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Iran Democracy Monitor - No. 153

Edited by Ilan Berman and Jason Czerwiec
December 22, 2014

In recent months, amid the ongoing diplomatic talks between Iran and the P5+1 nations, the issue of Iran's cyberwarfare capabilities has receded from the public eye. But now, a new report from a leading cybersecurity firm is raising the alarm over what it describes as a massive—and growing—Iranian offensive in cyberspace. "Since at least 2012, Iranian actors have directly attacked, established persistence in, and extracted highly sensitive materials from the networks of government agencies and major critical infrastructure companies in the following countries: Canada, China, England, France, Germany, India, Israel, Kuwait, Mexico, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and the United States," the 86-page study by San Diego-based Cylance points out. 

Moreover, this effort, dubbed "Operation: Cleaver" by Cylance researchers, might be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of Iran's global cyber activities. "During intense intelligence gathering over the last 24 months, we observed the technical capabilities of the Operation Cleaver team rapidly evolve faster than any previously observed Iranian effort," the report concludes. "As Iran's cyber warfare capabilities continue to morph... the probability of an attack that could impact the physical world at a national or global level is rapidly increasing." (
Cylance, December 2, 2014) 

A political comeback for Mahmoud Ahmedinejad may be in the works. Iran's controversial former president reportedly has been entertaining admirers at his home in Tehran amid a spike in political popularity that is being driven by a group of devoted loyalists. Some, however, have contended that Ahmadinejad - who left the Iranian presidency in disgrace in 2013 after presiding over significant economic decline and worsening relations with the West - isn't seeking a return to political life. Rather, he is being used as a stalking horse by Iran's clerical elites to remind current president Hassan Rouhani of the real balance of power within the Iranian political system. (
Christian Science Monitor, November 19, 2014) 


Iran's territorial dispute with the United Arab Emirates is flaring once again. Months after Tehran and Abu Dhabi appeared to have reached a settlement over the disposition of Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs - three islands situated in the Persian Gulf, near Iranian territory - the Iranian regime is once again striking a hard line on the contested swathes of land. An Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson has rejected a recent Gulf Cooperation Council statement ascribing sovereignty of the islands to the UAE, declaring that the Iranian government sees them as an "integral part of Iranian territory." (Tehran 
IRNA, December 10, 2014) 


Saddled with declining marriage and birth rates and rising rates of divorce, officials in Iran now need to be concerned with another challenge to the established social order. Recent times have seen a noticeable rise in cohabitation among young Iranian couples, despite the fact that sexual relations outside of wedlock are punishable by law in Iran. The cause for the trend appears to be both practical and social; many young couples in the Islamic Republic are put off by the strict parameters of marriage in the country and are choosing the more flexible option of cohabitation. But it is nonetheless seen as pernicious by the country’s traditionalist government, which attributes the trend in part to the "growing influence" of internet and satellite channels on the Iranian population. (
Radio Free Europe, December 6, 2014) 


A series of eight acid attacks on women in the Iranian city of Ifsahan this Fall remain unsolved by investigators. The attacks targeted women accused of failing to dress according to strict Islamic guidelines. The government's response thus far has been dismissive, and conspiratorial; local officials have blamed the attacks on unnamed "enemies" of the state, but do not appear to have any good leads on the assailants. (
IranWire, December 12, 2014)

Related Categories: Iran Freedom Initiative; Iran

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