June 27, 2024

Iran Update, June 27, 2024

Information Cutoff: 2:00 pm ET

The Iran Update provides insights into Iranian and Iranian-sponsored activities abroad that undermine regional stability and threaten US forces and interests. It also covers events and trends that affect the stability and decision-making of the Iranian regime. The Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) provides these updates regularly based on regional events. Click here to see CTP and ISW’s interactive map of Israeli ground operations. This map is updated daily alongside the static maps present in this report. Click here to subscribe to the Iran Update.

CTP-ISW defines the “Axis of Resistance” as the unconventional alliance that Iran has cultivated in the Middle East since the Islamic Republic came to power in 1979. This transnational coalition is comprised of state, semi-state, and non-state actors that cooperate to secure their collective interests. Tehran considers itself to be both part of the alliance and its leader. Iran furnishes these groups with varying levels of financial, military, and political support in exchange for some degree of influence or control over their actions. Some are traditional proxies that are highly responsive to Iranian direction, while others are partners over which Iran exerts more limited influence. Members of the Axis of Resistance are united by their grand strategic objectives, which include eroding and eventually expelling American influence from the Middle East, destroying the Israeli state, or both. Pursuing these objectives and supporting the Axis of Resistance to those ends have become cornerstones of Iranian regional strategy.

We do not report in detail on war crimes because these activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We utterly condemn violations of the laws of armed conflict and the Geneva Conventions and crimes against humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.

Iranian hardliners have made only limited progress toward uniting behind a single candidate ahead of the Iranian presidential election on June 28. Remaining divisions among the hardliners by the time of the vote significantly increases the likelihood of a runoff election. Two hardline candidates—Amir Hossein Ghazi Zadeh Hashemi and Ali Reza Zakani—have withdrawn from the race since June 26 in order to help unify their faction.[i] Neither candidate was especially popular, however, making it unclear that their exits will meaningfully affect the vote. The two most prominent hardline candidates (Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf and Saeed Jalili) remain in the race and have refused to withdraw in support of the other at the time of this writing. Ghalibaf and Jalili both staying in the election ensures that they will split at least some of the hardliner vote. It will also likely prevent either from reaching the majority needed to win—unless the supreme leader and his inner circle manipulate the vote blatantly to favor either candidate. Iran will hold a runoff election between the two most popular candidates on July 5 if no one wins the majority.[ii]

Some hardliners, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, appear concerned that the sole reformist candidate, Masoud Pezeshkian, could win the vote outright. Khamenei indirectly criticized Pezeshkian on June 25 for supporting engagement with the West, indicating Khamenei’s opposition to him.[iii] The Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), which is run by hardliners, additionally cancelled one of Pezeshkian‘s rallies at the last minute on June 26, further indicating that some in the regime view him as a serious contender for the presidency.[iv] The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has separately tried to unite the hardline camp against Pezeshkian, according to unverified social media rumors. IRGC Quds Force Commander Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani reportedly met with Ghalibaf and Jalili in Mashhad on June 26 to form a consensus between them.[v] Ghaani clearly failed, if this reporting is accurate. But his intervention is nonetheless remarkable and possibly unprecedented, reflecting hardliners’ serious concerns about Pezeshkian.

Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah are concerned that Iranian-backed Iraqi militias could escalate the war with Israel too far, according to Saudi media. The Saudi outlet, citing unspecified sources, reported that the Iraqi militias are developing plans to support Hezbollah if Israel launches a major military offensive into Lebanon. The plans involve sending fighters and weapons to Hezbollah. There is precedent for close military cooperation between Hezbollah and the Iraqi groups, as they fought alongside one another in the Syrian civil war to preserve the Bashar al Assad regime. The Iraqi militias reportedly proposed their plans to intervene in Lebanon during a recent meeting with a senior Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) officer in Baghdad. Both the IRGC and Hezbollah had reservations, with the senior IRGC officer describing the plans as “too enthusiastic at the moment.” The Saudi outlet noted that Iran must still reach a final decision on the plans, however.

That Iran has hesitated to approve the plans in consistent with the long-standing Iranian desire to avoid an overt regional war against the United States and Israel. Iranian leaders will almost certainly use their proxy and partner militias to deter and pressure Israel. But Iranian leaders have also historically tried to restrain the Iranian-backed Iraqi militias, fearing that they could inadvertently spiral the escalation cycle out of Iranian control. IRGC Quds Force Commander Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani, for instance, traveled to Baghdad and ordered the militias to stop attacking US targets after the militias killed three US soldiers in Jordan in January 2024.

