Given the dilemmas involved in retaliating for recent acts of sabotage and the death of Qasem Soleimani, Iran will likely defer any substantial military action against U.S. targets until shortly before or after the November election.

Iran has been hit by a series of fires and explosions at civilian and military industrial sites in recent weeks, including the Khojir missile research complex near Tehran and the county’s principal uranium enrichment facility at Natanz. Well-sourced U.S. and Israeli media reports suggest that Israel was responsible for the Natanz incident and that the United States may be involved in sabotage efforts as well,

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3 August 2020 –  By Soufan Center
  • Iran’s ‘Great Prophet’ military exercises recently caused U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf to briefly go on high alert.
  • The recent high alert suggests that U.S. forces take the threat from Iran seriously, despite the Trump administration’s claims that U.S. sanctions are hindering Iran’s military capabilities.
  • In concert with recent military exercises, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps claimed that its Noor surveillance satellite is operational and it launched ballistic missiles from hardened underground silos.
  • The Trump administration cites the Iranian military activity to further its thus far unsuccessful effort to extend the U.N. ban on arms transfers to Iran, which expires in October.
In late July, Iran launched its week-long ‘Great Prophet 14’ air, sea, and land military drills, accompanied by additional activities designed to showcase Iran’s advancements in its military technology capabilities. The main event of the exercises consisted of missile, direct-fire, and helicopter-borne commando attacks on a mock-up of the U.S. Nimitz-class aircraft carriers that the U.S. Navy deploys to the Persian Gulf. Although some sources noted that the practice attacks on the carrier were not fully successful, Iran’s firing of ballistic missiles at the model carrier caused U.S. forces at two Gulf bases to go on ‘high alert’ and briefly take shelter. The two bases – Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar (the largest air base used by U.S. forces in the region) – host a total of about 13,000 U.S. Air Force personnel. Forces deployed at those bases constitute the core of U.S. power projection capability in the region. During the period of heightened tensions with Iran in mid-2019, the United States deployed to Al Dhafra the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, although it is not known if that aircraft was there during the high alert warning. The alert at the two bases indicates that the United States has significant respect for Iran’s missile capability in light of Iran’s retaliatory strike on Ayn al-Asad base in Iraq in January 2020 missile retaliation. That strike, which destroyed several buildings on the base and caused traumatic brain injury to hundreds of U.S. forces there, was in response to the early January U.S. strike that killed IRGC-Qods Force commander Qasem Soleimani outside Baghdad airport.

Potentially even more significant to U.S. estimates of Iranian strategic strength were Iranian announcements and claims that coincided with the exercises. During the course of the drills, Iran released detailed, overhead photographs of the Al Udeid Air Base that it claimed were taken by the Noor imaging satellite that the IRGC launched in April 2020. At that time, the U.S. military publicly assessed the Noor as a ‘tumbling webcam in space,’ indicating that it was not operational, and some sources claim that the Iranian photos of Al Udeid were not from the Noor but were instead commercially available photos. However, if the Iranian satellite photos were taken by the Noor, then Iran is in possession of a capability to closely monitor U.S. regional troop movements and U.S. force protection measures.

At the end of its week of drills, Iran compounded U.S. concerns by displaying IRGC footage of its ballistic missiles being fired from underground silos in the desert of central Iran. The IRGC purported to show some of the missiles striking a model of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, which protects installations where U.S. forces operate throughout the Gulf. The key message of the footage was to portray that the IRGC now has the ability to bury its missile force in hard and deeply buried targets that would require potent bombardment to destroy, and it remains far from a guarantee that they would be destroyed.

Iran’s displays of military hardware and related capabilities during the Great Prophet 14 exercises reinforce the view of many U.S. national security experts that Iran is emerging as a formidable strategic adversary. Yet, Iran’s boasts might assist the Trump administration’s effort to persuade its European allies to extend the U.N. ban on arms transfers to and from Iran, which is scheduled to expire on October 18. The Trump administration has made little progress, to date, in building support on the U.N. Security Council to extend the embargo or convincing Russia or China not to use their respective Security Council vetoes to block an extension. But, with the deadline to extend the embargo winding down, the Great Prophet drills might help the Trump administration argue that the expiration of the embargo will compound the strategic threat from Iran by enabling it to buy new long-range combat aircraft, tanks, submarines, and naval craft.  Even if it fails to achieve an extension of the U.N. ban, the Trump administration might be able to engineer a compromise under which Russia, China, or other arms manufacturers agree to voluntary restraints on the sales of certain new hardware to Iran.



The Iranian regime continued its crackdown on Kurdish political activity last week. In Mehabad, an Iranian court extended the detention of a Kurdish teacher, Hussein Hassanzada, who was accused of organizing anti-government demonstrations. Also, in Mehabad, Iranian security forces arrested a 23-year-old named Siawesh Rojkhoun for “cooperation with a Kurdish opposition party.” Meanwhile, a Tehran court sentenced a Kurdish citizen from Mehabad named Ahed Nokochian to five months in prison. According to the Kurdistan Human Rights Association (KMMK), Nokochian was arrested four months ago and subject to torture. Simultaneously, Urmia’s Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced a Kurdish activist named Shanaz Sadiqi, who was initially arrested with her daughter by Iranian intelligence officers (Ettela’at), to 15 years in prison for “aiding a Kurdish opposition party.” Likewise, an Oshnavieh court sentenced a Kurdish environmental activist named Rashid Hassanzada to prison for “meetings and plans against the national security” on Sunday, while an appeals court in Piranshahr resentenced a Kurdish man named Wahid Saedi to two months in prison for political activism. Additionally, Iranian authorities arrested a Kurdish activist named Khalil Husseini for protesting the execution of two Kurds on social media and wounded another Kurd, Parsa Waisi, for an undisclosed reason. Moreover, Sanandaj’s Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced a Kurdish activist named Foad Einaiati to 76 lashes for protesting Turkey’s October 2019 invasion of northeastern Syria, and a Bokan court sentenced a female Kurd named Fatima Dawand to five years in prison for organizing anti-government protests in August 2019. Finally, a Sardasht court sentenced a Kurdish citizen named Dara Rashidi to 10 years in prison for “membership of a Kurdish opposition party.”

