June 30, 2023

Iran Updates, June 2023

This page collects the Iran Updates produced by the Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute with support from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) for June 2023. Full list of Iran Updates are available here.

Iran Update, June 30, 2023

  1. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC QF) and Lebanese Hezbollah (LH) established a headquarters in eastern Syria, probably to coordinate arms transfers, intelligence collection, and training for Iranian-backed militants in Syria.
  2. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) Russian forces conducted air strikes on rebel groups in Idlib Province shortly after the failure of the latest normalization and Astana Talks, and Iran may send Iranian-backed militants to in northwestern Syria to support the pro-regime operations.
  3. Iran's worsening water crisis is increasing food insecurity and internal migration, which will likely fuel greater popular unrest in the coming years.

Iran Update, June 29, 2023

  1. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and Russian forces conducted airstrikes on rebel positions in Idlib Province between June 25 and 27. CTP is considering the hypothesis that Iran will commit forces to Idlib Province to support the SAA and Russian forces.
  2. The Iranian regime is seeking harsher enforcement of mandatory veiling and may block banking and IT services for unveiled women, as well as imprison those who do not comply with the veiling laws.

Iran Update, June 28, 2023

  1. Iranian leadership met with Iraqi Shia Coordination Framework leadership in Tehran to discuss forming political coalitions during the week of June 19, likely to unify the Coordination Framework ahead of the Iraqi provincial elections in December 2023.
  2. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu held a phone conversation with Iranian Armed Forces General Staff Chief Major General Mohammad Bagheri on June 28.

Iran Update, June 27, 2023

  1. Iranian-backed militants are building new military sites south of Damascus City likely as part of the Iranian effort to secure transportation routes throughout Syria and connecting to the Golan Heights and Lebanon.
  2. Law Enforcement Commander Brigadier General Ahmad Reza Radan traveled to Moscow on June 27 to expand internal security cooperation with Russian security services.

Iran Update, June 26, 2023

  1. Iran is framing the US-led international coalition in Syria as an imminent security threat to local Syrians, possibly to incite and sustain local support to expel US forces from Syria. Iran maintains the capability to attack US forces in the Middle East via its proxies but has restrained them from conducting attacks.
  2. Law Enforcement Commander Brigadier General Ahmad Reza Radan will soon travel to Russia to increase security cooperation with Moscow. Iran may seek Russian security assistance to crack down more forcefully on Iranian anti-regime activity.
  3. The IRGC appointed two new northwest regional commanders on June 26, indicating the regime’s focus on security threats in the area.

Iran Update, June 23, 2023

  1. The 20th round of Astana talks, which aim to end the Syria conflict, concluded in Astana, Kazakhstan on June 21 without an agreement. Iran and Syria messaged ahead of the forum that their positions are aligned for quadripartite talks, possibly signaling that Iran will back the Assad regime’s demand for Turkey’s complete withdrawal from Syria as a precondition for future Astana talks.
  2. The Iranian rial has appreciated approximately ten percent since May 1, likely in part due to the Raisi administration’s economic diplomacy efforts. The Raisi administration’s economic diplomacy combined with ongoing nuclear talks may have generated confidence in the future of the Iranian economy, consequently increasing the value of the rial.

Iran Update, June 22, 2023

  1. Iranian companies are competing for Syrian electricity infrastructure contracts, likely to generate additional revenue for the Iranian economy and reinforce Iranian ties with the Syrian regime.
  2. Druze in the Golan Heights are protesting Israeli plans to build wind turbines, which possibly creates an opportunity for Iran and its Axis of Resistance to generate regional political pressure on Israel.
  3. Senior Iranian officials speaking on behalf of the supreme leader called on Iran’s intelligence organizations to expand their cooperation against threats to the regime. The meeting is part of an emerging trend that signals Khamenei is concerned with domestic stability and securing the regime.
  4. The Raisi administration is continuing its regional economic diplomacy to improve the Iranian economy.

Iran Update, June 21, 2023

  1. The Syrian regime is leveraging regional normalization with Arab states to fund the reconstruction of Syria’s railways, which could block some Iranian efforts to secure revenue from such projects. The reconstruction of Syria’s rail infrastructure is likely to facilitate Iranian efforts to generate revenue through greater regional trade, nonetheless.
  2. Iran is seeking to leverage arms sales to generate revenue for the Iranian economy.

Iran Update, June 20, 2023

  1. An IRGC-affiliated news outlet tracked a US-Iraqi logistics convoy, possibly to signal Iranian intent to direct an attack on US interests in Iraq.
  2. Iranian leaders met with senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Hamas officials in Tehran, likely to signal Iran will provide greater support to the groups to combat Israel. Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Secretary Ahmadian meeting with senior PIJ and Hamas officials likely reflects his effort to integrate himself into Iranian policymaking vis-à-vis Israel.
  3. The IRGC Intelligence Organization (IRGC-IO) chief framed threats to Iran in a domestic context, which indicates the organization is prioritizing internal security over external threats. Kazemi’s interview represents a continuation of the IRGC Intelligence Organization’s shift away from external threats toward internal security.
  4. Iran is attempting to expand economic relations with Uzbekistan, likely to improve the Iranian economy.

Iran Update, June 16, 2023

  1. Iran may have directed its Iraqi proxies to deescalate their rhetoric against US forces in Iraq. This is consistent with one of CTP’s hypotheses, which is that Iran is threatening attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria to build leverage in the nuclear negotiations.
  2. Iran and Syria coordinated their policy positions ahead of the next round of Astana talks.
  3. Iran and Russia discussed Caspian Sea and Volga River transportation routes on June 16. The expansion of these routes could support Iran's transfer of military equipment to Russia.
  4. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi stressed Iran, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela’s common struggle against “imperialism and domination” on his trip to Latin America between June 12-16, suggesting that Iran may seek to incorporate these countries into its Axis of Resistance.

