Iran Update, March 24, 2024

March 24, 2024 - ISW Press

The Israel Defense Forces engaged Palestinian militias north of Gaza City. Local Palestinian sources reported that Israeli armor entered eastern Beit Hanoun on March 23. The IDF acknowledged on March 24 that its forces are operating in Beit Hanoun, saying that the IDF Air Force conducted an airstrike on a target in Beit Hanoun that “posed a threat to the forces operating in the area.”

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 23, 2024

March 23, 2024 - ISW Press

Russian authorities claimed to have arrested the four attackers and seven others involved in the March 22 “Crocus City Hall” concert venue attack, which Russian authorities reported killed at least 133 civilians. ISW assesses that the Islamic State (IS) is very likely responsible for the Crocus City Hall attack. The Kremlin nevertheless and without evidence quickly attempted to tie Ukrainian actors to the Crocus City Hall attack but has yet to formally accuse Ukraine of involvement in the attack. Russian ultranationalists responded to the attack by reiterating typically xenophobic calls for anti-migrant policies, reflecting the growing tension in Russian society over the mistreatment of migrants and the impacts migrant disenfranchisement could have on expanding a viable recruitment base in Russia for Salafi-Jihadi groups.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 22, 2024

March 22, 2024 - ISW Press

Russian forces conducted the largest series of combined drone and missile strikes targeting Ukrainian energy infrastructure since the start of the full-scale invasion during the night of March 21-22.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 21, 2024

March 21, 2024 - ISW Press

Russian offensive tactics will likely increasingly pressure Ukrainian defenses as long as delays in Western security assistance persist. Russian forces are generally relying on their manpower and materiel superiority to conduct a relatively consistent tempo of assaults against Ukrainian positions along the frontline in hopes of wearing down Ukrainian defenders and setting conditions for exploiting Ukrainian vulnerabilities.[9] Russian forces are also expanding their use of tactical aviation, drones, and electronic warfare (EW) systems in Ukraine to prepare for and support these assaults while reportedly conducting artillery fire exceeding Ukrainian artillery fire by a ratio of up to ten to one.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 20, 2024

March 20, 2024 - ISW Press

Several Russian financial, economic, and military indicators suggest that Russia is preparing for a large-scale conventional conflict with NATO, not imminently but likely on a shorter timeline than what some Western analysts have initially posited. The Russian military continues to undertake structural reforms to simultaneously support the war in Ukraine while expanding Russia’s conventional capabilities in the long term in preparation for a potential future large-scale conflict with NATO.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 19, 2024

March 19, 2024 - ISW Press

Russian President Vladimir Putin presented the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) as a key guarantor of Russian security and sovereignty following his victory in the Russian presidential election, likely signaling that Russian security services and siloviki (Russian strongmen with political influence) will continue to represent his core constituency in his fifth presidential term. Putin delivered his first major address following his March 18 electoral victory speech at the FSB board meeting on March 19 and praised FSB officers for ensuring Russian security and sovereignty. Putin thanked FSB officers for successful operations in Ukraine, for suppressing attempts to interfere in Russian internal affairs, and for repelling “terrorist” attacks against Russia (in reference to limited raids by all-Russian pro-Ukrainian volunteers in Kursk and Belgorod oblasts). Putin also highlighted the FSB’s role in suppressing attempts by unnamed actors to provoke internal unrest and interethnic conflict within Russia and the FSB‘s responsibilities to ensure Russia’s economic security, combat corruption, and protect critical infrastructure.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 18, 2024

March 18, 2024 - ISW Press

Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed occupied Crimea 10 years ago, setting conditions for the full conquest of Ukraine Putin still seeks. Putin celebrated the 10th anniversary of Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea on March 18, 2024, during which he attempted to justify his continued occupation of parts of Donbas and southern Ukraine and to set conditions for a protracted war in Ukraine. Russian occupation authorities have consistently oppressed Ukrainians on the peninsula — the same charge of which Putin accused the Ukrainian government to justify his invasion — and Russia has since militarized Crimea to support its broader territorial ambitions against Ukraine.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 16, 2024

March 16, 2024 - ISW Press

The Ukrainian State Security Service (SBU) reportedly conducted a series of successful drone strikes against three Russian oil refineries in Samara Oblast on March 16. Sources in Ukrainian special services told Ukrainian outlet RBK-Ukraine that the SBU struck the Novokuibyshevsky, Kuibyshevsky, and Syzran Rosneft oil refineries in Samara Oblast. RBK-Ukraine reported that the three refineries process an estimated 25 million tons of oil per year, or 10 percent of Russia’s annual oil refinement output. Geolocated footage published on March 16 shows a fire at the Syzran oil refinery following the drone strikes, and Samara Oblast Governor Dmytro Azarov stated that there was also a fire at the refinery in Novokuibyshevsky.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 15, 2024

March 15, 2024 - ISW Press

Russian forces will likely continue ongoing offensive efforts to destabilize Ukrainian defensive lines in Spring 2024 while also preparing for a forecasted new offensive effort in Summer 2024. The provision of Western security assistance will likely play a critical role in Ukraine’s ability to hold territory now and to repel a new Russian offensive effort in the coming months.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 14, 2024

March 14, 2024 - ISW Press

Russian Security Council Deputy Chairperson Dmitry Medvedev posted a detailed call for the total elimination of the Ukrainian state and its absorption into the Russian Federation under what he euphemistically called a “peace formula.” Medvedev’s demands are not novel but rather represent the Kremlin’s actual intentions for Ukraine — intentions that leave no room for negotiations for purposes other than setting the precise terms of Ukraine’s complete capitulation.