Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, May 21, 2024

The Kremlin continues to time its nuclear saber-rattling to coincide with major policy discussions in the West as part of a Kremlin reflexive control campaign to influence Western decision-makers. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed on May 21 that missile elements of the Southern Military District (SMD) began the first stage of non-strategic (tactical) nuclear weapons exercises. The Russian MoD claimed that Russian Aerospace Forces will also exercise with Iskander ballistic missiles and Kinzhal aeroballistic missiles. The Russian MoD announced the preparations for these exercises on May 6.

Iran Update, May 21, 2024

The Iranian Assembly of Experts elected its leadership board on May 21, marking a new era for the body responsible for selecting the next supreme leader. The Assembly of Experts is an Iranian regime entity constitutionally responsible for monitoring the supreme leader and selecting his successor. Assembly of Experts leadership board members serve two-year terms. This is the first time since 2016 that the Assembly of Experts has not been led by influential cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, May 20, 2024

Ukrainian sources indicated that Russian forces are concentrating limited, understaffed, and incohesive forces in the Sumy direction, but even such a Russian grouping of forces will be able to achieve the likely desired effect of drawing and fixing Ukrainian forces in the international border area. The deputy commander of a Ukrainian brigade operating in northern Kharkiv Oblast reported on May 20 that Russian forces, including Chechen forces, are accumulating in the Sumy direction but that the limited number of Russian personnel suggests that the Russian objective is to draw and fix Ukrainian forces to the international border area.

Iran Update, May 20, 2024

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi died in a helicopter crash in northwestern Iran on May 19. His death upends Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s multi-year project of grooming Raisi to become the next supreme leader. Khamenei has invested tremendous energy and time in preparing Raisi in recent years, appointing him to key positions and engineering the presidential election in 2021 to ensure that he won. Raisi’s death is a shock to both the day-to-day management of the Iranian government as well as to Khamenei’s long-term vision for the regime.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, May 18, 2024

Russian forces have recently intensified their effort to seize the operationally significant town of Chasiv Yar, seeking to exploit how Russian offensive operations in northern Kharkiv Oblast and ongoing offensive operations throughout eastern Ukraine have generated greater theater-wide pressure on Ukrainian forces. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted an unsuccessful roughly reinforced company-sized mechanized assault with two tanks and 21 infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) in the direction of the Novyi Microraion in eastern Chasiv Yar on May 17.

Iran Update, May 18, 2024

Israeli forces expanded clearing operations in eastern Rafah on May 18. The IDF 401st Brigade is “deepening the raid” in eastern Rafah, according to the IDF. Israeli forces destroyed militia infrastructure and killed about 50 Palestinian fighters in the area. Israeli forces also destroyed a weapons production site. An IDF lieutenant colonel said that the IDF has begun attacking Hamas’ Rafah Brigade. Several Palestinian militias claimed attacks targeting Israeli forces in the al Tanour neighborhood, indicating that Israeli forces have advanced to the area. A Palestinian journalist reported that Israeli forces advanced and engaged Palestinian fighters in the Jninah and Brazil neighborhoods in eastern Rafah.