This report documents the magnitude of the Islamic Republic’s destructive activities at home and abroad. Many of the activities highlighted have occurred recently, while others date back to the early days of the revolution. As this report makes clear, the one constant is that the Iranian regime will do whatever it takes to maintain its grip on power and spread its revolutionary ideology.
The regime’s primary tool to execute this mission since 1979 has been the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The IRGC is the most powerful conglomerate in Iran, spreading and consolidating its control over much of Iranian life. Its navy regularly threatens freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf while its Aerospace Force directs the country’s ballistic missile program in defiance of Security Council resolutions. Its Ground Forces are deployed abroad to bolster the Assad regime and its Basij paramilitary force is mobilized at home to surveil and harass ordinary Iranians. Finally, its extra-territorial IRGC Qods Force (IRGC-QF) leads the Islamic Republic’s destabilizing support for proxies and terrorist groups.
Chapter One recounts the long history of the Islamic Republic’s support for terrorism, primarily driven by the IRGC. Since 1979, Iran has made it a policy of state to actively direct, facilitate, and carry out terrorist activity globally. Unlike almost any other country, the Islamic Republic has supported terrorism within its own military and intelligence apparatuses: the IRGC-QF and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS). Today, the IRGC-QF is active across the Middle East and has plotted or carried out terrorist attacks in five out of seven continents. Where it is unable or unwilling to act directly, the Iranian regime has mastered the use of terrorist proxy groups like Lebanese Hizballah, Palestine Islamic Jihad, the Bahraini AlAshtar Brigades and the Iraqi Kata’ib Hizballah to conduct terrorist attacks.
Chapter Two explores Iran’s development of ballistic missiles, which pose a critical threat to regional security. Iran has the largest ballistic missile force in the Middle East and it is continuing to explore multiple pathways to expand its longer-range missile capabilities. Recognizing this threat, the UN Security Council had previously worked to impose tough limitations on Iran’s proliferation activities. However, this progress was rolled back following the adoption of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015, which failed to address Iran’s ballistic missile program. With a weaker nonproliferation regime to constrain its activity, Iran has continued to defy international scrutiny and its pace of missile launches and tests has not diminished following the implementation of the JCPOA.
Chapter Three details the Islamic Republic’s illicit financing activities, which undermine the integrity and security of the global financial system. The Iranian regime relies on opaque and fraudulent financing activities to fund its proxies and support its proliferation of ballistic missiles and other weapons. In the last year, the IRGC-QF has been exposed for using front companies to move funds, procure restricted materials and technologies, exploit currency exchange networks in neighboring countries, and produce counterfeit currency.
Chapter Four provides an overview of Iran’s threat to maritime security in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea. The Islamic Republic has repeatedly threatened to interfere with freedom of navigation and international shipping in these areas. In the Persian Gulf, the IRGC’s naval forces have engaged in numerous unsafe and unprofessional incidents with naval vessels and have a history of illegally detaining U.S. and U.K. sailors. In the Red Sea, Iran-backed Houthi militants have attacked coalition warships and Saudi commercial vessels. Iran has also engaged in the illicit shipping of arms to other regions. In 2010, for example, Nigerian officials uncovered an arms cache on board a commercial vessel from Iran.
Chapter Five illustrates the spread of the Islamic Republic’s malign behavior in cyberspace. Iran has increasingly conducted a series of cyberattacks involving surveillance and sabotage affecting critical infrastructure, financial and commercial entities, and educational institutions. It has also deployed its cyber capabilities to identify and silence critics domestically and spread its disinformation campaigns abroad.
Chapter Six documents the Islamic Republic’s repeated and systemic abuse of human rights in violation of international laws and norms. The Islamic Republic persecutes civil society activists and marginalizes ethnic and religious minorities. The regime also denies its citizens due process, regularly falling short of its own legal standards. Its prisons are notorious for mistreatment and torture, and its use of capital punishment is excessive and extends to minors. Beyond its borders, the Islamic Republic and its proxies have committed numerous human rights abuses, including targeting innocent civilians in Syria and arbitrarily detaining Sunnis in Iraq.
Chapter Seven highlights the enduring and increasingly irreversible tragedy of environmental degradation at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s self-serving leaders. Following decades of misguided agricultural policies and IRGC-driven dam projects, Iran is inching ever closer to an environmental crisis. The regime’s failure to respond to worsening environmental conditions has led to a significant depletion of Iran’s water resources and forced the migration of millions of Iranians. Instead of addressing these existential issues, the Islamic Republic has responded with force against those calling for reform.
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