US-Iran and Iran-Israel tensions March 22 and beyond

Updated: May 2, 2020

Read our previous installment March 12-21, 2020 of the daily updates of US-Iran tensions at this link.

March 22

A look at the satellite photos of Albukamal airstrikes which allegedly took place on March 12.

Politics of coronavirus central to Iran narrative: Rouhani calls US offer of assistance "biggest lie," while Foreign Minister pushes for sanctions relief. Pakistan calls on US to end sanctions. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Newroz speech accuses US of creating coronavirus: “I do not know how real this accusation is but when it exists, who in their right mind would trust you to bring them medication?...Possibly your medicine is a way to spread the virus more....[virus] is specifically built for Iran using the genetic data of Iranians which they have obtained through different means....You might send people as doctors and therapists, maybe they would want to come here and see the effect of the poison they have produced in person,” he said.

Zarif threatens US in Iraq, saying that there will be an "answer" to US aggression.

Kataib Hezbollah airs videos of previous attacks on US forces, a kind of message for the future. A second video is linked here.

Qais Khazali and other pro-Iranian leaders in Iraq seek to keep Adul Abdul Mahdi in power not the newly designated PM Zurufi.

Hamas threatens Israel if Qatar funds not transferred.

US General McKenzie reportedly a target of Iran's possible revenge.

Hezbollah's Nasrallah continues to claim he didn't know about US plan to take Amer Fakhoury out of Lebanon.

March 23

Tasnim news reports that CIA behind coronavirus.

Reports that Syrian regime troops and locals tried to stop US convoy near Hamo near Qamishli.

One year anniversary of the battle of Baghouz and defeat of ISIS, statement from McKenzie.

USMS being reconfigured to face China.

New Abu Mahdi poster in Kirkuk North Oil Company.

Mahan air continues flying to China.

New Kataib Hezbollah video threatens US. It features a US-made Abrams tank as well.

Iraq protests appear to have ended amid coronavirus fears.

March 24

US and UAE do Native Fury exercise. U.S. Ambassador to UAE called it “defensive”: “we’re protecting ourselves and we want to sit down at the conference table and negotiate a lasting peace settlement.”

A new lawsuit could target Iraq for PMU's role.

Pompeo neglects to mention SDF role in defeating ISIS.

"Honored, not contained," a new study of the PMU

March 25

US denies any rocket attacks near Taji in early morning hours

US designates Asaib Ahl al-Haq: Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia terror group also known as “League of the Righteous,” to its list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Additionally, the group’s leader, Qais al Khazali, and his brother, Laith al Khazali, have been listed as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.

Robert Levinson reported death.

EU's Borrell wants sanctions relief for Iran.

Iran health ministry tells MSF it can't accept inflatable hospital

Coronavirus affect on Iran regime and could be lying about numbers.IRGC fights the virus.17 regime members are dead so far.

Islamic Jihad in Gaza claims to fight #coronavirus, similar to IRGC poster.

YPG in discussions with Assad regime,according to reports, after Lindsey Graham phoned Mazkloum Abdi on March 23 and discussion Russian threat.

Kataib Hezbollah warns US of suspicious movements during Covid-19 crises.

IDF: In the morning hours, a model airplane belonging to the Hezbollah terror organization was downed while crossing from Lebanese into Israeli airspace. The model airplane is in the hands of the IDF.

March 26

US hands over Q-West base, video shows them packing up.

Coronavirus continues affecting US troops, aircraft carrier.

Houthis blame US for the virus.

Kataib Hezbollah ran a drill to prepare for "confronting" the US. Photos from the drill are online.

"Iraqi Joint Operations Command: last night 2 Katyusha rockets fell in the Green Zone & struck facilities of the Joint Operations Command & Baghdad Operations Command. We are taking fast action to arrest those responsible." -David Witty.

United States granted Iraq a further waiver, the shortest so far, to import energy from Iran, despite ongoing tensions between Washington and Tehran.

Iran informed the Swiss Embassy in #Tehran that any #US military aggression against Iran will be met with a highly destructive response: my sources.

