Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Iran Update, April 17, 2023

Johanna Moore, Annika Ganzeveld, Amin Soltani, and Nicholas Carl

April 17, 2023, 5:00 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.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al Sudani has allowed Iranvia its proxiesto expand its military influence in Iraq, specifically Kirkuk and Sinjar provinces, in recent days. The Popular Mobilization Authority—the official governing body of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF)—announced on April 17 that the PMF will establish a new operational headquarters in Kirkuk Province on April 17.[1] Sudani also gave permission to Popular Mobilization Forces Chairman Faleh al Fayadh to create a new PMF-affiliated brigade in Sinjar, Ninewa province on April 17, according to UK-based Al Araby.[2] An unidentified PMF source cited by Al Araby claimed that the brigade will be comprised of Sinjar residents recommended by local officials and PMF leadership as well as members of the PMF and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)-affiliated Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS). Sudani may have permitted these developments because his authority over the PMF has weakened in recent weeks. Sudani has suffered political losses to challenges from the Badr Organization in Diyala Province and former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, who sponsored electoral laws that will prevent Sudani from securing another term as prime minister, as CTP has reported.[3]

The PMF possibly established the new headquarters in Kirkuk as part of a border security agreement between Iran and Iraq. Independent Iraqi news outlet Nas News reported that an Iranian Intelligence and Security Ministry delegation traveled to Iraqi Kurdistan late last week to follow up on the status of the border security agreement signed between Iraq and Iran.[4] Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani and Sudani signed the agreement, which reportedly involves disarming Kurdish opposition groups operating in Iraqi Kurdistan, on March 19.[5]

The PMF announced it will create the new brigade in Sinjar following a Turkish airstrike in Sulaymaniyah province on the Iranian border. The head of the Kani Miran village council reported that Turkish Armed Forces targeted and killed three PKK members traveling via car in a drone strike in Kani Miran village, Penjweb district, Sulaymaniyah province on April 15, according to Al Araby.[6] Sulaymaniyah Governor Haval Abu Bakr spoke with Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Masrour Barzani to express concern regarding Turkish airstrikes in the province according to the UK based paper Al Quds al Araby.[7] The Turkish airstrike was uncharacteristically close to the Iranian border. A new PMF brigade in Sinjar supports Iranian efforts to establish and secure ground lines of communication into Syria, however, the Badr brigade in Sinjar would operate within close proximity of Turkish forces. Iran and Turkey have become rapidly positioned themselves in a potentially escalatory face-off within Iraq.

The PMF’s plans to increase its presence in Sinjar would facilitate another Iranian shipment route into Syria and risk conflict with Turkey in Iraqi Kurdistan. Sinjar has strategic significance to both Iran and Turkey and is located within disputed Iraqi Kurdistan territory containing a highway into northern Syria. The highway, which serves as a smuggling route into Syria through the Rabia border crossing, presents an alternative ground line of transportation to the al Qaim border crossing in Anbar province and would support an effort to expand Iranian-backed proxy presence into northern Syria that CTP previously assessed.[8] The PMF’s interaction with PKK-affiliated militants in Sinjar to facilitate materiel through northern Iraq into Syria would threaten Turkey’s stated objective of removing PKK militants from northern Iraq.[9] This would place a PMF brigade under risk of being targeted in Turkish airstrikes that target YBS and PKK militants.

The Iranian regime’s callous response to the ongoing wave of student poisonings may exacerbate the feeling of terror that these incidents are inducing among the Iranian public. CTP recorded student poisoning incidents in five cities on April 15, seven cities on April 16, and seven cities on April 17. Regime officials have conspicuously failed to reassure citizens that it prioritizes their safety despite the persistence of these incidents. Both Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi neglected to raise the issue of student poisonings in meetings and speeches over the past three days.[10] The regime’s silence on the recent student poisonings is striking given that, if these poisonings were occurring in another country, the government of that country would likely devote all of its resources and energy to ending the attacks on schoolchildren. The regime has additionally deployed security forces to confront citizens protesting the persistence of student poisonings. Security forces sprayed tear gas and attempted to disperse a crowd of protesters responding to recent student poisonings in Shahin Shahr, Esfahan Province on April 15.[11] Iranian social media users previously circulated videos of security forces reportedly shooting at citizens protesting student poisonings in Saghez, Kurdistan Province on April 9, as CTP previously reported.[12] The regime’s hostile response to poisoning-related demonstrations stands in stark contrast to its general noninterference in economically motivated protests. CTP recorded 17 economic protests between April 15 and 17 but did not observe security forces interfering in any of these protests. The regime’s differing responses to these two kinds of demonstrations underscore its sensitivity to accusations of the regime’s involvement in the poisonings. The regime has lastly turned a blind eye to widespread reports of school officials and personnel mistreating students in poisoned schools, such as by barring them from leaving school buildings and confiscating their water bottles.[13]It is thus reasonable to conclude that the regime may be seeking to instill terror among the Iranian people, and among young female Iranians in particular.

