September 28, 2022

Iran Updates

The Iran Update aims to inform national security policy by providing timely, relevant, and independent open-source analysis of developments pertaining to Iran and its Axis of Resistance. This update covers political, military, and economic events and trends that affect the stability and decision-making of the Iranian regime. It also provides insights into Iranian and Iranian-sponsored activities abroad that undermine regional stability and threaten US forces and interests. The American Enterprise Institute's Critical Threats Project (CTP) and the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) provide these updates weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.


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The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) with support from the Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute launched a new interactive map of Iran and the Middle East. The map depicts events in Iran that affect the stability of the Iranian regime, namely anti-regime protests and reported poisoning incidents. It also shows developments in Syria that jeopardize regional stability and pose threats to US forces and interests, including Iranian and Iranian-backed militia positions. ISW created each of these data layer events in accordance with ISW’s research methodology. Learn more about the map here.

Previous versions of static maps are available in our past publications.

Recent Iran Updates

Iran Update, October 2, 2023

  1. Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jarida reported on October 2 that Iran and Russia have agreed to transfer unspecified weapons from Lebanese Hezbollah (LH) to Russian forces in Ukraine and to tribal insurgents fighting the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in eastern Syria.
  2. Iraqi protesters gathered in at least three cities on October 1 to express frustrations over poor domestic conditions and the Iraqi political establishment. CTP recorded protests in Baghdad, Amarah, and Nasiriyah.

Iran Update, September 29, 2023

  1. Pro-regime forces are helping the Arab tribes sustain their fight against the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which may facilitate the expulsion of the SDF from parts of their territory.

Iran Update, September 27, 2023

  1. Iran deployed 50 reconnaissance officers to eastern Syria that could support Iranian efforts to prolong conflict between the SDF and Arab tribes and Operational security for Iranian and Iranian-backed forces, convoys, and positions.
  2. Iran’s Deputy Oil Minister Jalil Salari announced on September 25 that Iran, Syria, and Venezuela had signed a memorandum of understanding to build a new oil refinery in Syria, likely to aid the Iranian economy and further solidify Iran’s economic influence over the Syrian regime.
  3. Senior Iranian and Russian military officials reviewed Iranian advanced conventional weapons in Moscow and Tehran in August and September 2023, and may conclude a drone and missile sale agreement following the expiration of UN missile restrictions on October 18.

Iran Update, September 25, 2023

  1. The People’s Republic of China and Syria signed several development and technology cooperation agreements on September 22, which may compete with reconstruction agreements that Iran and Syria signed in May.
  2. A drone strike near Mayadin City on September 25 caused multiple casualties among the Iranian-affiliated Arab tribesmen who were deploying to Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)-controlled territory in eastern Syria. The deployment of Arab tribesmen to combat the SDF is consistent with ISW’s assessment that the tribal insurgency will likely support Iran’s efforts to establish a grassroots resistance to expel US forces from Syria.

Iran Update, September 22, 2023

  1. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander supervised a joint Iranian-Syrian military exercise in Syria on September 21, possibly to advance the campaign to expel US forces from Syria and reassert bilateral military relations.
  2. The tribal clashes with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have evolved into an insurgency, which likely will facilitate Iran’s efforts to establish a grassroots resistance to expel US forces from Syria.
  3. A coalition of small Iraqi independent political parties called on the United Nations to prevent tampering in the 2023 Iraqi provincial elections.

Iran Update, September 20, 2023

  1. Wagner is vacating its positions in Syria to comply with a Russian Ministry of Defense ultimatum. Iran may assume control of some of the positions to secure military assets and expand its economic operations.
  2. Syrian President Bashar al Assad will travel to China for a “Syrian-Chinese summit” on September 21, very likely to pursue bilateral economic ties.

Iran Update, September 19, 2023

  1. Iran is expanding its military infrastructure in eastern Syria as part of its effort to secure a permanent presence there.
  2. Iranian and Iraqi officials reported on September 19 that Iraq fulfilled its commitment to disarm and relocate anti-Iranian regime Kurdish militias in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Iran Update, September 18, 2023

  1. The IRGC deployed forces to the Iran-Iraq border, likely to coerce the Iraqi government and Kurdistan Regional Government to stop threats from anti-Iran opposition groups in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.
  2. Iran could also use the recent deployments to conduct attacks against Iraqi Kurdistan should coercion fail.
  3. Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Minister Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani threatened on September 16 to retaliate against the United States for its decision to unload seized Iranian oil from the Suez Rajan

Iran Update, September 15, 2023

  1. Iran is forming a tribal militia in eastern Syria likely to advance its campaign to expel the United States from Syria.
  2. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps transported advanced weapons and weapons development experts to Damascus airport, likely to replenish Iran’s military development and defense capacity in Syria after frequent Israeli interdictions.
  3. The Iranian regime is preparing to confront protests in northwestern Iran on September 16.

