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Iran Democracy Monitor - No. 171

Edited by Ilan Berman
January 4, 2017

The Islamic Republic's sporadic crackdowns on perceived breaches of morality are intensifying anew. In December, police in the Iranian capital of Tehran raided what is being termed an "illegal mixed-sex party," seizing some 15 bottles of alcohol and arresting 120 revelers. The raid is the biggest such bust since June, when 132 people were rounded up for festivities at a Tehran restaurant. All of the partiers were determined to be in violation of the national dress code, and fifteen of them were determined to have been drinking - a criminal offense within the Islamic Republic. While punishment for the group has yet to be determined, previous instances of illegal partying have resulted in public lashings. (
Agence France Presse, December 16, 2016) 


Iran is the planet's leading executioner, ranking first in the world in the number of public killings carried out annually. The Iranian regime is estimated to have executed some 1,000 people in 2015, and averaged one or more executions daily last year. This situation, however, might soon begin to change. One of Iran's leading officials is lobbying for more leniency in the Islamic Republic's draconian penal code. Mostafa Pourmohammadi, the country's justice minister, has told journalists that the Iranian government should scale back its extensive use of executions in favor of other penalties for criminals. "We want to find the most effective kind of punishment so that we are able to consider replacing execution," Pourmohammadi has said. "Of course, execution as a form of punishment should remain, but not in the numbers that we have today." (
Huffington Post, August 10, 2016; Rudaw, October 29, 2016) 


The Islamic Republic has long had strategic designs on the "post Soviet space," a region where Tehran enjoys strong cultural, political and commercial ties. This interest, however, has expanded significantly in recent months, on the heels of last summer's nuclear deal with the West. "Iran is entering the Caucasus, slowly but surely, and by all indications is competing with the Sunni governments of the Middle East" in that region, notes a new analysis from Radio Free Europe’s Caucasus website, Kavkaz.Realii. The intrusion includes outreach to various Russian regions, including both Chechnya and Inigushetia, by Iranian diplomats and other officials. Not coincidentally, those regions being targeted by Iran for outreach had previously maintained active contacts with Sunni governments, chief among them Saudi Arabia. (
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, December 20, 2016) 


In the wake of the JCPOA, relations between Iran and Russia are continuing to expand by leaps and bounds - especially in the military sphere. Last month, Russia's Energy Minister, Alexander Novak, confirmed to reporters that Moscow and Tehran are now in negotiations for the acquisition by Iran of cutting-edge Russian fighter aircraft. "We are negotiating with Iran on the sales of Sukhoi super jets," Novak told a Joint Iran-Russia Economic Commission meeting in Tehran in mid-December. 

The two countries are colluding operationally as well. Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran's powerful Supreme National Security Council, has disclosed that Iran and Russia are now sharing a military base in Syria, where "Iran, with Russia's help, does advisory work to help the Syrian army and the [pro-Assad] resistance forces." Iranian officials are even considering giving Russia permission to use military installations within the Islamic Republic. Iranian Defense Minister Mohammed Dehghan has confirmed that his government is willing to consider requests from the Kremlin for the use of Iran's air base at Hamedan as part of ongoing "anti-terrorism" operations being carried out by Russian forces in Syria. (Tehran 
Fars, December 13, 2016; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, December 20, 2016; Moscow Itar-TASS, December 27, 2016)

Related Categories: Terrorism; Radical Islam; Iran Freedom Initiative; Iran

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