Qais Khazali, who is the secretary general of Iranian-backed Iraqi militia Asaib Ahl al Haq, argued in the meeting with the senior IRGC officer that the Iraqi militias should attack US interests rather than intervening in Lebanon. This reporting is consistent with Khazali threatening on June 24 to attack US interests if Israel launched a major military offensive into Lebanon.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) detonated deep-buried improvised explosive devices (IED) targeting two Israeli vehicles around Jenin in the West Bank on June 27, killing one Israeli soldier and wounding 16 others.[vi] Israeli forces were conducting a raid targeting Hamas networks in the area when PIJ attacked.[vii] An Israeli military correspondent reported that PIJ buried the IEDs 1.5 meters underground, making them difficult for Israeli forces to detect.[viii] The use of deep-buried IEDs is especially noteworthy given that burying them could be a relatively time-intensive process.  Palestinian militias have previously used sophisticated means to attack Israeli forces around Jenin. Palestinian militias, for instance, used an explosively formed penetrator (EFP) against Israeli forces in Jenin in July 2023.[ix] The attack marked the first recorded use of an EFP in the West Bank.[x] EFPs require specially manufactured concave copper disks, indicating that the militia that used them either imported the disks or received technical instruction and materials to produce them.

Key Takeaways:

  • Iran: Iranian hardliners have made only limited progress toward uniting behind a single candidate ahead of the Iranian presidential election. Remaining divisions among hardliners significantly increases the likelihood of a runoff vote.
  • Iraq: Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah are reportedly concerned that Iranian-backed Iraqi militias could escalate the war with Israel too far. Iran has thus hesitated to approve the militias’ plans to intervene if Israel launched a major military offensive into Lebanon.
  • West Bank: PIJ detonated a deep-buried IED targeting Israeli forces in the West Bank, killing one Israeli soldier and wounding 16 others. Palestinian militias previously conducted an EFP attack targeting Israeli forces in the area in July 2023.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

Palestinian sources reported that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched an operation into Shujaiya in Gaza City on June 27. Israeli forces entered the densely populated neighborhood from several directions in what local sources described as a “surprise attack.”[xi] The IDF Air Force struck several sites in the neighborhood before ground forces advanced into the area and engaged Palestinian fighters.[xii] The IDF issued evacuation orders for the Shujaiya area on June 27.[xiii] Hamas and PIJ claimed several IED attacks targeting IDF armor in eastern Shujaiya.[xiv] Hamas fighters also fired an anti-tank rocket propelled grenade (RPG) targeting an IDF armored personnel carrier.[xv] The IDF has conducted two other clearing operations around Shujaiya since ground operations began on October 27, 2023[xvi] Hamas continues to exploit the IDF raid-based model to preserve its forces and enable follow-on reconstitution efforts.[xvii]

Palestinian militias fired mortars and rockets targeting Israeli forces along the Netzarim corridor south of Gaza City on June 27.[xviii]

Palestinian militias engaged Israeli forces in several sectors of Rafah on June 27.[xix] The IDF is  operating in Shaboura and Tal al Sultan and assesses that it will destroy Hamas’ Rafah Brigade ”within a few days.” [xx]

The IDF Air Force struck a school that it said Hamas used as a command center in Khan Younis.[xxi] The IDF said that Hamas used the school as a headquarters to plan, direct, and execute ”many” attacks targeting Israeli forces inside the Gaza Strip. The IDF used a precision munition in the strike and took precautions to avoid harming uninvolved civilians.[xxii] Hamas is working to reassert local control in Khan Younis by deploying fighters to the streets, managing local policing, and controlling humanitarian aid shipments.[xxiii]

Hamas Political Bureau member Khaled Meshal said that Hamas will not wait until the end of the war in the Gaza Strip for “post war planning.”[xxiv] Meshal’s comments reflect Hamas’ insistence throughout the war that the group will remain in control of the Gaza Strip. Hamas has already tried to reassert its governance authority, particularly in Gaza City and Khan Younis.[xxv] Hamas has also tried to undermine alternative governing entities within the Gaza Strip.[xxvi]

An Israeli Army Radio correspondent observed that the IDF has recently taken several steps to expand its combat forces.[xxvii] These measures include preparing to establish the Haredi Brigade and a new division of reservists, increasing the age of exemption from reserve duty, extending reserve days, and pushing for a re-extension of regular service to three years. The IDF is also planning to release fighters for additional reserve service, establishing the "Guard Brigade," the "Bari Battalion," and a sixth border infantry battalion. It is also transferring those designated for intelligence roles to combat roles if they have combat profiles, examining recruitment age of individuals for combat, and increasing the volume of recruits for various formations.

