Iran’s Guardian Council Pushes the Limits of Its Electoral Control

The Guardian Council is seeking to disqualify Minoo Khaleghi, a reformist politician who won a seat in the February 26 parliamentary elections. The 12-member body constitutionally charged with managing Iran’s elections annulled her votes in late March, reportedly after photographs circulated online of her without a headscarf. The Guardian Council has long held and exercised the right to vet candidates before elections. This ex post facto disqualification would mark a potentially dramatic expansion of the Council’s ability to control Iran’s managed democracy.

The Artesh in Syria: A fundamental shift in Iranian hard power

The deployment of elements of Iran’s conventional military, the Artesh, to fight in Syria over the past month was surprising.[1]  The Artesh has historically focused on the territorial defense of Iran, and there have been no confirmed expeditionary Artesh deployments to a combat zone since the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988.[2]  The decision to deploy Artesh troops was likely driven in part by the casualties taken by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) conventional forces

Translation: The Artesh's Evolving Rhetoric

The deployment of Artesh Special Forces to Syria marks an evolution in the constitutionally-defined Artesh mission of defending Iran’s borders. It lays the groundwork for further IRGC-Artesh cooperation in other expeditionary deployments, which would be a significant increase in the combat power the Iranian regime might use in the Middle East beyond its borders. It is too soon to assess the effect of this evolution of the Artesh role on its doctrine and military organization, but it bears focused attention and analysis in the coming months.

Iran is muscling up. We should push back

Reports are swirling that Russia is finally delivering an advanced S-300 air defense system to Iran, although they may be premature again.  The implications of that and the other items on Iran’s military shopping list need our attention fast.

An Iranian military hardware spree can quickly fuel a Middle East arms race, drive U.S. allies to seek more advanced weapons, and, in the case of Israel, spur development of their own. 

Translation: The Deployment of Artesh Special Forces to Syria


Soldiers from Iran’s conventional military service, the Artesh, are fighting and dying in Syria. At least three members of the Artesh Special Forces were reported killed on April 11, marking the first time the Artesh has sustained casualties abroad since the Iran-Iraq War.  The decision to deploy Artesh forces underscores Tehran’s expanding support to Damascus, discrediting reports that Iran might be pulling forces out of the conflict.

IRGC commander warns President Rouhani to back off

Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Commander General Mohammad Ali Jafari delivered a stern warning to President Hassan Rouhani on April 5: Stop opening up to the West. Rouhani has used his success in obtaining the nuclear deal to push forward a program of economic reform and easing of tensions with the West. Jafari declared that these policies are a dangerous departure from the Islamic Republic’s revolutionary values of economic independence and diplomatic isolation from the West.

Iran in Syria: flexing more, not less, military muscle

Just a little over a month ago, Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress that Iran, one of the major backers of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s regime, was moving its troops out of that country. Unfortunately, it isn’t so.

Iranian cyberattacks: What the Justice Department's indictment means and what it doesn't

The Justice Department’s indictment of seven Iranian hackers for a “coordinated cyber assault” against 46 major financial institutions and a New York dam on March 24 was a good symbolic gesture, even though there is no measurable chance that any real action against the Iranian attackers will result. Many of the details in the indictment are not particularly surprising, however. The Islamic Republic has conducted an extensive, aggressive, and well-documented cyber campaign targeting U.S.