UA-69458566-1

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Iran Crisis Update, September 29

 Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, Nicholas Carl, Zachary Coles, and Frederick W. Kagan

September 29, 3:00 pm ET

The Iran Crisis Updates are produced by the Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute with support from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

The Iranian regime’s extensive internet and telecommunications censorship is severely limiting the open-source information available on ongoing anti-regime protests in Iran. Iranian state media and officials have confirmed that they are blocking domestic access to Western social media applications such as WhatsApp and Instagram to impede protester coordination and organization and limit the free flow of information September 22.[1] Iranian internet users reported restricted access to foreign domains—including Google—and difficulties accessing Google Play and Apple’s App store, preventing users’ efforts to download VPNs.[2] CTP cannot verify most protest footage circulating on social media. Iranian authorities previously blocked internet access in 2019 gasoline protests.[3]

Uncorroborated social media reports suggest that Iran loosened internet restrictions around Tehran on September 29 but may continue blocking some social media platforms such as Instagram.[4] Some Iranian officials have called on the regime to permanently block Instagram in recent days.[5] Iranian newspapers have similarly reported that Instagram could be permanently blocked even after protests subside.[6]

Iran will likely continue improving its censorship infrastructure—possibly with support from China—to suppress future protests more effectively. Iranian authorities have praised the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) control of its domestic information space and signed agreements on cyber and law enforcement cooperation with China[7]. Some Iranian internet experts have compared Iranian internet disruptions prior to the ongoing protests to the CCP’s internet filtering system.[8] The regime may increasingly mirror the Chinese model of internet sovereignty as it seeks to preempt and quell unrest.

Key Takeaways

  • Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei remains absent and did not make a public appearance or statement on September 29.
  • Anti-regime protests likely occurred in at least six Iranian cities on September 29, but demonstrations appear to have subsided overall for now.
  • Anti-regime protests may increase inside and outside of Iran on October 1.
  • The IRGC conducted an artillery attack into Iraqi Kurdistan on September 29, marking the sixth consecutive day of such attacks.

Supreme Leader Succession

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei remains absent and did not make a public appearance or statement on September 29. Unverifiable social media rumors continue to circulate online that suggest that Khamenei’s health is worsening.[9] CTP will continue to monitor the situation.

Anti-Regime Protests

Anti-regime protests occurred in at least six Iranian cities on September 29, although demonstrations appear to have subsided as a whole for now. This is a moderate-to-high confidence assessment.  Social media users documented protests in Gilan, Qom, Esfahan, Kurdistan, Khorasan Razavi, and Kermanshah Provinces and have reported unrest in Khuzestan, Mazandaran, Hormozgan Provinces that CTP is unable to verify.[10] Iranian officials have reported diminished protest activity in Tehran Province, where protests first erupted following Mahsa Amini’s death on September 16. Tehran Provincial Governor Mohsen Mansouri announced that protests had subsided in Tehran on September 29, and social media users have circulated less footage of unrest in Tehran and other cities.[11] Social media users may be circulating less information due to internet restrictions.

Social media reports suggests that anti-regime demonstrations may resume within and outside of Iran’s borders on Saturday, October 1. Iranian students announced plans to resume demonstrations in front of several universities in Tehran on October 1.[12] Organized student protests would coincide with international demonstrations scheduled in several US, Australian, Candian, and European cities on the same date.[13] Iranian authorities reportedly plan to prevent spectators from attending Iranian soccer matches from October 9-10 in seven cities, possibly suggesting that the regime anticipates and is attempting to preempt further unrest.[14]

Axis of Resistance and Regional Developments



The IRGC conducted an artillery strike in Iraqi Kurdistan on September 29, marking the sixth consecutive day of such attacks. Iraqi media reported that the IRGC struck two locations in Erbil Province.[15] The IRGC has conducted artillery, drone, and missile attacks on anti-regime Kurdish positions in Iraqi Kurdistan since September 24. IRGC Operations Deputy Brigadier General Abbas Nilforoushan accused these Kurdish groups in Iraqi Kurdistan of stoking the ongoing, anti-regime protests.[16] The IRGC Ground Forces published a statement on September 29, vowing to continue such attacks until it destroys the groups.[17]


[1] https://t.me/farsna/263268

[2] https://twitter.com/filterbaan/status/1574061779881164801; https://twitter.com/xhdix/status/1572938218668195841

[3] https://www.cnbc.com/2019/11/21/irans-internet-blackout-enters-fifth-day-amid-fuel-price-protests.html

[4] https://twitter.com/fresh_sadegh/status/1575531689614667776?s=20&t=RrN0TdWFmoxI7PFAJG9DXQ

[5] https://t dot co/xChAgxKiXC

[6] https://36101266.khabarban dot com/https://www.radiofarda.com/a/whatsapp-and-instagram-will-not-be-unfiltered/32055533.html

[7] https://en.radiofarda.com/a/security-official-threatens-more-internet-censorship-as-iran-moves-towards-intranet-/30825156.html; https://www.shahrsakhtafzar dot com/fa/news/internet-operator/37870-iran-china-to-develope-5g-in-iran

[8] https://www.khordad dot news/fa/news/376039/%D9%81%DB%8C%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%B1%DB%8C%D9%86%DA%AF-%D8%B3%D9%87-%D9%84%D8%A7%DB%8C%D9%87-%D9%85%D8%AF%D9%84-%D9%81%DB%8C%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%B1%DB%8C%D9%86%DA%AF-%DA%86%DB%8C%D9%86%DB%8C-%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D8%AD%D8%A7%D9%84-%D8%A7%D8%B9%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%84-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AA

[9] https://twitter.com/SaeedAganji/status/1575552279201153032

[10] https://twitter.com/iranwire/status/1575558501438722048 https://twitter.com/ManotoNews/status/1575556851122700288https://twitter.com/ManotoNews/status/1575551293669593088https://twitter.com/ManotoNews/status/1575535115098550278https://twitter.com/ManotoNews/status/1575535081099513856https://twitter.com/1500tasvir/status/1575553026835636224https://twitter.com/1500tasvir/status/1575542333734793216https://twitter.com/1500tasvir/status/1575520881761140737https://twitter.com/IranIntlbrk/status/1575578140646121472?s=20&t=RrN0TdWFmoxI7PFAJG9DXQhttps://twitter.com/chawshin_83/status/1575570828800167936

[11] http://www.ensafnews dot com/373038/%D8%AD%D8%B1%D9%81-%D9%87%D8%A7%DB%8C-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%AA%D9%87%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%AF%D8%B1%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%B1%D9%87-%D8%A7%D8%B9%D8%AA%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%B6%D8%A7/

[12] https://www.iranintl.com/202209296135

[13] https://twitter.com/esmaeilion/status/1574923992250449921

[14] https://iranwire.com/en/sports/108082-irans-premier-league-to-host-football-matches-without-spectators/

[15] https://www.shafaq dot com/en/Kurdistan/Iranian-artillery-renews-bombing-regions-in-Iraqi-Kurdistan-2

[16] https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1401/07/05/2779695

[17] www.defapress dot ir/fa/news/548082

 

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, September 29

 

Kateryna Stepanenko, Karolina Hird, George Barros, Riley Bailey, and Frederick W. Kagan

September 29, 7:30 pm ET

Click here to see ISW’s interactive map of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This map is updated daily alongside the static maps present in this report.

