Strategic Trends in Iran
Iran is a complex country with profound social, political, and economic issues that will continue through 2030. Although Iran’s nuclear intentions and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s (who has ruled since 2005)1 actions dominate current policy- and defense-related discussions, the longer-term themes that will affect Iran include its economic structure, population, environmental pressures, and future political direction. Iran is unlikely to pose a significant direct strategic challenge to the United States despite current worries. Domestic pressures will continue to dominate, direct, and often dictate Iran’s defensive position. Iran will likely choose to continue its preferred soft-power and unconventional approaches to foreign policy at the regional and international levels given its current and future domestic constraints and capabilities.
Domestically, Iran faces three broad issues that will affect its defense capabilities over the near, medium, and far terms. These include profound economic structural weaknesses caused by rentierism, unemployment and underemployment, ongoing demographic pressures, and energy production and consumption patterns; political uncertainty characterized by unresolved tensions between theocratic, military,
1 The next presidential election is scheduled for mid-2009.