Iran Update, July 27, 2023
Iran Update, July 27, 2023
Ashka Jhaveri, Annika Ganzeveld, and Johanna Moore
The Iran Update aims to inform national security policy by providing timely, relevant, and independent open-source analysis of developments pertaining to Iran and its Axis of Resistance. This update covers political, military, and economic events and trends that affect the stability and decision-making of the Iranian regime. It also provides insights into Iranian and Iranian-sponsored activities abroad that undermine regional stability and threaten US forces and interests. The Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute with support from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) provides these updates Monday through Friday. To receive Iran Updates via email, please subscribe here.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) with support from the Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute launched a new interactive map of Iran and the Middle East. The map depicts events in Iran that affect the stability of the Iranian regime, namely anti-regime protests and reported poisoning incidents. It also shows developments in Syria that jeopardize regional stability and pose threats to US forces and interests, including Iranian and Iranian-backed militia positions.
- 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.
- 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.
- Iran is simultaneously lobbying China and Russia for assistance in developing Iranian infrastructure projects.
Iranian Activities in the Levant
This section covers Iranian efforts to consolidate and expand Tehran’s economic, military, and political influence throughout the Levant especially in Syria. This section examines some of the many campaigns that Iran is pursuing to achieve this strategic objective. CTP will update and refine our assessments of these campaigns over time and in future updates.
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. Iranian-backed militias deployed to lines of control with the SDF between July 7 and 20. The militias moved to the positions notionally because Russian forces expressed concerns that the United States would conduct an attack in Deir ez Zor Province. UK-based anti-Syrian regime media The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Iranian-backed militias reduced their forces” ”significantly and suddenly“ on July 26 to prevent a US offensive, despite there being no indications that the SDF or US are planning an incursion into regime-controlled territory. The redeployment is part of a trend that CTP has observed since early July, however, in which Iranian-backed forces have deployed to the central Syrian desert. The IRGC QF ordered dozens of military vehicles of the Iranian-affiliated Syrian Arab Army 47th Regiment and Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) to deploy on July 11 to military points approximately 35 kilometers from the 55-kilometer exclusion zone around the Al Tanf Garrison. The PMF also deployed to unspecified positions in the desert near Albu Kamal on July 26. Iranian leaders have signaled preparation to resume its campaign to expel US forces from the Middle East by attacking and killing US service members.
Iranian Activities in Iraq
This section covers Iranian efforts to consolidate and expand Tehran’s economic, military, and political influence throughout Iraq. This section examines some of the many campaigns that Iran is pursuing to achieve this strategic objective. CTP will update and refine our assessments of these campaigns over time and in future updates.
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. AK claimed a separate IED attack on a US logistics convoy in Hilla, Babil Province on July 24. Iranian-backed Iraqi proxies’ last IED attack on a US logistics convoy in Iraq took place in January 2023. These US logistics convoys are commonly operated by Iraqi contractors, not US servicemembers. Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba Secretary General Akram Kaabi released a “final warning” to US forces on July 26 prior to the IED attack the same day. Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba has close ties to Ashab al Kahf in coordinating previous attack campaigns and promoting Ashab al Kahf activity on Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba channels. CTP cannot currently determine if this a coordinated effort between Ashab al Kahf and Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba.
Iranian Domestic and Political Affairs
This section covers factors and trends affecting regime decision-making and stability. CTP will cover domestic politics, significant protest activity, and related issues here.
Iran is simultaneously lobbying China and Russia for assistance in developing Iranian infrastructure projects. Iranian Ambassador to Russia Kazem Jalali called for “accelerating” the construction of the Rasht-Astara railway during a meeting with Russian State Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Leonid Slutsky in Moscow, Russia on July 27. The Rasht-Astara railway is part of the International North South Transit Corridor (INSTC), a transit route which, once completed, will connect Russia and Central Asia to the Persian Gulf via Iran. Iran attaches importance to developing the INSTC to bolster Iran’s economy and become a regional “transit hub.” Russia agreed to partially finance Iranian construction of the Rasht-Astara railway on May 17. Ardabil Province officials separately presented 21 investment opportunities, including infrastructure projects, to Qinghai Province, China officials at the China-Iran Economic and Commercial Development Conference in Tehran on July 27. Ardabil Province Governor Hamid Ameli previously called on Chinese railway companies to investment in Iran’s plan to connect the Ardabil railway to Russia and Central Asia in April. An Iranian transportation official additionally called on China to invest in the construction of a Chinese-Iranian-Afghan railway corridor on July 13.
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