Iran Update, September 14, 2023

  1. The IRGC Quds Force and LH are trying to significantly increase their military infrastructure in Mayadin in eastern Syria. The expanding presence there in part supports the Iranian campaign to expel US forces from Syria.
  2. Iranian-backed political actors in Iraq are preparing to coopt legal procedures and requirements to disqualify opponents in the upcoming Iraqi provincial elections in December 2023.
  3. Iranian leaders are using a combination of military threats and foreign diplomacy to resolve three simultaneous security challenges around northwestern Iran.

Iran Update, September 13, 2023

  1. Pro-Syrian regime forces fired at and injured three protesters at the Baath party headquarters in Suwayda City in southern Syria. The attack could fuel popular anger toward pro-regime forces, especially Iranian-backed militias, in southern Syria in the coming days.
  2. Senior Iranian officials continue to indicate that the Iraqi central government will address their security concerns in Iraqi Kurdistan by their September 19 deadline, making a potential Iranian attack into Iraqi Kurdistan unlikely in the coming days. Iran is nevertheless retaining the option to conduct attacks into Iraqi Kurdistan to address its concerns.
  3. The IRGC has distributed small arms to current and former members in Saghez, Kurdistan Province in recent days to prepare for potential protests, according to Norway-based human rights organization Hengaw.

Iran Update, September 12, 2023

  1. Iran has successfully extracted some security concessions from Iraq, which will likely reduce the threat Iranian leaders perceive emanating from Iraqi Kurdistan. Planned protests in Iran in the coming days could still drive Tehran to conduct attacks into Iraqi Kurdistan, however.
  2. The Iranian regime is using different approaches with varying levels of violence and restraint throughout the country to prepare for potential civil unrest in the coming days.

Iran Update, September 11, 2023

  1. Iranian officials met with Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government officials to discuss disarming Iranian Kurdish opposition groups in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.
  2. Iranian forces deployed to Kurdish areas in western Iran, possibly to deter protests on the anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death.
  3. Iran is attempting to mitigate tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan. This follows reports of a military buildup on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border with both sides engaging in threatening rhetoric over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region in recent days.

Iran Update, September 8, 2023

  1. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) redeployed “hundreds” of Iranian-backed militants from eastern Syria to northwestern Syria in response to mounting tensions with Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS) and other anti-regime militias.
  2. An IRGC-affiliated commercial airliner flew to Russian-occupied Crimea on September 7, possibly to transfer military materials and/or personnel to Russian forces there.
  3. Russia's largest bank, Sberbank, launched a money transfer system with Iran on September 7, which may help Iran and Russia circumvent Western sanctions.

Iran Update, September 7, 2023

  1. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has sent over 60 Iranian-backed militants to Daraa Province to prevent the expansion of the ongoing, anti-Syrian regime protests in southern Syria.
  2. Leaders from Lebanese Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad met in Beirut and echoed Iranian leaders’ calls for greater cooperation among these groups against Israel.
  3. Iranian authorities are continuing to take measures to deter and prevent anti-regime protests ahead of the anniversaries of Mahsa Amini’s death and the “Bloody Friday” incident on September 16 and 30, respectively.

Iran Update, September 6, 2023

  1. Russia directed local tribes to attack the US-led International Coalition and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in eastern Syria likely part of a coordinated effort with Iran and the Syrian regime to expel the United States from Syria.
  2. Iranian-backed militias relocated personnel and military equipment to southern Syria from Deir ez Zor on September 4, possibly to secure the Syrian regime as anti-regime protests continue.
  3. Iranian protest organizations are planning demonstrations to commemorate the regime’s killing of Mahsa Amini on September 16 and may generate protest turnout across Iran. The regime is taking steps to preempt protests that commemorate the death of Mahsa Amini and will likely crack down on demonstrations that occur.
  4. Senior Iranian officials outlined the regime’s policy perspective on Iran-Turkey bilateral relations during their meetings with Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Hakan Fidan in Tehran on September 3.

Iran Update, September 5, 2023

  1. Syrian regime forces are financially exploiting the displacement of civilians amid clashes in Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)-controlled territory.
  2. The deteriorating economic and security situation in eastern Syria may fuel anti-Syrian regime sentiment.
  3. Russia provided at least two Yak-130 combat trainer aircraft to Iran, which could presage the delivery of more advanced, Russian-made Su-35s to Iran. The acquisition of Su-35s may enable Iran to more readily and independently project air power.
  4. The Ebrahim Raisi administration closed a major reformist outlet, silencing a prominent critic of him and his foreign policy of expanding cooperation with Russia. This move will further reinforce the dominance of hardline voices over the Iranian information space.

Iran Update, September 1, 2023

  1. Iran and the Syrian regime are exploiting instability in eastern Syria to pose a greater threat to US forces there.
  2. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and Lebanese Hezbollah (LH) trained Russian forces in Syria to operate Iranian-made drones.
  3. Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian discussed anti-Israel operations with leaders from the Axis of Resistance in Beirut.
  4. The Ebrahim Raisi administration is continuing to set conditions to resume nuclear negotiations with the West to achieve a comprehensive deal.

