October 27, 2023

Iran Updates, July 2023

Iran Update, July 31, 2023

  1. Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that Russia is not seeking a confrontation with the United States in Syria but is prepared for “any scenario,” likely to deflect accountability in the event of an escalation between US and Russian forces in Syria. Putin’s comments suggests that Russian aggression in Syria will continue but does not indicate whether the activity will escalate further.
  2. Iran hosted a delegation of senior Syrian officials in Tehran on July 31 as part of an effort to expand its economic and political relationships with Bashar al Assad’s regime.
  3. Iran and Belarus are discussing deepening bilateral military cooperation over the backdrop of their mutual support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. They may have discussed establishing Shahed kamikaze drone factories in Belarus to support the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
  4. Iran has exported a record high of around one million barrels of oil per day (bpd) to China since January 2023, which reflects deepening the economic cooperation between the two countries.

Iran Update, July 28, 2023

  1. Iranian-backed militias deployed to the Syrian desert near the Al Tanf Deconfliction Zone throughout July, possibly as part of a coercive campaign to expel the United States from Syria. Iran, Russia, and the Syrian regime may be setting conditions to attack US forces at the Al Tanf Garrison.
  2. Regime officials are making preparations in anticipation of future protests commemorating Mahsa Amini’s killing on September 18, 2022.

Iran Update, July 27, 2023

  1. Iran-backed militias withdrew from unspecified positions in Deir ez Zor Province and redeployed to the Syrian desert near the Iraq-Syria border, possibly as part of a coercive campaign to expel the United States from Syria.
  2. Ashab al Kahf claimed an improvised explosive device (IED) attack on a US logistics convoy in Diwaniyah on July 26, indicating the group has started an IED campaign to expel the United States from Iraq.
  3. Iran is simultaneously lobbying China and Russia for assistance in developing Iranian infrastructure projects.

Iran Update, July 25, 2023

  1. Iranian media and officials highlighted the addition of the Abu Mahdi land attack cruise missile to Iran’s naval arsenal to signal Iran’s longer-range naval capabilities.
  2. Supreme National Security Council Secretary Rear Admiral Ali Akbar Ahmadian called on BRICS to include Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela in this organization as part of its effort to establish a parallel international order that challenges Western “dominance.”
  3. Iranian students are planning protests in early September in commemoration of Mahsa Amini’s killing on September 18, 2022. Iranian leadership has voiced concerns about the resumption of anti-regime protests in recent weeks.

Iran Update, July 24, 2023

  1. The buildup of Iranian-backed forces in eastern Syria is possibly causing local anti-Iran and anti-Shia discontent.
  2. The Iranian state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) launched an Azeri language section on July 21, likely to shape domestic Azerbaijani public opinion as Iran grapples with its concerns about the Caucasus becoming an arena for foreign interference.
  3. Supreme National Security Council Secretary Rear Admiral Ali Akbar Ahmadian called for greater cyber security cooperation among BRICS countries during a Friends of BRICS National Security Advisors meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa on July 24. Iran may seek to bolster cyber security cooperation with BRICS countries to confront cyber-attacks and negative Western media narratives about Iran more effectively.

Iran Update, July 21, 2023

  1. Iranian-backed militias transferred air defense weapons to eastern Syria, which likely will jeopardize the US-led International Coalition mission to defeat ISIS.
  2. Iran expanded judicial cooperation with Syria, likely as part of a policy of building institutional links with regional allies.
  3. CIA Director William Burns stated on July 20 that Russian technicians are assisting with the Iranian Space Launch Vehicle and missile program inside Iran. Russian assistance could advance Iran’s development of inter-continental ballistic missiles and a military space program that would enhance Iran’s intelligence gathering capabilities.
  4. BRICS has invited Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to attend its 15th summit in Johannesburg, South Africa in late August.

Iran Update, July 20, 2023

  1. Iran, Russia, and the Syrian regime are coordinating military operations in eastern Syria likely as part of a coercive campaign to expel the United States from Syria.
  2. Iranian Minister of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani signed a defense and security memorandum of understanding (MoU) with his Bolivian counterpart Edmundo Novillo Aguilar in Tehran on July 20. Iran may seek to sell drones to Bolivia as part of this MOU.
  3. IRGC Navy Commander Rear Admiral Ali Reza Tangsiri threatened that Iran will hold the United States and US companies responsible for confiscating and unloading Iranian oil, possibly signaling Iran will harass or seize US commercial and military vessels in the Gulf.