Palestinian militias have conducted four indirect fire attacks into southern Israel since CTP-ISW's last information cutoff on June 26.[xxviii] PIJ and the Popular Resistance Committee conducted a combined rocket attack targeting an IDF site near Kissufim.[xxix] The Palestinian Mujahideen Movement fired rockets at Nirim.[xxx]

Recorded reports of attacks; CTP-ISW cannot independently verify impact.

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in six locations since CTP-ISW's last data cut-off on June 26.[xxxi] Hamas, PIJ, and the al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades fired small arms and detonated IEDs in separate attacks against Israeli forces across Jenin.[xxxii]

This map is not an exhaustive depiction of clashes and demonstrations in the West Bank.

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Lebanese Hezbollah conducted at least three attacks into northern Israel on June 27.[xxxiii]

The IDF Northern Command said on June 27 that it conducted exercises simulating fighting in Lebanon over the past week.[xxxiv] The IDF said that the 55th Brigade and a battalion of the Golani Brigade participated in exercises for operating in challenging and mountainous terrain. The IDF also practiced combined arms and joint operations involving Israeli infantry, armor, and air power.

Recorded reports of attacks; CTP-ISW cannot independently verify impact.

Iran and Axis of Resistance

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al Sudani met with Commander of NATO’s Mission in Iraq Lieutenant General Lucas Schreurs on June 27 to discuss cooperation after the International Coalition’s mission in Iraq ends.[xxxv] Sudani and Schreurs addressed intelligence sharing and training between NATO and Iraqi Security Forces for counter-ISIS missions. The United States-Iraq High Military Commission is tasked with setting a timetable for a US and International Coalition withdrawal from Iraq based on the threat that ISIS poses to Iraq and ISF capabilities.[xxxvi] Sudani’s apparent interest in retaining a working military relationship with the United States contradicts Iranian-backed Iraqi militias’ demands for Sudani to set a timeline for the withdrawal of all US forces from Iraq.[xxxvii]

The IDF Air Force conducted an airstrike targeting a Hezbollah-affiliated construction company near Sayyida Zeinab, Rif Damascus, Syria, on June 26.[xxxviii] Imagery from the strike site shows heavy machinery covered in rubble.[xxxix] The strike killed two men from predominantly Shia towns near Aleppo[xl] Jihad al Binaa is a Hezbollah-run and Iranian-funded construction company subject to secondary sanctions as a US Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity.[xli] Jihad al Binaa has built several military sites for Iranian-backed militias in Syria and Lebanon, which Iran uses to secure a safe route for weapons shipments to its proxies and partners in the region, including Hezbollah.[xlii] Syrian opposition media said that Iranian-backed militias used the Jihaad al Binaa site for short-term weapons storage and meetings.[xliii]  The IDF Air Force also struck an air defense radar site in Suwayda Province, southern Syria.[xliv]

US Central Command (CENTCOM) destroyed a radar site in a Houthi-controlled area of Yemen on June 26.[xlv]

The Houthis attacked a commercial vessel in the Red Sea on June 27.[xlvi] The Houthis said that they targeted the Maltese-flagged SEAJOY with an unmanned surface vessel (USV), aerial drones, and missiles because its owner violated the Houthis’ attempted naval blockade of Israel.[xlvii] UKMTO said on June 27 that an unspecified vessel targeted by a USV in the Red Sea is safe and proceeding to its next port of call, presumably sustaining little to no damage in the attack.[xlviii]

The Houthis claimed on June 27 that they conducted a combined missile attack with Iranian-backed Iraqi militias targeting an unspecified “vital target” at Haifa port.[xlix] The Houthi military spokesperson and Islamic Resistance in Iraq issued separate but complimentary statements claiming to target the port.[l] This attack marks the fifth time that the Houthis have claimed a combined operation targeting Israel with the Islamic Resistance in Iraq since June 6.[li] The IDF has not acknowledged any such attack, and CTP-ISW cannot verify the claim at the time of this writing. The groups’ combined attacks have most frequently targeted Haifa, while the Houthis’ individual attacks have most frequently targeted Eilat in southern Israel.[lii]

