Iran Update, September 29, 2023

Iran Update, September 29, 2023

Ashka Jhaveri

The Iran Update provides insights into Iranian and Iranian-sponsored activities abroad that undermine regional stability and threaten US forces and interests. It also covers events and trends that affect the stability and decision-making of the Iranian regime. The Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) provides these updates weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. For more on developments and in Iran and the region, see our interactive map of Iran and the Middle East.

Pro-regime forces are helping the Arab tribes sustain their fight against the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which may facilitate the expulsion of the SDF from parts of their territory. The coalition between the SDF and Arab tribes in Deir ez Zor Province is fracturing amid clashes over long-standing grievances. The tribal insurgency explicitly aims to expel the SDF from Deir ez Zor and establish a governance system led by tribal leaders. Insurgent leader Ibrahim al Hifl said on September 14 that the insurgents aimed to manage the region through the tribes and its “uprising” will not stop until the SDF is expelled.[1] Pro-regime forces immediately seized the opportunity to threaten the SDF by sending forces into SDF-controlled territory after the arrest of a local leader which triggered the clashes on August 27.[2] Since then, regime forces have attempted to prolong conflict in SDF-controlled territory and even redirect grievances toward the US-led International Coalition.[3] Pro-regime support to the tribes to prolong the conflict with the SDF supports the coordinated campaign that Iran, Russia, and the Syrian regime began forming in November 2022 to expel the United States from Syria.

  • Tribal fighters initially rejected medical aid from pro-regime forces on August 31.[4] Leader of the Akidat tribe Musab al Hifl said in a statement on September 5 that there is no collaboration between the Arab tribes and Iran or Turkey.[5] Tribal fighters have since begun receiving aid from pro-regime forces, however. The SDF seized Iranian anti-tank rockets from tribal forces on September 25.[6]
  • Regime forces began arresting people who crossed from SDF-controlled territory on September 10 on charges of affiliation with opposition forces but ended the policy on September 26. The regime is now providing Arab tribesmen fleeing the fighting with an area to recuperate, on the condition that they return to fight the SDF. [7]  A report from a UK-based outlet noted on September 27 that the regime is driving tribal forces in small boats to and from SDF-controlled territory.[8]
  • Al Hifl met with a Syrian Arab Army general in Damascus on September 20.[9] Hifl announced the formation of a tribal command on the same day involving an unspecified army.[10] It is not clear if Hifl is referring to the Syrian Arab Army or a separate entity. Pro-regime armed forces direct involvement in the insurgency would be a major inflection that risks prolonging the conflict.[11] Hifl is attempting to broaden his support base by appealing for support from “the people of the Euphrates” and calling for the return of Arab heritage to Deir ez Zor. A tribal command comprised of various anti-SDF elements would facilitate greater cohesion.


Pro-regime actors seized an opportunity to attack SDF forces when fighting broke out in late August. Tribal forces initially rejected support from pro-regime actors. Insurgent leader Ibrahim al Hifl met with senior regime military officials on September 20 and called for the formation of a tribal command. Regime forces began assisting tribal forces in the days following the meeting.

[1]  https://shaam dot org/news/syria-news/wst-tjdd-alashtbakat-bdyralzwr-alhfl-ydaw-lmwaslh-alantfadhh-alashaeryh-dhd-qsd


[3] https://deirezzor24 dot net/en/the-assad-regime-and-iranian-militias-are-planting-cells-in-the-countryside-of-deir-ezzor; https://npasyria (dot) com/en/103799/; https://deirezzor24 (dot) net/en/the-tribes-have-held-a-meeting-in-hatlah-town-northeast-of-deir-ezzor-under-the-partnership-of-russia/


[5] ﷟ ;; https://shaam (dot) org/news/syria-news/alhfl-ywdhh-asbab-anfjar-wttwr-alhrak-alashaery-w-abdy-yal-q-ala-alahdath


[7] https://deirezzor24 (dot) net/en/the-assad-regime-arrested-displaced-young-men-who-fled-the-fighting-in-the-east-of-the-euphrates;

[8] https://www.alquds (dot) 

[9] https://www.alquds (dot)

[10] https://www.enabbaladi (dot) net/archives/660750