Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Iran Update, April 11, 2023

Zachary Coles, Annika Ganzeveld, Amin Soltani, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, James Motamed, and Nicholas Carl

April 11, 2023, 4:30 pm ET

The Iran 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). To receive Iran Updates via email, please subscribe here.

Contributors: Andie Parry, Ashka Jhaveri, and Anya Caraiani

Israeli media has published several articles in recent days detailing the network of IRGC officers working to establish an integrated air defense network in Syria, citing unidentified Israeli intelligence and military sources. IRGC Aerospace Force Commander Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajji Zadeh is leading this effort in cooperation with the Quds Force, according to these articles.[1] CTP cannot confirm these reports, although they are consistent with previous Israeli media claiming that the IRGC Aerospace Force is organizing air defense activities in Syria.[2] The recent Israeli articles detailed additional Iranian officers involved in this effort, including Ali Hassan Mahdavi, who replaced Javad Ghaffari as the overall IRGC commander in Syria likely sometime in late 2021.[3]

The continued Iranian efforts to transfer air defense assets into Syria, despite repeated Israeli airstrikes, underscores the priority that Tehran likely assigns to this effort. Tehran has long sought to transfer air defense systems into Syria.[4] Israel has conducted an intensive air campaign in recent months to disrupt Iranian transportation networks and destroy several air defense facilities.[5] Iran remains committed to entrenching itself militarily in Syria in the long term, nevertheless, reflecting its willingness to sacrifice personnel and resources to that end.

Tehran may be operating on the theory that establishing forward air defense positions in Syria and other nearby countries could impede a potential Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. Such systems could provide early warning to Iran-based platforms and target the refueling and support aircraft that could be involved in such a mission.

Iranian and Iranian-backed militant activity has increased around al Mayadin, Deir ez Zour Province in recent days, which may be related to IRGC efforts against Israel and/or the United States. Syria outlet Eye of Euphrates reported that a delegation of IRGC officials met with local IRGC and Lebanese Hezbollah leadership in al Mayadin on April 11.[6] CTP cannot verify this report, although it is consistent with previous indications of a military buildup around al Mayadin. Multiple convoys of fighters from the Fatemiyoun Division—Iran’s Afghan Shia proxy—and the Iranian-backed Syrian Arab Army (SAA) 4th Division arrived in al Maydin on April 10, as CTP previously reported.[7]

This increased military activity may be part of an Iranian effort to bring air defense assets and precision-guided munitions into Syria from Iraq. CTP previously assessed that Iran may view the recent escalation cycle between Israel and Hamas as an opportunity to redouble efforts to transfer advanced systems into Syria.[8] Al Mayadin lies along a critical ground route that the IRGC uses heavily to facilitate military shipments deeper into Syria. The IRGC could use the recently deployed forces to consolidate control over this transportation route and thereby protect convoys traveling along it. Iranian and Iranian-backed militants control the al Qaim-Deir ez Zor City route but not the territory east of the Euphrates River, which is immediately adjacent to the route.

Iran may additionally seek to use its increased military presence around al Mayadin to expand the scope of its operations against the US inside Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)-held territory. IRGC and Lebanese Hezbollah officials met in al Mayadin on March 31 to discuss recruiting civilians in SDF to act as informants and conduct attacks on US forces, as CTP previously reported.[9] Iranian-backed militants later fired two rockets at the US Conoco Mission Support Site on April 10.[10] Syrian media reported that the rocket attack came from SDF-held territory, suggesting that the IRGC may have, indeed, succeeded in recruiting some locals.[11] Iranian and Iranian-backed militants can use launch sites in SDF-held territory to conduct more accurate and therefore more lethal attacks against US positions there. The map below illustrates recent kinetic activity around this area and relevant mortar and rocket ranges.


Key Takeaways

  • Israeli media has published articles in recent days detailing the network of IRGC officers working to establish an integrated air defense network in Syria, citing unidentified Israeli intelligence and military sources.
  • Iranian and Iranian-backed militant activity has increased around al Mayadin, Deir ez Zour Province in recent days, which may be related to their efforts against Israel and/or the United States.
  • At least two protests occurred in two cities across two provinces.
  • School poisonings persisted across Iran, highlighting the regime’s continued failure to prevent such attacks
  • Raisi Administration spokesperson Ali Bahadori Jahromi announced the dismissal of three senior economic officials.
  • The IRGC is planning a show of naval force in the coming days likely directed at the US and/or Israel.

