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Iran Democracy Monitor - No. 177

Edited by Ilan Berman
August 21, 2017

The Iranian regime is striking back against the British government's Persian-language outreach. Judicial authorities in Tehran have issued a court order effectively blacklisting more than 150 individuals who have served as journalists or occasional contributors to the BBC's Persian service. Although formally banned within the Islamic Republic, BBC Persian remains highly influential as a source of news and media content, with an estimated audience of as many as 13 million viewers who access its content via illegal satellite dishes throughout the country. The Iranian measure, which has drawn formal protests from the BBC, freezes financial transactions carried out by the proscribed individuals, and prohibits them from selling any property within the Islamic Republic. (London
Guardian, August 15, 2017)


In recent months, the Turkish government has watched Iran's growing role in Syria with mounting trepidation, and even gone so far as to begin work on a new "security wall" designed to block as much as one-fifth of the common border between the two countries (
See Iran Democracy Monitor no. 176). That, however, hasn't stopped Ankara from exploring an improved strategic partnership with Tehran. A recent Iranian delegation to Turkey has netted a new pact between the two countries intended to "boost military cooperation" against terrorism and extremism.

Ostensibly, the thaw is intended to enhance operations targeting the Islamic State terrorist group, which both countries are combatting in Syria. However, Tehran and Ankara have their eyes on another looming problem as well: that of Kurdish independence. Next month, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is poised to hold a referendum on regional autonomy - a measure that is expected to succeed easily. Both Iran and Turkey are deeply concerned over that eventuality, and the catalytic effect that this may have on their own sizable Kurdish minorities.

"Both sides stressed that if the referendum is held, it will be the basis for the start of a series of tensions and conflicts inside Iraq, the consequences of which will affect neighboring countries," General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, chief of staff of the Iranian military, told reporters after talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "Holding the referendum will get Iraq, but also Iran and Turkey involved and that's why the authorities of the two countries emphasize that it is not possible and should not be done." (
Reuters, August 17, 2017; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, August 17, 2017)


Iran's parliament has just authorized a massive spending increase for the country's ballistic missile program, as well the foreign operations of its clerical army, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The vote, which passed the majles unanimously on August 13th, will allocate as much as $800 million to a number of Iranian government entities tasked with domestic defense and external activities, among them the IRGC's paramilitary arm, known as the Qods Force, which is currently heavily involved in both Iraq and Syria.

The move is intended as a direct rebuke to Trump administration, which recently signed into law the "Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act" - a measure that, among other things, mandates a comprehensive blacklisting of the IRGC under U.S. law. "They want to show that the pressure that the U.S. is exerting on Iran, they can respond with similar measures," explains Iran analyst Adnan Tabatabai of the Center for Applied Research in Partnership with the Orient. (
Associated Press
, August 13, 2017)

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

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