Thursday, August 24, 2023

Iran Update, August 24, 2023

Andie Parry, Annika Ganzeveld, 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 launched an 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 Takeaways

  1. Anti-regime protests continued and expanded to additional provinces in Syria. The expansion of protests to Deir ez Zor Province, albeit limited, suggests that Syrian protest groups may have successfully planned and organized the demonstrations.
  2. BRICS invited Iran to become a full member state. Iranian state media boasted that membership will help the regime undermine Western sanctions and support major infrastructure projects.

Anti-Regime Protests in Syria

Anti-regime protests continued and expanded to additional provinces in Syria on August 24. At least 18 protests occurred in Suwayda Province, where the current protest wave began on August 16.[1] Two protests occurred in Aleppo Province, and one protest occurred in Deir ez Zor Province.[2] ISW has not previously recorded protests in Aleppo and Deir ez Zor during this protest wave. Arab Bedouin groups and women participated in the demonstration in Suwayda City, indicating that the protests have grown to include additional demographics.[3]


The expansion of protests to Deir ez Zor Province, albeit limited, suggests that Syrian protest groups may have successfully planned and organized the demonstrations. ISW previously reported calls for protests in Deir ez Zor Province on August 24.[4] The protests were explicitly anti-regime but small in scale. Syrian regime forces reportedly arrested seven protesters and closed public transportation.[5] Opposition activists reported pro-regime militias used live fire to suppress protests and arrested demonstrators in Aleppo.[6] ISW cannot independently verify these claims.

Protest activists disseminated calls for mass protests throughout Syria on August 25.[7] ISW will continue to monitor and report on this protest activity in Syria.

Iranian Domestic and Political Affairs

This section covers factors and trends affecting regime decision-making and stability. CTP will cover domestic politics, significant protest activity, and related issues here.

BRICS invited Iran to become a full member state on August 24.[8] BRICS made the announcement at its 15th annual summit in South Africa, which Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi attended.[9] BRICS also extended membership invitations to Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. Raisi met several world leaders on the sidelines of the summit, including Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.[10] Iran’s full membership in BRICS is slated to begin in January 2024.[11] Iran’s admission into this multilateral economic bloc follows extensive efforts by the Raisi administration to convince BRICS countries to grant Iran membership.[12]

Iranian state media boasted that BRICS will help the regime mitigate and undermine Western sanctions. Iranian state media reported on August 24 that one of the biggest advantages Iran will gain through its newfound membership in BRICS is access to the New Development Bank.[13] The New Development Bank has its own payment notification system, which can act as an alternative to SWIFT. CTP previously reported that Iran has sought an alternative financial messaging system to Belgium-based SWIFT ever since SWIFT disconnected Iran from its platform in 2018.[14] Iranian media additionally emphasized that BRICS members support de-dollarization. The reports noted that BRICS countries conduct economic exchanges in local currencies and have discussed creating a common currency.[15] Iran seeks to trade using local currencies to preserve its dwindling foreign currency reserves. Iran can lastly expand its economic cooperation with current and new BRICS members. Iranian media emphasized that Iran can economically benefit from BRICS because its current members—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—account for a quarter of the world’s GDP.[16]

Iran will likely use its membership in BRICS to try to accelerate the completion of regional infrastructure projects. Raisi administration-affiliated media reported on August 24 that Iran’s membership will help Iran “activate” the Russia-Iran-India corridor and China’s Belt and Road Initiative.[17] Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi emphasized Iran’s important role in the Belt and Road Initiative during a phone call about BRICS with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian on August 20.[18] The completion of these projects would bolster Iran’s economy and help Iran become a regional and international “transit hub.”[19] Iran has repeatedly sought Russian and Chinese assistance and financing to complete infrastructure projects. Russia agreed to partially finance Iranian construction of the Rasht-Astara railway--a missing link in the International North South Transit Corridor--in May 2023.[20] An Iranian transportation official additionally announced in July 2023 that Iran is conducting preliminary negotiations involving China constructing roads connecting Tehran to the Caspian Sea in exchange for Iranian oil.[21]

Iran’s admission into BRICS is part of its broader efforts to establish a parallel international order that challenges Western “dominance.”[22] Raisi stressed that the expansion of BRICS underscores the decline of “unilateralism” during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on August 24.[23] State media additionally recirculated Russian President Vladimir Putin’s remark at the summit that most of the world is tired of the West’s “pressure and deception.”[24] The South African government previously expressed concerns that Iran intends to transform BRICS into an “anti-western bloc,” as CTP previously reported.[25]

Iranian officials and media are framing Iran’s accession into BRICS as a foreign policy victory. Vice President for Political Affairs Mohammad Jamshidi described Iran’s membership as a “strategic victory.”[26] Iranian media additionally boasted that Iran was chosen from more than 30 countries to join the organization.[27] Iran’s admission into BRICS is consistent with the Raisi administration’s “neighborhood policy,” which is an economic policy centered on building relations with regional and extra-regional states to undermine Western sanctions.[28] Iran became a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in July 2023 and seeks greater cooperation with the Eurasian Economic Union.[29] Iran’s admission into BRICS also follows several Iranian fiscal victories in recent weeks. Iran and the United States reached a deal for the United States to release $6 billion worth of frozen Iranian assets in return for Iran releasing five detained US nationals.[30] Iranian oil exports have additionally nearly reached pre-sanctions levels in August.[31] The prisoner swap agreement and increased oil exports could boost Iran’s economy and help Iran implement its 2023 budget, as CTP previously asserted.[32]


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[6] ; https://t...

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[9] https://www.president dot ir/fa/146244

[10] https://www.irna dot ir/news/85209242 ;

https://www.irna dot ir/news/85209282

[11] https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1402/06/02/2946160

[12] https://www.tasnimnews dot com/en/news/2023/08/08/2937525 ;

https://www.irna dot ir/news/85192767

[13] https://www.irna dot ir/news/85209022


[15] https://www.irna dot ir/news/85208921

[16] https://www.irna dot ir/news/85209225

[17] https://www.irna dot ir/news/85209225

[18] https://www.mehrnews dot com/news/5866376

[19] https://www.siasatrooz dot ir/fa/report/124088

[20] https://president dot ir/fa/143951

[21] https://www.asriran dot com/fa/news/896961

[22] https://www.irna dot ir/news/84859472


[24] https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1402/06/02/2946291

[25] https://www.irna dot ir/news/85192767


[27] https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1402/06/02/2946160

[28] https://www.tehrantimes dot com/news/474374/Neighborhood-policy-neutralized-U-S-sanctions

[29] https://www.middleeasteye dot net/news/iran-joins-shanghai-cooperation-organisation ;

https://www.tehrantimes dot com/news/485935/Iran-EAEU-close-to-concluding-free-trade-agreement



[32] ;