Iran Update, August 31, 2023

  1. Iranian-backed militias have continued to deploy into territory held by the US-backed SDF in northeastern Syria to conduct assassinations and fuel tribal disputes. These efforts support the Iranian campaign to expel the United States from Syria.
  2. Iranian-backed militias have reportedly deployed from Iraq to Damascus for protest suppression. These deployments highlight the capacity of the IRGC to manage multiple efforts in Syria simultaneously.
  3. The Iranian foreign affairs minister affirmed Tehran's intent to maintain a long-term military presence in Syria.
  4. A senior Iranian nuclear official downplayed the threat of the Iranian nuclear program during an Arabic-language interview with Al Jazeera, possibly to assuage Saudi concerns about Iranian nuclear activities and discourage Saudi leaders from building their own program.

Iran Update, August 30, 2023

  1. The Iranian foreign minister traveled to Damascus, where he discussed economic cooperation and political stability with Syrian officials. The trip comes two weeks after the start of daily anti-regime demonstrations that protest the Assad regime raising fuel prices.
  2. Iranian officials are signaling that the regime will pursue nuclear negotiations, probably with the aim to achieve a comprehensive agreement.
  3. Russia has begun transporting consumer goods to Saudi Arabia via Iran. The transit of Russian goods to Saudi Arabia via Iran is consistent with Iran’s efforts to become a regional and international “transit hub.”

Iran Update, August 29, 2023

  1. Lebanese Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah blamed the United States for the ongoing protests in Syria and called on demonstrators to show leniency toward the Bashar al Assad regime. Nasrallah is the first Axis of Resistance leader to publicly acknowledge the protests.
  2. Iranian-backed militants raised their readiness levels around Deir ez Zor City amid ongoing clashes between the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and the Deir ez Zor Military Council in eastern Syria.
  3. IRGC Quds Force Commander Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani suggested that Iran would take unspecified military action if the Iraqi central government does not disarm and relocate anti-Iranian regime Kurdish militias in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Iran Update, August 28, 2023

  1. Iranian-backed militants deployed to Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)-controlled territory to conduct sabotage attacks amidst clashes between two US-backed groups in eastern Syria. The deployment of Iranian-backed militants likely supports pro-regime campaign objectives to expel the United States from Syria.
  2. Iran threatened to take action against Kurdish anti-regime groups in Iraq and may conduct attacks in Iraq in the next month.
  3. Iran finalized a barter agreement with China wherein Iran provides oil in exchange for Chinese development of the Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran. This is consistent with the overall trend of Sino-Iranian oil-for-infrastructure agreements.

Iran Update, August 25, 2023

  1. Syrian opposition media reported that the Bashar al Assad regime ordered all Syrian Arab Army officers and troops to refrain from taking leave until further notice.
  2. The Iranian regime is continuing to take preemptive measures to deter and prevent protests ahead of the one-year anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s killing on September 16.
  3. Anti-regime protests occurred in at least three cities in Sistan and Baluchistan Province—a slight uptick from the usual protest activity that occurs each Friday in the province.

Iran Update, August 24, 2023

  1. Anti-regime protests continued and expanded to additional provinces in Syria. The expansion of protests to Deir ez Zor Province, albeit limited, suggests that Syrian protest groups may have successfully planned and organized the demonstrations.
  2. BRICS invited Iran to become a full member state. Iranian state media boasted that membership will help the regime undermine Western sanctions and support major infrastructure projects.

Iran Update, August 23, 2023

  1. At least 16 anti-regime protests occurred in the southern Syrian provinces of Suwayda and Daraa on August 23. The protests have gained popular support and activists are circulating calls for protests in Deir ez Zor Province on Thursday, August 24, and in all Syrian provinces on Friday, August 25.
  2. Armed groups assassinated four pro-regime personnel, two of whom were from Iranian-backed groups, in eastern Syria between August 10 and August 22. Syrian regime forces refused to complete patrols in Mayadin City on August 23 following the assassinations.
  3. The Supreme Leader’s office showcased the Iranian regime’s sponsorship of Palestinian resistance groups on August 22 after Israeli officials blamed Iran for kinetic activity in the West Bank.
  4. Artesh Ground Forces Commander Brigadier General Kiomars Heydari traveled to Moscow between August 20-23. Heydari’s visit to the border surveillance equipment center and comment about “terrorism” indicate that Iran seeks Russian assistance in enhancing its border security.

Iran Update, August 22, 2023

  1. At least 21 anti-regime protests occurred in southern Syria. The Syrian regime is trying to prevent protests from spreading further.
  2. The Iranian regime used its annual National Defense Industry Day holiday to highlight new military capabilities. The regime directed this messaging at foreign enemies and potential international buyers of Iranian defense products.
  3. Iranian oil exports continue to surge, nearing pre-sanctions levels. Growing Iranian oil exports are part of Tehran’s ongoing effort to circumvent and undermine US sanctions.