Internal Security and Protest Activity

At least two protests occurred in two cities across two provinces on April 11. CTP assesses with high confidence that one protest occurred in the following location:

Shahin Shahr, Esfahan Province[12]

  • Size: Small
  • Demographic: Families of poisoned schoolgirls

CTP assesses with low confidence that one protest occurred in the following location:

Amol, Mazandaran Province[13]

  • Size: Small
  • Demographic: Families of poisoned schoolgirls


School poisonings persisted across Iran on April 11, highlighting the regime’s continued failure to prevent such attacks. At least seven poisoning incidents occurred across seven cities in six provinces on April 11. Social media users circulated footage of purported plainclothes officers leaving a girl's school in Karaj shortly after a poisoning attack.[14] It is unclear what these individuals were doing at the school.

Some regime officials continue to recognize how urgently they must address the school poisoning crisis in Iran. Parliamentarian Mohammad Hassan Asefari called on security and intelligence officials to identify the culprits on April 10.[15] Former Parliamentarian Heshmatollah Falahat Pisheh separately stated on April 11 that the regime should focus on school poisonings instead of enforcing mandatory veiling.[16] Some officials have contrastingly downplayed reports of ongoing poisonings. The Tehran Province Education Public Relations Bureau rejected that one of the first poisoning-related deaths had occurredKurdish human rights organization Hengaw reported that a 16-year-old male student died on April 9 due to complications from a poisoning attack last month in Tehran, as CTP previously reported.[17] The Tehran Education Public Relations Bureau stated that the student had instead died from “intestinal disease and kidney failure.”[18]

Domestic Politics

Moderate Khabar Online hinted that hardline politician Saeed Jalili may try to replace Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf as parliament speaker in the March 2024 parliamentary elections. Jalili was Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) secretary between 2007 and 2013 and served as chief nuclear negotiator under former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.[19] Khabar Online reported that Saeed Jalili’s brother, Vahid Jalili, who is the vice president of the state-controlled Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Organization, may help Jalili’s election prospects. Khabar Online’s report is consistent with prior indicators of tensions between Ghalibaf and Jalili. Ghalibaf previously accused Jalili and other members of the ultraconservative Stability Front party of stoking unrest among disaffected Iranian youth, as CTP previously reported.[20]

IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News Agency reported on April 11 that former President Hassan Rouhani is heading a campaign to promote the election of centrist candidates in the March 2024 parliamentary elections. Tasnim claimed that Rouhani plans to present an electoral list of centrist candidates to the Iranian public, bolstering his political profile and influence if such candidates were elected, citing informed sources.[21] CTP previously assessed on February 14 that Rouhani was positioning himself to reenter the political arena after a period of relative absence.[22]

Economic Affairs

The Iranian rial depreciated from 506,000 rials to one US dollar on April 10 to 511,500 rials to one US dollar on April 11, marking a one percent depreciation.[23]

Raisi Administration spokesperson Ali Bahadori Jahromi announced the dismissal of three senior economic officials on April 11. President Ebrahim Raisi removed Program and Budgeting Organization Chief Massoud Mir Kazemi, Agricultural Jihad Minister Javad Sadati Nejad, and state-affiliated Innovation and Prosperity Fund President Ali Vahdat on April 11. Jahromi added that National Tax Organization Chief Davoud Manzour will replace Mir Kazemi—claiming that Mir Kazemi requested to be removed from his post due to unspecified health issues--Iran Veterinary System Head Mohammad Agha Miri will replace Sadati Nejad, and Presidential Strategic Research Center Director Mohammad Sadegh Khayatian will replace Vahdat.[24] IRGC-affiliated Fars News Agency accurately predicted on April 9 that Raisi would replace Mir Kazemi with Manzour, as CTP previously reported.[25] These dismissals are a continuation of cabinet reshuffles within the Raisi administration’s economic team in recent months and likely reflect Raisi’s growing concern with Iran’s economic conditions. Raisi previously appointed Mohammad Reza Farzin as the Central Bank of Iran chief on December 29, 2022, and stressed the importance of managing exchange rates and reducing inflation at the time.[26]

