Russia’s use of Iran’s Hamedan airfield may have “ended for now,” but Russo-Iranian military cooperation is far from over. Both states have indicated that Russia may use Shahid Nojeh Air Base in the future. This development is of limited significance for Russian military operations in Syria, since Russia has an airbase in Syria itself already. It may, however, be very significant for Iran’s ability to deter the U.S. and its regional adversaries.
Source: “S-300PMU2 complex,” Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:S-300PMU2_complex.jpg.
Key takeaway: Iran is likely to revise its electoral system in the near future. A proposal by Guardian Council spokesman Abbasali Kadkhodaei would reduce the council’s overt involvement in the candidate vetting process but still maintain its ability to disproportionately disqualify reformist candidates. Kadkhodaei advocates strengthening Iran’s weak party system by registering a handful of political parties. The parties would conduct most of the candidate vetting themselves.
Nearly two hundred flights have taken off from airfields in the Islamic Republic of Iran to land in Syria since the Iran nuclear deal was announced one year ago, according to publicly available flight-tracking data. These commercial aircraft have almost certainly been ferrying troops and arms that, in conjunction with Russian air strikes and the deployment of thousands of Iranian forces, have staved off defeat for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei shook up over 25 years of leadership in the Armed Forces General Staff (AFGS), the body that oversees both Iran’s conventional forces and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), when he replaced Major General Hassan Firouzabadi with IRGC Major General Mohammad Bagheri as AFGS Chief on June 28.
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 deployment of elements of Iran’s conventional military, the Artesh, to fight in Syria over the past month was surprising. 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. The decision to deploy Artesh troops was likely driven in part by the casualties taken by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) conventional forces
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.