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Iran Democracy Monitor - No. 174

Edited by Ilan Berman
May 31, 2017

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has successfully secured a second term in office. The incumbent weathered a surprisingly strong challenge from influential conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi - a dark horse candidate who emerged relatively late in the electoral process, and appeared to have the endorsement of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Iranian authorities tabulated voter turnout at above 70 percent, with Rouhani winning nearly 60 percent of all votes cast. (
Associated Press, May 20, 2017)


Fresh off his electoral victory, Iran's soft-spoken president is staking out a harder foreign policy line - pledging to continue the nation's ballistic missile program despite pressure from the United States. "The Iranian nation has decided to be powerful," Rouhani told reporters at a televised news conference. "Our missiles are for peace and for defense... American officials should know that whenever we need to technically test a missile, we will do so and will not wait for their permission." (
Reuters, May 22, 2017)


Iran is mending fences with its most important Palestinian proxy. Less than half a decade after falling out over the Syrian civil war, the Hamas terrorist group is continuing to move back into alignment with Tehran - and reaping the rewards. In early May, the group appointed Ismail Haniyeh as its political leader, a move that was met with approval by Tehran. In a formal statement, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of the IRGC Qods Force, Iran's dedicated paramilitary arm, congratulated Haniyeh - and urged him to step up the fight against the state of Israel. "We are hopeful about your efforts in institutionalizing Resistance along the Hamas' jihadi line," Soleimani's note said. "...we await strengthening of unity with Hamas, the ally of [the] Resistance axis, to raise the issue of Palestine again." Now, Arab sources report that Haniyeh is planning a major state visit to Iran in the near future - a summit that will include high level meetings aimed at putting to rest any lingering areas of disagreement between the two sides. (Tehran
Mehr, May 24, 2017; Times of Israel, May 30, 2017)


Iran's already-extensive strategic presence in Syria is poised to get bigger still. The government of beleaguered Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has reportedly asked Iran to take control of the organization and payment of the tens of thousands of Shi'ite irregulars now fighting alongside official Syrian, Russian and Iranian forces against the Islamic State and other opposing factions. The size of that cohort - drawn from Yemeni, Pakistani and Afghan Shi'a - is much larger than commonly understood. According to one anonymous Syrian official, the ranks of informal "militias" now assisting the Assad regime numbers "more than 50,000 militants." (
Voice of America, May 28, 2017)


Iran's Baluchi minority, long the victim of systematic discrimination on the part of the Iranian government, is quietly gathering political power - and expanding gender equality. Recent weeks have seen a surge of female empowerment in Iran's southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan, with the number of women elected to local councils and posts more than doubling. "Four hundred and fifteen women have been elected to the city councils in the province," the region's governor, Ali Osat Hashemi, has confirmed to reporters. That figure effectively doubles the number of women holding public office in the region. The surge, experts say, is a reaction to the region's endemic ills. "Baluchi people suffer from different types of discrimination, including ethnic discrimination, religious discrimination, and also gender discrimination," explains Abdol Sattar Doshoki of the British Center for Baluchistan Studies. "In places where women stood, men and women had the power to say no to gender discrimination." (
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, May 26, 2017)

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

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