Key Takeaways

  •  Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al Sudani has allowed Iranvia its proxiesto expand its military influence in Iraq, specifically Kirkuk and Sinjar provinces, in recent days.
  • The PMF announced it will create the new brigade in Sinjar following a Turkish airstrike in Sulaymaniyah province on the Iranian border.
  • The Iranian regime’s callous response to the ongoing wave of student poisonings may exacerbate the feeling of terror that these incidents are inducing among the Iranian public.
  • The regime may be trying to weaken the anti-regime movement of Prominent Sunni cleric Moulana Abdol Hamid by addressing the core issues uniting protesters within the movement.
  • The Iranian rial depreciated slightly from 508,000 rials to one US dollar on April 14 to 516,000 rials to one US dollar on April 17.

Internal Security and Protest Activity

At least four protests occurred in three cities across three provinces on April 15. CTP assesses with moderate to high confidence that protests occurred in the following locations:

Shahin Shahr, Esfahan Province[14]

  •  Size: Small to medium
  • Demographic: Individuals protesting recent student poisonings

Dehloran, Ilam Province[15]

  •  Size: Small
  • Demographic: Iran International General Contracting Company workers on strike

Dehloran, Ilam Province[16]

  • Size: Small
  • Demographic: Refinery workers on strike

Sanandaj, Kurdistan Province[17]

  • Size: Small
  •  Demographic: Nurses

At least eight protests occurred in eight cities across six provinces on April 16. CTP assesses with moderate to high confidence that protests occurred in the following locations:

Esfahan City, Esfahan Province[18]

  • Size: Small
  • Demographic: Retirees

Kermanshah City, Kermanshah Province[19]

  • Size: Small
  • Demographic: Retirees

Shoush, Khuzestan Province[20]

  • Size: Small
  • Demographic: Retirees

Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province[21]

  • Size: Small 
  • Demographic: Retirees

Shoushtar, Khuzestan Province[22]

  • Size: Small
  • Demographic: Retirees

Babol, Mazandaran Province[23]

  • Size: Small
  • Demographic: Retirees

Qom City, Qom Province[24]

  • Size: Small
  • Demographic: Nurses

Tehran City, Tehran Province[25]

  • Size: Small
  • Demographic: Students protesting mandatory veiling

At least nine protests occurred in seven cities across seven provinces on April 16. CTP assesses with moderate to high confidence that protests occurred in the following locations:

Esfahan City, Esfahan Province[26]

  • Size: Small
  • Demographic: Farmers

Esfahan City, Esfahan Province[27] 

  • Size: Small
  • Demographic: Retired telecommunications workers

Ghazvin City, Ghazvin Province[28] 

  • Size: Small
  • Demographic: Nurses

Kermanshah City, Kermanshah Province[29] 

  • Size: Small
  • Demographic: Retired telecommunications workers

Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province[30]

  • Size: Small
  • Demographic: Retired telecommunications workers

Sanandaj, Kurdistan Province[31]

  • Size: Small 
  • Demographic: Individuals gathered around the grave of a killed protester

Bojnurd, North Khorasan Province[32]

  •  Size: Small
  • Demographic: Retired telecommunications workers

CTP assesses with low confidence that protests occurred in the following locations:

Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province[33]

  • Size: Small
  • Demographic: Individuals protesting recent student poisonings

Tehran City, Tehran Province[34]

