July 06, 2023
Iran Update, July 6, 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.
- Iran bolstered Lebanese Hezbollah’s (LH’s) air defense capabilities likely to establish a deterrent in Lebanon against Israel.
- Palestinian militant groups called for a cohesive strategy to counter Israel and may expand their joint military operation against Israel.
- 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.
Iranian Activities in the Levant
This section covers Iranian efforts to consolidate and expand Tehran’s economic, military, and political influence throughout the Levant especially in Syria. 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.
Iran bolstered Lebanese Hezbollah’s (LH’s) air defense capabilities likely to establish a deterrent in Lebanon against Israel. Israel-based media Maariv Online reported on June 30 that LH has almost doubled the amount of air defense systems in Lebanon under the auspices of Iran during the past five years.[i] The group uses the air defense system to restrict the airspace around Lebanon from Israeli aircraft. Tehran has long sought to establish integrated air defense capabilities for its Axis of Resistance in the Levant, as CTP previously reported.[ii] LH Secretary General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah has similarly messaged interest in having anti-aircraft weapons confront Israel. Nasrallah said in a televised address that he is willing to bring air defense systems from Iran to confront Israel in 2019.[iii] LH accelerated its intensification of developing its air defenses following an Israeli drone strike on a missile precision facility in Beirut in 2019, according to Maariv Online.[iv]
Iran’s regional strategy relies on arming a responsive security network in the Levant. Iran’s support for and direction of Palestinian militant ground operations against Israel from the West Bank degrades Israel Defense Forces capabilities and further distances Iran’s home front from Israeli retaliatory actions, as CTP previously reported.[v] Iran has been transferring conventional air defense weapons to eastern Syria, training forces there to use the weapons, and improving operational security along ground lines of control from Iraq deeper into Syria since at least mid-March.[vi] Securing the ground lines enables Iranian-backed militias to facilitate weapons shipments to Iran’s militias in the Levant. LH units facilitate the transfer of weapons from Syria to Lebanon and give priority to developing the military capabilities of its Southern Command along the Israeli border.[vii]
LH’s understanding of Israeli deterrence and air defense arsenal possibly strengthens its confidence in its ability to degrade Israeli military capabilities. Israeli media reported that the IDF Intelligence Directorate’s Research Division issued a warning stating Israel’s deterrence against its enemies is eroding on April 4.[viii] Nasrallah claimed during the Gaza-Israel clashes in mid-May that Israel’s deterrence has collapsed on all fronts.[ix] IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News Agency recirculated Nasrallah’s speech and emphasized that Israel will try to restore its deterrence effect.[x] LH-affiliated Al Manar has claimed LH activity, such as shooting down an Israeli drone on June 27 and setting up tents in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on July 3, demonstrates LH’s understanding of Israeli deterrence and retaliation patterns.[xi] The Axis of Resistance’s efforts to saturate the region with air defense systems is an effort to restrict Israeli aircrafts from conducting reconnaissance activity and attacks that threaten Iranian military posture.[xii] Southern Lebanon is one of multiple fronts from which Iran threatens Israel while maintaining strategic depth.[xiii]
Palestinian militant groups called for a cohesive strategy to counter Israel and may expand their joint military operation against Israel. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) released a joint statement on July 6 to praise resistance groups for a unified response to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) raid in Jenin and called on all Palestinian Faction secretary generals to form a comprehensive national plan to confront Israel.[xiv] The joint statement from PIJ and Hamas is part of an ongoing trend of calls and efforts from Palestinian militant groups to coordinate their attempts to counter what they perceive as an Israeli campaign to divide and weaken their actions. Palestinian militant groups have presented a united front against Israel, in part through the Joint Operations Room of the Palestinian Factions that they formed in 2017 in Gaza.[xv] Groups affiliated with the joint operations room launched about 1,500 rockets from Gaza into Israel in retaliation for Israel’s targeting of several senior PIJ operatives in the May 2023 Gaza conflict.[xvi] A Hamas military official claimed on June 12 that Palestinian resistance groups had outmaneuvered Israel by unifying in a joint operations room.[xvii] The joint operations room also called for a unified response against Israel's operation in Jenin in a statement on July 3.[xviii] IRGC Quds Force Commander Esmail Ghaani claimed on July 5 that the Palestinian militias had demonstrated unity through the nearly 30 attacks a day on Israel.[xix]
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.