State Dept withdraws personnel from Iraq in wake of rocket attack. "Hours before the messages were sent out, two rockets struck near an operations center that coordinates Iraqi security forces, just a few hundred yards from the U.S. Embassy inside the heavily fortified Green Zone, The Associated Press reported, citing a military statement."

US sanctions: Organisations sanctioned include the Reconstruction Organization of the Holy Shrine

March 27:

Kataib Hezbollah drill "hunting crows" prepares for US aerial assault.

"Iran would make special quality upgrades in the #missile field, including the increase of the explosive power of its missile warheads," said Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami. "The decision to launch a #missile attack on Ain al-Asad base with two characteristics and a strategic decision to strike the #US base on Iraqi soil for the first time and to restore #Iran's deterrent power was a very important and tactical aspect," he added.

NYT article on US planning attack on Kataib Hezbollah leaves many questions: "Problem is we already destroyed HVT1 and 2, so where do you go from there. Attacking the rest of KH is gonna be a lot more complex and won’t be just kinetic (see sanctions this week) and will be attritional and episodic. Also, framing of original piece may not reflect reality." - Michael Knights.

March 28

"Iran-backed militias are becoming more audacious in attacking U.S. personnel in #Iraq...U.S. officials say they are receiving near-daily reports of “imminent” attacks planned against U.S.-linked military or diplomatic facilities." - Washington Post; concerns the Soleimani strike didn't deter Iran.

IRGC prepare biological war defense.

Iran killed a dissident in Turkey who was in touch with Turkey and others about drones, he was an expert in AI.

- Two civilians were slightly injured due to the falling of an intercepted Houthi ballistic missile's debris as it exploded mid-air over residential districts in #Riyadh, a spokesperson for SaudiArabia’s Civil Defense confirms.

Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba poster showing attacks on US. Iranian-backed Al-Nujaba’a movement shares this photo of burning the WhiteHouse with a note “The defining moment”.

Harakat Hezbollah claims the US tried to detain Akram al-Kaabi.

Iraqi Kata’ib Sayyid as-Shuhada militia: we are ready for any US strike. Our response will be severe. The PMF (Hashd) is united.

US official quoted in Washington Post Newspaper: we receive daily reports that US forces in Iraq are about to be attacked. The attacks have been repeated & occur in the daylight.

Iran's Fars provides details from "frontline of biological war"

Tasnim: Russian politician argues US failed in Iraq to provoke new round with Iran.

March 29

Condemnation of Houthis for firing rockets at Saudi Arabia. Two civilians were injured by the Houthi missiles.

Finland pulls troops from Iraq '

US hands over K-1

"Abu Ala al-Wa'eli, chief of Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, congratulates the Iraqi people for the partial & disgraceful expulsion of the Americans. He also threatens to launch attacks against the US in Iraq if it launches a military operation against the IRGC-backed militias." -Jason Brodksy

Saudi Arabia shows off the missile fired from Yemen.

Iran says US will fail in any campaign against Kataib Hezbollah. - IRNA

March 30

US leaves base in Mosul, a fifth will be left next week. "Based on the results of the dialogues between the Iraq government and CJTFOIR, the site which was used by the international coalition mission inside a camp in the Nineveh Operations Command was returned to the Iraqi forces after the withdrawal of the international coalition." OIR shutting down the advisory cell at NiOC headquarters in Mosul. Other forward advisory outposts at Kisik and Makhmour likely already closed or will be in the coming weeks. CJTF footprint contracting to Baghdad area bases plus al-Asad and Erbil. - Alex Mello

US has deployed Patriot missile batteries to bases targeted by Iranian missile strikes in January, US and Iraqi officials, one to Ayn al-Asad and one to Erbil. -AFP

Iraqi caretaker PM Abdul-Mahdi has warned that carrying out attacks without the authorisation of Baghdad is violation to Iraq’s sovereignty.

March 31

Iran's Mohsen Rezeai (محسن رضایی) says the US will leave Iraq.