Iran Update, July 19, 2023

  1. Iran and Russia are amplifying rumors of International Coalition attacks into Syrian regime territory likely as part of a campaign to expel US forces from Syria.
  2. The British Secret Intelligence Service revealed on July 19 that Iran seeks to acquire cash from Russia in return for Iranian drones.
  3. The IRGC Ground Forces conducted a military exercise near Iran’s border with Azerbaijan on July 19. Iranian officials have articulated a series of demands against Azerbaijan, which largely focus on Baku halting its anti-Iran cooperation with Israel and Turkey.

Iran Update, July 18, 2023

  1. Russia accused the United States of preparing false flag chemical weapons attacks against Syria, possibly supporting the joint Russian-Syrian-Iranian pressure campaign to expel US forces from the country.
  2. Hamas’ militant wing in Jenin ambushed an Israeli military vehicle with a Shawath-1 explosively formed penetrator (EFP) during the Jenin raid on July 3, leading to the injury of seven Israeli soldiers. The Axis of Resistance likely aims to raise the costs of Israeli ground operations in the West Bank through the proliferation of EFPs.
  3. Iran is pursuing a tit-for-tat policy with respect to seizing commercial tankers in the Persian Gulf.
  4. Iranian Economic and Financial Affairs Minister Ehsan Khandouzi traveled to Beijing, China to attend the first Iran-China Joint Cooperation Commission meeting on July 16.

Iran Update, July 17, 2023

  1. A US senior defense official said Iran, Russia, and Syria are cooperating to pressure the US to withdraw forces from Syria. This is consistent with CTP’s assessment that Iran’s military buildup in eastern Syria may be to achieve hegemony.
  2. Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia' al Sudani met with Syrian President Bashar al Assad in Damascus on July 16 to discuss economic, security, and normalization issues. The improvement of Iraqi-Syrian relations through joint economic integration projects very likely would enable Iran to exploit regional trade to improve its economy and bolster Iranian regional influence.
  3. Senior Iranian and Pakistani military officials met in Tehran between July 15 and 17. The meetings likely regard the volatile security situation in southeastern Iran, where Jaish al Adl conducted an attack on July 8.
  4. Israel-based i24News claimed on July 16 that Armenia has used Iranian Shahed drones in several recent clashes with Azerbaijan. Iran may expand its military support to Armenia in response to Russian “negligence” toward the Caucasus.
  5. The Iranian Law Enforcement Command (LEC) resumed the country-wide deployment of its morality patrol officers to enforce mandatory veiling on July 16.

Iran Update, July 14, 2023

  1. Iranian-backed militias raised salaries for standard militia members in Mayadin and Albu Kamal Cities, Deir ez Zor Province by 13 percent on July 13, likely enabling Iran to maintain a competitive advantage in recruitment amid increasing troop deployments to the province.
  2. Popular Mobilization Force (PMF)-affiliated social media accounts that circulated calls to storm the US Embassy on July 14 prompted two small demonstrations of Ashab al Kahf protesters in the Jadiriyah District and al Kahdra neighborhood of Baghdad.
  3. President Ebrahim Raisi traveled to Kenya, Uganda, and Zimbabwe between July 12-14 as part of his administration’s intensifying economic diplomacy efforts.
  4. Senior security and foreign policy officials are articulating the regime’s comprehensive perspective on threats emanating from the Caucasus.

Iran Update, July 13, 2023

  1. Iran instructed the IRGC QF to achieve total hegemony in Deir ez Zor Province, Syria in May 2023 and the recent surge of Iranian and Iranian-backed militia deployments to the province may support this objective.
  2. Some official Iraqi proxy channels rejected calls to storm the US Embassy in Baghdad on July 14, possibly to diminish the risk of being drawn into a conflict with the United States.
  3. UK-based, economic think tank Bourse and Bazaar reported that Iran completed payments for 50 Su-35 fighter jets during the second term of reformist President Hassan Rouhani’s administration between August 2017 to 2021.
  4. Two security and foreign policy officials from the Supreme Leader’s office expressed concern over expanding Western and NATO influence in the Caucasus between July 12 and 13.

Iran Update, July 12, 2023

  1. Iranian-backed militias are continuing to reinforce their positions in Deir ez Zor Province, possibly to bolster defensive positions against a rumored International Coalition attack.
  2. Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al Sudani announced the Iraqi government will evade US sanctions on Iran by trading Iraqi crude oil for Iranian gas during a televised statement on July 11.
  3. Social media accounts affiliated with the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces called for supporters to siege the US Embassy in Baghdad, which could elevate the risk of an attack on US personnel in Iraq.
  4. Iranian officials and media responded negatively to the July 10 Russia-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) joint statement, highlighting preexisting tensions in the Russo-Iranian relationship.
  5. The Raisi administration is attempting to override parliamentary adjustments to its mandatory veiling bill. Regime enforcement of mandatory veiling—in any capacity—will likely exacerbate intra-regime tensions. It will also likely reignite anti-regime sentiments.