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.[xx] CTP cannot independently verify this claim nor determine the credibility of the Russian sources. The report of Russian monetary payments for Iranian drones differs from other sources that asserted Iran would receive Russian military equipment, including Su-35 fighter jets, in return for supplying Russia with drones.[xxi] Iranian Defense Minister Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, for example, expressed optimism about obtaining Su-35s on March 6.[xxii] Iranian rhetoric regarding the acquisition of Su-35 jets has shifted in recent months, however. Ashtiani later stated on May 28 that reports of Iran receiving Su-35s from Russia were “mostly speculation.” Artesh Air Force Commander Brigadier General Hamid Vahedi stressed Iran needs the aircraft on June 2, but also added that “we don’t know when it will enter our squadron.”[xxiii] This indicates that Iran is skeptical about receiving the Su-35 in return for supporting Russia’s war in Ukraine.
[ii] https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/iran-exploits-quake-relief-mission-fly-weapons-syria-sources-2023-04-12/;/; https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/iran-update-april-11-2023
[iii] https://www.jpost (dot) com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Nasrallah-Lebanon-should-receive-air-defense-systems-from-Iran-579935#:~:text=Hezbollah%20leader%20Hassan%20Nasrallah%20said%20on%20Wednesday%20that,should%20Lebanon%20remain%20afraid%20to%20cooperate%20with%20Iran%3F%E2%80%9D
[iv] https://maariv.co (dot) il/news/military/Article-1019099
[v] https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/iran-update-july-5-2023; https://farsi (dot) khamenei.ir/others-dialog?id=50786; https://t.me/sarayaps/15032
[vi] https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/iran-update-may-31-2023; https://euphratespost dot net/%D9%85%D8%AF%D8%B1%D8%A8-%D8%B5%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%AE-%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%AB%D8%A7%D9%82-1-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B2%D9%88%D8%B1-%D8%AA%D8%AD%D8%AA-%D9%85%D8%B1%D9%85/; https://euphratespost dot net/%d9%85%d8%af%d8%b1%d8%a8-%d8%b5%d9%88%d8%a7%d8%b1%d9%8a%d8%ae-%d9%85%d9%8a%d8%ab%d8%a7%d9%82-1-%d9%81%d9%8a-%d8%af%d9%8a%d8%b1-%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%b2%d9%88%d8%b1-%d8%aa%d8%ad%d8%aa-%d9%85%d8%b1%d9%85/; https://eyeofeuphrates%20dot%20com/ar/news/2023/04/05/8153
[viii] https://www.haaretz (dot) com/opinion/2023-04-09/ty-article-opinion/.highlight/iran-hezbollah-hamas-israel-now-faces-the-perfect-storm-of-a-multi-front-war/00000187-652d-dde0-afb7-7f3f22a10000; https://www.israelhayom.com/2023/04/04/exclusive-idf-intelligence-directorate-sounds-the-alarm-over-eroding-israeli-deterrence/
[x] https://www.tasnimnews (dot) com/fa/news/1402/02/22/2893773/%D8%B3%DB%8C%D8%AF-%D8%AD%D8%B3%D9%86-%D9%86%D8%B5%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%84%D9%87-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%B2%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B1%D9%86%D8%AF%DA%AF%DB%8C-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%A6%DB%8C%D9%84-%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D8%AA%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%85-%D8%AC%D8%A8%D9%87%D9%87-%D9%87%D8%A7-%D9%81%D8%B1%D9%88%D9%BE%D8%A7%D8%B4%DB%8C%D8%AF%D9%87-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D8%B2-%D9%87%D8%B1%DA%AF%D9%88%D9%86%D9%87-%DA%A9%D9%85%DA%A9-%D8%A8%D9%87-%D9%85%D9%82%D8%A7%D9%88%D9%85%D8%AA-%D9%81%D9%84%D8%B3%D8%B7%DB%8C%D9%86-%D8%AF%D8%B1%DB%8C%D8%BA-%D9%86%D9%85%DB%8C-%D9%88%D8%B1%D8%B2%DB%8C%D9%85
[xii] https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/lebanons-militant-hezbollah-group-shot-israeli-drone-southern-100375832; https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/syrian-state-media-says-air-defenses-confront-israeli-attack-over-homs-area-2023-04-01/#:~:text=April%202%20%28Reuters%29%20-%20Israeli%20forces%20carried%20out,personnel%20are%20based%20were%20hit%20in%20the%20bombings.
[xix] https://t.me/resistFactions/267 ; https://www.tasnimnews[dot]com/fa/news/1402/04/14/2921124/%D8%B3%D8%B1%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D9%82%D8%A7%D8%A2%D9%86%DB%8C-%D8%AC%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%81%D9%84%D8%B3%D8%B7%DB%8C%D9%86%DB%8C-%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D8%AC%D9%86%DB%8C%D9%86-%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D8%AF%D9%87%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%A6%DB%8C%D9%84-%D8%B2%D8%AF%D9%86%D8%AF
[xxiii] https://defapress dot ir/fa/news/593633