The Kremlin continues to violate its stated “partial mobilization” procedures and contradict its own messaging even while recognizing the systematic failures within the Russian bureaucracy just eight days after the declaration of mobilization. Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged and deflected the blame for repeated “mistakes” during the first week of mobilization in his opening remarks at the Russian Security Council meeting on September 29.[1] Putin recounted instances of mobilizing men without prior military experience, assigning servicemen to the wrong specializations, and unfairly mobilizing men with health conditions or large families. ISW has previously reported that Kremlin-state media began exploring similar complaints just days after Putin’s declaration of “partial mobilization.”[2] Putin called on the Russian General Staff, Ministry of Defense (MoD), and federal subjects to fix the reported problems with mobilization, while noting that prosecutors and working groups within enlistment centers will monitor all complaints. Speaker of the Russian State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin also announced that Russian men with a military registration cannot leave their permanent residence without the approval of enlistment centers.[3] Volodin and the Kremlin’s Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov later retracted these statements, noting that the Russian MoD informed him that Russian officials may only restrict the movement of military-registered men in case of full mobilization.[4] Republic of Dagestan Head Sergey Melikov also condemned a police car with a loudspeaker that ordered all men to appear at the enlistment center while driving around Derbente, Republic of Dagestan, stating that local authorities did not authorize such announcements.[5] 

The Kremlin’s contradictory statements and procedures demonstrate the fundamental nature of the systemic weakness of the Russian military establishment that have characterized the entire invasion. Russian officials continue to execute a supposed reservist call-up as a confused undertaking somewhere between a conscription drive and the declaration of general mobilization, likely issuing conflicting orders to already flawed bureaucratic institutions. CIA Director Williams Burns noted that even if the Kremlin manages to mobilize 300,000 men it will not be able to ensure logistic support or provide sufficient training and equipment to the newly-mobilized men.[6] Ukrainian military officials noted that Russian forces have already committed mobilized men to Kharkiv Oblast who have since told the Ukrainian forces that they did not receive any training prior to their deployment around September 15.[7]

The bureaucratic failures in the Russian partial mobilization may indicate that Putin has again bypassed the Russian higher military command or the Russian MoD. The deployment of mobilized men to centers of hostilities on the Kharkiv or Kherson frontlines may suggest that Putin is directly working with axis commanders on the ground who are likely clamoring for reinforcements, rather than following standard military practices (that are also required by Russian law) such as providing training to the mobilized prior to their deployment to the frontlines. ISW has previously reported that Putin bypassed the Russian chain of command on numerous occasions when making decisions regarding the progress of the Russian “special military operation” in Ukraine, likely because he had lost confidence in the Russian MoD.[8] The contradictory and inconsistent narratives used by Kremlin officials and the Russian MoD about mobilization procedures could indicate that Putin, as the supreme commander, issued divergent or contradictory orders.

Belarus remains highly unlikely to become directly involved in the war in Ukraine on the part of Russia, despite statements made by Ukrainian sources on September 29 that Belarus is preparing to accommodate newly mobilized Russian servicemen. The Ukrainian Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported that Belarus is preparing to accommodate up to 20,000 mobilized Russian men in existing civilian premises, warehouses, and abandoned agricultural facilities in Belarus.[9] Deputy Chief of the Main Operational Department of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Oleksiy Hromov, similarly stated that actions are being taken to expand the Luninets Airfield (50km from the Belarusian-Ukrainian border) and to repair storage and military infrastructure.[10] Independent monitoring organization Belarusian Hajan Project also reported that Russia delivered Su-30 aircraft to the Baranavichy airfield in Belarus.[11] These data points may indicate that Russia hopes to use Belarusian military facilities and infrastructure to hold and potentially train newly mobilized Russian forces, but it remains exceedingly unlikely that these are leading indicators of imminent Belarusian involvement in Ukraine on Russia’s behalf. Hromov also stated that there are no signs of Russian troops forming a strike group to target northern Ukraine, which suggests that Russian forces are unlikely to use Belarus as a launching pad for ground attacks into Ukraine despite reports of troop and equipment accumulations in Belarus.[12] These reports more likely suggest that Russian President Vladimir Putin is continuing to leverage his relationship with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in order to use Belarusian land for the development of Russian military capabilities. ISW has previously assessed that Lukashenko cannot afford the domestic ramifications of Belarusian involvement in Ukraine.[13] ISW also assesses that Russia does not have the ability to form a ground strike force from scratch or from existing units in Belarus quickly.

Key Takeaways

  • The Kremlin continues to violate its stated “partial mobilization” procedures and contradict its own messaging even while recognizing the systematic failures within the Russian bureaucracy just eight days after the declaration of mobilization.
  • Belarus may be preparing to accommodate newly-mobilized Russian servicemen but remains unlikely to enter the war in Ukraine on Russia’s behalf.
  • Ukrainian troops have likely nearly completed the encirclement of the Russian grouping in Lyman and cut critical ground lines of communication (GLOCS) that support Russian troops in the Drobysheve-Lyman area.
  • Ukrainian military officials maintained operational silence regarding Ukrainian ground maneuvers in Kherson Oblast but stated that Russian forces are deploying newly-mobilized troops to reinforce the Kherson Oblast frontline.
  • Ukrainian troops continued to target Russian logistics, transportation, and military assets in Kherson Oblast.
  • Russian troops continued ground attacks in Donetsk Oblast.
  • Russian forces have likely increased the use of Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones in southern Ukraine.
  • An independent Russian polling organization, the Levada Center, found that almost half of polled Russians are anxious about mobilization, but that support for Russian military actions declined only slightly to 44%.
  • Ukrainian officials reiterated their concerns that the Kremlin will mobilize Ukrainian citizens in occupied oblasts following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annexation announcement.

We do not report in detail on Russian war crimes because those activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We will continue to evaluate and report on the effects of these criminal activities on the Ukrainian military and population and specifically on combat in Ukrainian urban areas. We utterly condemn these Russian violations of the laws of armed conflict, Geneva Conventions, and humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.

  • Ukrainian Counteroffensives—Southern and Eastern Ukraine
  • Russian Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine (comprised of one subordinate and two supporting efforts);
  • Russian Subordinate Main Effort—Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast
  • Russian Supporting Effort—Southern Axis
  • Russian Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts
  • Activities in Russian-occupied Areas

Ukrainian Counteroffensives (Ukrainian efforts to liberate Russian-occupied territories)

Eastern Ukraine: (Vovchansk-Kupyansk-Izyum-Lyman Line)

ISW's September 29 maps do not depict the reported encirclement of Lyman because the first Russian reports of the Ukrainian encirclement of Lyman broke after the 3:00 pm EST daily map cutoff. The ISW maps of September 30 will include all verified and updated information about the reported encirclement of Lyman.