  • Size: Small
  • Demographic: Retired telecommunications workers

The regime may be trying to weaken the anti-regime movement of Prominent Sunni cleric Moulana Abdol Hamid by addressing the core issues uniting protesters within the movement. Sistan and Baluchistan Security and Law Enforcement Deputy Governor Ali Reza Marhamati announced on April 17 that 38 individuals killed during the September 2022 “Bloody Friday” massacre in Zahedan have been designated as “martyrs”—an honorary designation for those who have lost their lives in the service of a just cause.[35] This announcement comes after the Sistan and Baluchistan Province Armed Forces Judicial Organization announced indictments on April 13 against the security forces who perpetrated the massacre, which CTP previously reported.[36] Iranian media additionally reported on April 17 that the Raisi administration has expanded water access to 123,000 people in the province.[37] Abdol Hamid has repeatedly referenced the above issues in his Friday prayer sermons. Abdol Hamid also met with the families of “Bloody Friday” victims on April 11, likely to rally his supporters and reverse his declining momentum, which CTP previously assessed.[38]

The Law Enforcement Command (LEC) has executed the new veiling enforcement plan it presented on April 8. Several LEC officials stated on April 16 that the LEC had sent warning messages to thousands of unveiled women.[39] Iranian media confirmed the details of the LEC enforcement plan on April 17, publishing a video that outlines how the LEC identifies and subsequently messages noncompliant individuals.[40] LEC Commander Ahmad Reza Radan announced on April 8 that the LEC will begin using advanced surveillance capabilities to identify unveiled women and issue “warning texts” on April 15, as CTP previously reported.[41]

Iranian women continued to defy the regime’s mandatory veiling standards despite its greater enforcement efforts. Social media users circulated footage of unveiled women in public spaces throughout Iran between April 15-17.[42] LEC spokesperson Saeed Montazer al Mahdi inadvertently acknowledged that at least 16 percent of those who received messages did not comply.[43] The aforementioned statements by officials that the LEC had sent warning messages to thousands of unveiled women essentially acknowledged widespread disobedience.

Iranian officials and state media reacted to former crown prince and political dissident Reza Pahlavi’s trip to Israel on April 17. Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanani stated that Pahlavi’s visit “has no value.”[44] Iranian media reacted harshly as well, criticizing Pahlavi’s efforts to organize the Iranian diaspora against the regime and arguing that the Israelis were deceiving Pahlavi[45]

Domestic Politics

Forty parliamentarians signed a motion to interpellate Industry, Mines, and Trade Minister Reza Fatemi Amin on April 17, the fifth Raisi administration official in the last two weeks who has faced removal from government.[46] The Iranian constitution states interpellations can be tabled if they bear the signatures of at least ten parliamentarians.[47] Interpellation is a formal parliamentary request for a government minister to appear before parliament to justify government policy, which may result in a vote of no confidence against the relevant minister. This news comes after IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News Agency reported on April 13 that President Ebrahim Raisi may soon dismiss Amin.[48] Government Information Council head Sepehr Khalaji denied the report and argued that Amin is not responsible for recent issues in the automobile market, as CTP previously reported.[49]

Hassan Rouhani's former chief of staff, Mahmoud Vaezi, rejected claims that Rouhani is planning to run in the parliamentary elections in March 2024.[50] IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News Agency reported on April 11 that Rouhani will lead a campaign to promote the election of centrist candidates in the 2024 parliamentary elections, bolstering his political profile and influence if such candidates were elected, which CTP reported.[51] CTP assessed on February 14 that Rouhani was positioning himself to reenter the political arena after a period of relative absence.[52]

Economic Affairs

The Iranian rial depreciated slightly from 508,000 rials to one US dollar on April 14 to 516,000 rials to one US dollar on April 17.[53]

Foreign Policy and Diplomacy

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei stated that Iran’s armed forces should focus on confronting "large powers” instead of engaging in menial conflicts during a meeting with senior military officials on April 16.[54] Khamenei may have been referring to the latest tensions between Iran and Azerbaijan. Regime officials have claimed in recent months that Israel is trying to harm Azerbaijani-Iranian relations.[55] Supreme Leader International Affairs Advisor Ali Akbar Velayati similarly signaled the regime’s--and specifically Khamenei’s--aversion to continuing down a path of escalation with Azerbaijan in a statement on April 14, as CTP previously reported.[56]

Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian held his third phone call with Azerbaijani Foreign Affairs Minister Jeyhun Bayramov on April 14, likely to discuss the recent rhetorical and diplomatic arguments between Iran and Azerbaijan.[57]

External Security and Military Affairs

IRGC Ground Forces Brigadier General Ali Kouhestani announced on April 15 the successful test of the Sadid-365 anti-tank missile.[58] The Sadid-365 is a guided missile with a range of eight kilometers.