Iran Update, August 21, 2023

  1. Anti-regime protests have continued to expand in southern Syria, despite the beginning of the work week. The Syrian regime is trying to redirect frustrations toward external actors and local elements.
  2. The United States reportedly unloaded Iranian oil off a tanker after seizing it in April 2023. Iran may further seize commercial vessels and/or threaten US ships in response.
  3. The Artesh Ground Forces commander traveled to Moscow to discuss military cooperation. This visit is part of the evolving military and security partnership between Iran and Russia.
  4. The Iranian regime is working behind closed doors to pass an oppressive law that would expand the mandatory hijab requirement. These measures could further aggravate frustrations throughout Iran.

Iran Update, August 18, 2023

  1. Protests against the Syrian regime expanded across three southern Syrian provinces. This expansion is unsurprising given that it is a Friday—the first day of the weekend in Syria.
  2. Iranian-backed political actors in Iraq are spreading disinformation framing the United States as dangerous and hostile. This disinformation is similar to the narrative that Iran, Russia, and the Syrian regime have amplified in eastern Syria since June 2023.
  3. The Iranian regime is trying to deter and preempt protests ahead of the anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death on September 16. These actions highlight the regime’s enduring commitment to repression.
  4. The Iranian regime officially connected a recent terror attack in central Iran to the Afghan branch of the Islamic State. The attack will likely exacerbate mounting tensions between Iran and the Afghan Taliban.
  5. The Ebrahim Raisi administration is continuing its diplomatic campaign to convince BRICS countries to admit Iran ahead of the 15th annual BRICS summit in South Africa on August 22-24. Iran faces significant diplomatic hurdles to joining BRICS, however.

Iran Update, August 17, 2023

  1. Syrians demonstrated against worsening economic conditions and the Syrian regime’s mismanagement of the economy across the country.
  2. Iran’s supreme leader emphasized internal security threats to the IRGC on August 17. He urged the IRGC combat enemy attempts to stoke unrest stemming from popular frustration over mandatory veiling and during the upcoming 2024 parliamentary elections.
  3. Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian traveled to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on August 17, marking the first official visit of an Iranian foreign affairs minister to Saudi Arabia in more than eight years.
  4. Russian efforts to ramp up the domestic production of Iranian Shahed-136/-131 drones indicate that Russia aims to develop the long-term capability to conduct large strikes series in Ukraine. The Washington Post report indicates that Russia is struggling to produce its own variants of the Shahed drones at the pace and quality it desires. Russia is likely dissatisfied with the quality of Shahed 131 and 136 drones it sources from Iran but likely seeks to retain Iran as a long-term strategic defense partner.

Iran Update, August 16, 2023

  1. Qatar-based Al Araby reported that IRGC Quds Force Commander Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani ordered Iranian-backed militias in Iraq to suspend attacks against US targets. He specifically called for an end to an IED campaign that an Iranian-backed militia has waged against Iraqi-operated convoys supporting the US military presence in Iraq.
  2. Iranian oil exports to China have increased by over 60 percent in August 2023. This growing energy cooperation is part of a broader deepening of Sino-Iranian ties, especially regarding economic relations and infrastructure development.
  3. Iranian state media blamed the Afghan branch of the Islamic State—named Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP)--for a recent terror attack in central Iran. This reporting from Iranian state media is the most explicit connection it has drawn yet between the attack and ISKP.
  4. Armed Forces General Staff spokesperson Brigadier General Abol Fazl Shekarchi described the purpose of a recent Iranian military exercise in the Persian Gulf, affirming CTP’s previous assessment of its intent.

Iran Update, August 15, 2023

Key Takeaways

  1. Iran and the Syrian regime shifted their state-run information operation from the false claim that US forces will imminently attack Syrian-regime controlled territory and are instead alleging that United States supported recent ISIS attacks. Axis of Resistance media, however, continue to falsely accuse the United States of preparing to attack Syrian-regime controlled territory.
  2. IRGC Quds Force Commander Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani met with Shia Coordination Framework leadership in Baghdad on August 15. Ghaani’s stop in Baghdad was the latest in a series of meetings with members of Iran’s Axis of Resistance in Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria.
  3. Iranian state media signaled the regime’s frustration with the Taliban on the two-year anniversary of the group’s takeover of Afghanistan. This is a change from the conciliatory tone Iranian officials have recently adopted toward the Taliban.
  4. Iranian Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi appointed Qom Provincial Governor Mohammad Taghi Shah Cheraghi as Interior Ministry Political Deputy and head of Iran’s Election Headquarters on August 15. Shah Cheraghi could play a role in formulating the regime’s responses to anticipated security threats in the coming months.

Iran Update, August 11, 2023

  1. Armed militant groups, including ISIS, have claimed attacks against pro-Syrian regime forces in eastern Syria on August 10, which may place pressure on Iranian campaigns and lines of effort there.
  2. Syrian President Bashar al Assad indicated on August 9 that he will not seriously address the Arab states’ concerns in Syria, despite their revived bilateral ties. Assad’s rhetoric suggests that he pursued normalization with the Arab states to boost his international legitimacy but does not assign much urgency to further improving ties with them.
  3. Iranian officials insisted that they can spend freely the $6 billion received as part of the recent prisoner swap agreement with the United States, rebuffing Western reports that Iran can only use the funds for humanitarian purposes. Iranian state media focused predominantly on celebrating the agreement with the United States and framing it as a victory for Iran on August 11.