Iran Update, July 11, 2023

  1. Iranian-backed militias and Syrian regime forces are continuing to reinforce their positions in Deir ez Zor Province in response to rumors of an imminent International Coalition attack to liberate cities.
  2. The Shia Coordination Framework – a loosely aligned coalition of pro-Iranian political parties – blamed US sanctions on Iranian accounts in Iraq for failures in energy supply to Iraq from Iran, likely to place additional political pressure on the Iraqi government to remove the US from Iraq.
  3. Social media accounts affiliated with the Popular Mobilization Force (PMF) circulated a call on July 11 for supporters to storm the US Embassy in Baghdad.
  4. Iran is attempting to reestablish diplomatic relations with Egypt to portray itself as a member of the global community. Normalizing ties with Egypt would likely improve Iran’s economy.
  5. Iranian security personnel violently suppressed injured Iraq-Iran war veterans protesting livelihood conditions in front of the Martyr Affairs Foundation Headquarters in Tehran on July 8.

Iran Update, July 10, 2023

  1. Iranian-backed militias and Syrian regime forces deployed to Deir ez Zor in response to rumors of an imminent International Coalition attack to liberate cities there which began in late June.
  2. Lebanese Hezbollah and Syrian-regime media outlets claimed the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will pressure Turkey to withdraw its forces from Syria in exchange for direct investment. Iran and Syria may aim to use the media outlets to shape negotiations ahead of talks between Turkey and the Gulf States about Syrian-Turkish normalization.
  3. Four Jaish al Adl militants attacked a police station in Zahedan, Sistan and Baluchistan Province on July 8 in retaliation for the September 2022 “Blood Friday” massacre, indicating that Jaish al Adl is trying to portray itself as the bastion of Iranian Baloch citizens. The Iranian regime limited its response to condemning the attack, likely to maintain stability in this restive border region.
  4. IRGC-affiliated media is touting the successes of Iran-sponsored armed resistance in the West Bank against the recent Israeli raids into the area.
  5. President Ebrahim Raisi will visit Kenya, Uganda, and Zimbabwe on July 11 to expand Iran’s economic influence in Africa, marking the first Iranian presidential visit to Africa in 11 years. Greater economic cooperation with African countries will not enable the Iranian regime to fix the structural flaws in Iran’s economy, however.

Iran Update, July 7, 2023

  1. Iran instructed the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force (IRGC QF) to achieve total hegemony in Deir ez Zor Province, Syria in May 2023.
  2. Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al Sudani appointed six individuals to senior Iraqi security service positions between July 5 and July 7. Three of the six individuals appointed are affiliated with the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Force (PMF).
  3. The IRGC Navy seized the Emirati-owned, Tanzanian-flagged oil tanker Nada II in the Persian Gulf on July 6.
  4. Iran is negotiating a barter agreement with China wherein Iran provides oil in exchange for Chinese infrastructure support, which is unlikely to result in immediate Chinese assistance.
  5. Iranian UN Ambassador Saeed Ervani objected to the UK’s decision to invite the Ukrainian UN ambassador to the biannual UNSCR 2231 implementation review meeting on July 6.
  6. Zahedan, Sistan and Baluchistan residents participated in anti-regime protests for the 40th consecutive week on July 7.

Iran Update, July 6, 2023

  1. Iran bolstered Lebanese Hezbollah’s (LH’s) air defense capabilities likely to establish a deterrent in Lebanon against Israel.
  2. Palestinian militant groups called for a cohesive strategy to counter Israel and may expand their joint military operation against Israel.
  3. 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.

Iran Update, July 5, 2023

  1. Palestinian militants thanked Iran and the broader Axis of Resistance for their help during the recent Israel Defense Forces (IDF) raid in Jenin and likely will receive Iranian assistance to rebuild the military capabilities the IDF degraded.
  2. Iranian officials inflated the amount of Iranian funds that a recent US sanctions waiver for Iraq will provide, possibly to inspire confidence in Iran’s economy and currency. News of similar waivers for Iraq has coincided with short-term improvements for the Iranian economy.
  3. Iran became a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on July 4, which may enable it to circumvent sanctions through non-US dollar financial transactions with other SCO countries. Iran could benefit militarily from its membership in the SCO through participation in counterterrorism and naval exercises. 
  4. Iran attempted to seize two US oil tankers in the Strait on July 5, likely to assert its control over the Strait of Hormuz given the recent US naval deployments to the Persian Gulf. Iran also likely sought to pressure the US to accede to Iran’s demands in the nuclear negotiations.