October 9, 6 p.m. ET
Iran crisis updates are produced by the American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project (CTP) with support from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
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Iran may be preparing for a military escalation against its foreign adversaries, including the United States, in response to ongoing anti-regime protests. Probably Iranian-backed militants carried out a rocket attack on a US military base in northeast Syria on October 8. days.[i] Senior Iranian military officers issued a statement promising to retaliate on October 6.[ii] Iranian forces or proxies may carry out additional attacks on US positions in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and Syria, in response to what they claim is Washington’s role in the protests.
Iranian proxies could also step up against Turkey to redirect Iraqi resentment over Iranian attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan towards Ankara rather than Tehran. Iraqi militants believed to be backed by Iran launched a rocket attack on a Turkish military base in Mosul province on October 8.[iii] Liwa Ahrar al Iraq – a front group that Iran-backed Iraqi militants use to claim responsibility for attacks on Turkish forces – has claimed responsibility. Iranian-backed Iraqi militants frequently used Liwa Ahrar al Iraq to claim attacks on Turkish positions during a period of escalating attacks in June and July 2022.[iv] The Iraqi public and political establishment rallied against Turkey and its attacks on Iraqi Kurdistan during this period. Liwa Ahrar al Iraq resurfacing to claim attacks on Turkish forces may indicate that Iran and its proxies are preparing for an escalation against Turkish forces and are once again seeking to divert the anger of Iraqi citizens and officials to Ankara instead than to Tehran.
Iran may be preparing to carry out a ground incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan to attack anti-regime Kurdish militant groups operating there. IRGC ground forces conducted daily artillery, drone and missile attacks against Kurdish militants in Iraqi Kurdistan from September 26 to October 7.[v] An IRGC-affiliated social media account tweeted on October 8 threatening that IRGC armored and special forces units would intervene against these militant groups if Iraqi Kurdish political authorities do not drive these groups out of the border region.[vi] Affiliated with the IRGC Tasnim news agency echoed this threat on October 9.[vii] Social media rumors on October 9 alleged that the IRGC had begun concentrating its forces in Baneh, Kurdistan Province, near the Iran-Iraq border.[viii] CTP is unable to corroborate these rumors at this time.
Key points to remember
- Anti-regime protests took place in at least 18 cities in 15 provinces.
- The anti-regime group Tehran’s Neighborhood Youth has announced its expansion to other unnamed Iranian cities.
- Some low-level military and security personnel may have defected.
- Iranian leaders may have ordered IRGC ground forces to participate directly in suppressing protests.
Succession of Paramount Leader
There was nothing significant to report today.
Anti-regime protests took place in at least 18 cities in 15 different provinces on October 9. Protest activity on October 9 declined somewhat from its peak on October 8. Demonstrators nonetheless supported large-scale demonstrations without obvious advanced planning – unlike the pre-planned demonstrations on October 8 – and despite the regime’s increasingly violent crackdown tactics. The October 9 protests continued to bring together a large portion of Iran’s population, including marginalized ethnic groups, the urban elite, students, and Iran’s merchant class.
The PTC assesses with high and medium confidence that protests took place at the following locations:
- Karak, Alborz province
- Najafabad, Isfahan Province
- Gorgan, Golestan Province
- Bandar Abbas, Hormozgan province (reported violence)
- Kermanshah, Kermanshah Province
- Mashhad, Khorasan Razavi Province
- Saghez, Kurdistan Province (reported violence)
- Sanandaj, Kurdistan Province (reported violence)
- Arak, Markazi Province
- Qazvin, Qazvin Province
- Tehran, Tehran Province
- Mahabad, West Azerbaijan Province
- Zanjan, Zanjan Province
The CTP assesses with low confidence that protests took place at the following locations:
- Rasht, Gilan Province
- Province of Yasuj, Kohgiluyeh and Boyed Ahmad
- Babol, Mazandaran Province (reported violence)
- Bukan, West Azerbaijan Province
- Piranshahr, West Azerbaijan Province
The anti-regime group Tehran’s Neighborhood Youth has announced its expansion to other unnamed Iranian cities.[ix] The group has been involved in organizing protests in recent weeks.