Economic Affairs and Finance Minister Ehsan Khandouzi announced on April 11 that he will soon pay an official visit to Saudi Arabia to improve Iran-Saudi economic ties. Khandouzi stated that Iranian and Saudi officials are preparing a roadmap to improve bilateral trade.[27] Khandouzi also highlighted domestic economic growth, claiming that Iran had experienced 16 percent economic growth in the Iranian calendar year of 1401 (March 2022-March 2023).[28]

Foreign Policy and Diplomacy

The foreign ministers of Iran, China, Russia, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan will meet in Samarkand, Uzbekistan on April 13 to discuss Afghanistan.[29] Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Secretary Ali Shamkhani previously traveled to Moscow to attend the fifth session of the Moscow Format Consultations on Afghanistan on February 8, as CTP previously reported.[30]

External Security and Military Affairs

The IRGC is planning a show of naval force in the coming days likely directed at the US and/or Israel. IRGC spokesperson Brigadier General Ramazan Sharif announced on April 11 that the IRGC will conduct a “naval parade” in the Caspian Sea, Persian Gulf, Sea of Oman, and “Axis of Resistance countries that have coasts and seas” on April 13.[31] Iranian officials use the term “Axis of Resistance countries” to refer to countries in which the Quds Force has cultivated proxy and partner militias, such as Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. Sharif framed the parade as meant to show support for Palestine. The IRGC may be responding to the US Navy announcing on April 8 the deployment of a guided-missile submarine to the Middle East.[32] The IRGC may also seek to use the parade to signal military strength to Israel, if the parade does, in fact, involve some military activity around Syria, Lebanon, or Yemen.

[1] https://www.israelhayom dot; https://www.haaretz dot

[2] https://www.jpost dot com/middle-east/iran-news/article-711178

[3] https://www.israelhayom dot; https://www.haaretz dot



[6] https://eyeofeuphrates dot com/ar/news/2023/04/11/8199





[11] https://nahermedia dot net/%D9%82%D8%B5%D9%81-%D8%A3%D9%85%D8%B1%D9%8A%D9%83%D9%8A-%D8%A5%D9%8A%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%8A-%D9%85%D8%AA%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%AF%D9%84-%D8%A8%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B2%D9%88%D8%B1-%D9%81%D9%85

[12] ; ;



[15] https://t dot co/qdFoHFW7YC

[16] https://aftabnews dot ir/fa/news/834015/فلاحت-پیشه-بیش-از-حجاب-بحث-حمله-به-مدارس-مهم-است ;


[18] https://www.entekhab dot ir/fa/news/722139/%D8%A2%D9%85%D9%88%D8%B2%D8%B4-%D9%88-%D9%BE%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%B1%D8%B4-%D8%AF%D9%84%DB%8C%D9%84-%D9%81%D9%88%D8%AA-%D8%AF%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%B4%E2%80%8C%D8%A2%D9%85%D9%88%D8%B2-%D8%AF%D8%A8%DB%8C%D8%B1%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%B4%D9%87%DB%8C%D8%AF-%D8%B9%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%DB%8C-%D8%B4%D9%87%D8%B1%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%82%D8%AF%D8%B3-%D8%A8%DB%8C%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%B1%DB%8C-%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%AF%D9%87-%D9%88-%D9%86%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%B3%D8%A7%DB%8C%DB%8C-%DA%A9%D9%84%DB%8C%D9%88%DB%8C-%D8%A8%D9%88%D8%AF-%D9%87%DB%8C%DA%86-%DA%AF%D8%B2%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%B4%DB%8C-%D9%85%D8%A8%D9%86%DB%8C-%D8%A8%D8%B1-%D8%A8%DB%8C%E2%80%8C%D8%AD%D8%A7%D9%84%DB%8C-%D8%AF%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%B4%E2%80%8C%D8%A2%D9%85%D9%88%D8%B2%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%A7%DB%8C%D9%86-%D8%AF%D8%A8%DB%8C%D8%B1%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%A7%D9%86-%DA%AF%D8%B2%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%B4-%D9%86%D8%B4%D8%AF%D9%87