Iran Update, August 10, 2023

  1. Syrian President Bashar al Assad downplayed the importance of relations with the Arab states while stressing relations with Iran and Russia during an interview with the UAE-based Sky News Arabic on August 9.
  2. Iran’s Foreign Affairs Ministry is continuing its diplomatic campaign to convince BRICS countries to admit Iran as a BRICS member ahead of the organization’s 15th annual summit in Johannesburg, South Africa on August 22-24.
  3. Iran and the United States reached an agreement on August 10 for the release of five US nationals detained in Iran. The United States will release six billion dollars of frozen Iranian assets and release several Iranian prisoners as part of the agreement. The release of six billion dollars would be a significant boost for Iran’s struggling economy.

Iran Update, August 9, 2023

  1. IRGC Quds Force Commander Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani met with LH Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut on August 6 according to Israeli and Arab media.
  2. The IRGC Quds Force is pressuring local Syrians to join Iranian-backed militias by only providing medical services to families tied to these militias. Increased recruitment into Iranian-backed militias could provide the IRGC Quds Force additional manpower for counter-US and counter-ISIS missions in eastern Syria.
  3. Iranian state media claimed on August 9 that Iran has developed supersonic cruise missile technology. Iran possibly developed this technology with Russian assistance.
  4. Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian traveled to Pretoria, South Africa on August 9, likely as part of the Raisi administration’s ongoing efforts to convince BRICS members to accept its request to join this organization.

Iran Update, August 8, 2023

  1. Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah continued to circulate false claims that the US-led International Coalition is preparing to attack Syrian regime-controlled territory in eastern Syria. Their messaging is part of a coordinated Iranian, Russian, and Syrian regime coercion campaign to expel US forces from Syria.
  2. Iran secured a majority stake in a major Syrian telecommunications company. Iran’s assistance could enable the Syrian regime to restrict the Syrian information space through the new telecommunications company.
  3. Iran is trying to convince BRICS members to accept its request to join this organization ahead of the 15th annual BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa on August 22-24. Becoming a BRICS member could help Iran mitigate the impact of Western sanctions.
  4. The Iranian regime has detained a fifth US national. Iran possibly detained the US national to gain leverage against the United States in its efforts to release frozen Iranian assets in Iraq and South Korea.

Iran Update, August 7, 2023

  1. Iranian-backed militia Ashab al Kahf called on August 5 for protests outside the US embassy in Baghdad. These calls come as Ashab al Kahf has conducted an IED campaign against Iraqi-operated logistics convoys servicing US military positions.
  2. Iran and Russia continued discussions on cooperating to jointly produce and repair airplanes and helicopters. Iran could use domestically produced aircraft and helicopters for both civilian and military purposes.
  3. Iran’s worsening water crisis is increasing the risk of conflict between Iran and its neighbors. Western media reported on August 7 that the Afghan Taliban sent “thousands” of troops and “hundreds” of suicide bombers to the Iran-Afghanistan border in late May 2023.

Iran Update, August 4, 2023

  1. Local Syrian leaders met with Iranian military leaders in Deir ez Zor City to inform them that the US-led International Coalition will not attack Syrian regime-controlled territory. These assurances will not likely stop the buildup of Iranian-backed forces in eastern Syria.
  2. Iran could pursue several courses of action in response to increasing US military deployments in the Persian Gulf. The most likely scenario is that Iran will further harass and threaten US forces.
  3. Prominent Iranian Sunni cleric Moulana Abdol Hamid did not give a Friday sermon in Zahedan, Sistan and Baluchistan Province on August 4 for the first time since the Mahsa Amini protests began in September 2022.
  4. Iranian state media confirmed on August 4 that Iran and Venezuela signed an agreement for Iran to export gasoline and oil products to Venezuela during President Ebrahim Raisi’s June 2023 trip to Latin America.

Iran Update, August 3, 2023

  1. Iran is training militants to use attack drones in eastern Syria, likely part of a campaign to expel US forces.
  2. President Ebrahim Raisi invited Emirati President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on August 3 to visit Tehran as part of Iran’s continued effort to manage a stable and predictable relationship with the Gulf Arab states.
  3. Iran and Syria are continuing negotiations over the establishment of a free trade zone. It is unclear whether these negotiations will lead to the establishment of a free trade zone between Iran and Syria in the near future, however.

Iran Update, August 2, 2023

  1. Iranian-backed militias have prepared a runway in eastern Syria to support drone operations. These operations could include attacking and surveilling nearby US forces deployed to fight ISIS.
  2. The IRGC used its annual naval exercise to message to the United States, Russia, China, and the Gulf states.
  3. Iranian media reported new details on the discussions between Iran and Belarus to expand bilateral military cooperation. Iranian and Belarusian officials have discussed conducting joint exercises and establishing military attachés in both countries.
  4. Iran will send a low-level economic delegation to Brazil between late September and October 2023, possibly as part of an effort to facilitate Iran joining BRICS.
  5. Iran’s economic and environmental conditions continue to worsen, which will likely intensify anti-regime sentiments among parts of the population. Iranian leaders are publicly discussing approaches to more effectively confront social unrest in response to anti-regime frustrations.

