Iran has been escalating its attacks on American and allied targets since May 2019. The regime’s attacks occurred in phases and were part of an orchestrated campaign to achieve Tehran’s strategic objectives, including sanctions relief and the ouster of the U.S. from Iraq and the region.

Iran is organizing a new effort to increase political and military pressure against U.S. forces in an effort to compel an American withdrawal from Iraq. In a Warning Intelligence Update, Katherine Lawlor details the Iranian proxy campaign following Qassem Soleimani's demise.

Russia’s expansion of influence in Africa could reduce the impact of coercive sanctions, provide an additional revenue stream for the regime, and expand its military footprint and global disinformation network.

Turkey's October 2019 incursion into Northern Syria has created new opportunities for ISIS's resurgence campaign, including the group's effort to free its detained fighters. ISIS has long prepared for such opportunities. Revisit a May 2019 warning from John Dunford and Jennifer Cafarella.

Vladimir Putin has faced blowback from some of his foreign policy undertakings, including Russian aggression in Ukraine. These instance provide lessons that should form part of the basis for a new U.S. and allied approach to Russia's hybrid warfare.

Latest from ISW

Iraq Situation Report: July 29 - Aug. 5, 2020

Iran-aligned actors continue to resist Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s campaign to steadily implement his core promises to the Iraqi people. Kadhimi demonstrated tangible success in holding security forces accountable for unlawful violence against protesters by arresting members of the Iran-aligned Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) and removing the group’s commander. Kadhimi fulfilled another central promise by setting a date for early elections in June 2021, drawing backlash from entrenched political elites who fear losing their power base through free and fair elections. Kadhimi still faces an uphill battle to hold these elections; Iraq’s parliament must pass a new elections law, draw electoral districts, and approve new rules for the Supreme Federal Court before the elections can be held.

Syria Situation Report: July 22 - Aug. 4, 2020

The COVID-19 outbreak in regime-held Syria is likely spreading at a significant rate and increasing internal economic and social pressures on the Assad regime. A regime official estimated there are over 112,000 cases in Greater Damascus alone. The regime is likely incapable of preventing the spread. The outbreaks in regime areas will likely spread to anti-Assad controlled areas in the northwest and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)-held areas in the northeast, further threatening stability in those regions.

Iraq Situation Report: July 15-21, 2020

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s efforts to preserve Iraqi sovereignty by shifting its regional relationships away from Iranian domination have been met with a mix of successes and setbacks. The hospitalization of the King of Saudi Arabia forced Kadhimi to cancel his symbolically important first planned foreign visit to Saudi Arabia on July 20. Iran capitalized on the cancellation, dispatching its foreign minister in a pre-planned visit to Baghdad and then hosting Kadhimi in Tehran for meetings with Iran’s Supreme Leader as Kadhimi’s de facto first foreign trip. The United States continued to pressure Gulf countries to increase their energy cooperation with Iraq even as Prime Minister Kadhimi faced domestic and foreign resistance from neighboring Iran. Demonstrators are holding Kadhimi responsible for Iraq’s insufficient electricity supply, diluting his popular support. Continued criminal activity by Iran-backed groups, including the kidnapping of a German activist in Baghdad and repeated threats toward Iraqi allies, will also damage Kadhimi’s ability to secure buy-in from regional and global partners.

Syria Situation Report: July 7-21, 2020

Russia and Turkey briefly escalated against one another following an attack on a Russo-Turkish joint patrol in Idlib. A suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) struck a Russo-Turkish joint patrol along the M4 Highway, causing several injuries on July 14. Russia appears to have held Turkey accountable for failing to prevent the attack and conducted airstrikes targeting the Turkish and opposition-controlled city of al-Bab in northern Aleppo on July 15. Turkey was likely responsible for a suicide drone attack that struck Kurdish-led Asayish Internal Security Forces and Russian Military Police (MPs) in northern Hasakah Province the following day. Russia and Turkey did not kinetically escalate further, but future attacks on joint patrols may prompt a larger Russian escalation against Turkish forces and allies.

Russia and Aligned Former Opposition Fighters Leverage Growing Anti-Assad Sentiment to Expand Control in Southern Syria

Russia and a group of reconciled former opposition fighters under its patronage are taking advantage of growing anti-Assad and anti-Iran sentiment to forcibly expand their influence in southern Syria independent of the regime in Damascus. A prominent Russian-backed former opposition commander announced the formation of a new “army” that plans to centralize forces across much of the province under his control. A newly established Russian-backed political body will likely parallel this new force. The creation of this new army and political body will likely increase Russian influence and could threaten the ability of the Assad regime and Iran to impose their will in this key region bordering US allies Israel and Jordan.