Iranian Interim President Mohammad Mokhber called Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 27 to discuss bilateral relations, particularly focusing on the Russian gas transfer memorandum signed on June 26.[liii]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi to reestablish six working groups on Iran’s nuclear program, according to three anonymous Israeli officials cited by Axios on June 26.[liv] The working groups will include members from Israel’s defense establishment, Foreign Affairs Ministry, and intelligence community. Mossad leads one group focused on Iran’s nuclear program, including its nuclear weapon procurement activities and potential weaponization. Shin Bet leads a second group focused on Iranian ”influence operations” that target the Israeli public. An unidentified Israeli official said that Iranian ”influence operations” have increased in the past year.

[i] https://x.com/GhazizadehSA/status/1806045623042572601; https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1403/04/07/3111658/

[ii] https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Iran_1989

[iii] https://farsi.khamenei dot ir/news-content?id=56781

[iv] https://x.com/iranwire/status/1806044155128553626

[v] https://x.com/aqolizadeh/status/1806279199537430614 ; https://x.com/Mostafa_Najafii/status/1806254866370555926 ; https://x.com/Mostafa_Najafii/status/1806360418342097190

[vi] https://www.timesofisrael dot com/soldier-killed-16-injured-by-roadside-bombs-during-operation-in-west-banks-jenin/; https://t.me/QudsN/426929; https://www.nytimes.com/2024/06/27/world/middleeast/israel-jenin-soldier-killed-west-bank-raid.html

[vii] https://www.timesofisrael dot com/soldier-killed-16-injured-by-roadside-bombs-during-operation-in-west-banks-jenin/

[viii] https://x.com/Doron_Kadosh/status/1806236012244250845

[ix] https://twitter.com/MohtadiBahmad/status/1680176927674363904; https://www dot jpost.com/breaking-news/article-746765

[x] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/iran-update-july-18-2023

[xi] https://www.jpost dot com/breaking-news/article-808012; https://www.ynetnews dot com/article/h1hcjaci0#autoplay; https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/war-gaza-israeli-jets-heavily-bomb-shujaiya-amid-fresh-ground-assault

[xii] https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/war-gaza-israeli-jets-heavily-bomb-shujaiya-amid-fresh-ground-assault

[xiii] https://x.com/AvichayAdraee/status/1806264754068942966

[xiv] https://t.me/sarayaps/18180; https://t.me/qassam1brigades/2539; https://t.me/sarayaps/18171; https://t.me/sarayaps/18172; https://t.me/sarayaps/18174

[xv] https://t.me/qassam1brigades/2540

[xvi] https://twitter.com/idfonline/status/1778408391410426074; https://twitter.com/GLZRadio/status/1731703658033942584

[xvii] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/iran-update-may-13-2024

[xviii] https://t.me/elaqsa_1965/6680; https://t.me/qassam1brigades/2535

[xix] https://t.me/qassam1brigades/2536; https://t.me/qassam1brigades/2537https://t.me/kataeb_moqawma/4324; https://t.me/sarayaps/18181; https://t.me/qassam1brigades/2538

[xx] https://x.com/Doron_Kadosh/status/1805466012235538714

[xxi] https://x.com/idfonline/status/1806212021332902240; https://x.com/manniefabian/status/1806213152490578332

[xxii] https://x.com/idfonline/status/1806212024931676329

[xxiii] https://t.me/moriahdoron/11281

[xxiv] https://t.me/hamaswestbank/52188

[xxv] https://t.me/moriahdoron/11281

[xxvi] https://twitter.com/khaliljeries/status/1768070254276554858; https://twitter.com/JoeTruzman/status/1768264237745631448; https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/jan/30/hamas-returns-northern-gaza-new-offensive?CMP=share_btn_tw; https://twitter.com/Doron_Kadosh/status/1747181096251314253

[xxvii] https://x.com/Doron_Kadosh/status/1806021424684912806

[xxviii] https://t.me/darebmojahden/4882; https://t.me/sarayaps/18173; https://t.me/mojahdeenpal/4622; https://t.me/alwya2000/6414

[xxix] https://t.me/alwya2000/6414; https://t.me/sarayaps/18184

[xxx]  https://t.me/mojahdeenpal/4622

[xxxi] https://t.me/elaqsa_1965/6679; https://t.me/QudsN/426929; https://t.me/QudsN/426693; https://t.me/QudsN/426685; https://t.me/QudsN/426677; https://t.me/QudsN/426609; https://t.me/QudsN/426985

