US-Iran and Iran-Israel tensions March 22 and beyond
Updated: May 2
Read our previous installment March 12-21, 2020 of the daily updates of US-Iran tensions at this link.
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.
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.
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.
Iraq protests appear to have ended amid coronavirus fears.
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
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
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.
Coronavirus continues affecting US troops, aircraft carrier.
Houthis blame US for the virus.
"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.
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
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.
"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 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.
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
Iran says US will fail in any campaign against Kataib Hezbollah. - IRNA
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
Iran's Mohsen Rezeai (محسن رضایی) says the US will leave Iraq.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
"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.
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.
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
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.
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."
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.
Patriots at Taji.
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.
Iraq taps Mustafa Kadhimi for PM. See our profile.
Images of Shayrat airbase March 31 bombing.
David Schenker says threat from #Iran-backed militias in #Iraq to U.S. forces is “significant," and he was taking Kataib #Hezbollah’s ceasefire declaration “with a pinch of salt.” Also praised past work of #Iraq’s new PM-designate.
The U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice program is offering a reward of up to $10 million for information on the activities, networks, and associates of Muhammad Kawtharani, a senior Hizballah military commander. This announcement is part of the Department’s standing reward offer for information leading to the disruption of the financial mechanisms of the terrorist organization Lebanese Hizballah.
Houthi's blame Saudi Arabia for breaking truce.
Tasnim: PMU carries out operation near Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Al-Ain: Muhammad Kawtharani was a shadow of Qasim Soleimani and one of his most prominent arms outside Iran, until he became a permanent participant in the meetings of the pro-Iranian militia militias in Iraq. Kawtharani won Soleimani’s confidence to the point that he criticized the armed militias for failing to end .
Al-Ain on Kawtharani.
Iraq rumor about Esper's visit.
Fars: Iran doesn't mind new Iraqi leader if he is appointed legally.
Tasnim: Ghaani's role in Afghanistan.
Rouhani: US is worse virus than Covid-19.
Badr monitors US moves on Syria border.
Former Iran ambassador to Baghdad says US wants new strategic deal with Iraq amid new PM.
PMU accuses US of "activating terrorists" as it withdraws.
Iran accuses US of wanting base in Yemen.
US aids Iraq on Covid-19.
US State Depr, Pompeo: "We welcome that Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish political leaders seem to have arrived at a consensus on government formation, and hope the new government puts #Iraq’s interests first and meets the needs of the Iraqi people.”
AP: Patriot missile launchers and two other short-range systemsare now in place at al-Asad Air Base, where Iran carried out a massive ballistic missile attack against U.S. and coalition troops in January, and at the military base in Irbil, said officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive weapons movement. A short-range rocket defense system was installed at Camp Taji.
Kawtharani spotted in Baghdad meeting with politicians and Shi'ite militias. Meeting Shibl al-Zaiydi, the Secretary General of Kata'ib Imam Ali.
Just in to CNN: Eleven Iranian IRGCN vessels repeatedly conducted “dangerous and harassing approaches” with US Navy warships in the North Arabian Sea on Wednesday, one ship came with 10 yards of colliding with U.S. Navy, the U.S. CENTCOM said in a statement.
Hezbollah puts up poster at Israel border after sabotaging three parts of fence Israel fires flares.
Video of the April 15 strike on Hezbollah SUV.
IRGC prepares for war in Iraq - MEMRI
Iran says US "gambling" with disaster in Gulf.
Iran gives new drones to army. See also here and here and here, as Iran celebrates army day. "defense minister unveiled today 3 drones capable of carrying bombs or missiles, with a range of 1,500 km. Iran has made similar claims before, e.g. in 2018 it announced it was mass producing Mohajer-6 UAV to be used with Qaem smart guided bombs." Ababil new guided bombs. The minister of defense announced delivery of the Karrar, Ababil 3, and a “multipurpose jet aircraft” to #Iran’s Army.
Troops out, Patriots in, Rudaw on US posture in Iraq.
US-Iran compete over highways in Iraq.
Iran says Hezbollah threatens Israel.
Iran and Qatar agree energy cooperation.
Iran says there is trouble in Tanf.
Iran's Army unveils new advanced, long-range strategic radars.
Iran brags about Hezbollah cutting Israel northern fence.
Illegal presence of US terrorists source of insecurity in West Asia: IRGC
IRGC "night alert" for US ships in gulf
Iran accuses US of pressuring PUK in KRG
Tasnim: US training ISIS at Tanf.
Iran unveils new 700km ship missile.
Rouhani pressures Kuwait over US presence.
Iran's Press TV says it replicated Israeli SPIKE missile.
Full Akhbar report on Hezbollah fence-cutting operation.
Iran launches Nour satellite in morning. IRGC boasts of intelligence and strategic capabilities it will give. See Fars News report. Israel condemns Iran's launch, " Israel strongly condemns Iran’s attempt to launch a military satellite by its Revolutionary Guard’s, a Foreign Terror Organization, designated by the US. Today’s attempt at launching a satellite is just a façade for Iran’s continues development of advanced missile technology."
Pompeo: "I think Iran needs to be held accountable for what they've done. They have now had a military organization that the United States has designated a terrorist attempt to launch a satellite," Pompeo said at a news conference.
More details on Ababil's delivered with weapon capability.
