Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, June 3, 2023

Ukrainian officials continue to signal that Ukrainian forces are prepared to start counteroffensive operations. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated in a June 3 interview with the Wall Street Journal that Ukraine is ready to launch a counteroffensive. Zelensky stated that Ukraine “would like to have certain things, but … can’t wait for months” to start counteroffensive operations. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar stated on June 3 that “military plans love silence” and that she will “discuss something else” in the meantime, likely acknowledging that Ukrainian officials have started to more strictly enforce a regime of informational silence about operations in preparation for upcoming counteroffensives. Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs Ihor Klymenko stated on June 3 that Ukraine has formed all nine brigades of the “Offensive Guard” and that these formations are ready to take part in hostilities at Zelensky’s and Ukrainian Commander in Chief General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi’s orders.

Iran Update, June 2, 2023

1). Iran is training its militias in Syria to use a range of improvised and advanced weapons to attack US personnel in Syria. Iranian-backed militias in Iraq may conduct attacks against US forces in Syria.

2). Iran likely calculates that it has achieved strategic depth and using militias in Iraq and Syria to attack US forces will keep conflict confined to Syria.

3). Iranian media circulated reports of an IRGC-conducted a drone strike targeting Kurdish Iranian separatist groups in the Iraqi Kurdistan region on June 2.

4). The Iranian regime is pursuing increased gas swaps with Turkmenistan, likely to preempt electricity shortages in the summer that could fuel internal unrest.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, June 2, 2023

The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) continues to respond disproportionately to limited raids into Russian territory, likely to project confidence and competence in the MoD’s ability to respond to perceived threats. The Russian MoD issued a second update about the June 1 Shebekino, Belgorod Oblast border raid, largely fixating on the timeliness and scope of the Russian response to the raid. The MoD claimed that additional Russian Western Military District (WMD) elements reinforced the border area within an hour of the start of the raid and conducted heavy air, artillery, and flamethrower strikes against the raiding units and their reserves. The MoD claimed that over 135 people and 35 vehicles in total conducted the raids and that various Russian defensive efforts - including small arms fire and mines - repelled the raids. The MoD later celebrated the commander of an unspecified motorized rifle battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Nikitin, for leading the defensive effort, likely to preempt attempts to attribute the “victory” achieved by Belgorod border defense on Russian Colonel General Alexander Lapin as the information space did during the May 23 raid. The Russian MoD’s fixation on portraying Russian forces and the Russian military command as capable defenders of Russia likely reflects internal and broader information space anxiety over the coming Ukrainian counteroffensive as well as any reverberating informational impacts from any failures to defend against Ukrainian counterattacks.

Salafi-Jihadi Movement Weekly Update, May 31, 2023

Key Takeaways:
Iraq and Syria. ISIS likely is increasing large-scale operations, setting conditions to challenge regime control in some population centers. ISIS deployed more than 100 fighters in two separate operations in spring 2023, which indicates the group’s ability to coordinate between disparate elements to conduct sophisticated tactical efforts. ISIS is using its operations in the central Syrian desert to neutralize anti-ISIS forces in key areas. The group will gradually expand its attack zones into urban areas to coerce the population into supporting ISIS.

Burkina Faso. Al Qaeda–linked militants increased the rate and lethality of their attacks in northwestern Burkina Faso in May 2023 to strengthen and expand their support zone along the border of central Mali and northwestern Burkina Faso. The al Qaeda–linked group is using these support zones in northwestern Burkina Faso to expand toward the Burkinabe capital. The group will also use these zones to expand south along the Burkina Faso–Mali border to threaten southern Mali and Burkina Faso’s second largest city and economic capital in southwestern Burkina Faso.

Somalia. Self-admitted poor troop performance likely enabled al Qaeda’s Somali affiliate al Shabaab to overrun a Ugandan African Union base in southern Somalia in late May. The Ugandan contingent’s intelligence gaps and lack of close air support likely also contributed to al Shabaab’s success. Al Shabaab also overran a Somali National Army (SNA) base in central Somalia in late May, underscoring the continued vulnerability of holding forces in recently liberated areas of Somalia.

Pakistan. Pakistan may have postponed an anti-Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) operation to focus on suppressing protests in early May. The removal of counterterrorism pressure on the TTP may permit the group to conduct attacks against sensitive targets in Islamabad, where the government is holding meetings to discuss the protest crisis. Local sources claimed the TTP is planning attacks on high-level political leaders in Islamabad.

