August 07, 2023
Iran Update, August 7, 2023
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 Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute with support from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) provides these updates Monday through Friday. To receive Iran Updates via email, please subscribe here.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Iranian Activities in Iraq
This section covers Iranian efforts to consolidate and expand Tehran’s economic, military, and political influence throughout Iraq. This section examines some of the many campaigns that Iran is pursuing to achieve this strategic objective. CTP will update and refine our assessments of these campaigns over time and in future updates.
Iranian-backed militia Ashab al Kahf called on August 5 for protests outside the US embassy in Baghdad.[i] The group did not specify an exact date or time, nor has CTP observed any other Iranian-backed social media accounts or militias calling for such protests. These calls mark the second time in recent weeks that Ashab al Kahf has planned protests directed at the US embassy. The group previously led protests to try to storm the embassy in July 2023.[ii] The protests saw relatively low turnout and failed to infiltrate the Green Zone, where the US embassy is located. CTP previously assessed that Iran did not authorize or direct the militia protests in July 2023. It is unclear whether the future planned protests will materialize and at what scale.
These calls come as Ashab al Kahf has conducted an IED campaign against Iraqi-operated logistics convoys servicing US military positions. The group has claimed responsibility for three IED attacks since July 2023.[iii]
These threats and attacks are unsurprising given that Ashab al Kahf has consistently used the most aggressive rhetoric toward the United States among the Iranian-backed Iraqi factions in recent months. Ashab al Kahf is planning protests and orchestrating IED attacks likely in part as “show resistance.” The group is likely trying to present itself as ideologically committed to resisting the US presence in Iraq to thereby cultivate and retaining support among its base.
Iranian Domestic and Political Affairs
This section covers factors and trends affecting regime decision-making and stability. CTP will cover domestic politics, significant protest activity, and related issues here.
Iran and Russia continued discussions on cooperating to jointly produce and repair airplanes and helicopters. Officials from the Iranian Industry, Mining, and Trade Ministry met with Russian Deputy Industries Minister for Aviation Andrey Buginsky in Tehran to discuss such cooperation on August 6.[iv] Buginsky called for establishing a “joint engineering center” in Iran during the meeting.[v] The Ebrahim Raisi administration previously discussed cooperating to jointly manufacture helicopters when Russian Presidential Aide Igor Levitin visited Tehran in January 2023.[vi] This potential cooperation would be another marker of the deepening bilateral ties that Tehran and Moscow have built since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022.
Iran could use domestically produced aircraft and helicopters for both civilian and military purposes. Iran’s civil aviation industry is in a state of disrepair; its aircraft are among the oldest in the world and have been involved in numerous fatal accidents.[vii] The Iranian armed forces’ air fleet is largely outdated and incapable of conducting large-scale campaigns far from Iranian borders.[viii]
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.[ix] The deployments included “hundreds of military vehicles and weapons” left after the US withdrawal in August 2021.” These deployments followed President Ebrahim Raisi’s veiled threats toward the Taliban to release more water from the Helmand River into Iran.[x] The Raisi administration has frequently accused the Taliban of restricting the flow of Helmand River water into Iran.[xi] An unidentified source told Western media that the Taliban “is prepared for war.” These reports are consistent with previous reports that the Taliban’s 209th Corps deployed approximately battalion-sized reinforcements, including armored vehicles and artillery, near the border with Iran by Islam Qala, Herat Province on May 31.i[xii] Social media users separately suggested that Iran amassed troops near the Dogharun-Islam Qala border crossing on May 31.[xiii]
Figure 1. Dams in Neighboring Countries that Affect Iran’s Water Supply
Source: Annika Ganzeveld.
[iv] https://iranpress dot com/content/228138
[v] https://www.irna dot ir/news/85191836
[vi] https://www.tasnimnews dot com/en/news/2023/01/17/2838722/russia-ready-for-joint-production-of-cars-copters-with-iran
[vii] https://gulfif dot org/irans-aviation-industry-is-in-dire-straits/
[xi] https://www.tehrantimes dot com/news/485094/Iran-says-firm-to-secure-water-rights-from-Helmand-River
[xii] https://twitter.com/IndyPersianAfg/status/1663898369813540865 ;
[xiii] https://twitter.com/nedaeybaloch/status/1663827347378765824 ; https://twitter.com/nedaeybaloch/status/1663824986740604929