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Iran Democracy Monitor - No. 170

Edited by Ilan Berman
December 5, 2016

Today, more than three million educated Iranian women over the age of 30 are unmarried. The statistic reflects a larger generational shift in Iranian society. Historically, Iran's theocratic regime has preached that a woman's main purpose was to serve as wife and mother, with clerical authorities continually promoting the necessity of marriage. The rising level of education and empowerment among Iranian women, however, has widened the chasm between the sexes within the Islamic Republic. "These days it is difficult to find a really open-minded Iranian man," notes one single Iranian female. "They are lagging behind us." (
Los Angeles Times, November 11, 2016) 

Iran's clerical regime is purging its nuclear negotiators, it seems. A dozen members of Iran's nuclear negotiating team have reportedly been arrested by authorities on suspicion of espionage. The arrests follow rumors of a spy within the nuclear team that negotiated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with the West, and who carried out espionage and compromised the Iranian side's negotiating positions during that process. (
Jerusalem Post, November 18, 2016) 


With the conclusion of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 powers, the possibility of a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities - most likely carried out by Israel - receded from public discussion. But now, a new analysis in one of the Jewish state’s leading policy publications suggests that an Israeli option for military action remains very much under consideration. 

Israel remains committed to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, writes defense analyst Ehud Eilam in Israel Defense, and if "Iran breaches the nuclear agreement... Israel might attack Iran's nuclear sites before Iran produces a nuclear weapon." Such a mission is more daunting than before, thanks to Russia. "Iran has been assimilating the S-300, an advanced antiaircraft missile. Defeating it would require the Israeli Air Force (IAF) to train accordingly and to update its equipment," Eilam notes. Nevertheless, the problem is not insurmountable. "The IAF has already conducted exercises relating to this weapon system, in Greece." Moreover, Israel's leadership might well conclude that the consequences - including the potential for a regional war and the prospect of a rupture in relations with its main international ally, the United States - are acceptable, given the gravity of the threat. (
Israel Defense, October 2, 2016) 

Iran's clerical army, the Revolutionary Guards, has developed a new "suicide drone" for use in naval engagements. The unmanned aerial vehicle reportedly has a range of 620 miles and can stay aloft for as long as four hours at a stretch. The new capability comes on the heels of several acrimonious encounters with U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf - suggesting the new drones could be used in a future conflict with the United States. (
Associated Press, October 26, 2016) 

As the benefits of last year's nuclear deal continue to accrue for Iran, the country's military commanders are increasingly thinking big. A case in point is Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, the commander of Iran's Navy. In recent comments to the press, Sayyari outlined an ambitious plan for blue water expeditionary operations of the sort not attempted by Iran to date. "The Iranian Navy's 43rd flotilla will embark on a journey to South Africa, Tanzania and the Atlantic Ocean in case of clement weather conditions," Sayyari told reporters. The flotilla's primary mission, according to Sayyari, will be "to protect trade ships and oil tankers from the threat of the pirates in the Gulf of Aden, Bab al-Mandab and the Red Sea." 

Nor are Iran's naval plans purely expeditionary. According to the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Tehran is now mulling the establishment of remote bases to serve as outposts for its maritime adventurism. "We need bases in distanced areas and perhaps we might one day come to have bases on the coasts of Yemen or Syria or establish bases on islands or offshore floating bases," Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri told a gathering of officers in Tehran in late November. (Tehran FARS, 
October 12 and November 26, 2016)