Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Iran Update, June 6, 2023

Iran Update, June 6, 2023

Andie Parry, Johanna Moore, Ashka Jhaveri, and Nicholas Carl

The Iran Update aims to inform national security policy by providing timely, relevant, and independent open-source analysis of developments pertaining to Iran and its Axis of Resistance. This update covers political, military, and economic events and trends that affect the stability and decision-making of the Iranian regime. It also provides insights into Iranian and Iranian-sponsored activities abroad that undermine regional stability and threaten US forces and interests. The Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute with support from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) provides these updates Monday through Friday. To receive Iran Updates via email, please subscribe here.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) with support from the Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute is launching a new interactive map of Iran and the Middle East. The map depicts events in Iran that affect the stability of the Iranian regime, namely anti-regime protests and reported poisoning incidents. It also shows developments in Syria that jeopardize regional stability and pose threats to US forces and interests, including Iranian and Iranian-backed militia positions.

Key Takeaway

1). Iranian leaders are preparing to resume their campaign to expel US forces from the Middle East by attacking and killing US service members after pausing this campaign in mid-2021. Iran will need to meet several operational conditions to conduct an attack on US forces in Iraq and Syria.


Iranian Activities in the Levant

This section covers Iranian efforts to consolidate and expand Tehran’s economic, military, and political influence throughout the Levant and especially in Syria. This section examines some of the many campaigns that Iran is pursuing to achieve this strategic objective. CTP will update and refine our assessments of these campaigns over time and in future updates.

Iranian leaders are preparing to resume their campaign to expel US forces from the Middle East by attacking and killing US service members after pausing this campaign in mid-2021. Iranian-backed militias conducted a series of drone and rocket attacks against US forces in Iraq and Syria from January 2020 to July 2021 to coerce US leaders to withdraw forces from these countries.[1] Iranian leaders have operated on the theory that low levels of military pressure on US forces will gradually erode political will in Washington to sustain these deployments. The US withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021 likely reinforced this long-standing Iranian expectation. Iran paused this campaign around July 2021 to give priority to consolidating its political position in Iraq as the Iraqi legislative elections occurred in October 2021 and the Iraqi Parliament confirmed its new prime minister—Mohammad Shia al Sudani—in October 2022.[2] Iranian-backed militias continued to conduct infrequent attacks while Iran paused its attack campaign against the United States.

CTP and ISW have observed and reported various indications that Iran is trying to set conditions to resume attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria. The following chart shows how those indicators differ between Iraq and Syria.




Iran will need to meet several operational conditions to conduct an attack on US forces in Syria and Iraq. CTP has observed indicators that Iran has met many of those conditions or is working toward meeting them. Iran must reinforce its personnel, command, infrastructure, materiel, and information operations in Syria to launch a sustained campaign against the United States that maintains Iranian strategic depth.

Iranian-backed militias and proxies in Iraq operate in a fundamentally different environment than those in Syria, which requires them to meet different operational requirements prior to conducting an attack on US forces in Iraq. Some Iranian-backed militia leaders in Iraq hold state and non-state roles and have built popularity around an inaccurate narrative that they have provided security since forming a majority coalition in the Iraqi government. These groups need to present a perceived threat to justify kinetic engagements.

Three new Iraqi militias were established in the past week, two of which are suspected of having ties to Iranian proxy Kataib Hezbollah (KH). A series of new Iraqi militias similarly formed after the death of IRGC Quds Force Commander Major General Qassem Soleimani and Deputy Chief of the Popular Mobilization Forces Abu Mahdi al Muhandis. The militias had ties to existing Iranian-backed militias and with the stated purpose of targeting and expelling US forces from Iraq.

CTP is considering two alternate hypotheses to understand how Iran and Iranian-backed militias may conduct attacks on US forces and interests in Iraq and Syria.

  1. Iran views attacks in Iraq and Syria as complementary and overlapping campaigns that may cross borders. This hypothesis is plausible because the Iraq-based Iranian proxy group Liwa al Ghaliboun attacked US forces in northeast Syria on March 23, killing a US contractor.[4]  US forces responded by striking Iranian-affiliated positions in eastern Syria, demonstrating to Iran that the US sought to confine its response to Syria. Iran may use the most recent escalation cycle as an indicator that it can kill Americans and maintain strategic depth.
  2. Iran views attacks in Iraq and Syria as separate campaigns that may occur in parallel.  Iran would initiate attacks in both countries at different times and may use different groups and tactics to expel US forces. This hypothesis is plausible because the Iraqi militias that have recently threatened to target US personnel warned of attacks only in Iraq.

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[2] ; https://eyeofeuphrates (dot) com/ar/news/2023/05/24/8606; https://eyeofeuphrates (dot) com/ar/news/2023/04/26/8322

[3] https://nahermedia (dot) net/%d9%85%d8%b5%d8%a7%d8%af%d8%b1-%d8%ae%d8%a7%d8%b5%d8%a9-%d9%84%d9%80%d9%86%d9%87%d8%b1-%d9%85%d9%8a%d8%af%d9%8a%d8%a7-%d8%aa%d9%83%d8%b4%d9%81-%d8%aa%d8%ac%d9%86%d9%8a%d8%af-%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%ab/;



[6] https://eyeofeuphrates (dot) com/ar/news/2023/05/20/8570; ; https://shafaq dot com/ar/%D8%A3%D9%85%D9%80%D9%86/%D8%AA%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%AF%D9%84-%D8%B7%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%82-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%86%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%A8%D9%8A%D9%86-%D9%81%D8%B5%D9%8A%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%86-%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D8%B4%D8%AF-%D8%AC%D8%B1%D8%A7-%D8%AE%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%81-%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%89-%D8%A8%D9%86%D8%A7%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%82%D8%B1%D8%A8-%D9%85%D8%B7%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D9%83%D8%B1%D9%83%D9%88%D9%83

[7] https://diyaruna dot com/en_GB/articles/cnmi_di/features/2021/03/23/feature-01; https://eyeofeuphrates (dot) com/ar/news/2023/05/16/8529

[8] https://eyeofeuphrates (dot) com/ar/news/2023/05/20/8570;

[9]; https://euphratespost dot net/%D9%85%D8%AF%D8%B1%D8%A8-%D8%B5%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%AE-%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%AB%D8%A7%D9%82-1-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B2%D9%88%D8%B1-%D8%AA%D8%AD%D8%AA-%D9%85%D8%B1%D9%85/; https://euphratespost dot net/%d9%85%d8%af%d8%b1%d8%a8-%d8%b5%d9%88%d8%a7%d8%b1%d9%8a%d8%ae-%d9%85%d9%8a%d8%ab%d8%a7%d9%82-1-%d9%81%d9%8a-%d8%af%d9%8a%d8%b1-%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%b2%d9%88%d8%b1-%d8%aa%d8%ad%d8%aa-%d9%85%d8%b1%d9%85/


[11] https://www.almanar (dot)

[12] ; https://english dot; https://www.alalam dot ir/news/6575788; https://www.alahednews dot; https://moqawama dot org/essaydetails.php?eid=36515&cid=330

[13] ; ;