Russian sources indicated that Ukrainian troops have likely completed the envelopment of the Russian grouping in the Lyman area as of the end of the day on September 29. A prominent Russian military correspondent reported that Ukrainian forces broke through Russian defenses around Stavky, 10km north of Lyman, and cut the Torske-Drobysheve road that is the last supply and egress route for Russian elements holding the line west of Lyman.[14] The correspondent called the situation “extremely difficult” for elements of the BARS-13 detachment and the 752nd Motorized Rifle Regiment of the 20th Combined Arms Army, which are reportedly defending around Drobysheve and into Lyman.[15]  

Another Russian milblogger stated that Ukrainian troops are attacking Lyman from three directions and have cut Russian access to the critical Svatove-Lyman road, which is the major ground line of communication (GLOC) sustaining the Russian grouping within Lyman itself.[16] Several milbloggers stated that the fall of Lyman to Ukrainian troops is imminent without the immediate reinforcement of Russian forces.[17] The Ukrainian General Staff reported earlier in the day on September 29 that seven tank crewed by newly mobilized and low-skilled personnel deployed to the Lyman area without proper fire training for tank weapons and got into a road accident.[18] It is highly unlikely that any deployment of additional, newly mobilized, forces to Lyman will afford the existing Russian grouping significant defensive capabilities and prevent Ukrainian troops from collapsing the Lyman pocket.

Russian sources also continued to discuss Ukrainian counteroffensive operations along the Oskil River in northeastern Kharkiv Oblast on September 29. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian troops attempted to break through Russian defenses near the Kharkiv-Luhansk border in an unspecified location.[19] Deputy Chief of the Ukrainian General Staff’s Main Operational Department, Oleksiy Hromov, stated on September 29 that the Russian 4th Tank Division of the 1st Guards Tank Army suffered considerable losses over the past few weeks while operating in Kupyansk, which lies near the Oskil River by the Kharkiv-Luhansk Oblast border.[20] As ISW previously reported, the 4th Tank Division lost nearly an entire regiment worth of advanced T-80 tanks during earlier stages of the Ukrainian counteroffensive in Kharkiv Oblast, which suggests that whatever remnants of the 4th Tank Division that are currently operating around near Kupyansk are severely understrength.[21]

Southern Ukraine: (Kherson Oblast)

Ukrainian military officials maintained operational silence regarding Ukrainian ground maneuvers in Kherson Oblast on September 29 but emphasized that Russian forces are deploying new troops to the area, likely to reinforce Russian defensive lines against the ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensive. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russia deployed 2,000 mobilized men from Crimea to Kherson Oblast on September 27, many of whom are newly-mobilized members of the historically marginalized Crimean Tatar community and are likely undertrained and unmotivated to fight on the side of Russian troops.[22] Ukrainian military officials reiterated that Ukrainian troops are continuing an interdiction campaign against Russian military, logistics, and transportation assets, as well as concentration areas, in Kherson Oblast.[23]

Russian and Ukrainian sources stated that Ukrainian strikes impacted three main areas in Kherson Oblast on September 29: around Kherson City, east of Kherson City in the Nova Kakhovka-Beryslav area, and south of the Dnipro River. Several sources reported that Ukrainian troops struck Oleshky (8km southeast of Kherson City), Antonivka (5km east of Kherson City), and Mala Kardashynka (10km southwest of Kherson City).[24] Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command and Russian milbloggers additionally stated that Ukrainian troops struck Russian positions and concentration areas in Nova Kakhkovka and Beryslav, 60km and 65km east of Kherson City, respectively.[25] Footage posted to local Kherson Oblast Telegram channels additionally shows the aftermath of a reported Ukrainian strike on a gas pipeline in Brylivka, 45km southeast of Kherson City.[26]

Neither Russian nor Ukrainian sources identified any specific areas where Ukrainian troops conducted ground maneuvers on September 29. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian troops once again attempted to advance towards Bezimenne (western Kherson Oblast near the Inhulets River).[27] Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command noted that Ukrainian troops “suppressed” Russian strongholds in Khreschenivka (northeastern Kherson Oblast) with “active actions.”[28] This language is vague and could either mean that Ukrainian troops conducted ground attacks in this area or inflicted fire damage on Russian positions. The Ukrainian General Staff also stated that Russian troops struck Ternovi Pody (25km northwest of Kherson City), indicating that Ukrainian troops control this settlement.[29]

Russian Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine

Russian Subordinate Main Effort—Donetsk Oblast (Russian objective: Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast, the claimed territory of Russia’s proxies in Donbas)

Russian forces continued unsuccessful ground attacks in Donetsk Oblast on September 29. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled ground assaults northeast of Bakhmut near Bakhmutske and south of Bakhmut near Zaitseve (about 8km southeast of Bakhmut), Mykolaivka Druha (about 13km south of Bakhmut), Odradivka (about 9km south of Bakhmut), Zalizne (about 26km southwest of Bakhmut), and Mayorsk (20km south of Bakhmut).[30] A Russian military correspondent claimed that Ukrainian troops are retreating further into Bakhmut itself, although ISW cannot independently confirm this claim.[31] The Ukrainian General Staff also reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian ground attacks southwest of Avdiivka and Donetsk City in Pervomaiske, Pobieda, Novomykhalivka, and Pavlivka. Ukrainian sources reported on September 29 that Russian forces continued routine artillery, air, and missile strikes throughout the line of contact in Donetsk Oblast.[32]

Supporting Effort—Southern Axis (Russian objective: Maintain frontline positions and secure rear areas against Ukrainian strikes)

Russian forces have increased their use of Iranian-made drones to attack Ukrainian positions and cities in southern Ukraine. Deputy Chief of the Ukrainian General Staff’s Main Operational Department, Oleksiy Hromov, stated that Russian forces used two Iranian-made drones in attacks in southern Ukraine last week, whereas thus far Russian forces have used 29 drones between September 25 and September 29.[33] Ukrainian Strategic Command reported that Ukrainian air defenses struggle to detect the Shahed-136 drones because they can operate at low altitudes.[34] Ukrainian sources reported that Russian forces operate the drones from Crimea and primarily use them in operations targeting critical and military infrastructure throughout Southern Ukraine.[35] Ukrainian sources also claimed to have shot down 22 Shahed-136 drones since September 10.[36]

Russian forces continued routine artillery, air, and missile strikes west of Hulyaipole and in Mykolaiv and Dnipropetrovsk Oblasts on September 29.[37] Ukrainian sources reported that Russian forces struck Mykolaiv City and Nikopol and Kryvyi Rih, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast.[38] Ukrainian and Russian sources reported that Russian forces continued heavy shelling and rocket strikes in the vicinity of Bereznehuvate.[39] Ukrainian sources claimed that Ukrainian air defense systems shot down four Russian Kh-59 cruise missiles over Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhia Oblasts on September 29.[40] The Ukrainian General Staff also claimed that Ukrainian forces struck and destroyed three Russian S-300 systems in Tokmak, Zaporizhia Oblast.[41]

Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts (Russian objective: Expand combat power without conducting general mobilization)

The Kremlin continued to face challenges in attempting to suppress anti-mobilization protests throughout Russia. A Russian Human Rights group reported that Russians protested in 11 different Russian cities and settlements on September 29.[42] Russian sources reported that Russian police dispersed an anti-mobilization protest in Kyzyl, Tuva Oblast, detaining 20 women.[43] Russians continued to attack local administrations and military recruitment centers, with Novosibirsk Oblast officials claiming to have detained a man who had attempted to set a military recruitment center on fire in Novosibirsk.[44] Russian sources also reported that unknown protesters set village administrations on fire in Moscow and Rostov Oblast on September 28 and September 29, respectively.[45] Unknown perpetrators also reportedly attempted arson at a military recruitment center in Vladivostok two nights in a row on September 27 and September 28.[46]

Independent Russian polling organization Levada Center found that almost half of polled Russians are anxious about mobilization, but the support for Russian military actions has not significantly declined since the declaration of partial mobilization. Levada found that 47% of Russians expressed concern over mobilization, 13% were outraged, and 11% noted experiencing depression as a result of the mobilization; 23% reported feeling prideful for Russia.[47] More than half of polled Russians said they are afraid that war in Ukraine may lead to general mobilization, whereas a majority of respondents did not express such concern in February 2022. Levada noted that the percent of Russians reporting concern about the situation in Ukraine increased from 74% in August to 88% this week, but absolute support for Russian forces’ actions in Ukraine only decreased by two percent to 44% in the same time frame.[48]

Russian enlistment officers are continuing to undertake sly measures to prevent Russian men from avoiding mobilization. Russian outlets reported that teachers may administer draft notices to men, while enlistment officers in Vladivostok attempted to use fire alarms to coerce men into leaving their apartments.[49] Russian officials are also distributing summonses and establishing checkpoints at the Russian-Kazakh border in Astrakhan Oblast to prevent Russian men from fleeing abroad.[50]

The Kremlin continues to redeploy troops and equipment from the westernmost part of Russia to reinforce war efforts in Ukraine. An unnamed senior Nordic defense official told Foreign Policy that Russia has approximately 6,000 remaining troops of its pre-war 30,000 at the borders with Baltic countries and Finland.[51] The official stressed that Russian forces largely maintained their air power and the Northern Fleet in the area but deployed high-end military hardware such as anti-aircraft systems and missiles to Ukraine. The Kremlin’s consistent deployment of troops and military equipment from westernmost bases is not consistent with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s narratives claiming that the war is a response to NATO threatening Russian territory. 

Activity in Russian-occupied Areas (Russian objective: consolidate administrative control of occupied areas; set conditions for potential annexation into the Russian Federation or some other future political arrangement of Moscow’s choosing)

Ukrainian officials reiterated their concerns that the Kremlin will mobilize Ukrainian citizens in occupied oblasts following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annexation announcement. A representative of Ukraine’s Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR), Vadym Skibitsky, said that the Kremlin would announce mobilization in occupied parts of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhia Oblasts after annexing these territories.[52] Skibitsky added that Russian forces have already mobilized “almost all” of the male population in occupied Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. Advisor to the Mariupol Mayor Petro Andryushenko stated that annexation will allow Russians to also mobilize temporarily displaced persons for Donetsk City, Makiivka, and Horlivka, that will be considered Russian citizens under Russian law.[53] Ukrainian Luhansk Oblast Head Serhiy Haidai also noted that Russian border officials are not letting approximately 1,000 Ukrainian refugees from occupied territories in Pskov Oblast flee to Latvia.[54] The Ukrainian General Staff also noted that Russian occupation officials in Crimea are prioritizing mobilizing Crimean Tatars and are assigning them to units operating in areas of intense hostilities.[55]

Ukrainian partisans continued to target collaborators in occupied territories. Ukrainian officials reported that Ukrainian partisans attempted to kill collaborator Olena Shapurova in an improvised explosive device attack in Melitopol on September 29.[56] Shapurova’s husband reportedly sustained injuries as a result of the attack. 

Note: ISW does not receive any classified material from any source, uses only publicly available information, and draws extensively on Russian, Ukrainian, and Western reporting and social media as well as commercially available satellite imagery and other geospatial data as the basis for these reports. References to all sources used are provided in the endnotes of each update. 


[1] http://kremlin dot ru/events/president/news/69459; https://smotrim dot ru/article/2966351?utm_source=internal&utm_medium=main2-news&utm_campaign=main2-news6

[2] https://understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-september-26

[3] https://meduza.io/news/2022/09/29/volodin-schitaet-chto-stoyaschim-na-voinskom-uchete-zapreschaetsya-uezzhat-iz-rf-minoborony-ob-yasnyalo-chto-mobilizatsiya-ne-predusmatrivaet-ogranicheniy-na-peredvizhenie  

[4] https://meduza.io/news/2022/09/29/volodin-schitaet-chto-stoyaschim-na-voinskom-uchete-zapreschaetsya-uezzhat-iz-rf-minoborony-ob-yasnyalo-chto-mobilizatsiya-ne-predusmatrivaet-ogranicheniy-na-peredvizhenie; https://vmdotru/news/999660-peskov-prizval-operativno-ispravlyatv-oshibki-pri-informirovanii-o-mobilizacii ; https://tassdotru/armiya-i-opk/15907025?utm_source=yxnews&utm_medium=desktop ; https://www.vedomostidotru/politics/news/2022/09/29/943093-peskov-volodin-operativno-ispravil-svoi-oshibki

[5] https://t.me/bazabazon/13571; https://twitter.com/VictorKvert2008/status/1575448946809475072?s=20&t=efzkXmcy5hRuSsofl-Mt1g

[6] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/ukraine-russia-putin-cia-director-bill-burns-norah-odonnell-interview/

[7] https://suspilne dot media/286863-rf-mobilizuvali-vze-ponad-100-tisac-z-ogolosenih-300-genstab/; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSAZj9CJEkg

[8] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-july-10; https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-august-23; https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-september-11

[9] https://gur dot gov.ua/content/v-bilorusi-hotuiutsia-pryiniaty-20-tysiach-mobilizovanykh-z-rf.html ; https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=pfbid026MQ25QyQW2ZnsJ5d5sthtPuzDuRcqEddC8sUGD9Bc6TUgJsdUwvRSoqupk9N7JR5l&id=100069092624537 ; https://t.me/spravdi/18069  

[10] https://armyinform dot com.ua/2022/09/29/biloruski-vijskovi-aerodromy-ta-zaliznyczyu-gotuyut-dlya-pryjomu-vijsk/; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSAZj9CJEkg

