Iran Democracy Monitor - No. 181


December 28, 2017


IRAN'S INCREASINGLY BLUE-WATER NAVY
The Islamic Republic is building a potent naval force that will give it the ability to project a worldwide maritime presence, the country's Supreme Leader has said. In a recent speech to military officials in Tehran, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei asserted that Iran needs to expand its naval capabilities in order to project a greater presence in international waters. Khamenei's comments echo recent remarks by the new Commander of Iran's Navy, Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi, who announced plans to deploy Iranian naval forces farther afield than ever before - including to the Western Hemisphere. "We are not faced with any restriction for deploying in the seas, and anywhere we feel that we have interests to develop ties... we will certainly deploy there and we enjoy this power too," Khanzadi said in comments carried by state media. "We will berth in the friendly states in Latin America and the Gulf of Mexico in the near future by deployment in the Atlantic Ocean." (Tehran
FARS, November 28, 2017)

CHINA EXPANDS ITS ECONOMIC FOOTPRINT IN IRAN

The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was designed in part to usher in an era of robust Western investment in Iran's economy. Western companies, however, have made more modest inroads in the Islamic Republic than originally predicted, hampered by jitters over the possibility of renewed U.S. sanctions as well as by difficulties in finding financial institutions willing to underwrite what is still considered in most corners to be a risky investment climate. China, however, has not suffered from these constraints, and as interest from the West has begun to flag, the PRC is fast emerging as Iran's main economic partner.

China is now said to be financing multiple projects within the Islamic Republic cumulatively worth billions of dollars as part of the mammoth development project known as the Belt and Road Initiative. Moreover, these efforts - which include a high-speed rail line between Tehran and Isfahan now being erected by the China Railway Engineering Corp. - are backstopped by an increasingly substantial Chinese economic commitment to the country. China's state-owned investment concern, the CITIC Group, recently established a $10 billion credit line for investments in Iran, and the official China Development Bank is now said to be considering another line of credit for $15 billion more. (
Reuters, November 30, 2017)

EXPORTING THE BASIJ MODEL

The model of Islamist activism embodied by Iran's feared domestic militia, the Basij, is now being actively exported throughout the Middle East, a top regime official has confirmed. "The Basij is a role model for the 'resistance' of the countries in the region, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, and it is expressed in hundreds of thousands of people who have undergone training in the forces of Al-Hashd Al-Sha'abi [Iraqi militias], in Yemen, and other countries," General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, has told a gathering of Basij forces in Tehran. These forces have given Iran's regime a valuable force multiplier to project power throughout the region. "Today, armed cells of resistance have been established in Islamic countries, and small networks of resistance have been created in other countries, and we will see their influence in the future," Jafari said. (Tel Aviv
Arutz Sheva, December 3, 2017)

IRANIAN CULTURAL CENSORSHIP GOES GLOBAL

The Islamic Republic has long carried out extensive censorship within its own borders, banning art and media that it deems offensive or un-Islamic. Tehran is now seeking to export these restrictions abroad - at least as they pertain to its citizens. Iranian authorities have reportedly pressured movie theaters in Canada to prevent the screening of "Delighted," a film by Iranian filmmaker Abdolreza Kahani about women in Iran seeking wealthy companions to facilitate their lifestyles. The movie was deemed "immoral" by Iranian authorities last year, and theaters considering its screening in Canada have been put on notice that if they move forward, another of Kahani's films, now under production, will not receive a screening permit to be shown outside of Iran. (
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
, December 21, 2017)

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

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