June 07, 2023
Iran Update, June 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 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.
1. Iranian and Russian military officials met to discuss expelling the United States from Syria, which may indicate Russia’s intent to help facilitate Iranian-backed attacks against US forces.
2. Iran’s Parliamentary Internal Affairs Committee has proposed amending the parliamentary election law, which will likely empower hardliners to retain power in the March 2024 parliamentary election. The proposed election law amendments could decrease public faith in Iran’s electoral process and reduce voter participation in the March 2024 parliamentary election.
Iranian Activities in the Levant
This section covers Iranian efforts to consolidate and expand Tehran’s economic, military, and political influence throughout the Levant and 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.
Iranian and Russian military officials met to discuss expelling the United States from Syria, which may indicate Russia’s intent to help facilitate Iranian-backed attacks against US forces. IRGC Quds Force and Russian military officials met in Deir ez Zor City to discuss coordinating attacks against US forces in Syria on June 6, according to local anti-Iranian outlet Eye of Euphrates.[i] CTP previously assessed that Iranian leaders are preparing to resume their campaign to expel US forces from the Middle East by attacking and killing US service members.[ii] CTP cannot independently verify the details of the meeting in Deir ez Zor City. The reporting is, however, consistent with an article from the Washington Post that Iran and Russia formed a joint coordination center in Syria to expel US forces from Syria in November 2022.[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.
Iran’s Parliamentary Internal Affairs Committee has proposed amending the parliamentary election law, which will likely empower hardliners to retain power in the March 2024 parliamentary election. Parliamentarians from across the political spectrum have reported that the election law amendments would increase the ultra-hardline Guardian Council’s authority to influence elections.[iv] The Guardian Council is a regime body responsible for vetting parliamentary and presidential candidates. It has routinely barred moderate and reformist politicians from competing in elections. In 2020, for example, the Guardian Council barred approximately 50 percent of the candidates—mostly reformists and moderates—from competing in parliamentary elections. These disqualifications granted the regime hardliners a significant advantage.[v]
Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi stated on June 5 that Parliament approved the proposed amendments.[vi] The Expediency Discernment Council is currently reviewing the amendments’ “contradictions with the regime’s general policies,” however.[vii] These amendments signal Parliament’s continuing unwillingness to grant the Iranian people political concessions following the Mahsa Amini movement. The head of the committee that proposed these amendments—former Student Basij Commander and IRGC Legal and Parliamentary Deputy Mohammad Saleh Jokar—was previously sanctioned by the European Union for suppressing free speech and dissent. [viii]
The proposed election law amendments could decrease public faith in Iran’s electoral process and reduce voter participation in the March 2024 parliamentary election. The Interior Ministry reported that voter turnout in Iran’s 2020 parliamentary elections fell to 42.57 percent, the lowest turnout in Iran’s history.[ix] Hardline Parliamentarian Ahmad Ali Reza Beygi stated on May 31 that the proposed election law amendments would grant the Guardian Council the authority to disqualify candidates after winning an election.[x] Jihadgaran Party Secretary General Wahab Azizi similarly lamented on June 5 that the proposed election law amendments aim to prevent “unaligned political currents” from entering Parliament.[xi] Strengthening the Guardian Council’s ability to influence elections would decrease the significance of citizens’ votes.
[i] https://eyeofeuphrates dot com/ar/news/2023/06/06/8750
[iv] https://www.khabaronline dot ir/news/1772167
[v] https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/US-must-be-wary-as-irans-parliament-veers-hard-right ;
[vi] https://www.irna dot ir/news/85130213
[vii] https://aftabnews dot ir/fa/news/844449
[x] https://www.khabaronline dot ir/news/1772167
[xi] https://www.tabnak dot ir/fa/news/1178023