[11] https://twitter.com/MotolkoHelp/status/1575428731262451717?s=20&t=NUDZulQ7bD5-CjFYX9XpUg

[12] https://armyinform dot com.ua/2022/09/29/biloruski-vijskovi-aerodromy-ta-zaliznyczyu-gotuyut-dlya-pryjomu-vijsk/; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSAZj9CJEkg

[13] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-june-23; https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-update-july-11

[14] https://t.me/wargonzo/8520; https://twitter.com/666_mancer/status/1574826431670018049; https://twitter.com/RALee85/status/1575583117229711361?s=20&t=MJXv8vEJGESoRZ4Nhvsj8A ; https://t.me/wargonzo/8520 ; https://twitter.com/michaeldweiss/status/1575575137457680389?s=20&t=MJXv8vEJGESoRZ4Nhvsj8A ; https://twitter.com/rulepanic/status/1575584495339974656?s=20&t=MJXv8vEJGESoRZ4Nhvsj8A

[15] https://t.me/wargonzo/8520; https://twitter.com/666_mancer/status/1574826431670018049; https://t.me/wargonzo/8510; https://t.me/wargonzo/8512

[16] https://t.me/rybar/39542

[17] https://t.me/rybar/39542; https://t.me/wargonzo/8520

[18] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0z4rWGufhbxbNrsHf6FaEFCk9uE1bjhLUWbPN8RZCUkQKBY2eLFjnCWZ5tVbh7ATcl

[19] https://t.me/sashakots/36083  

[20] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSAZj9CJEkg

[21] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-september-18

[22] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0z4rWGufhbxbNrsHf6FaEFCk9uE1bjhLUWbPN8RZCUkQKBY2eLFjnCWZ5tVbh7ATcl

[23] https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=621371882853976; https://www.facebook.com/okPivden/posts/pfbid0Zkd8gd8qj7UCVKx61aauX6H51keRxGFQEU8zpDbqK1uh7sTJa7VdVt1tMparAyfRl

[24] https://t.me/rybar/39527; https://t.me/hueviyherson/26655; https://t.me/hueviyherson/26643; https://twitter.com/bayraktar_1love/status/1575236433035423744?s=20&t=DBRRytkdQ6R2WVSStL7l3g; https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=621371882853976

[25] https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=621371882853976; https://t.me/rybar/39527; https://twitter.com/bayraktar_1love/status/1575236433035423744?s=20&t=DBRRytkdQ6R2WVSStL7l3g; https://t.me/hueviyherson/26643  

[26] https://t.me/hueviyherson/26644; https://t.me/hueviyherson/26647; https://mobile.twitter.com/bayraktar_1love/status/1575236433035423744; https://t.me/voenkorKotenok/40959; https://t.me/m0sc0wcalling/12044

[27] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid034JghVtgDw2j8N65KHbkCWTRun6hp2pvHHhiH24sbt3ttcxETktabZMiab4kWuMVRl; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0z4rWGufhbxbNrsHf6FaEFCk9uE1bjhLUWbPN8RZCUkQKBY2eLFjnCWZ5tVbh7ATcl

[28] https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=621371882853976

[29] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0z4rWGufhbxbNrsHf6FaEFCk9uE1bjhLUWbPN8RZCUkQKBY2eLFjnCWZ5tVbh7ATcl

[30] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0z4rWGufhbxbNrsHf6FaEFCk9uE1bjhLUWbPN8RZCUkQKBY2eLFjnCWZ5tVbh7ATcl ; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0z4rWGufhbxbNrsHf6FaEFCk9uE1bjhLUWbPN8RZCUkQKBY2eLFjnCWZ5tVbh7ATcl

[31] https://t.me/izvestia/105668

[32] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0z4rWGufhbxbNrsHf6FaEFCk9uE1bjhLUWbPN8RZCUkQKBY2eLFjnCWZ5tVbh7ATcl ; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0z4rWGufhbxbNrsHf6FaEFCk9uE1bjhLUWbPN8RZCUkQKBY2eLFjnCWZ5tVbh7ATcl ; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid034JghVtgDw2j8N65KHbkCWTRun6hp2pvHHhiH24sbt3ttcxETktabZMiab4kWuMVRl ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSAZj9CJEkg ; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid034JghVtgDw2j8N65KHbkCWTRun6hp2pvHHhiH24sbt3ttcxETktabZMiab4kWuMVRl ; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0z4rWGufhbxbNrsHf6FaEFCk9uE1bjhLUWbPN8RZCUkQKBY2eLFjnCWZ5tVbh7ATcl ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSAZj9CJEkg

[33] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSAZj9CJEkg

[34] https://t.me/spravdi/18037

[35] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSAZj9CJEkg ; https://t.me/spravdi/18037

[36] https://t.me/spravdi/18037 ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSAZj9CJEkg

[37] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid034JghVtgDw2j8N65KH ; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0z4rWGufhbxbNrsHf6FaEFCk9uE1bjhLUWbPN8RZCUkQKBY2eLFjnCWZ5tVbh7ATcl ; https://www.facebook.com/okPivden/posts/pfbid0Zkd8gd8qj7UCVKx61aauX6H51keRxGFQEU8zpDbqK1uh7sTJa7VdVt1tMparAyf ; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0z4rWGufhbxbNrsHf6FaEFCk9uE1bjhLUWbPN8RZCUkQKBY2eLFjnCWZ5tVbh7ATcl ; https://www.facebook.com/okPivden/posts/pfbid0Zkd8gd8qj7UCVKx61aauX6H51keRxGFQEU8zpDbqK1uh7sTJa7VdVt1tMparAyfRl ; https://www.facebook.com/okPivden/posts/pfbid0Zkd8gd8qj7UCVKx61aauX6H51keRxGFQEU8zpDbqK1uh7sTJa7VdVt1tMparAyfRl

[38] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0z4rWGufhbxbNrsHf6FaEFCk9uE1bjhLUWbPN8RZCUkQKBY2eLFjnCWZ5tVbh7ATcl ; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0z4rWGufhbxbNrsHf6FaEFCk9uE1bjhLUWbPN8RZCUkQKBY2eLFjnCWZ5tVbh7ATcl ; https://www.facebook.com/okPivden/posts/pfbid0Zkd8gd8qj7UCVKx61aauX6H51keRxGFQEU8zpDbqK1uh7sTJa7VdVt1tMparAyfRl

[39] https://t.me/rybar/39525 ; https://t.me/mykolaivskaODA/2773 ; https://www.facebook.com/okPivden/posts/pfbid0Zkd8gd8qj7UCVKx61aauX6H51keRxGFQEU8zpDbqK1uh7sTJa7VdVt1tMparAyf

[40] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0z4rWGufhbxbNrsHf6FaEFCk9uE1bjhLUWbPN8RZCUkQKBY2eLFjnCWZ5tVbh7ATcl ; https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=621371882853976 ;  https://t.me/spravdi/18060 ; https://t.me/spravdi/18071 ; https://t.me/spravdi/18081 ; https://t.me/spravdi/18048  