Some low-level Iranian military and security personnel may have defected to protesters. A Persian-language social media account tweeted on October 8 that the regime had arrested officers of the Artesh 21 ground forces.st Hamzeh Infantry Division, headquartered near Tabriz.[x] Videos on social media show LEC officers marching with protesters around Tehran on October 9.[xi] The CTP cannot verify the authenticity of these videos or whether the officers were joining the protests or simply escorting them. Brigadier General Mohammad Esmail Kowsari, a parliamentarian and former IRGC officer, said the regime should hold security personnel to account who fail to perform their duties, suggesting such personnel exist.[xii]
Iranian leaders may have ordered IRGC ground forces to directly support the suppression of protests. Protesters killed IRGC 22 ground forces membern/a Operational division of Beyt ol Moghaddas in Sanandaj on 8 October.[xiii] Iranian state media reported that the guards were killed as they tried to disperse protesters and protect property. Another guard was injured. An unverified social media account tweeted that IRGC ground forces deployed on 27e Mohammad Rasoul Ollah Operational Division and 10e Operational Division of Seyyed ol Shohada in Tehran.[xiv]
The deployment of IRGC ground forces would indicate that the regime views the protests as an extremely serious threat. The IRGC Ground Forces are the regime’s last line of defense against internal unrest and the most important internal security service after the Law Enforcement Command (LEC) and the Basij organization.[xv]
IRGC ground forces would likely use extreme force to quell the protests. IRGC ground forces units are equipped with armored and mechanized vehicles and the full range of equipment suitable for insurgency, counter-insurgency and mechanized warfare. The regime briefly used IRGC ground forces during nationwide gasoline protests in November 2019. These forces deployed in Mahshahr, Khuzestan province, where they killed around 148 protesters.[xvi] The deployment of elements from several divisions of the IRGC ground forces, if confirmed, would indicate that the regime has become very alarmed about its ability to control the ongoing protests and could suggest that it is preparing to use higher levels of brutality to suppress them.
Radio Farda reported that the LEC special units forces were transferred from Zahedan to Kerman.[xvii] LEC Special Units are a highly trained riot control force that deploys when regular police cannot contain protests.[xviii] This branch of the LEC is known as one of the most ideologically fervent of the Iranian Armed Forces. A decision by the regime to deploy the special LEC units away from Zahedan would be surprising given the recent deadly unrest there and explicit threats from anti-regime militant groups to escalate further. IRGC ground forces could deploy their 110e The Salman Farsi Independent Special Forces Brigade, headquartered in Zahedan, to quell protests in place of LEC special units if they felt the situation merited such force.[xix]
A popular English-language social media account tweeted that the Office of the Supreme Leader has fired some of its security guards and replaced them with a new cadre of civil servants.[xx] CTP cannot verify this rumor.
Axis of resistance and regional developments
There was nothing significant to report today.
[i] https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/iran-crisis-update-october-6 [ii] https://akharinkhabar dot ir/politics/9305719 [iii] https://english dot alaraby dot co dot uk/news/turkish-base-northern-iraq-targeted-rocket-attack [iv] https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/profile-liwa-ahrar-al-iraq [v] https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/iran-crisis-update-october-8 [vi] https://twitter.com/Sepah_Com/status/1578651936311500800 [vii] http://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1401/07/17/2785594 [viii] https://twitter.com/IranIntlbrk/status/1579191406694141953 [ix] https://mobile.twitter.com/javanane_t/status/1579017697312268289 [x] https://twitter.com/saeedaganji/status/1578741192413806592?s=46&t=Gr01pWJ4f_Pjj-VUGHWx0w [xi] https://twitter.com/GEsfandiari/status/1579014741606813696; and https://twitter.com/ManotoNews/status/1578996345461182464 [xii] https://www.radiofarda.com/a/32072010.html [xiii] www.kayhandotir/fa/news/250930 [xiv] https://twitter.com/RezaVaisi/status/1578790187995627521 [xv] https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/whatever-it-takes-to-end-it-irans-shift-toward-more-oppressive-governance [xvi] https://ir.usembassy.gov/commemoration-of-the-massacre-of-mahshahr-and-designation-of-iranian-officials-due-to-involvement-in-gross-violations-of-human-rights/ [xvii] https://twitter.com/RadioFarda_/status/1579080581463560192 [xviii] https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/whatever-it-takes-to-end-it-irans-shift-toward-more-oppressive-governance [xix] https://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Irans-Reserve-of-Last-Resort.pdf [xx] https://twitter.com/no_itsmyturn/status/1578844037208895488
CD link: https://criticalthreats.imeetcentral.com/p/aQAAAAAE-p85 [ZC1]