The Wall Street Journal reported on April 14 that IRGC Quds Force Commander Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani coordinated the April 6 Hamas rocket attacks on Israel.[59] The report cited unidentified informed sources who claimed that Ghaani met with Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh and his deputy Saleh al-Arouri, Lebanese Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, and unidentified Palestinian Islamic Jihad officials in the Iranian Embassy in Beirut in early April before the April 6 Hamas rocket attacks. CTP previously hypothesized on April 10 that Iran facilitated the rocket attacks to distract Israel from the transfer of Iranian advanced weapon systems into Syria.[60] CTP reported on Ghaani’s arrival in Damascus on April 10, possibly to meet with Palestinian militants, but not a visit to Beirut for the same purpose, however.[62] CTP also reported that Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh traveled to Beirut, Lebanon on April 5 to meet with senior Lebanese Hezbollah (LH) officials, including LH Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah.[63]

An unidentified reconnaissance drone crashed at Camp Dublin within Baghdad International Airport on April 15, according to Iraqi news outlets.[64] An unidentified security source claimed that Coalition forces remotely disabled the drone over the base. Asaib Ahl al Haq façade group Ashab al Kaf posted a statement to their website on April 16 warning of an imminent attack on various camps located at Camp Victory.[65] Ashab al Kaf threatened to shoot down US and Coalition helicopters most recently on April 13.[66]


[2] https://www dot

[3]; ;

https://media.shafaq dot com/media/arcella_files/1679869229506()%D9%A2%D9%A2.pdf ;

[4] https://www dot

[5] https://www dot ;

https://shafaq dot com/ar/%D8%B3%DB%8C%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%A9/%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D8%B4%D9%85%D8%AE%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%8A-%D8%B3%D9%8A%D9%88%D9%82%D8%B9-%D9%85%D8%B0%D9%83%D8%B1%D8%A9-%D9%85%D9%86%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A8%D8%B4-%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D8%AF%D9%88%D8%AF-%D8%AE%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%84-%D8%B2%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%AA%D9%87-%D9%84%D9%89-%D8%A8%D8%BA%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%AF ;





[10] http://www dot ;

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http://www dot




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[35] https://www.entekhab dot ir/fa/news/722716


[37] https://www.tasnimnews dot dom/fa/news/1402/01/28/2881072

[38] ;

[39] ; https://www.entekhab dot ir/fa/news/722677/%D9%81%D8%B1%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AF%D9%87-%D9%86%DB%8C%D8%B1%D9%88%DB%8C-%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AA%D8%B8%D8%A7%D9%85%DB%8C-%DA%A9%D9%87%DA%AF%DB%8C%D9%84%D9%88%DB%8C%D9%87-%D9%88-%D8%A8%D9%88%DB%8C%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AD%D9%85%D8%AF-%D8%AA%D8%A7%DA%A9%D9%86%D9%88%D9%86-%DB%B1%DB%B3%DB%B2%DB%B5-%D9%85%D9%88%D8%B1%D8%AF-%D9%BE%DB%8C%D8%A7%D9%85-%D8%A8%D8%B1%D8%A7%DB%8C-%DA%A9%D8%B4%D9%81-%D8%AD%D8%AC%D8%A7%D8%A8-%DA%A9%D9%86%D9%86%D8%AF%D9%87%E2%80%8C%DA%AF%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%81%D8%B1%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%A7%D8%AF%D9%87%E2%80%8C%D8%A7%DB%8C%D9%85

[40] https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1402/01/28/2881708/فیلم-نحوه-ارسال-پیامک-پلیس-در-صورت-کشف-حجاب-در-خودرو-چگونه-است


[42] ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;