[41] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0z4rWGufhbxbNrsHf6FaEFCk9uE1bjhLUWbPN8RZCUkQKBY2eLFjnCWZ5tVbh7ATcl

[42] https://ovd dot news/news/2022/09/25/spiski-zaderzhannyh-v-svyazi-s-akciyami-protiv-mobilizacii-25-sentyabrya

[43] https://meduza.io/news/2022/09/29/v-tyve-na-aktsii-protesta-zaderzhali-20-zhenschin-pri-etom-vlasti-uveryayut-chto-mobilizatsiya-v-regione-uzhe-zavershilas ; https://www.interfax-russiadotru/siberia/news/tuva-vypolnila-kvotu-po-mobilizacii-vlasti; https://twitter.com/holodmedia/status/1575445900448727042

[44] https://newtimes dot ru/articles/detail/223674

[45] https://t.me/bazabazon/13545; https://t.me/bazabazon/13510

[46] https://t.me/bazabazon/13505

[47] https://www dot levada dot ru/2022/09/29/konflikt-s-ukrainoj-sentyabr-2022-goda/

[48] https://meduza dot io/news/2022/09/29/levada-tsentr-u-poloviny-rossiyan-ukaz-o-mobilizatsii-vyzval-trevogu-i-strah-u-chetverti-gordost-za-rossiyu ; https://www dot levada.ru/2022/09/29/konflikt-s-ukrainoj-sentyabr-2022-goda/

[49] https://ria dot ru/amp/20220929/mobilizatsiya-1820276505.html; https://t.me/bazabazon/13552 ; https://twitter.com/nexta_tv/status/1575469940068519936?s=20&t=SfM3J-Hrlw8WwzWQTm4EUQ

[50] https://t.me/stranaua/66708; https://tass dot ru/obschestvo/15904999

[51] https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/09/28/russia-ukraine-war-nato-eastern-flank-military-kaliningrad-baltic-finland/

[52] https://gur dot gov.ua/content/na-tymchasovo-okupovanykh-terytoriiakh-luhanskoi-ta-donetskoi-oblastei-mobilizovane-maizhe-vse-choloviche-naselennia.html; https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/sep/27/conscription-fears-young-ukrainian-men-stopped-leaving-occupied-areas-russian-soldiers-crossing-point?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

[53] https://t.me/andriyshTime/3218

[54] https://t.me/luhanskaVTSA/6068

[55] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0z4rWGufhbxbNrsHf6FaEFCk9uE1bjhLUWbPN8RZCUkQKBY2eLFjnCWZ5tVbh7ATcl ; https://t.me/spravdi/18047  

[56] https://t.me/zalpalyanytsya/1714 ; https://t.me/Bratchuk_Sergey/19555 ; https://t.me/spravdi/18062; https://sprotyv.mod.gov.ua/2022/09/29/u-melitopoli-pidirvaly-avto-kolaborantky/; https://t.me/hueviyherson/26656 ; https://t.me/stranaua/66683 

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Iran Crisis Update, September 28

Nicholas Carl, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, Zachary Coles, and Frederick W. Kagan

September 28, 5:00 pm ET

The Iran Crisis Updates are produced by the Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute with support from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

Circumstantial evidence suggests that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is at least temporarily unable to perform his normal duties. Khamenei has been unusually absent in recent days amidst countrywide, anti-regime protests, which began on September 16. Rumors have circulated that Khamenei’s health has deteriorated significantly since early September.[1] CTP cannot verify these rumors about Khamenei’s health, and such reports should be treated with skepticism. There are indications that Khamenei is ill or incapacitated, however. Regime power centers are behaving as if succession is either imminent or underway. President Ebrahim Raisi—a prominent frontrunner to succeed Khamenei—is positioning himself to become the next supreme leader with support from senior officers from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

The ongoing Mahsa Amini protests are straining the regime’s capability and willingness to crack down but are not yet existential to the regime. Protests began on September 16 in response to the regime’s brutal killing of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.[2] Protests have concentrated primarily in ethnically Kurdish regions of Iran, where Amini lived, and Tehran but spread rapidly to other locations and demographics.[3] State security services have launched a bloody crackdown against the ongoing protests but have struggled with bandwidth constraints and exhaustion according to some Iranian media outlets.[4] Tehran security officials reported that 185 Basij members were injured in the protests with five in critical condition.[5] The Basij is a paramilitary branch of the IRGC responsible for civil defense and social control. These protests do not appear close to collapsing the regime at this time, however.

The IRGC may assess that anti-regime Kurdish militants operating around the Iran-Iraq-Turkey border are arming and stoking the protests. The IRGC has conducted five consecutive days of attacks involving artillery, drones, and missiles into Iraqi Kurdistan.[6] Iranian state media have claimed that anti-regime Kurdish groups are fomenting instability against the regime.[7] CTP cannot verify these allegations. The most recent round of IRGC attacks on September 28 killed an American citizen, Omar Mahmoudzadeh, in Iraqi Kurdistan.[8]

The regime’s brutal crackdown and continuing IRGC attacks are stoking unrest in Kurdish communities throughout the region. Demonstrations expressing solidarity with the Iranian protesters occurred in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan and Qamishli in northern Syria on September 28.[9]

Key Takeaways

  • Circumstantial evidence suggests that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is at least temporarily unable to perform his normal duties.
  • Regime power centers are behaving as if succession is either imminent or underway.
  • The ongoing Mahsa Amini protests may be challenging the regime’s capability and willingness to crack down but do not appear close to collapsing the regime.
  • The IRGC may assess that anti-regime Kurdish militants operating around the Iran-Iraq-Turkey border are arming and stoking the protests.
  • The IRGC conducted a large-scale attack into Iraqi Kurdistan on September 28, killing one American.

Supreme Leader Succession

Circumstantial evidence suggests that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is at least temporarily unable to perform his normal duties. Khamenei canceled his planned attendance at the annual meeting of the Assembly of Experts—the regime body constitutionally responsible for selecting the supreme leader—on September 7.[10] Khamenei has historically given speeches at these meetings. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal both reported that Khamenei’s health has declined rapidly in recent weeks, prompting him to cancel meetings and public appearances.[11] The New York Times reported that he underwent surgery for a bowel obstruction in early September, citing unidentified sources inside and outside of Iran.

CTP cannot verify these rumors about Khamenei’s health, but circumstantial evidence indicates that Khamenei may indeed be ill or incapacitated. He has been abnormally silent about the ongoing countrywide, anti-regime protests, which began on September 16. Khamenei gave speeches on September 17 and 21 but did not address the protests.[12] Khamenei has never failed to address a major protest wave and responded previously to such protest waves within days of their initiations. He commented five days after countrywide protests erupted in December 2017 and two days after countrywide protests erupted in November 2019.[13]  It is unclear why he did not comment on September 17 or 21, but his continued absence as the protests have expanded and become more dangerous strongly suggests that he is at least temporarily unable to address them publicly.