Iran Update, August 1, 2023

  1. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Shin Bet announced it thwarted the smuggling of “anomalous” weapons from northern Jordan into Israel during the early morning of July 25, a day after judicial reform prompted significant unrest in Israel.
  2. Iranian state media and officials are falsely claiming that the United States has resumed its campaign to destabilize Syria by sponsoring terrorist groups. The claims are consistent with recent Russo-Iranian information operations to support their coercive campaign to expel US forces from Syria.
  3. Iran is pursuing the construction of drone factories in Belarus and Russia, which will help Russia acquire Iranian drones more readily and provide Iran with numerous economic and military benefits.

Iran Update, July 31, 2023

  1. Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that Russia is not seeking a confrontation with the United States in Syria but is prepared for “any scenario,” likely to deflect accountability in the event of an escalation between US and Russian forces in Syria. Putin’s comments suggests that Russian aggression in Syria will continue but does not indicate whether the activity will escalate further.
  2. Iran hosted a delegation of senior Syrian officials in Tehran on July 31 as part of an effort to expand its economic and political relationships with Bashar al Assad’s regime.
  3. Iran and Belarus are discussing deepening bilateral military cooperation over the backdrop of their mutual support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. They may have discussed establishing Shahed kamikaze drone factories in Belarus to support the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
  4. Iran has exported a record high of around one million barrels of oil per day (bpd) to China since January 2023, which reflects deepening the economic cooperation between the two countries.

Iran Update, July 28, 2023

  1. Iranian-backed militias deployed to the Syrian desert near the Al Tanf Deconfliction Zone throughout July, possibly as part of a coercive campaign to expel the United States from Syria. Iran, Russia, and the Syrian regime may be setting conditions to attack US forces at the Al Tanf Garrison.
  2. Regime officials are making preparations in anticipation of future protests commemorating Mahsa Amini’s killing on September 18, 2022.

Iran Update, July 27, 2023

  1. Iran-backed militias withdrew from unspecified positions in Deir ez Zor Province and redeployed to the Syrian desert near the Iraq-Syria border, possibly as part of a coercive campaign to expel the United States from Syria.
  2. Ashab al Kahf claimed an improvised explosive device (IED) attack on a US logistics convoy in Diwaniyah on July 26, indicating the group has started an IED campaign to expel the United States from Iraq.
  3. Iran is simultaneously lobbying China and Russia for assistance in developing Iranian infrastructure projects.

Iran Update, July 25, 2023

  1. Iranian media and officials highlighted the addition of the Abu Mahdi land attack cruise missile to Iran’s naval arsenal to signal Iran’s longer-range naval capabilities.
  2. Supreme National Security Council Secretary Rear Admiral Ali Akbar Ahmadian called on BRICS to include Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela in this organization as part of its effort to establish a parallel international order that challenges Western “dominance.”
  3. Iranian students are planning protests in early September in commemoration of Mahsa Amini’s killing on September 18, 2022. Iranian leadership has voiced concerns about the resumption of anti-regime protests in recent weeks.

Iran Update, July 24, 2023

  1. The buildup of Iranian-backed forces in eastern Syria is possibly causing local anti-Iran and anti-Shia discontent.
  2. The Iranian state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) launched an Azeri language section on July 21, likely to shape domestic Azerbaijani public opinion as Iran grapples with its concerns about the Caucasus becoming an arena for foreign interference.
  3. Supreme National Security Council Secretary Rear Admiral Ali Akbar Ahmadian called for greater cyber security cooperation among BRICS countries during a Friends of BRICS National Security Advisors meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa on July 24. Iran may seek to bolster cyber security cooperation with BRICS countries to confront cyber-attacks and negative Western media narratives about Iran more effectively.

Iran Update, July 21, 2023

  1. Iranian-backed militias transferred air defense weapons to eastern Syria, which likely will jeopardize the US-led International Coalition mission to defeat ISIS.
  2. Iran expanded judicial cooperation with Syria, likely as part of a policy of building institutional links with regional allies.
  3. CIA Director William Burns stated on July 20 that Russian technicians are assisting with the Iranian Space Launch Vehicle and missile program inside Iran. Russian assistance could advance Iran’s development of inter-continental ballistic missiles and a military space program that would enhance Iran’s intelligence gathering capabilities.
  4. BRICS has invited Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to attend its 15th summit in Johannesburg, South Africa in late August.