[43] https://www.entekhab dot ir/fa/news/722836/%D9%BE%D9%84%DB%8C%D8%B3-%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%B3%D8%A7%D9%84-%DB%B3%DB%B5%DB%B0%DB%B0-%D9%BE%DB%8C%D8%A7%D9%85%DA%A9-%DA%A9%D8%B4%D9%81-%D8%AD%D8%AC%D8%A7%D8%A8-%D8%A8%D8%B1%D8%A7%DB%8C-%D9%85%D8%AA%D8%B5%D8%AF%DB%8C%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%AD%D8%AF%E2%80%8C%D9%87%D8%A7%DB%8C-%D8%B5%D9%86%D9%81%DB%8C-%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%88%D9%84%DB%8C%D9%86-%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%B2-%D8%A7%D8%AC%D8%B1%D8%A7%DB%8C-%D8%B7%D8%B1%D8%AD-%D8%B9%D9%81%D8%A7%D9%81-%D9%88-%D8%AD%D8%AC%D8%A7%D8%A8-%D9%BE%D9%84%D9%85%D8%A8-%DB%B1%DB%B5%DB%B5-%D9%85%D8%BA%D8%A7%D8%B2%D9%87-%D8%B1%D8%B3%D8%AA%D9%88%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%88-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%BA-%D8%AA%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%B1

[44] https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1402/01/28/2881468; https://www.irna dot ir/news/85085222;

[45] https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1402/01/28/2881452/واکنش-مهاجرانی-به-سفر-پهلوی-به-سرزمین-های-اشغالی-آدم-عاقلی-نبود-بگوید-شازده-الآن-وقت-سفر-نیست ; https://www.farsnews dot ir/news/14020128000717/شگفتی-مهاجرانی-از-سفر-پهلوی-به-سرزمین%E2%80%8Cهای-اشغالی-شازده-الآن-وقت-سفر ; https://nournews dot ir/Fa/News/138808/منشور-همبستگی،-طبل-تو-خالی-که-چند-روزی-بیش-دوام-نیاورد!

[46] https://www.irna dot ir/news/85085246; https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1402/01/28/2881438 ; ;


[48] https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1402/01/24/2879273


[50] https://www.fardanews dot com/%D8%A8%D8%AE%D8%B4-%D8%B3%DB%8C%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AA-73/1215256-%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%B9%D8%B8%DB%8C-%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%AD%D8%A7%D9%86%DB%8C-%D9%82%D8%B5%D8%AF-%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%AF-%D8%A8%D9%87-%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AA%D8%AE%D8%A7%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%B1%D8%A7-%D9%86%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%AF https://fararu dot com/fa/news/624464/%D9%85%D8%AD%D9%85%D9%88%D8%AF-%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%B9%D8%B8%DB%8C-%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%AD%D8%A7%D9%86%DB%8C-%D9%82%D8%B5%D8%AF-%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%AF-%D8%A8%D9%87-%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AA%D8%AE%D8%A7%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%B1%D8%A7-%D9%86%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%AF ; https://www.jahannews dot com/news/834497/%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%AD%D8%A7%D9%86%DB%8C-%D9%82%D8%B5%D8%AF-%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AA%D8%AE%D8%A7%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D9%85%D8%AC%D9%84%D8%B3-%D9%86%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%AF ; https://www.shahrekhabar dot com/news/168162540031526 ; https://www.ghatreh dot com/news/nn14020123652420179968/%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%B9%D8%B8%DB%8C-%D8%A7%D8%AF%D8%B9%D8%A7%DB%8C-%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%AF-%D8%AD%D8%B3%D9%86-%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%AD%D8%A7%D9%86%DB%8C-%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AA%D8%AE%D8%A7%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%AA-%DA%A9%D8%B1%D8%AF ; https://www.rokna dot net/%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-74/884768-%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%AD%D8%A7%D9%86%DB%8C-%D9%82%D8%B5%D8%AF-%D8%B4%D8%B1%DA%A9%D8%AA-%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AA%D8%AE%D8%A7%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%B1%D8%A7-%D9%86%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%AF-%D8%AA%DB%8C%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%82%D8%AA%D8%B5%D8%A7%D8%AF%DB%8C-%D8%B1%D8%A6%DB%8C%D8%B3%DB%8C-%D8%B6%D8%B9%DB%8C%D9%81-%D9%86%D8%A7%D9%87%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%87%D9%86%DA%AF-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AA



[53] https://bonbast dot com/

[54] http://www dot

[55] https://www dot


[57] https://mfa dot ir/portal/NewsView/717471

[58] https://www.tasnimnews dot com/en/news/2023/04/15/2880450





[63] ;

https://ninanews dot com/Website/News/Details?key=1047467 ;

https://www dot

[64] ;