Iran Democracy Monitor - No. 187

June 11, 2018

Environmental conditions within the Islamic Republic continue to worsen. A top regime official has disclosed that nearly half of all of the country's wetlands and marshes have "dried up" as a result of both drought and mismanagement on the part of the Iranian government. "There are some 105 wetlands in Iran, stretching 3 million hectares of land. About 1.3 million hectares of these wetlands are affected by drought, which led to total dryness of some 60 wetlands," Masoud Bagherzadeh, the deputy head of the Iranian government's Department of the Environment, has confirmed. Just since 2013, Bagherzadeh said, no fewer than forty wetlands have lost between 20 to 40 percent of their total water volume, despite a pledge by President Hassan Rouhani to implement serious remediation efforts. (
Radio Farda, June 2, 2018)


These developments have not gone unnoticed, and the Iranian regime is mobilizing in response. However, it is not doing so to seriously address the country's myriad environmental woes, but rather to blunt any potential political ferment that might result from them. Iran's "judicial and security authorities have stepped up crackdown on the very experts and activists who are leading efforts to address the country's growing water scarcity and environmental problems," writes the Middle East Institute's Ahmad Majidyar. The crackdown includes the arrest of "scores of water management and environmental experts and activists," who have been accused by the IRGC of being foreign intelligence agents, as well as the intimidation of specialists who question wasteful and unscientific construction of facilities carried out by the regime. The move, Majidyar explains, is logical, given "[e]nvironmental activists' ability to mobilize the masses" at a time of mounting instability for the Iranian regime. (
IranObserved, June 4, 2018)


The recent escalation of tensions between Iran and Israel across the Syrian-Israeli border - coupled with consultations between Israeli and Russian officials - has fueled speculation that Iran could soon be forced to exit the Syrian theater. This however, is wishful thinking, because neither Iran nor its chief terrorist proxy, Hezbollah, is going anywhere, one well-placed source has said. "If it had not been for Hezbollah" and its role in Syria, Lebanese parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri has declared, "Daesh would have been here [in Lebanon]." In his estimation, while the tide of battle has now turned against the Islamic State, the fight is not over, and Iran and Hezbollah will not leave Syria until it is "fully liberated from terrorists" and until the country's "territorial integrity" is assured. (Doha
al-Jazeera, June 6, 2018)


A recent upsurge in arrests of Iranian Baha'i has sparked international attention and concern. On May 25th, the Baha'i International Community's (BIC) representative for the UN in Geneva, Diane Ala'i, spoke out publicly regarding the most recent wave of arrests directed against members of the Baha'i faith to take place inside the Islamic Republic. In an interview with the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), Ala'i noted that while "Baha'is have been arrested since the inception of the Islamic Republic," the new wave of arrests "is taking place more rapidly and throughout Iran." According to the BIC, the "systemic nature of the arrests suggests a coordinated strategy on the part of government authorities" to persecute and repress the Baha'i. (
Center for Human Rights in Iran, May 29, 2018)


The mid-May violence that erupted in the Gaza Strip was not a spontaneous grassroots uprising, as many in the media contended at the time. Rather, it was extensively planned and orchestrated by the Hamas terrorist group as part of its ongoing conflict with Israel. But, according to a top official from the Palestinian Authority, another player was also involved in creating the clashes, which left more than fifty dead. Last month, ahead of the protests, the Palestinian Authority's ambassador to France, Salman al-Harfi, warned the French government that Iran was "fully financing" and extensively supporting the protests as part of its ongoing activities in the Palestinian Territories. (
The Times of Israel, June 5, 2018)


The results of the most recent elections in Iraq have sent shockwaves through the Iranian government, and confronted Tehran with the prospect of losing influence over the traditionally docile Iraqi government. In the May 12th election, the "Sairoon" political bloc headed by firebrand cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr, who has been an outspoken opponent of Iran, succeeded in winning 54 seats, putting it within reach of securing a ruling coalition without needing the participation of the country's assorted Iranian-backed parties. The political development had raised the prospect that Iran's historically extensive sway over the Iraqi government could soon be significantly diminished. This, in turn, has left the Iranian regime desperate to strike one sort of modus vivendi with Baghdad's new political masters. So much so, observers say, that "Tehran is even ready to support an administration led by its rivals in a bid to maintain influence in the country."

Iran's concerns aren't simply political; they are also practical. Over the past several years, the Islamic Republic has used Iraqi territory extensively as a transport corridor to ferry fighters to Syria, where they have fought in support of the Assad regime. Maintaining this "land bridge" is therefore essential in order for Iran to maintain its strategic footprint in Syria. (
Arab News, June 6, 2018)

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

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