Tag Archives: iran

Stratfor: Iran’s mullahs and the Saudi Princes fight to control the internet

Summary:  Next in this series looking the Saudi Princes’ attempts to cope with the 21st century, we share Stratfor’s analysis of how the Princes and Iran’s mullahs (aka ruhani) are responding to their irresistible common enemy — the internet, and especially social media.

“Information wants to be free””
— Stewart Brand told Steve Wozniak at the first Hackers Conference in 1984. He was referring only to the cost of information, but the concept applies in a wider sense.


Saudi Arabia and Iran: Enemies With a Common Problem
Stratfor, 2 May 2016


  • The Iranian and Saudi governments will yield to public pressure to improve citizens’ access to the Internet and mobile phone applications, risking conservative backlash in the process.
  • Iran will have a harder time than Saudi Arabia in building better Internet infrastructure, though the lifting of sanctions should make this somewhat easier.
  • The utility of third-party social media platforms like WhatsApp and Telegram will save them from being banned in both countries, even as debate over their inherent risks to stability continues.


As technology has progressed, Internet and cellphone users have gained greater freedom and privacy. At the same time, governments can use some of the same tools to achieve their own ends, whether for simple communication or for better surveillance. For states such as Iran and Saudi Arabia — which, for all their fierce rivalry, share the same struggle in managing political opposition at home — these technologies present both an opportunity and a challenge to leaders striving to stay in control.

Despite their antagonism toward each other, Iran and Saudi Arabia have similar strategies for regulating electronic interaction. Both monitor citizens’ emails, social media and text messages in the name of protecting their nations’ moral fiber and national security. And without the capability to develop their own equivalents of popular programs such as Twitter, Telegram, WhatsApp and Facebook, both countries have been forced to accept the risks of such applications along with their advantages, managing the prospect of greater public discourse — and dissent — as best they can.

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Stratfor: Iran’s Hard-Liners lose the election. Big changes ahead.

Summary: We tend to see the complex politics of America but assume Iran’s mullahs rule a tyranny. Last week’s elections prove otherwise. Here Stratfor describes Iran’s politics and the election’s results. The new leadership team will have to sail through these troubled waters. Iran’s fragile economy is under incredible pressure from the collapse of oil prices — while the military struggle continues for dominance in the region and the agreement with Obama gives Iran new opportunities.


In Iran, a Fragile Coalition Defeats the Hard-Liners

Stratfor, 1 March 2016


Over the weekend, 33 million Iranians went to the polls to vote in historic dual elections, and the results suggest that an important change is underway in Iranian politics. According to the latest reports, the country’s parliamentary elections yielded a rough three-way split among reformists, moderate conservatives and hard-liners. Of the 285 seats up for grabs, 70 will be contested in a runoff vote in April. Meanwhile, the Assembly of Experts elections resulted in a landslide victory for allies of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, as moderate politicians walked away with 15 of Tehran’s 16 district seats.

For Iran’s hard-liners, these results are discouraging. Hard-line politicians lost ground in both the parliament and the Assembly of Experts. Moreover, substantial wins by reformists and pragmatic conservatives in both elections suggest that moderate candidates’ strategy of cooperating across the ideological spectrum has proved successful. But with no guarantee that unity among Iran’s moderate factions will hold once the final votes have been tallied, the outcome says more about what Iranian voters want than about what the newly elected bodies can actually deliver.


While Iran’s Interior Ministry has yet to release the official voter turnout, it is no surprise that many polling locations had to extend their hours to accommodate long lines of voters in this round of elections. Iran’s reformist factions, which comprise secular and Islamist politicians promising to adapt to an ever-changing world, typically capture many votes, especially in urban areas. However, these factions boycotted elections in 2004 and 2008 in response to the clerical Guardian Council’s disqualification of hundreds of their peers from the elections. As a result, voter turnout was much lower in both years than it was on Feb. 26.

In the face of potential disqualification and tight controls by the highly conservative Guardian and Expediency councils, Iranian politicians tend to form coalitions and secure endorsements before the elections are held to try to ensure seats. However, these marriages of convenience do not always hold up once the vote is over. Before the reformist-moderate coalition can be considered a newly cemented political force that will lead Iran toward pragmatic change, it is important to consider the issues dividing it and the challenges that lie ahead for the country as a whole.

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The hawks’ weird story about Iran’s seizure of 2 US navy boats

Summary: Iran’s arrest of US sailors in their waters provides opportunity for our hawks to wave a fake bloody shirt, hoping to make the US public fear and despise Iran. That this daft jingoism is considered acceptable, even routine, fare in our newspapers shows how much we’ve adopted Imperial thinking — and abandoned common sense. {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Iraq war becomes the Iran war

Today’s output from the war-monger industry:  “At the Pentagon, General Chaos is in Charge” by Ray Starmann at US Defense Watch (“News, Opinion and Analysis on US Defense issues and politics with a conservative viewpoint”), 26 January 2016 — Opening…

The surrender of two US Navy vessels of war and their crews to the Iranians without firing so much as a shot and the subsequent and sickening apology by the commanding officer, speaks volumes about the current fighting spirit, training and state of readiness of the US military in 2016.

