The Strategic Implications of Iran's STD Epidemic "....Standout levels of infertility among Iranian couples, a major cause of the country's falling birth rate, coincide with epidemic levels of sexually transmitted disease. Both reflect deep-seated social pathologies. Iran has become a country radically different from the vision of its theocratic rulers, with prevailing social pathologies quite at odds with the self-image of radical Islam. Iran's fertility decline from about seven children per female in 1979 to just 1.6 in 2012 remains a conundrum to demographers. Never before in recorded history has the birth rate of a big country fallen so fast and so far. Iran's population is aging faster than that of any other country in the world..... ... Iran has the highest incidence of lifetime infertility of any country in the world, estimated at between 22% and 25% in separate Iranian government surveys. Roughly a quarter of Iranian couples, that is, are unable to bear children. By comparison, lifetime infertility ranges from 11% in Europe and 15% in India. The Iranian data are more extensive than in most other countries because Iran's government has devoted enormous resources to finding explanations and remedies for its uniquely high infertility rate. One explanation for Iran's strikingly infertility rate is the high level of consanguineous (cousin) marriages, that is, inbreeding.. This surmise probably is wrong. Iran's rate of cousin marriage is about 25%, lower than most of the Middle East.....women in the sort of traditional society that fosters cousin marriage tend to bear more children. A more probable cause of Iran's extremely high rate of infertility is sexually transmitted disease, particularly chlamydia, the most common bacterial STD and one likely to go undetected in countries with poor public health systems. This may seem incongruous, for the Islamic Republic of Iran represents itself as the guardian of social standards against Western decadence. Nonetheless, the government's own data strongly support this inference. Iran appears to have the world's highest rate of lifetime infertility because it also has the world's highest rate of STD infections. This is a tentative conclusion, to be sure, because Iran's fairly primitive public health system has produced only fragmentary evidence about STD infection rates. It is nonetheless convincing. Iranian authorities have made dire warnings about epidemic rates of STD infection.... That is at odds with the Islamic Republic's image in the West, but it is quite consistent with the complaints of Iranian officials about the widespread increase in casual sexual relationships. Premarital sex is illegal in Iran, but the peculiar Shi'ite institution of Sigha, or temporary marriage, allows Iranians to engage casual sex with official as well as clerical sanction..... Iran's leaders are well aware of the consequences of the sudden aging of its population; former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Iranian women who decline to bear children were guilty of "genocide" against their country... Iran promotes In Vitrio Fertilization (IVF) as a solution to infertility... Directly or indirectly, Iran's childlessness stems from a deep and intractable national anomie, a loss of personal sense of purpose in a country whose theocratic elite has no more support at the grass roots than did the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in the 1980s. We know how this will end: Iran's economy will be crushed under an avalanche of elderly dependents a generation from now. What we do not know is what will happen en route to the end. The sad task of Iran's neighbors is to manage its inevitable decline and prevent its own sense of national tragedy from turning into tragedies for other peoples as well. Iran's position is without precedent among the nations of the world. It knows as a matter of arithmetic that it has no future. Its leadership feels that it has nothing to lose in strategic adventures, which means that the rest of the world should take no chances with Iran.