[21] https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1402/01/22/2878513/اختصاصی-تسنیم-روحانی-وارد-رقابت-انتخاباتی-جدید-می-شود-رئیس-جمهور-سابق-از-کلاب-هاوس-کلید-می-زند


[23] Bonbast dot com

[24] https://www.irna dot ir/news/85080117/%D8%AE%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%AD%D8%A7%D9%81%D8%B8%DB%8C-%D9%85%DB%8C%D8%B1%DA%A9%D8%A7%D8%B8%D9%85%DB%8C-%D9%88-%D8%B3%D8%A7%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%AA%DB%8C-%D9%86%DA%98%D8%A7%D8%AF-%D8%A8%D8%A7-%D8%AF%D9%88%D9%84%D8%AA-%D8%AA%D8%BA%DB%8C%DB%8C%D8%B1-%D9%85%D8%AF%DB%8C%D8%B1%D8%B9%D8%A7%D9%85%D9%84-%D8%B5%D9%86%D8%AF%D9%88%D9%82 ; https://www.irna dot ir/news/85080191/%D8%B1%DB%8C%DB%8C%D8%B3-%D8%AC%D8%AF%DB%8C%D8%AF-%D8%B3%D8%A7%D8%B2%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%A8%D8%B1%D9%86%D8%A7%D9%85%D9%87-%D9%88-%D8%A8%D9%88%D8%AF%D8%AC%D9%87-%DA%A9%DB%8C%D8%B3%D8%AA



[27] https://www.farsnews dot ir/news/14020122000268/%D8%AE%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AF%D9%88%D8%B2%DB%8C--%D9%86%D8%B1%D8%AE-%D8%B1%D8%B4%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%82%D8%AA%D8%B5%D8%A7%D8%AF%DB%8C-%D8%A8%D8%AF%D9%88%D9%86-%D9%86%D9%81%D8%AA-%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D9%BE%D8%A7%DB%8C%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%BE%D8%A7%DB%8C%DB%8C%D8%B2-%D8%B3%D8%A7%D9%84-%DA%AF%D8%B0%D8%B4%D8%AA%D9%87-45-%D8%AF%D8%B1%D8%B5%D8%AF

[28] https://www.entekhab dot ir/fa/news/722161/%D9%88%D8%B2%DB%8C%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%82%D8%AA%D8%B5%D8%A7%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%AF%DB%8C%D8%A8%D9%87%D8%B4%D8%AA-%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%87-%D8%B3%D9%81%D8%B1%DB%8C-%D8%A8%D9%87-%D8%B9%D8%B1%D8%A8%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%AE%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%87%D9%85-%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B4%D8%AA

[29] https://www dot irna dot ir/news/85080112/%D8%B3%D9%85%D8%B1%D9%82%D9%86%D8%AF-%DB%B2%DB%B4-%D9%81%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%B1%D8%AF%DB%8C%D9%86-%D9%85%DB%8C%D8%B2%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%86%D8%B4%D8%B3%D8%AA-%D9%87%D9%85%D8%B3%D8%A7%DB%8C%DA%AF%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%81%D8%BA%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%AC%D8%A7%DB%8C-%D8%B7%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%86


[31] https://www dot irna dot ir/news/85079777/%D8%B1%DA%98%D9%87-%D8%AF%D8%B1%DB%8C%D8%A7%DB%8C%DB%8C-%D8%AF%D8%B1-%DA%A9%D8%B4%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%87%D8%A7%DB%8C-%D9%85%D8%AD%D9%88%D8%B1-%D9%85%D9%82%D8%A7%D9%88%D9%85%D8%AA-%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D8%A2%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%87-%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%B2-%D9%81%D9%84%D8%B3%D8%B7%DB%8C%D9%86-%D9%82%D8%A7%D9%84%DB%8C%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%81