League of Revolutionaries (Usbat al Thaerin ) threatens US at Ayn al-Assad. Says they had almost launched operation but called it off.

Fateh block opposes Zurufi

US deploys Patriot batteries to Iraq

US will withdraw from Speicher (Tikrit),Taqaddum or TQ (Habbaniyah) and Besmaya (South of Baghdad)

Iraq PM Abdul Mahdi warns US against attacks.

Syrian air defense says it confronts an attack in Homs. Al-Shairat ( الشعیرات) base.

Iraq: Another new militia front calling itself Ashab Alkahaf issues threats against the US. These fronts are a known IRGC tactic to divert focus and attempt to instigate deniability. qi PMF (Hashd) prepares for US retaliation attacks. Weapons caches moved, some headquarters closed & replaced with mobile headquarters. PMF leaders change residences & cars & avoid going out in public. Iraqi PMF (Hashd) prepares for US retaliation attacks. Weapons caches moved, some headquarters closed & replaced with mobile headquarters. PMF leaders change residences & cars & avoid going out in pu

Cavell group: The tensions really are increasing now with an attack very likely, very soon. The Chief of Staff meeting threat today was likely propaganda, but Kata’ib Hezbolla saying now is the time to resist US occupation.

Lawk Ghafuri: Pro-channels of Iranian-backed Al-Nujaba’a on telegram messaging app have been intensified their anti-US posts this week, & those are the latest ones, while the first photo says that “Al-Nujaba’a will not let #Iraq to be safe haven for Americans” with a coffin covered w/ US flag.

April 1

Saraya al-Salam says US fighting losing battle in region; faa al-Tamimi, an official spokesman for Iraq's top-ranking Iraqi Seraya al-Salam group, responded to the US threat of attacking Iraqi resistance groups' military positions and called for a cessation of war worldwide.

Kataib Hezbollah: We stopped US plans; "US forces would not be in combat if the Iraqi government stayed at the request of the Iraqi government, but the US violated the Strategic Framework Agreement (Iraq-US Security Agreement)," said Mohammad Mohi, a spokesman for Kataib Hezbollah in a televised statement. American troops in Iraq are occupying force."

Report: US pushing Zurufi into PM office

Iran denies Amir Pourdistan (امیر پوردستان) killed in Syria strike, reports emerged last night but were denied. See details.

Esmail Ghaani of IRGC flies to Iraq. See his flight path. Also here.

Caggins of CJFOIR: US will stay in Iraq.

IRGC statement telling US not to make a mistake.

PMU rift. "The rifts are accelerating a retreat from the political arena, where militia leaders who once controlled government jobs and parliament seats are in hiding for fear of assassination by the United States and confront anti-Iran dissent on the streets."

Trump: Upon information and belief, Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on U.S. troops and/or assets in Iraq. If this happens, Iran will pay a very heavy price, indeed!

April 2

League of Revolutionaries claim to have drone footage over US embassy.

The US Detachments at Besmaya Complex and Habbaniyah AB are still left to withdraw. Time is unimportant.

KH announces a temporary cessation of hostilities because of the Coalition withdrawals. Kata’ib Hezbollah militia to US President: We will not attack US forces in Iraq if they continue to withdraw.

Iranian military chief of staff Bakri.. "We monitor US military activity every moment in the area. In recent days, US military activity in Iraq and the Persian Gulf has shown some development.

Head of the IRGC-backed Asa'ib Ahl Al-Haq militia, Qais Al-Khazali: Zero hour for the launching of the revenge operation of Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes is imminent.

WSJ: “We’ve been seeing something brewing & developing pretty seriously,” a U.S. official said. The intelligence has mounted over a two-week period... “We expect something soon,” the official said.

Bloomberg Opinion: Moqtada al-Sadr's reversion to homophobia is a sign of desperation. Having betrayed Iraq's protest movement, he's now begging to be let into Iran's good graces (link). "In short, having abandoned a large section of his natural constituency and unable to build a new one in Tehran or Baghdad, Sadr is flailing for political relevance. His homophobic statement is a manifestation of this desperation." - Ghosh.