Afghanistan. Iran and the Taliban rhetorically deescalated following border clashes amid an ongoing water dispute. Both sides took measures to reinforce the border and are likely prepared for future clashes but will seek to avoid instigating another round of skirmishes. The Taliban will likely seek to preserve its economic relationship with Iran by deescalating tensions along the border.

China-Taiwan Weekly Update, June 2, 2023

2024 Taiwanese presidential candidates are basing their cross-strait policy positions within the “peace vs war” framework, which may provide China greater influence over their election narratives through the PRC-supported framework.

Xi Jinping stressed the need to establish China’s national security risk monitoring and early warning system, which could serve as a tool to implement the CCP’s holistic security concept.

Iran Update, June 1, 2023

Iran has been building and training forces to target and kill US personnel and expel US forces from Syria.

Some of the arms and training that Iran has provided to militias in Syria could also support transfers of advanced conventional weapons.

Iran is attempting to assuage Western concerns about its nuclear program, likely to preempt the upcoming International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report that will detail Iran’s noncompliance with its nuclear safeguard obligations.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, June 1, 2023

Russian forces conducted another series of missile strikes on Ukraine overnight on May 31 to June 1 and during the day on June 1. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces launched 10 Iskander ballistic missiles targeting Kyiv City from Bryansk Oblast, which borders Ukraine, in the morning on June 1, and that Ukrainian air defense destroyed all 10 missiles. The Ukrainian General Staff also reported that Russian forces launched two S-300 missiles targeting critical infrastructure in Kharkiv City during the day on June 1. Ukrainian Air Force Spokesperson Colonel Yuriy Ihnat stated that Ukraine cannot strike launch points of Russian Iskander missiles in Russia as Ukraine is under obligations not to strike Russian territory with Western-provided weapons. ISW has previously assessed that Russian forces began a new limited air campaign in recent months to degrade Ukrainian counteroffensive capabilities, but that the Russian prioritization of Kyiv is likely further limiting the campaign’s ability to meaningfully constrain potential Ukrainian counteroffensive actions.

Thomas Bergeron


Thomas graduated Cum Laude from Louisiana Tech University with a Bachelor of Science, studying Geographic Information Science and minoring in Geography. He previously served as a National Security Innovation and Emerging Technologies Intern in 2022 during the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine Conflict, assisting in research for the Russian portfolio and collaborating to produce ISW's daily conflict reports. Thomas' research interests include combating disinformation, increasing humanitarian success, and increasing awareness of international issues.

Iran Update, May 31, 2023

Iran has bolstered its defensive position in eastern Syria since the end of the escalation cycle that occurred in March, likely to facilitate the transfer of advanced conventional weapons into Syria. Iranian shipments of advanced air defense equipment and precision guided munitions that arrived in Syria through the Albu Kamal border crossing in Deir ez Zor Province were the targets of Israeli drone strikes in February and March, as CTP previously reported. Iran has been transferring conventional air defense weapons to eastern Syria, training forces in Syria to use the weapons, and improving operational security in Deir ez Zor Province since mid-March. Israel has not conducted drone strikes in eastern Syria since March 23.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, May 31, 2023

The Russian military command has likely ordered Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov’s forces to begin offensive operations in Ukraine following the withdrawal of Wagner Group forces from Bakhmut. Kadyrov claimed on May 31 that Chechen forces received a new order and assumed responsibility over the Donetsk Oblast frontline. Kadyrov claimed that Chechen units need to start “active combat activities” and “liberate a series of settlements.” Kadyrov added that Chechen “Akhmat” Special Forces (Spetsnaz) and the “Sever-Akhmat” Special Purpose Regiment transferred to the Marinka direction southwest of Donetsk City. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) also claimed that assault detachments of the 5th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade of the 1st Army Corps and Akhmat Spetsnaz conducted offensive operations in the Marinka direction. Kadyrov noted that the Russian military command ordered Russian, Rosgvardia (Russian National Guard), and Chechen Akhmat forces to begin offensive actions along the frontline in Zaporizhia and Kherson oblasts as well. Kadyrov claimed that these units have already begun tactical preparations for these offensive actions and claimed that “Akhmat” units’ offensive operations began before Ukrainian forces launched a counteroffensive. ISW has observed no indications of Chechen offensive operations in Zaporizhia or Kherson as of this writing.