Regime power centers are behaving as if succession is either imminent or underway. President Ebrahim Raisi gave a televised address on September 28 boasting of his accomplishments since taking office in August 2021.[14] He mentioned the ongoing Mahsa Amini protests at the end of his speech, reiterating that the regime will crack down on the demonstrations. His address was remarkably tone-deaf given the protests raging across the country and sounded more like an appeal to key regime constituencies for support in a succession struggle than like a president attempting to calm massive and violent demonstrations.

Twenty-four current and former IRGC leaders signed an open letter publicly praising Raisi for his speech to the UN General Assembly on September 21.[15] The letter signatories include Iran’s most high-ranking and influential officers who control most of the Iranian armed forces, such as Armed Forces General Staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri, Khatam ol Anbia Central Headquarters Commander Major General Gholam Ali Rashid, IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami, and IRGC Quds Force Commander Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani. Many of these officers are part of a human network of IRGC leaders who have maintained close ties with one another for decades and periodically intervene in domestic politics to promote their hardline agenda.[16] This IRGC network publishes such letters extremely rarely and uses them to signal its political position on critical issues to the rest of the regime. The timing of this letter indicates that the IRGC network likely seeks to signify its endorsement of Raisi as supreme leader, particularly since there was nothing particularly remarkable about Raisi’s UN speech to have called forth such an unusual and rare response. The participation of Ali Shamkhani and Yahya Rahim Safavi in this letter was especially significant as they are both in Khamenei’s inner circle. Shamkhani is the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, which advises the supreme leader on defense and foreign policies. Safavi is Khamenei’s senior military adviser.

Numerous unverifiable social media rumors are circulating online regarding Khamenei’s status and health. Some have claimed that Khamenei is dead.[17] Others have reported an ongoing power struggle among different regime factions.[18] These rumors are neither sufficiently detailed nor sufficiently credible to report in detail at this time. CTP will continue to monitor the situation.

Anti-Regime Protests

Popular, anti-regime protests have erupted throughout Iran since September 16. The Iranian morality patrol arrested and brutally killed 22-year-old Mahsa Amini for failing to adhere to regime veiling standards in Tehran on September 16, sparking widespread unrest.[19] Demonstrations initially concentrated in northwestern Iran—specifically Kurdistan Province, where Amini lived—and Tehran, but have since spread countrywide. Protests are now occurring in over 93 cities and towns in 31 of Iran's 32 provinces as of September 25. Demonstrations have transcended criticism of the morality patrol and mandatory veiling, and some protesters have called for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic.

The regime has violently suppressed protests and sustained casualties among its security forces in recent days. State broadcaster IRIB reported that 41 people including security personnel have died in the ongoing protests as of September 25.[20] Recent estimates place protest-related deaths at 76.[21]  A Tehran Province Basij official today announced that 185 Basij members have been wounded—five of whom are in critical condition—in violent clashes with protestors. The official claimed that some protestors were armed.[22] Iranian state-affiliated media and officials have similarly confirmed the deaths of several security officials throughout the country.[23]

Iranian reporting and statements from senior judiciary and security officials suggest that the regime fears losing its capability to crack down on ongoing unrest. This is a low-confidence assessment. Social media users circulated purportedly leaked footage of Judiciary Chief Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei discussing protest suppression efforts, stating that Iranian security personnel suffered from low morale and had not slept in several days.[24] IRGC-affiliated media similarly circulated footage of Iranian Law Enforcement Command (LEC) Commander Hossein Ashtari encouraging police officers to continue quashing unrest, likely corroborating Ejei’s comments about low morale among security personnel.[25] Reformist Ham Mihan Newspaper reported that Ashtari discussed security force bandwidth constraints and exhaustion with IRGC Commander Hossein Salami and Intelligence and Security Minister Esmail Khatib.[26] Ham Mihan removed this report shortly after its publication.

Some hardline officials have sympathized with Mahsa Amini’s death—and subsequent demonstrations—and called on the regime to heed their demands. Iranian media and officials have largely framed ongoing protests as riots organized by foreign actors and vowed to suppress further unrest.[27] Other officials, however, notably a hardline Shia cleric, have intimated that the protestors have legitimate grievances. Grand Ayatollah Hossein Nouri Hamedani released a statement urging Iranian authorities to address protestors’ concerns on September 25.[28]

Amini’s death has ignited unrest among historically marginalized ethnic groups within and outside of Iran’s borders. Amini was an Iranian Kurd who lived in Kurdistan Province. Amini’s death likely ignited preexisting anti-regime sentiment among Iranian Kurds and possibly other minorities, such as Iranian Baloch in Sistan and Baluchistan Province.[29] Footage circulating on social media suggests that most protests were initially concentrated among Kurdish communities in northwestern Iran.[30]

Protests have spread to Kurdish communities throughout the region. Demonstrations against the Iranian regime began on September 24 in Erbil City, Erbil Province, and on September 28 in Sulaymaniyah City, Sulaymaniyah Province.[31] Videos of the protests circulated on Twitter suggest several hundred Iraqi Kurds attended the demonstrations. Hundreds of Syrian Kurds staged similarly large protests in Qamishli, Hasakah Province on September 28.[32]

Axis of Resistance and Regional Developments

The IRGC has conducted large-scale artillery, drone, and missile attacks against anti-regime Kurdish militias in Iraqi Kurdistan since September 24. The IRGC Ground Forces targeted Kurdish groups such as Komala, the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran, the Free Life Party of Kurdistan, and Kurdistan Freedom Party positions.[33] The most recent IRGC attack on September 28 included 73 rockets and ballistic missiles as well as kamikaze drones, killing at least nine and injuring 32 civilians.[34] The IRGC killed an American citizen, Omar Mahmoudzadeh, in the attack.[35]

The Iranian regime and its proxies are framing these attacks as retaliation for anti-regime Kurdish militants stoking tensions in Iran. Iranian state media have claimed that these Kurdish groups are arming and supporting protesters.[36] Iran-backed proxy Telegram channels parroted this narrative and described the Kurdish militias as international terrorist organizations.[37] The IRGC may have sought to degrade Kurdish militias’ capability to logistically and materially support protesters.

US forces downed an Iranian Mohajer-6 drone that the US assessed posed a threat to US personnel.[38] It is unclear whether the IRGC meant to target US positions with the drone or whether it was part of the attack on anti-regime Kurdish targets.

