 60 percent of the population was born after 1980 and 40 percent after 1988.
 
            In its efforts to spread influence abroad and undermine the United States and our allies, Iran is trying to exploit the fighting and unrest in the Arab world. It supports surrogates, including Palestinian militants engaged in the recent conflict with Israel. To take advantage of the US withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, it will continue efforts to strengthen political and economic ties with central and local governments, while providing select militants with lethal assistance. Iran’s efforts to secure regional hegemony, however, have achieved limited results, and the fall of the Asad regime in Syria would be a major strategic loss for Tehran…
 
Click here for the full text.
 
 
Tags: Reports

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