Iran Update, June 15, 2023

  1. An unidentified high-ranking Israel Defense Forces (IDF) commander told Newsweek that Israel is concerned about Russia transferring Western weapons captured in Ukraine to Iran. Iran will likely attempt to reverse engineer the Western weapons systems to upgrade its own conventional capabilities or develop new ones to use in future conflicts.
  2. Western media reported on June 14 that the US and Iran are negotiating an informal nuclear agreement in Oman, citing US, Israeli, and Iranian sources.

Iran Update, June 14, 2023

  1. CTP has observed several developments that indicate the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) is expanding its military capabilities and broadening its civil role in Iraq along the lines of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in Iran.
  2. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) conducted an airstrike on three Iranian and Syrian Arab Army (SAA) military positions in Damascus, Syria on June 13.
  3. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei met with Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Secretary General Ziyad al-Nakhalah in Tehran on June 14, underscoring Iran’s commitment to expanding Axis of Resistance operations in the West Bank.

Iran Update, June 13, 2023

  1. Lebanese Hezbollah provided drone training for Iranian-backed militias in eastern Syria. Iranian-backed militias could use these drones to support efforts to expel US forces from Syria.
  2. Lebanese Hezbollah and Fatemiyoun militants conducted a military exercise in central Syria, likely to signal their ability to attack US forces in Syria.
  3. The IRGC Quds Force has recruited Syrians to establish “sleeper cells” in Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) territory to attack US forces.
  4. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi traveled to Caracas, Venezuela to expand Iran's economic influence in Latin America. Greater economic cooperation with Latin American countries will not enable the Iranian regime to fix the structural flaws in Iran’s economy, however.

Iran Update, June 12, 2023

  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.

Iran Update, June 9, 2023

  1. Iran is establishing military storage facilities in eastern Syria, likely to facilitate Iranian weapons transfers and military entrenchment along a critical transportation route into the country. These construction projects are part of a larger Iranian effort to build military infrastructure throughout Deir ez Zor Province.
  2. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) published its quarterly safeguards, verification and monitoring reports on the Iranian nuclear program on June 8, detailing significant Iranian nuclear advancements. The IAEA reports furthermore demonstrate that Iran has not resolved any of the agency’s inquiries into undeclared nuclear activities—contrary to recent Western media reports.
  3. The Biden administration revealed on June 9 that Iran is helping Russia build a drone manufacturing factory in Yelabuga, Tatarstan, Russia, which underscores the growing military cooperation between Tehran and Moscow despite Western sanctions.
  4. Iranian news outlets published the finalized version of the Judiciary’s Chastity and Hijab Bill on June 8. This bill demonstrates the regime’s uncompromising stance on women’s rights issues and continued refusal to grant sociocultural concessions in the aftermath of the Mahsa Amini movement.

Iran Update, June 8, 2023

  1. An IRGC Quds Force-affiliated recruitment center in Deir ez Zor City is recruiting Syrians for counter-US operations in Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) territory. This reporting supports CTP’s assessment that Iran may be preparing to direct proxy attacks against US forces in Syria.
  2. CTP previously reported that Iranian and Russian military officials met to discuss expelling the United States from Syria, which may indicate Russia’s intent to facilitate Iranian-backed attacks on US forces. CTP is considering several hypotheses about how Russia would interact with an Iranian-backed campaign against US forces in Syria.

Iran Update, June 7, 2023

  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.

Iran Update, June 6, 2023

  1. Iranian leaders are preparing to resume their campaign to expel US forces from the Middle East by attacking and killing US service members after pausing this campaign in mid-2021. Iran will need to meet several operational conditions to conduct an attack on US forces in Iraq and Syria.

Iran Update, June 5, 2023

  1. Iranian leaders in Syria met in Damascus to plan for a potential US attack and recruited locals to target US forces in Deir ez Zor Province with IEDs. This supports CTP’s assessment that Iran may be preparing to direct proxy attacks against US forces in Syria.
  2. A new Iranian-backed militia in Iraq signaled its readiness to attack US forces in Iraq. The Iranian-backed militia Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba (HAN) also plans to attack US forces in Baghdad.
  3. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) is continuing to deploy artillery and other materiel to Iran’s northwest border with Iraq. This raises CTP’s confidence that the IRGC may engage in a short-term military conflict to confront perceived Israeli threats in Iraqi Kurdistan.
  4. Iran is likely attempting to capitalize on perceived tensions between the United States and the UAE to weaken the US-led multinational maritime security partnership in the Persian Gulf.

Iran Update, June 2, 2023

  1. Iran is training its militias in Syria to use a range of improvised and advanced weapons to attack US personnel in Syria. Iranian-backed militias in Iraq may conduct attacks against US forces in Syria.
  2. Iran likely calculates that it has achieved strategic depth and using militias in Iraq and Syria to attack US forces will keep conflict confined to Syria.
  3. Iranian media circulated reports of an IRGC-conducted a drone strike targeting Kurdish Iranian separatist groups in the Iraqi Kurdistan region on June 2.
  4. The Iranian regime is pursuing increased gas swaps with Turkmenistan, likely to preempt electricity shortages in the summer that could fuel internal unrest.

Iran Update, June 1, 2023

  1. Iran has been building and training forces to target and kill US personnel and expel US forces from Syria.
  2. Some of the arms and training that Iran has provided to militias in Syria could also support transfers of advanced conventional weapons.
  3. Iran is attempting to assuage Western concerns about its nuclear program, likely to preempt the upcoming International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report that will detail Iran’s noncompliance with its nuclear safeguard obligations.