 


[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/16/world/middleeast/irans-supreme-leader-ayatollah-ali-khamenei-ill.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share&referringSource=articleShare; https://www.wsj.com/articles/amid-iran-protests-a-powerful-leader-emerges-from-the-shadows-11664105423

[2] https://www.cnn.com/2022/09/22/middleeast/iran-protests-mahsa-amini-father-internet-blackout-intl-hnk

[3] https://twitter.com/criticalthreats/status/1574146703657078784

[4] http://www.iranglobal dot info/node/183769; https://twitter.com/BeniSabti/status/1575071504425164801

[5] https://www.tasnimnews dot com /fa/news/1401/07/06/2780838/%D8%B3%D8%B1%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%AD%D8%B3%D9%86-%D8%B2%D8%A7%D8%AF%D9%87-185-%D8%A8%D8%B3%DB%8C%D8%AC%DB%8C-%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D8%BA%D8%AA%D8%B4%D8%A7%D8%B4%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%AA%D9%87%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%85%D8%AC%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%AD-%D8%B4%D8%AF%D9%86%D8%AF

[6] https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1401/07/06/2781091

[7] https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1401/07/06/2780803/

[8] https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/no-us-officials-injured-iranian-attacks-iraq-state-dept-says-2022-09-28/

[9] https://twitter.com/IraqiQahwa/status/1573641436377014273?s=20&t=_7KIONfWxtlZXuDWui231Qhttps://twitter.com/Lawwwen/status/1573598116372168705?s=20&t=_7KIONfWxtlZXuDWui231Qhttps://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/kurdish-protesters-rally-erbil-over-mahsa-aminis-death-2022-09-24/https://twitter.com/Javanmardi75/status/1575226031710928896

[10] https://www.radiofarda.com/a/32028485.html

[11] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/16/world/middleeast/irans-supreme-leader-ayatollah-ali-khamenei-ill.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share&referringSource=articleShare; https://www.wsj.com/articles/amid-iran-protests-a-powerful-leader-emerges-from-the-shadows-11664105423

[12] http://www.leader dot ir/fa/content/26022/; http://www.leader dot ir/fa/content/26032/

[13] https://apnews.com/article/middle-east-prices-internet-access-ap-top-news-tehran-0a1699c5fa1549f9b3ef239a19427d70; https://apnews.com/article/middle-east-prices-internet-access-ap-top-news-tehran-0a1699c5fa1549f9b3ef239a19427d70

[14] http://www.president dot ir/fa/139919/

[15] https://www.khabaronline dot ir/news/1677185/%D9%86%D8%A7%D9%85%D9%87-%D9%81%D8%B1%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AF%D9%87%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%A8%D9%84%D9%86%D8%AF-%D9%85%D8%B1%D8%AA%D8%A8%D9%87-%D8%B3%D9%BE%D8%A7%D9%87-%D8%A8%D9%87-%D8%B1%D8%A6%DB%8C%D8%B3%DB%8C

[16] https://www.criticalthreats.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/pdf_uploadanalysisThe_IRGC_Command_Network-1.pdf

[17] https://twitter.com/rahar9075/status/1574577490806603776

[18] https://twitter.com/SaeedAganji/status/1575068898352943105

[19] https://www.rferl.org/a/iran-amini-death-head-injury-doctor/32042587.html

[20] https://www.ft.com/content/c2e002bf-296f-48fe-b928-64b866fbb4b1

[21] https://iranhr.net/en/articles/5500/

[22] https://www.tasnimnews dot com /fa/news/1401/07/06/2780838/%D8%B3%D8%B1%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%AD%D8%B3%D9%86-%D8%B2%D8%A7%D8%AF%D9%87-185-%D8%A8%D8%B3%DB%8C%D8%AC%DB%8C-%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D8%BA%D8%AA%D8%B4%D8%A7%D8%B4%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%AA%D9%87%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%85%D8%AC%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%AD-%D8%B4%D8%AF%D9%86%D8%AF

[23] https://president dot ir/fa/139869; https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1401/06/31/2777807

[24] https://iranwire.com/en/provinces/107921-demonstrations-persist-in-iran-as-chief-justice-warns-of-security-forces-low-morale/

[25] https://twitter.com/Tasnimnews_Fa/status/1574078434065715202?s=20&t=HNR7W9g8FKA5I2zlmkYqxQ

[26] http://www.iranglobal dot info/node/183769; https://twitter.com/BeniSabti/status/1575071504425164801

[27] https://president dot ir/fa/139869; https://www.instagram.com/p/Ci9cTKoqpjC/?igshid=NmNmNjAwNzg%3D

[28] https://www.eghtesadnews dot com/%D8%A8%D8%AE%D8%B4-%D8%A7%D8%AE%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%B3%DB%8C%D8%A7%D8%B3%DB%8C-57/523799-%D9%88%D8%A7%DA%A9%D9%86%D8%B4-%D8%A2%DB%8C%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%84%D9%87-%D9%86%D9%88%D8%B1%DB%8C-%D9%87%D9%85%D8%AF%D8%A7%D9%86%DB%8C-%D8%A8%D9%87-%D8%A7%D8%AA%D9%81%D8%A7%D9%82%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D8%AE%DB%8C%D8%B1-%D8%A8%D8%B1-%D9%85%D8%B3%D8%A6%D9%88%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%B2%D9%85-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AA-%D8%A8%D9%87-%D8%AE%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AA%D9%87-%D9%87%D8%A7%DB%8C-%D9%85%D8%B1%D8%AF%D9%85-%DA%AF%D9%88%D8%B4-%D8%AF%D9%87%D9%86%D8%AF

 [29] https://twitter.com/BeniSabti/status/1574812802316918786https://twitter.com/Natsecjeff/status/1574800487735492610

[30] https://twitter.com/criticalthreats/status/1572674287051460609

[31] https://twitter.com/SAMRIReports/status/1573609247832686593https://twitter.com/Javanmardi75/status/1575226031710928896https://twitter.com/PollaGarmiany/status/1575129568968687618

[32]  https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/syrian-north-women-protest-over-death-irans-amini-2022-09-26/;  https://www dot zaitunagency dot net/88877686/

[33] https://www.rudaw dot net/english/middleeast/iran/280920221

[34] https://twitter.com/mhmiranusa/status/1575130372643364864?s=20&t=mc70FhdpWmMpV5x32o8O0g; https://www dot kurdistan24 dot net/ckb/story/225801-%D8%B3%D9%88%D9%BE%D8%A7%DB%8C-%D9%BE%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%87%DB%95%DA%95%DB%95%D8%B4%DB%95%DB%8C-%D8%A8%DB%95%D8%B1%D8%AF%DB%95%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%85%DB%8C%DB%8C-%D9%87%DB%8E%D8%B1%D8%B4%DB%95%DA%A9%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%AF%DB%95%DA%A9%D8%A7%D8%AA; https://www dot rudaw dot net/english/middleeast/iran/280920221

[35] https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/no-us-officials-injured-iranian-attacks-iraq-state-dept-says-2022-09-28/

[36] https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1401/07/06/2780803/

[37] https://t.me/sabreenS1/59975

[38] https://www.centcom.mil/MEDIA/STATEMENTS/Statements-View/Article/3173389/statement-regarding-islamic-revolutionary-guard-corps-unprovoked-attack-in-iraq/