[xxxii] https://t.me/elaqsa_1965/6679; https://t.me/QudsN/426929; https://t.me/QudsN/426677

[xxxiii] https://t.me/mmirleb/5123; https://t.me/mmirleb/5126; https://t.me/mmirleb/5128

[xxxiv] https://www.idf dot il/211709; https://www.timesofisrael dot com/liveblog_entry/israeli-troops-complete-exercises-simulating-fighting-in-lebanon/

[xxxv] https://x.com/IraqiPMO/status/1806237654301708351

[xxxvi] https://www.defense.gov/News/Releases/Release/Article/3735450/usiraq-higher-military-commission-principals-meeting-statement/

[xxxvii] https://t.me/centerkaf/4413 ; https://www.al-akhbar dot com/Palestine/382349/%D9%8A%D8%A3%D8%B3-%D9%85%D9%86-%D9%85%D9%81%D8%A7%D9%88%D8%B6%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%B3%D8%AD%D8%A7%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%82%D8%A7%D9%88%D9%85%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%82%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%AA-%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AC%D8%B9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%87%D8%AF%D9%86

[xxxviii] https://t.me/damascusv011/22786 ; https://t.me/damascusv011/22788 ; https://x.com/nourabohsn/status/1806073998578458680 ; https://x.com/nourabohsn/status/1806068698731651184

[xxxix] https://twitter.com/SAMSyria0/status/1806261311157731632 ; https://t.me/damascusv011/22788

[xl] https://twitter.com/ahmad16067/status/1806203675838148636 ; https://twitter.com/SAMSyria0/status/1806260226250715162 ; https://www.facebook.com/mod.gov.sy/posts/pfbid02WqADt1A6MmupkFfhjxCian3NJq6txfh5TTWzvUWpyVKDKBB3C8F5FnPGuCa8gwz6l?__cft__[0]=AZWtolqnyftqXWIwhT1LaR2aTMCjz9KxPt9_gJi3vXP0lm6IVyYRiR9srTpcgGeFIsYFAYOfQLit_yQ56OWFHEifcj-fdhYLdsfavTaWRh8eDeUBnEdhg12ucK3nYLma1S_WeOmyRY-luVCq3FoI8XpDC9UlzttwGmSp_KJ4PW9T000ea-CImiCVUU3AJq9XgHJ4RalVvWRcpjzonFNzzbke&__tn__=%2CO%2CP-R

[xli] https://sanctionssearch.ofac.treas.gov/Details.aspx?id=10053

[xlii]  https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/iran-update-may-22-2023 ; https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/iran-update-march-18-2024 ; https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/iran-update-june-30-2023 ; https://www.terrorism-info dot org.il/en/jihad-al-bina-association-lebanon-hezbollah-social-foundation-engaged-construction-social-projects-among-shiite-community-major-component-hezbollahs-civilian-infr/

[xliii] https://t.me/damascusv011/22793

[xliv] https://t.me/damascusv011/22787 ; https://twitter.com/SAMSyria0/status/1806078344330653842

[xlv] https://twitter.com/CENTCOM/status/1806115175759851822

[xlvi] https://x.com/MMY1444/status/1806379471567798635

[xlvii] https://x.com/MMY1444/status/1806379471567798635

[xlviii] https://twitter.com/UK_MTO/status/1806371181076869169

[xlix] https://x.com/MMY1444/status/1806379471567798635

[l] https://t.me/ElamAlmoqawama/1199 ; https://x.com/army21ye/status/1806378190325026978

[li] https://t.me/ElamAlmoqawama/1188 ; ; https://x.com/army21ye/status/1800983376897196495/photo/1 ; https://x.com/army21ye/status/1798700699725029693/photo/1 ; https://t.me/ElamAlmoqawama/1198

[lii] https://t.me/ElamAlmoqawama/1188 ; ; https://x.com/army21ye/status/1800983376897196495/photo/1 ; https://x.com/army21ye/status/1798700699725029693/photo/1 ; https://x.com/army21ye/status/1797717598291013719 ; https://twitter.com/army21ye/status/1772595172687155209 ; https://twitter.com/army21ye/status/1760726288568869116 ; https://x.com/army21ye/status/1759982767423545626

[liii] www.president dot ir/fa/152510

[liv] https://www.axios.com/2024/06/26/israel-netanyahu-teams-iran-nuclear-program


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