June 12, 2023

Iran Update, June 12, 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 is launching 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.

Key Takeaways

  1. Iranian officials are promoting reports of resumed nuclear negotiations with the United States likely to generate short-term benefits for the Iranian economy.
  2. Iranian security forces are attempting to discourage citizens from holding commemoration ceremonies for killed Mahsa Amini protesters. Security forces’ renewed violence against innocent citizens could revive anti-regime protests.

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.

Iraq’s Parliament voted on the 2023-2025 Iraqi federal budget on June 11.[i] Parliament held four sessions between June 8 and June 11 to vote on articles of the proposed budget. Iraqi news outlets have not yet released the full budget. CTP will provide more information on the federal budget as more details emerge.

CTP previously assessed that the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) is poised to gain a significant increase in funds, likely enabling its members to strengthen the PMF’s status as a parallel security institution to Iraqi state security services.[ii] A draft of the budget from April 2023 showed that the PMF and proxy-affiliated ministries are expected to receive some of the largest budget increases in the 2023-2025 budget. The draft indicates that the PMF’s total budget would increase by about 458 million USD and nearly double the number of employees under the PMF from 122,000 to 238,075 employees, for example.[iii]

Iranian Domestic 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 officials are promoting reports of resumed nuclear negotiations with the United States likely to generate short-term benefits for the Iranian economy. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei expressed support for a nuclear deal that would preserve Iranian nuclear capabilities in a publicized speech on June 11. Foreign Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Nasser Kanani and Mohammad Marandi, an advisor to the Raisi administration’s nuclear negotiating team, separately amplified these reports by confirming on June 12 that the United States and Iran engaged in indirect nuclear negotiations in Oman in recent weeks.[iv] The value of the Iranian rial has increased by five percent within the past six days, a trendline that Iranian media has framed as a response to reports of resumed nuclear talks.[v] Western, Israeli, and Iranian media have increasingly reported that the United States and Iran are discussing an interim agreement that includes unfreezing Iranian assets.[vi] US and Iranian officials have rejected reports that an interim deal is imminent, however.[vii]

Iranian security forces are attempting to discourage citizens from holding commemoration ceremonies for killed Mahsa Amini protesters, which underscores the regime’s concern that these ceremonies could trigger renewed anti-regime unrest. Social media users accused security forces of desecrating three Mahsa Amini protesters’ graves on June 8 and 10.[viii] Mahsa Amini’s brother Ashkan Amini previously suggested that the regime desecrated his sister’s grave on May 23.[ix] CTP cannot verify these reports. Security forces separately detained at least 30 individuals who gathered at the Aichi Cemetary in Saghez, Kurdistan Province on June 9 to protest the Saghez Municipality’s alleged efforts to “hide the grave of Mahsa Amini.”[x]

Security forces’ renewed violence against innocent citizens could revive anti-regime protests. Security forces shot and killed a nine-year-old boy after his father stole a car in Shoushtar, Khuzestan Province on June 10.[xi] Security forces separately killed a relative of Kian Pirfalak, a child whom security personnel killed near a Mahsa Amini protest in November 2022, as he traveled to commemorate Pirfalak’s birthday near Izeh, Khuzestan Province on June 11.[xii] The regime’s indiscriminate violence toward its citizens--particularly children--could revive calls for protests. A young woman from Semnan Province recently told the BBC that “too many young lives have been lost in the past few months for us to go back to how things were before,” demonstrating lingering anti-regime sentiments among Iranian youth.[xiii] The regime has additionally failed to offer political and sociocultural concessions in the aftermath of the Mahsa Amini movement, representing another possible spark for renewed unrest. Iranian citizens have previously demonstrated that the regime’s suppressive tactics fail to permanently quell anti-regime sentiments.[xiv]

[i] https://shafaq dot com/ar/%D8%B3%DB%8C%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%A9/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%88%D8%AF%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%8A-%D8%B9%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%B2%D9%86%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AB%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AB%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%B3%D9%86%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AC%D8%B9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%B9%D8%AF%D9%8A%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D8%B1%D9%84%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%88%D9%86%D8%B7%D8%A7%D8%A8%D9%82-%D9%87%D8%AF%D8%A7%D9%81%D9%87%D8%A7-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D9%83%D9%88%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%A9

[ii] https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/iran-update-may-25-2023

[iii] https://iq.parliament dot iq/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/%D8%AA%D9%82%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%B1_%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%84%D8%AC%D9%86%D8%A9_%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%A9_%D9%85%D8%B4%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%B9_%D9%82%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%88%D9%86_%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%B2%D9%86%D8%A9_%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AA%D8%AD%D8%A7%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%A9.pdf

[iv] https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1402/03/22/2909595 ; https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1402/03/22/2909774

[v] https://www.bonbast dot com/

[vi] https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2023-06-07/ty-article/.premium/major-progress-made-in-nuclear-talks-between-u-s-and-iran/00000188-94bd-df21-a1b8-b7bd413d0000 ; https://www.entekhab dot ir/fa/news/728961 ; https://amwaj dot media/media-monitor/amid-omani-visit-iran-s-messaging-points-to-transactionalism-with-west ; https://www.middleeasteye dot net/news/iran-us-nuclear-near-interim-deal-enrichment-oil-exports ; https://www.axios.com/2023/06/09/iran-us-indirect-talks-oman-nuclear-advances

[vii] https://amwaj dot media/article/inside-story-iraqi-debt-payment-to-iran-highlights-iran-saudi-us-dynamics ; https://twitter.com/BarakRavid/status/1667975461471649793?s=20

[viii] https://twitter.com/iranworkers/status/1667771136405385217 ;

https://twitter.com/JasonMBrodsky/status/1666786529010937858 ; https://twitter.com/bbcpersian/status/1667006618268061701

[ix] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-65682182

[x] https://hengaw.net/fa/news/2023/06/%D8%A7%D8%B9%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%B9%D9%85%D9%88%D9%85%DB%8C-%D9%85%D8%B1%D8%AF%D9%85-%D8%B3%D9%82%D8%B2-%D8%AF%D8%B1%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%B1%D9%87-%D8%A7%D9%82%D8%AF%D8%A7%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%B4%D9%87%D8%B1%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B1%DB%8C-%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%85%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%A7%DB%8C%DA%86%DB%8C-%D9%88-%D8%A8%D8%B1%DA%AF%D8%B2%D8%A7%D8%B1%DB%8C-%D8%AA%D8%AC%D9%85%D8%B9-%D9%88-%D8%AA%D8%AD%D8%B5%D9%86-%D9%85%D8%B1%D8%AF%D9%85

[xi] https://apnews.com/article/iran-police-boy-killed-shot-3f2623076a57ccdbd9a95d3fb2927bf1

[xii] https://iranwire dot com/en/news/117439-slain-kian-pirfalaks-relative-killed-by-agents-on-kians-birthday/

[xiii] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-65842130

[xiv] https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/iran-update-may-19-2023

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