Iran Update, July 20, 2023

  1. Iran, Russia, and the Syrian regime are coordinating military operations in eastern Syria likely as part of a coercive campaign to expel the United States from Syria.
  2. Iranian Minister of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani signed a defense and security memorandum of understanding (MoU) with his Bolivian counterpart Edmundo Novillo Aguilar in Tehran on July 20. Iran may seek to sell drones to Bolivia as part of this MOU.
  3. IRGC Navy Commander Rear Admiral Ali Reza Tangsiri threatened that Iran will hold the United States and US companies responsible for confiscating and unloading Iranian oil, possibly signaling Iran will harass or seize US commercial and military vessels in the Gulf.

Iran Update, July 19, 2023

  1. Iran and Russia are amplifying rumors of International Coalition attacks into Syrian regime territory likely as part of a campaign to expel US forces from Syria.
  2. The British Secret Intelligence Service revealed on July 19 that Iran seeks to acquire cash from Russia in return for Iranian drones.
  3. The IRGC Ground Forces conducted a military exercise near Iran’s border with Azerbaijan on July 19. Iranian officials have articulated a series of demands against Azerbaijan, which largely focus on Baku halting its anti-Iran cooperation with Israel and Turkey.

Iran Update, July 18, 2023

  1. Russia accused the United States of preparing false flag chemical weapons attacks against Syria, possibly supporting the joint Russian-Syrian-Iranian pressure campaign to expel US forces from the country.
  2. Hamas’ militant wing in Jenin ambushed an Israeli military vehicle with a Shawath-1 explosively formed penetrator (EFP) during the Jenin raid on July 3, leading to the injury of seven Israeli soldiers. The Axis of Resistance likely aims to raise the costs of Israeli ground operations in the West Bank through the proliferation of EFPs.
  3. Iran is pursuing a tit-for-tat policy with respect to seizing commercial tankers in the Persian Gulf.
  4. Iranian Economic and Financial Affairs Minister Ehsan Khandouzi traveled to Beijing, China to attend the first Iran-China Joint Cooperation Commission meeting on July 16.

Iran Update, July 17, 2023

  1. A US senior defense official said Iran, Russia, and Syria are cooperating to pressure the US to withdraw forces from Syria. This is consistent with CTP’s assessment that Iran’s military buildup in eastern Syria may be to achieve hegemony.
  2. Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia' al Sudani met with Syrian President Bashar al Assad in Damascus on July 16 to discuss economic, security, and normalization issues. The improvement of Iraqi-Syrian relations through joint economic integration projects very likely would enable Iran to exploit regional trade to improve its economy and bolster Iranian regional influence.
  3. Senior Iranian and Pakistani military officials met in Tehran between July 15 and 17. The meetings likely regard the volatile security situation in southeastern Iran, where Jaish al Adl conducted an attack on July 8.
  4. Israel-based i24News claimed on July 16 that Armenia has used Iranian Shahed drones in several recent clashes with Azerbaijan. Iran may expand its military support to Armenia in response to Russian “negligence” toward the Caucasus.
  5. The Iranian Law Enforcement Command (LEC) resumed the country-wide deployment of its morality patrol officers to enforce mandatory veiling on July 16.

Iran Update, July 14, 2023

  1. Iranian-backed militias raised salaries for standard militia members in Mayadin and Albu Kamal Cities, Deir ez Zor Province by 13 percent on July 13, likely enabling Iran to maintain a competitive advantage in recruitment amid increasing troop deployments to the province.
  2. Popular Mobilization Force (PMF)-affiliated social media accounts that circulated calls to storm the US Embassy on July 14 prompted two small demonstrations of Ashab al Kahf protesters in the Jadiriyah District and al Kahdra neighborhood of Baghdad.
  3. President Ebrahim Raisi traveled to Kenya, Uganda, and Zimbabwe between July 12-14 as part of his administration’s intensifying economic diplomacy efforts.
  4. Senior security and foreign policy officials are articulating the regime’s comprehensive perspective on threats emanating from the Caucasus.

Iran Update, July 13, 2023

  1. Iran instructed the IRGC QF to achieve total hegemony in Deir ez Zor Province, Syria in May 2023 and the recent surge of Iranian and Iranian-backed militia deployments to the province may support this objective.
  2. Some official Iraqi proxy channels rejected calls to storm the US Embassy in Baghdad on July 14, possibly to diminish the risk of being drawn into a conflict with the United States.
  3. UK-based, economic think tank Bourse and Bazaar reported that Iran completed payments for 50 Su-35 fighter jets during the second term of reformist President Hassan Rouhani’s administration between August 2017 to 2021.
  4. Two security and foreign policy officials from the Supreme Leader’s office expressed concern over expanding Western and NATO influence in the Caucasus between July 12 and 13.

Iran Update, July 12, 2023

  1. Iranian-backed militias are continuing to reinforce their positions in Deir ez Zor Province, possibly to bolster defensive positions against a rumored International Coalition attack.
  2. Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al Sudani announced the Iraqi government will evade US sanctions on Iran by trading Iraqi crude oil for Iranian gas during a televised statement on July 11.
  3. Social media accounts affiliated with the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces called for supporters to siege the US Embassy in Baghdad, which could elevate the risk of an attack on US personnel in Iraq.
  4. Iranian officials and media responded negatively to the July 10 Russia-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) joint statement, highlighting preexisting tensions in the Russo-Iranian relationship.
  5. The Raisi administration is attempting to override parliamentary adjustments to its mandatory veiling bill. Regime enforcement of mandatory veiling—in any capacity—will likely exacerbate intra-regime tensions. It will also likely reignite anti-regime sentiments.