  • Iranian border guards ambushed a group of Kurdish border porters (Kolbars) near Baneh on Monday and wounded five. Two of the wounded were transferred to the town of Penjween in Iraqi Kurdistan to receive medical treatment. Also, in Baneh, an Iranian Revolutionary Court sentenced 10 Kurdish activists to 3 months in prison, 25 lashes, and a 25 million Iranian Rial (600USD) fine for protesting Iranian security forces’ killing of two Kolbars in 2018.

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by Katherine Bauer and Kevin Mathieson PolicyWatch 3354 July 28, 2020

Tehran is pressing Seoul regarding the billions in Iranian oil revenues held by South Korean banks, creating an opportunity to expand the U.S. humanitarian trade mechanism.

On July 21, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Iranian ambassador to lodge a complaint over Tehran’s heightened rhetoric regarding access to funds frozen in South Korea.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS INTEL : World can’t stop Iran from going nuclear, says former Mossad chief

JULY 27, 2020 BY JOSEPH FITSANAKIS intel org

Shabtai Shavit, one of the longest-serving directors of the Israeli spy agency Mossad, has said that Israel and the world cannot stop Iran from developing a nuclear arsenal, and should focus instead on establishing a deterrence mechanism. Shavit, who is now 80, rose through the ranks of the secretive intelligence agency and became its director in 1989, under Labor Party leader Yitzhak Rabin. He stepped down in 1996 and was succeeded by Danny Yatom.

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Iran richtet sechs Kurden in einer Woche hin – Wladimir van Wilgenburg, Kurdistan 24  – 24 Juli 2020

Während der Iran diese Woche die Hinrichtungen von drei jungen Männern, die mit den Benzinprotesten im November in Verbindung gebracht wurden, aussetzte, vollstreckte die Regierung weiterhin Todesurteile gegen Kurden, ohne dass dies in der internationalen Gemeinschaft ein Thema gewesen wäre.

„Leider wurden in den vergangenen Tagen fünf Kurden in den Gefängnissen von Urmia und Kermanshah hingerichtet. Einem weiteren Häftling, Hussein Osmani, der zu 30 Jahren Haft verurteilt ist, wurde die Todesstrafe angedroht“, sagte Jila Mostajer, Vorsitzende der Menschenrechtsgruppe Hengaw, am Dienstag gegenüber Kurdistan 24.
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by Farzin Nadimi PolicyWatch 3352 July 24, 2020

Despite domestic challenges, major technical hurdles, and ongoing Israeli military interdiction, Iran still aims to transfer potent air defense systems to fellow ‘axis of resistance’ members and interconnect them.

On July 8, Syrian defense minister Ali Abdullah Ayoub and Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, chairman of Iran’s Armed Forces General Staff, signed an agreement in Damascus to significantly expand bilateral military cooperation, especially in the field of air defense. Seeing a dual need to counter aerial threats against Iran and its allies while also undermining the coalition military presence in the Middle East, Tehran has developed a strategic vision that requires effective protection and (in time) denial of airspace. Toward that end, it has repeatedly proposed to augment Iraqi, Lebanese, and now Syrian air defense systems and integrate them with its own network.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : Was the Iranian Uranium Enrichment Plant at Natanz Sabotaged?

By Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Raphael OfekJuly 24, 2020 – ISRAEL  Anti-aircraft guns guarding the Natanz Nuclear Facility, Iran, image via Hamed Saber – Wikimedia Commons

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,658, July 24, 2020 – EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: According to the international media, the fingerprints of Israel and the US are all over the recent series of explosions at strategic targets throughout Iran—notably the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, which had been used to assemble advanced centrifuges. The demolition of that site would likely result in a one- to two-year delay in Tehran’s nuclear program.

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 Iran and China: On the Way to a Long-Term Strategic Agreement?


The report of the emerging cooperation between Tehran and Beijing has aroused much interest, but it should be taken with a grain of salt. The Iranians are indeed eager to advance the economic-military agreement, but if it is signed, the Chinese will not necessarily be quick to implement all its provisions – certainly not the military components

Sima ShineEyal PropperBat Chen Feldman  ISRAEL – INSS Insight No. 1352, July 23, 2020

On July 11, 2020, the New York Times published the draft of a 25-year strategic agreement between Iran and China leaked by sources in Tehran, to the dismay of Beijing. According to the draft, China will receive priority in billions of dollars of infrastructure investments in Iran, and a regular supply of oil and gas at a substantial discount, while military cooperation between the two countries will increase. It is believed that Iran has been working on this agreement since Xi Jinping’s 2016 visit to Iran.

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by Michael Eisenstadt PolicyWatch 3351 July 23, 2020

Discussions about lifting the ban tend to focus on major weapons systems Tehran might acquire abroad, yet the most important long-term impact may be on its ability to upgrade existing capabilities and strengthen domestic arms production.

The ban on arms transfers to and from Iran is scheduled to “sunset” on October 18, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2231, the document that gave international legal force to the Iran nuclear deal. If the ban is not extended, what are the likely implications for the Islamic Republic’s military capabilities?

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