Donald Trump threatens to sink IRGC ships that harass US Navy. "I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea." IRGC responds: member of national security and foreign policy commission Aladdin Broujerdi threats #US by targeting all their bases in region and says ‘ you will receive a stronger response than Ayn Al-Assad." A Defense Department official said that the service had not received any formal policy directive from Mr. Trump ordering the Navy to start shooting Iranian gunboats
PMU has drones with heat sensors.
Nasrallah will give a speech.
US troops reveal details of being under Iranian ballistic missile attack in January.
New Soleimani posters by Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujabashows him destroying White House.
Israel is notifying Hezbollah about airstrikes, via threats or an errant missile before strikes.
PMU launches operation in Anbar.
Iran may have cut funding for Hezbollah.
Riots in Lebanon's Tripoli.
Israel aircraft activity reported in Lebanon.
Iran re-opens borders, except with Turkmenistan.
Tasnim interview with IRGC drone commander Karimloo.
PMU units restructuring: "As many as 10 PMUs leaving PMF to muster under PMO including Badr units like Shabak and Turkmen Brigades"; details here and "essentially turning the 4 most powerful units into a PMF version of the Special Division. 15,000 troops combined. So with IqSD, ICTS, and SDPC, these 4 units are the latest to muster under the PMO."..."Amid deepening rifts following Abu Mahdi al Mohandis' assassination, four brigades loyal to Sistani (Imam Ali, Ali al Akbar, Abbas, Ansar al Marjaiya) split from the PMF and now report directly to the PM."..."If these pro-Sistani units are going to report directly to the PM from here on that means they're less likely to be used by pro-Iran elements in the PMF, reducing Iran's ability to meddle in Iraqi affairs."..."Commanders of 4 PMUs aligned with Ayatollah Al-Sistani met with the Minister of Defense regarding the current turn of events in Iraq. Pictured are commanders of Greater Ali Brigade, Imam Ali Combat Division, Al-Abbas Combat Division, and Supporters of the Seminary. The commanders are Ali Hamdani(Brigade 11), Sheikh Tahir Al-Khaqani(Brigade 2), Maitham Al-Zaidi(Brigade 26), and Sayyed Hamid Al-Yasiri(Brigade 44)...Outgoing Prime Minister decides to disengage the Threshold units from PMF and join Iraq Army instead."; Joel Wing: "Al Aalem reports 10 Hashd brigades talking about leaving Hashd Comm after 4 pro-Najaf brigades did so Also talk of replacing Falah Fayad as Natl Sec Adv & Hashd Comm head." Dispute linked to "favoritism."..."Adil Abdul-Mahdi, outgoing caretaker Prime Minister, to dissolve 4 PMU units most loyal to the Iraqi Armed Forces and incorporate them into IAF directly. This creates a dividing line between them & other Hashd factions." Continued jockeying over Kadhimi's cabinet. Sadr says won't support Abdul-Mahdi remaining in office. "New update in Hashd Brigade numbers index: full translation of statement issued by four shrine brigades (2, 11, 26 and 44) announcing transfer away from Hashd Commission....The document supposedly has Adel Abd al-Mahdi connecting the brigades directly to himself. Notable though that Al-Abbas Combat Division is still describing itself as Hashd brigade 26 as of today." Sajad Jiyad: "The statement from the shrine/Sistani PMF that have left the PMC hints at encouraging other PMF to also realign under the CiC/MoD. Subtle but when combined with other bits in the statement such as “correcting some paths” it shows that the PMC will be recast in a different light." David Witty: "In Iraq, the breakaway of 4 PMF (Hashd) brigades from PMF Council demonstrates they don’t want to be perceived as receiving Iranian support. These are Shrine Brigades that want additional support from Najaf. They now fall under the army." Iran wants PMF to remove US. Iraqi activists: Director of PM’s Office & Falih Fayyadh have given Kata’ib Hezbollah militia a valuable piece of land in the Green Zone across from the PM’s guest house." Tom Cat: "Some new talks about a security restructuring: -HaiderAbadi to become head of Popular Mobilization Commission -Abu Dua Kazim Al-Issawi nominated to replace Falih Fayyadh - As many as 10 PMUs leaving PMF to muster under PMO including Badr units like Shabak and Turkmen Brigades."
Qaim border open to non-local PMU fighting in Syria. "Kataib al-Imam Ali is involved in sheep smuggling to Iraq and fuel smuggling to Syria." Concern by US about PMU role on Syria border.... KAIA strength of 4,500, with 500 in Syria. PMU crossed on April 25. Iran claims US trying to "replace" PMU on border.
Zarif calls counterparts in Afghanistan.
Iran says US moved 300 vehicles to Syria.
Syrian interview on Tasnim looks at Israeli airstrikes.
Germany bans Hezbollah, raids activits.
Images of April 27 airstrikes; "The attack focused on the entrance to an underground level, located less than 100 meters from a Headquarters attacked a few months ago (19 November 2019) which according to media reports is affiliated with IRGC QudsForce and the Shiite militias....Syria, AlMazzeh military airport, Damascus – ISI intelligence report a probably IRGCQF underground level’s entrance #attack’s (27 April 2020) aftermath, less than 100 meters from a Headquarters attacked a few months ago (19 November 2019)... focused on the entrance to an underground level, possibly affiliated with #Iran|ian #QudsForce and the Shiite militias."
Mysterious explosion during the day also blamed on Israel.
Satellite photos of April 20 strike near Palmyra and April 27 strike at Mazzeh Airport in Damascus.
After series of ISIS attacks in Iraq Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba claims US reviving the group.