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

Russia in Review: Putin Deploys New Authoritarian Controls during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Kremlin is using the COVID-19 pandemic to test an expanded societal control toolkit. The Kremlin has empowered Russian security services, deployed Russia’s national guard nationally, empowered the Ministry of Defense as a domestic actor for the first time, implemented mass digital surveillance, and further tightened control over Russia’s information space. The Kremlin seeks to expand its ability to control the Russian population in the long-term, as Russian President Vladimir Putin increasingly relies on authoritarian measures to preserve his regime, and suppress potential unrest in the aftermath of the national voting on Russia’s constitutional amendments on July 1. Digital surveillance technology, such as facial recognition, geolocation on smart devices, and comprehensive digital databases for all Russian citizens, will help the Kremlin circumvent the cost requirements associated with constructing and staffing a massive control infrastructure. These technologies will further erode privacy in Russia and grant the Kremlin new capabilities to discretely identify and neutralize its opponents with minimal public confrontation. Putin will increasingly rely on societal control tools and digitally targeted repression to stifle critics and preserve his regime.

Iraq Situation Report June 24-30, 2020

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi began a coordinated campaign to retake segments of the Iraqi state from entrenched interests, build toward a state monopoly on use of force, and increase his negotiating position with the United States in the ongoing US-Iraq Strategic Dialogue. Kadhimi ordered Iraq’s elite, US-trained Counterterrorism Service (CTS) to retake Iraq’s border crossings from poorly regulated militias and to conduct a raid on key Iranian proxy militia and US-designated terrorist organization Kata’ib Hezbollah to prevent additional rocket attacks on US facilities in Iraq. These moves are intended to demonstrate to the United States that Kadhimi is a reliable security partner ahead of his planned visit to Washington in July, when Kadhimi will renegotiate the US-Iraqi relationship in the next stage of the Strategic Dialogue. Meanwhile, pro-Kadhimi parliamentarians announced the establishment of a new political bloc. This bloc could provide Kadhimi the political base he needs to weather the ongoing backlash against his bold moves, particularly from Iranian allies and proxies who have thoroughly penetrated the Iraqi state.

Iraq Situation Report June 17-23, 2020

Converging challenges to the Iraqi state threaten to deny Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi the political support he needs to improve Iraq’s security and economy. Kadhimi must improve domestic stability in areas like service provision, fiscal policy, and security in order to secure leverage for the second round of the US-Iraq Strategic Dialogue scheduled for July 2020. Kadhimi is facing increasing anti-US attacks by Iran’s Iraqi proxies, a surge of COVID-19 cases, and increasing opposition to the financial reforms necessary to keep the Iraqi economy afloat. Iranian officials are pressuring Kadhimi in high level meetings to accept key Iranian demands that support Iran’s objectives in Iraq, such as purchasing essential goods inside Iraq with foreign currency to circumvent the US-imposed maximum pressure sanctions.

Syria Situation Report: June 10 - 23

Internal fighting between al Qaeda-affiliated groups in Greater Idlib Province may escalate as the newly formed “Stand Firm Operations Room” challenges fellow al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) for control in Idlib. The “Stand Firm Operations Room” was created by five al-Qaeda-affiliated groups, some of which are led by HTS defectors. HTS and the “Stand Firm Operations Room” clashed after the latter established several checkpoints in HTS-dominated northern Idlib Province. Al Qaeda-affiliated groups may continue to fight for control of Idlib and may risk their previous unity in the fight against the Assad regime.

Iraq Situation Report: June 10-16, 2020

Recent Iranian proxy attacks represent a major test for Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s commitments to preserving Iraqi sovereignty and protecting US anti-ISIS forces. The attacks occurred at the start of the US-Iraq Strategic Dialogue, which aims to determine the future of US forces in Iraq. Iran’s Iraqi proxies intensified both their kinetic and political lines of effort to advance Iran’s key objective in the Dialogue: the rapid and complete expulsion of US forces from Iraq. Separately, Turkey also tested Kadhimi’s commitment to Iraqi sovereignty by launching a new, large-scale air campaign with 81 airstrikes on sites purportedly associated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq, drawing harsh condemnations from Baghdad. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) likely took advantage of the Turkish air campaign to also target Iranian Kurdish dissidents based in Iraq in what may have been a coordinated Turkish-Iranian operation.

Iraq Situation Report: June 3-9, 2020

Iraq’s most important external partners, Iran and the United States, as well as Iraq’s domestic politicians, are competing to consolidate their leverage ahead of the US-Iraq Strategic Dialogue set to begin on June 11. Iran dispatched its IRGC-Quds Force Commander and energy minister to solidify a key energy deal that the United States had hoped to deter by encouraging partnerships with Gulf States. Iran’s proxies in Iraq responded by opposing the US-encouraged outreach to Saudi Arabia and attempting to form a parliamentary mechanism to demand the expulsion of US forces from the country. Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has strengthened his domestic position by filling key vacant security roles, passing a full cabinet, and forming an alliance in Parliament to support his actions in order to navigate the competing demands on his country in the Strategic Dialogue. The pursuit of leverage by all actors indicates each expects their stance in the Strategic Dialogue negotiations to be met with resistance.