Likelihood of Ethnic Cross-border Tensions in Iran

By: LTC Arjen Wassink, NLD Army, US Central Command: Strategy Plans and Policy Directorate; Combined Strategic Analysis Group
04 June 2021


For centuries, cross-border tensions have escalated the risk of crises becoming wars. The war in Iraq showed how complicated these tensions can be and what risks they entail. The current crisis in the Caucasus shed some light on another cross-border risk: from Iran’s perspective, it is interesting to elaborate on what trans-border ethnic tensions in Iran are likely to create problems for the Iranian regime in the next 5-10 years?

Key Points:

  • The Iranian government discriminates against religious minorities including Sunni Muslims, as well as ethnic minorities such as Kurds, Azeris, Balochis, and Arabs.
  • Iran’s minorities face the terror of executions and the threat of demographic-based displacement.
  • Ethnic groups span international borders.
  • Iranian security forces have a strong grip on these ethnic groups.
  • It is unlikely that cross-border ethnic tensions becoming a critical problem for the Iranian regime.

Read the complete paper here.

The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those of a number of international officers within the Combined Strategic Analysis Group (CSAG) and do not necessarily reflect the views of United States Central Command, not of the nations represented within the CSAG or any other governmental agency.