Khamenei aid cautions US: Former head of IRGC Yahya Rahim Safavi said on Iraq, "Any U.S. action will mark an even larger strategic failure in the current president's record."

Ashab al-Kahf, another militia group linked to Iran-backed militias will also release drone footage over Ain Assad military base.

US evacuates Habaniyah base and its civilians from the embassy

April 3

Canada to pull troops from Iraq

Iran bases missiles on Qeshm island.

New report, indicating Iran IRGC-QF Commander Esmail Ghaani struggled to unite the ranks of allies in #Iraq during his visit. An Iranian diplomat also revealed Ghaani had met "indirectly" with Adnan al-Zurfi.

April 4

"Political rivalry and tension is rising gradually in #Baghdad, as after 8 PMF militia units, Al-Fatih bloc in Iraqi parliament asks Iraqi President to withdraw the letter of appointment of Adnan al-Zurfi to form next Iraqi cabinet. While Zurfi is keen on forming the cabinet." -Lawk Ghafuri. The letter is signed by Asa’ib Ahl al-Haqq, Kata’ib Sayyid Shuhada, Nujaba, Imam Ali etc.

Also: 8 Hashd al-Shaabi factions issue a joint statement: 1- US only understands the language of force. Iraqi soil and air will be hell for them. 2- Adnan Zufi is “CIA candidate” for PM. MPs should withhold their support to “the agent”. 3- We will not allow US continue its occupation.

Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba post meme showing US "end is close" with graveyard of soldiers.

Coalition leaves Taqaddum (Habaniyeh), see Arabic map.

Work continues on putting Patriots in place (see photo)

Ashab al-Kahf, another new "militia" says it will release drone footage over Ain Assad military base.

April 5

Hezbollah member killed in southern Lebanon. His name was Mohammad Ali Younes.

April 5 is supposed to be a "deadline" for US withdrawal.

Zurfi: first TV interview, PM designate Zurf sounding alarm on economic situation. "We're going to drown," he tells #Iraq state TV on collapsed oil prices. "We won't be able to pay half the (public) salaries next month."

Sounds of Explosions at The Badiyah of Al-Bukamal, with the explosions reaching Al-Bukamal

April 6

According to Al-Janubiyah, Hezbollah's data suggests that Younes may have been assassinated by Mossad and its mercenaries.

Five missiles fired at US "oil company" near Basra.

Iraqi politicians oppose Zurufi in Iraq, call for removal of US troops.

PMU calls for US troops to leave.

Iraq, Fatah Coalition says Sadr Movement is joining Fatah in supporting Director of Intelligence Service, Mustafa Kathimi, as PM nominee.

Nujaba: "The American occupation forces gathered in Ain Al-Assad base, Iraq. They tested C-RAM and air defense systems, for fear of possible attacks by the Iraqi resistance."

State Dept condemns Iran sanction relief "scam."

April 7

US-led coalition officially handed control of Abu Gharib military camp where French were located in western #Baghdad back to Iraqi forces, in the 6th base handover in just three weeks.

Abu Ali Al-Askari, the security official for #Iraq’s Hezbollah Brigades (or Kata’ib #Hezbollah) released image of "US end."

Patriots at Taji.

April 8

President of #Kurdistan region, Nechirvan Barzani, released a statement today in which he welcomes the nomination of Mustafa al-Kadhimi in #Baghdad to form next Iraqi cabinet. Al-Zurfi who is the current PM-designated is slowly losing the chance to become next Iraqi PM. He tweets in Kurdish.

Ghafuri: Usbat al-Thaireen newly formed militia publishes a drone video of Ain al-Assad military base in #Iraq showing #US troops & US jets taking off. Previously the group published a drone video showing #US embassy campus in #Baghdad.

Ashab al-Kahf, have released an image threatening #US forces "the Ain al-Assad Base is not safe nor are your bases in the Gulf.” "remember this image.” of rockets and rifles.

Iran proxy groups threaten US with images and claim attack in Salah a-Din.

April 9