The conduct of the US Navy officer in charge, Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter was nothing less than a complete and utter disgrace. No doubt the order to surrender came from the Pentagon; and at the Pentagon, General Chaos is in charge.

Typical of the one-sided news we receive, USA Today said {link added}:

“{A}n emerging consensus of U.S. legal experts believe the provocative act was a dangerous violation of international law that has so far gone without repercussions.

“The U.S. riverine boats had the right to pass expeditiously through Iran’s territorial waters under the right of innocent passage without being boarded and arrested so long as they weren’t engaged in a military operation such as spying. Pentagon officials have said the riverine boat crews mistakenly entered Iran’s waters in the Persian Gulf due to a “navigation error” while en route to a refueling.”

… “This should be very concerning for the Navy community,” said James Kraska, a maritime law expert at the U.S. Naval War College. “This says that U.S. vessels don’t have innocent passage and that their sovereign immunity is not respected.”

This is bizarrely biased. The US has attacked Iran — staging the first electronic Pearl Harbor —  a cyberattack that destroyed the infrastructure of another nation, without a declaration of war. The US, or its client state, Israel, has assassinated Iran’s scientists. US political and military leaders routinely advocate bombing Iran. We are past the point at which we can claim a presumption of innocence for military action in Iran’s waters.

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Does the unrest in Saudi Arabia mean their government is tottering?

Summary: The Saudi Princes rule one of the nations key to the current geopolitical order. Recent news stories suggest it is tottering, such as the execution of a reformist Shiite cleric. A close look at authoritative sources gives the answer, one that also illuminates other questions about current events.

Saud flag

Saudi execution of Shia cleric sparks outrage in Middle East
The Guardian, 2 January 2016

The Iranian government and religious leaders across the Middle East have condemned Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Shia cleric {Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr} and warned of repercussions that could bring down the country’s royal family.

Nimr had long been regarded as the most vocal Shia leader in the eastern Saudi province of Qatif, willing to publicly criticise the ruling al-Saud family and call for elections. He was, however, careful to avoid calling for violence, analysts say. That did not prevent the interior ministry from accusing him of being behind attacks on police, alongside a group of other suspects it said were working on behalf of Iran, the kingdom’s main regional rival.

… The execution was described as a “grave mistake” by the Supreme Islamic Shia Council in Lebanon and a “flagrant violation of human rights” by Yemen’s Houthi movement. … Iran’s Shia leadership said the execution of Nimr “would cost Saudi Arabia dearly”.

…Nimr was one of 47 people Saudi Arabian executed for terrorism on Friday. The interior ministry said most of those killed were involved in a series of al-Qaida attacks between 2003 and 2006. … The simultaneous execution of 47 people on security grounds was the biggest such event in Saudi Arabia since the 1980 killing of 63 jihadi rebels who seized Mecca’s Grand Mosque in 1979.

The Mehr News Agency reports strong words by Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Jaber Ansari…

The Iranian diplomat lamented that while Takfiri and extremist terrorists have disrupted peace in the region and the whole world, executing an unarmed dissident who just criticized the Saudi regime for religious and political issues depicts a total lack of wisdom and shrewdness among Saudies. Jaber Ansari categorically condemned the move and drew attentions to the fact that Saudis, who support and feed terrorists and extremists Takfiries in other countries, are very authoritarian and repressive in dealing with their home dissidents.

Mehr quotes strong language by Ayatollah Seyyed Ahmad Khatami, a senior member of Iran’s Assembly of Experts:

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Stratfor looks at Iraq, the Center of a Regional Power Struggle

Summary: Nothing shows the magnitude of our failure in Iraq as its transformation from foe to friend of Iran. More than an ally, Iran has become powerful in Iraq’s internal politics. Neither Iraq’s rulers nor its neighbors are happy with this, and now they push back. Stratfor seems optimistic about their odds of success. Color me skeptical about this analysis. However, Stratfor’s greatest value is as a window into the values, assumptions, and thinking of US elites. This shows how little we’ve learned after 14 years of FAILs in Iraq.


Iraq, the Center of a Regional Power Struggle

Lead Analyst: Omar Lamrani
Stratfor, 18 September 2015


  • The Iraqi prime minister will continue to pursue reforms to loosen Iran’s grip on his country.
  • A growing number of regional rivals will seek to challenge Iran’s position as the dominant foreign influence in Iraq.
  • Iran’s powerful proxies and considerable clout in the Iraqi parliament will continue to cement its presence in Iraq for the foreseeable future.


Iraq, a historical crossroad between major empires to the east and west, is once again caught in the middle of a battle among regional powers looking to protect their own interests. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iran has maintained its dominant foreign influence in Iraq, a status quo that was only reinforced after the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011.

Now, however, Iran’s standing may not be so assured. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has pushed through several reforms that have increasingly challenged Iran’s role in the country, creating an opening for other states in the region to make a play for greater leverage in Iraq. But Iran will not back down without a fight. Tehran will use every tool it has, including proxy forces, to guard its interests in Iraq.

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