October 27, 2023

Iran Updates, September 2023

Iran Update, September 25, 2023

  1. The People’s Republic of China and Syria signed several development and technology cooperation agreements on September 22, which may compete with reconstruction agreements that Iran and Syria signed in May.
  2. A drone strike near Mayadin City on September 25 caused multiple casualties among the Iranian-affiliated Arab tribesmen who were deploying to Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)-controlled territory in eastern Syria. The deployment of Arab tribesmen to combat the SDF is consistent with ISW’s assessment that the tribal insurgency will likely support Iran’s efforts to establish a grassroots resistance to expel US forces from Syria.

Iran Update, September 22, 2023

  1. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander supervised a joint Iranian-Syrian military exercise in Syria on September 21, possibly to advance the campaign to expel US forces from Syria and reassert bilateral military relations.
  2. The tribal clashes with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have evolved into an insurgency, which likely will facilitate Iran’s efforts to establish a grassroots resistance to expel US forces from Syria.
  3. A coalition of small Iraqi independent political parties called on the United Nations to prevent tampering in the 2023 Iraqi provincial elections.

Iran Update, September 20, 2023

  1. Wagner is vacating its positions in Syria to comply with a Russian Ministry of Defense ultimatum. Iran may assume control of some of the positions to secure military assets and expand its economic operations.
  2. Syrian President Bashar al Assad will travel to China for a “Syrian-Chinese summit” on September 21, very likely to pursue bilateral economic ties.

Iran Update, September 19, 2023

  1. Iran is expanding its military infrastructure in eastern Syria as part of its effort to secure a permanent presence there.
  2. Iranian and Iraqi officials reported on September 19 that Iraq fulfilled its commitment to disarm and relocate anti-Iranian regime Kurdish militias in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Iran Update, September 18, 2023

  1. The IRGC deployed forces to the Iran-Iraq border, likely to coerce the Iraqi government and Kurdistan Regional Government to stop threats from anti-Iran opposition groups in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.
  2. Iran could also use the recent deployments to conduct attacks against Iraqi Kurdistan should coercion fail.
  3. Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Minister Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani threatened on September 16 to retaliate against the United States for its decision to unload seized Iranian oil from the Suez Rajan

Iran Update, September 15, 2023

  1. Iran is forming a tribal militia in eastern Syria likely to advance its campaign to expel the United States from Syria.
  2. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps transported advanced weapons and weapons development experts to Damascus airport, likely to replenish Iran’s military development and defense capacity in Syria after frequent Israeli interdictions.
  3. The Iranian regime is preparing to confront protests in northwestern Iran on September 16.

Iran Update, September 14, 2023

  1. The IRGC Quds Force and LH are trying to significantly increase their military infrastructure in Mayadin in eastern Syria. The expanding presence there in part supports the Iranian campaign to expel US forces from Syria.
  2. Iranian-backed political actors in Iraq are preparing to coopt legal procedures and requirements to disqualify opponents in the upcoming Iraqi provincial elections in December 2023.
  3. Iranian leaders are using a combination of military threats and foreign diplomacy to resolve three simultaneous security challenges around northwestern Iran.

Iran Update, September 13, 2023

  1. Pro-Syrian regime forces fired at and injured three protesters at the Baath party headquarters in Suwayda City in southern Syria. The attack could fuel popular anger toward pro-regime forces, especially Iranian-backed militias, in southern Syria in the coming days.
  2. Senior Iranian officials continue to indicate that the Iraqi central government will address their security concerns in Iraqi Kurdistan by their September 19 deadline, making a potential Iranian attack into Iraqi Kurdistan unlikely in the coming days. Iran is nevertheless retaining the option to conduct attacks into Iraqi Kurdistan to address its concerns.
  3. The IRGC has distributed small arms to current and former members in Saghez, Kurdistan Province in recent days to prepare for potential protests, according to Norway-based human rights organization Hengaw.

Iran Update, September 12, 2023

  1. Iran has successfully extracted some security concessions from Iraq, which will likely reduce the threat Iranian leaders perceive emanating from Iraqi Kurdistan. Planned protests in Iran in the coming days could still drive Tehran to conduct attacks into Iraqi Kurdistan, however.
  2. The Iranian regime is using different approaches with varying levels of violence and restraint throughout the country to prepare for potential civil unrest in the coming days.

Iran Update, September 11, 2023

  1. Iranian officials met with Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government officials to discuss disarming Iranian Kurdish opposition groups in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.
  2. Iranian forces deployed to Kurdish areas in western Iran, possibly to deter protests on the anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death.
  3. Iran is attempting to mitigate tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan. This follows reports of a military buildup on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border with both sides engaging in threatening rhetoric over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region in recent days.

Iran Update, September 8, 2023

  1. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) redeployed “hundreds” of Iranian-backed militants from eastern Syria to northwestern Syria in response to mounting tensions with Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS) and other anti-regime militias.
  2. An IRGC-affiliated commercial airliner flew to Russian-occupied Crimea on September 7, possibly to transfer military materials and/or personnel to Russian forces there.
  3. Russia's largest bank, Sberbank, launched a money transfer system with Iran on September 7, which may help Iran and Russia circumvent Western sanctions.

Iran Update, September 7, 2023

  1. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has sent over 60 Iranian-backed militants to Daraa Province to prevent the expansion of the ongoing, anti-Syrian regime protests in southern Syria.
  2. Leaders from Lebanese Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad met in Beirut and echoed Iranian leaders’ calls for greater cooperation among these groups against Israel.
  3. Iranian authorities are continuing to take measures to deter and prevent anti-regime protests ahead of the anniversaries of Mahsa Amini’s death and the “Bloody Friday” incident on September 16 and 30, respectively.

Iran Update, September 6, 2023

  1. Russia directed local tribes to attack the US-led International Coalition and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in eastern Syria likely part of a coordinated effort with Iran and the Syrian regime to expel the United States from Syria.
  2. Iranian-backed militias relocated personnel and military equipment to southern Syria from Deir ez Zor on September 4, possibly to secure the Syrian regime as anti-regime protests continue.
  3. Iranian protest organizations are planning demonstrations to commemorate the regime’s killing of Mahsa Amini on September 16 and may generate protest turnout across Iran. The regime is taking steps to preempt protests that commemorate the death of Mahsa Amini and will likely crack down on demonstrations that occur.
  4. Senior Iranian officials outlined the regime’s policy perspective on Iran-Turkey bilateral relations during their meetings with Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Hakan Fidan in Tehran on September 3.

Iran Update, September 5, 2023

  1. Syrian regime forces are financially exploiting the displacement of civilians amid clashes in Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)-controlled territory.
  2. The deteriorating economic and security situation in eastern Syria may fuel anti-Syrian regime sentiment.
  3. Russia provided at least two Yak-130 combat trainer aircraft to Iran, which could presage the delivery of more advanced, Russian-made Su-35s to Iran. The acquisition of Su-35s may enable Iran to more readily and independently project air power.
  4. The Ebrahim Raisi administration closed a major reformist outlet, silencing a prominent critic of him and his foreign policy of expanding cooperation with Russia. This move will further reinforce the dominance of hardline voices over the Iranian information space.

Iran Update, September 1, 2023

  1. Iran and the Syrian regime are exploiting instability in eastern Syria to pose a greater threat to US forces there.
  2. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and Lebanese Hezbollah (LH) trained Russian forces in Syria to operate Iranian-made drones.
  3. Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian discussed anti-Israel operations with leaders from the Axis of Resistance in Beirut.
  4. The Ebrahim Raisi administration is continuing to set conditions to resume nuclear negotiations with the West to achieve a comprehensive deal.