Iran Update, July 11, 2023

  1. Iranian-backed militias and Syrian regime forces are continuing to reinforce their positions in Deir ez Zor Province in response to rumors of an imminent International Coalition attack to liberate cities.
  2. The Shia Coordination Framework – a loosely aligned coalition of pro-Iranian political parties – blamed US sanctions on Iranian accounts in Iraq for failures in energy supply to Iraq from Iran, likely to place additional political pressure on the Iraqi government to remove the US from Iraq.
  3. Social media accounts affiliated with the Popular Mobilization Force (PMF) circulated a call on July 11 for supporters to storm the US Embassy in Baghdad.
  4. Iran is attempting to reestablish diplomatic relations with Egypt to portray itself as a member of the global community. Normalizing ties with Egypt would likely improve Iran’s economy.
  5. Iranian security personnel violently suppressed injured Iraq-Iran war veterans protesting livelihood conditions in front of the Martyr Affairs Foundation Headquarters in Tehran on July 8.

Iran Update, July 10, 2023

  1. Iranian-backed militias and Syrian regime forces deployed to Deir ez Zor in response to rumors of an imminent International Coalition attack to liberate cities there which began in late June.
  2. Lebanese Hezbollah and Syrian-regime media outlets claimed the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will pressure Turkey to withdraw its forces from Syria in exchange for direct investment. Iran and Syria may aim to use the media outlets to shape negotiations ahead of talks between Turkey and the Gulf States about Syrian-Turkish normalization.
  3. Four Jaish al Adl militants attacked a police station in Zahedan, Sistan and Baluchistan Province on July 8 in retaliation for the September 2022 “Blood Friday” massacre, indicating that Jaish al Adl is trying to portray itself as the bastion of Iranian Baloch citizens. The Iranian regime limited its response to condemning the attack, likely to maintain stability in this restive border region.
  4. IRGC-affiliated media is touting the successes of Iran-sponsored armed resistance in the West Bank against the recent Israeli raids into the area.
  5. President Ebrahim Raisi will visit Kenya, Uganda, and Zimbabwe on July 11 to expand Iran’s economic influence in Africa, marking the first Iranian presidential visit to Africa in 11 years. Greater economic cooperation with African countries will not enable the Iranian regime to fix the structural flaws in Iran’s economy, however.

Iran Update, July 7, 2023

  1. Iran instructed the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force (IRGC QF) to achieve total hegemony in Deir ez Zor Province, Syria in May 2023.
  2. Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al Sudani appointed six individuals to senior Iraqi security service positions between July 5 and July 7. Three of the six individuals appointed are affiliated with the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Force (PMF).
  3. The IRGC Navy seized the Emirati-owned, Tanzanian-flagged oil tanker Nada II in the Persian Gulf on July 6.
  4. Iran is negotiating a barter agreement with China wherein Iran provides oil in exchange for Chinese infrastructure support, which is unlikely to result in immediate Chinese assistance.
  5. Iranian UN Ambassador Saeed Ervani objected to the UK’s decision to invite the Ukrainian UN ambassador to the biannual UNSCR 2231 implementation review meeting on July 6.
  6. Zahedan, Sistan and Baluchistan residents participated in anti-regime protests for the 40th consecutive week on July 7.

Iran Update, July 6, 2023

  1. Iran bolstered Lebanese Hezbollah’s (LH’s) air defense capabilities likely to establish a deterrent in Lebanon against Israel.
  2. Palestinian militant groups called for a cohesive strategy to counter Israel and may expand their joint military operation against Israel.
  3. Iranian diaspora media, citing Russian investigative sources, claimed on July 6 that Russia has paid Iran nearly 900 million US dollars for Iranian drone technology.

Iran Update, July 5, 2023

  1. Palestinian militants thanked Iran and the broader Axis of Resistance for their help during the recent Israel Defense Forces (IDF) raid in Jenin and likely will receive Iranian assistance to rebuild the military capabilities the IDF degraded.
  2. Iranian officials inflated the amount of Iranian funds that a recent US sanctions waiver for Iraq will provide, possibly to inspire confidence in Iran’s economy and currency. News of similar waivers for Iraq has coincided with short-term improvements for the Iranian economy.
  3. Iran became a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on July 4, which may enable it to circumvent sanctions through non-US dollar financial transactions with other SCO countries. Iran could benefit militarily from its membership in the SCO through participation in counterterrorism and naval exercises. 
  4. Iran attempted to seize two US oil tankers in the Strait on July 5, likely to assert its control over the Strait of Hormuz given the recent US naval deployments to the Persian Gulf. Iran also likely sought to pressure the US to accede to Iran’s demands in the nuclear negotiations.

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