Iran Crisis Update, November 14

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Iran Crisis Update, November 14

Nov 14, 2022 – Press ISW

Protest activity and strikes will likely increase from November 15 to 17. Protest coordinators and organizers have reiterated their calls for protests and countrywide strikes on these days and also urged citizens to not pay their utility bills. Social media accounts published videos on November 14 claiming to depict protesters traveling from Tabriz, East Azerbaijan to Tehran to demonstrate and “conquer” Tehran. Other protesters have used similar rhetoric in recent days, calling for citizens to conquer a main Tehran highway during the upcoming protests, as CTP previously reported.

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Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, November 14

Nov 14, 2022 – Press ISW

The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) escalated claims of Russian territorial gains in Donetsk Oblast on November 13 and 14, likely to emphasize that Russian forces are intensifying operations in Donetsk Oblast following withdrawal from the right bank of Kherson Oblast. The Russian MoD claimed that Russian forces completed the capture of Mayorsk (20km south of Bakhmut) on November 13 and of Pavlivka (45km southwest of Donetsk City) on November 14 after several weeks of not making claims of Russian territorial gains. As ISW assessed on November 13, Russian forces will likely recommit troops to Donetsk Oblast after leaving the right bank of Kherson Oblast, which will likely lead to an intensification of operations around Bakhmut, Donetsk City, and in western Donetsk Oblast. Russian forces will likely make gains in these areas in the coming days and weeks, but these gains are unlikely to be operationally significant. The Russian MoD is likely making more concrete territorial claims in order to set information conditions to frame Russian successes in Donetsk Oblast and detract from discontent regarding losses in Kherson Oblast.

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Iran Crisis Update, November 13

Nov 13, 2022 – Press ISW

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is likely escalating against prominent Sunni Cleric Moulana Abdol Hamid, who has become increasingly critical of the regime in recent weeks. Iranian media reported that Khamenei dispatched a high-ranking delegation headed by Friday Prayer Leader Policy Council Chief Mohammad Javad Haj Ali Akbari to Sistan and Baluchistan Province on November 13. Ali Akbari has previously advocated for harsh sentences for protesters and called people participating in anti-regime demonstrations “barbaric rioters.” Ali Akbari had a meeting with Abdol Hamid and other local Sunni academics in which Abdol Hamid reportedly described the regime’s recent protest crackdowns throughout Sistan and Baluchistan as an example of discrimination against the Iranian Sunni community according to an outlet claiming direct or indirect access to Abdol Hamid. Abdol Hamid additionally criticized the regime for failing to publicly condemn security forces’ violent suppression of anti-regime demonstrations in Zahedan and Khash cities. Abdol Hamid has voiced similar criticisms of the regime in recent weeks, and some of his commentary has likely incited further unrest throughout Sistan and Baluchistan Province. Social media users have documented hundreds of Zahedan residents participating in anti-regime protests following Abdol Hamid’s Friday prayer sermons in recent weeks. Ali Akbari’s meeting with Abdol Hamid is likely intended to discourage him from further public criticism of the regime. Abdol Hamid faces a decision point to cease stoking unrest or disobey what was likely a directive from the supreme leader to stop doing so. Abdol Hamid’s initial comments suggest that he may choose to do the latter.

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Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, November 13

Nov 13, 2022 – Press ISW

Ukraine has won an important victory in the campaign that liberated western Kherson Oblast, culminating in the withdrawal of Russian forces completed on November 11. Russian President Vladimir Putin had been determined to hold this key terrain, possession of which would have allowed him to renew his invasion of unoccupied Ukraine from positions on the west bank of the Dnipro River. That consideration was likely more important in Putin‘s calculations than the symbolic value of retaining the only oblast capital his forces had seized since February 24, 2022. (Russia had already taken Luhansk City and Donetsk City in its 2014-2015 invasion.) Putin had committed substantial Russian forces to the defense of western Kherson, including many of the remaining elite airborne units available to the Russian military. He also committed reinforcements generated by the partial mobilization of reservists he had ordered on September 21. Those forces had dug in and fought hard to hold their ground, taking many losses. Ukraine’s success despite this Russian determination and allocation of scarce elite units is in many respects even more impressive than its victory in Kharkiv Oblast in mid-September.

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Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, November 12

Nov 12, 2022 – Press ISW

Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson City is igniting an ideological fracture between pro-war figures and Russian President Vladimir Putin, eroding confidence in Putin’s commitment and ability to deliver his war promises. A pro-war Russian ideologist, Alexander Dugin, openly criticized Putin—whom he referred to as the autocrat—for failing to uphold Russian ideology by surrendering Kherson City on November 12. Dugin said this Russian ideology defines Russia’s responsibility to defend “Russian cities” such as Kherson, Belgorod, Kursk, Donetsk, and Simferopol. Dugin noted that an autocrat has a responsibility to save his nation all by himself or face the fate of “king of the rains,” a reference to Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough in which a king was killed because he was unable to deliver rain amidst a drought. Dugin also downplayed the role of Putin’s advisors in failing to protect the Russian world and noted that the commander of Russian Forces in Ukraine, Army General Sergey Surovikin was not responsible for the political decision to withdraw from Kherson City. Dugin noted that the autocrat cannot repair this deviation from ideology merely with public appearances, noting that “the authorities in Russia cannot surrender anything else” and that “the limit has been reached.” He also accused the presidential administration of upholding a “fake” ideology because of its fear of committing to the “Russian Idea.” Dugin also made a reference to the use of tactical nuclear weapons, which he vaguely stated was “the end” and proceeded to note that overdue Russian changes to the military campaign have not generated any effect to change the course of the war. He also suggested, however, that Russia must commit to the Russian Idea rather than pursuing the “stupid” use of nuclear weapons.

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Iran Crisis Update, November 12

Nov 12, 2022 – Press ISW

Protest coordinators and organizations have called for countrywide demonstrations from November 15 to 17 to commemorate the three-year anniversary of the Bloody Aban protest wave in November 2019. Citizens took to the streets in around 100 cities in the Bloody Aban protest wave in response to a sudden regime decision to cut fuel subsidies. Estimates of civilians killed by security forces during Bloody Aban range from 304 to 1,500. Some protest organizers have published instructions to “conquer” a main Tehran highway on November 15, blocking the road with cars to restrict security forces’ movement. Persian-language social media accounts have described the ongoing protests as the continuation of the Bloody Aban protest wave in recent weeks, as CTP previously reported. Invoking popular frustrations toward the regime about the Bloody Aban crackdown could reinvigorate this protest movement, which has seen reduced turnout in recent days.

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