Iran has had more than its share of setbacks recently. In Iraq the new government finally came together. Iran failed to get its preferred politicians into key positions. In effect, the Iranians have some influence but are far from “controlling Iraq.” Iran is also having trouble convincing anyone that it can control access to the Persian Gulf. Since the American revived their sanctions last March Iran has threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz or, at the very least, assert control over the Straits of Hormuz. Iran has run into problems with both of these claims. Since March the United States had moved military forces into the Gulf region to deal with any Iranian efforts to close the Straits of Hormuz. This effort gained added impact because even China is opposed to Iranian threats to close the straits. The U.S. also noted that its current military posture in the Gulf had put an end to Iranian harassment of U.S. warships. There had been 22 of those incidents in 2015, 36 in 2016 but only 14 in 2017 and none so far in 2018. Iran has published some videos of 2018 harassment incidents but the Iranians are not nearly as bold as they were in the past and will back off quickly if challenged.
The Iranian government continues to be challenged by its own people. The large anti-government demonstrations continue and opinion polls confirm that most Iranians are fed up with their government and want change. So far the government has not shown much interest in changing. That’s the official line, as provided by the senior clerics who hold the ultimate power. As long as the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) remains loyal and reliable the population can be kept in line using threats, or applications, of force. Less popular support means an even less effective economy. That also means less of everything, including military power and the ability to keep secrets. The IRGC and police discovered this as they investigated the Israeli theft of the Iranian nuclear weapons archive earlier this year. Officially Iran denies this ever happened. In reality, the government and IRGC leaders were furious and demanded answers. The investigation found or rediscovered, that many Iranians are willing to take a bribe to provide information to just about anyone (including Israeli secret agents) and cooperate in other ways. In short, the archive heist was not an exceptional undertaking. It could happen again and, given the current widespread anger towards the government, it would probably be easier and cheaper.
Speaking of loyalty. Iran is finding less of it from its allies in Syria. Russia, Turkey and the Assad government see the continuing Israeli airstrikes on Iranian targets in Syria as a matter between Israel and Iran. The obsession with destroying Israel is seen as an Iranian weakness. Although Russia, Turkey and Iraq are technically allies with Iran in Syria the historical record shows Iran is usually the enemy of these three nations and that has been the case for centuries, long before Israel came along in 1948. One thing everyone can agree on is the need to get rid of the remaining Islamic terrorist rebel groups in Syria. Most of these are currently surrounded in the northwest Syrian province of Idlib. There are some ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) groups hiding out in eastern Syria but these are seen as much less of a threat than the tens of thousands of Islamic terrorists in Idlib. Everyone in and bordering Syria would like to see the Iranians go back to Iran and stay there. The few hundred Iranian troops and over 50,000 Iranian mercenaries in Syria are seen as a constant source of trouble. Iran realizes that their allies in Syria have, and will probably continue, to collaborate with Israel if an opportunity presents itself. Yet Iranian leaders fail to see the absurdity of this situation and despite widespread popular protest against the Syrian operations continues to operate like its forces in Syria are on the verge of destroying Israel.
Discussions continue on how Russia, Iran and Turkey will operate in Syria once the civil war is officially over. That will happen even before Idlib is back under Syrian government control. Because there are over 50,000 armed rebels in Idlib and fewer than 100,000 Syrian troops and Iranian mercenaries available for Idlib operations morale is not high among the attackers, especially the Syrian troops. Turkey is offering a solution that means many of the Islamic terrorists in Idlib would get away and there is not a lot of opposition to that from Russia, Iran and Turkey. Syria is negotiating peace deals with Kurds (who control the northeast), Druze (who occupy much of the Israeli-Jordan border) and Sunni groups (tribal leaders and local leaders who have not been hostile). Syria wants to attract a lot of foreign aid for reconstruction but that is complicated by Iranian plans to establish a permanent military presence and continue threatening Israel. Several members of the Assad clan are facing war crimes charges and Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan want to send back several million Sunni Arab refugees (which the Assads do not want). The war will not end quickly or in a tidy fashion.
Danger In The East
Pakistan continuing to support the drug gangs and Taliban in Afghanistan while assisting the U.S. in its “war on terror.” Many Americans want to just leave. The problem is just getting out leaves Afghanistan at the mercy of Pakistan, Iran and Russia, as well as all the drug gangs, Islamic terror groups and numerous Afghans who oppose the drugs and all the outside interference. The drugs and Islamic terrorism will still be major exports. The West can leave Afghanistan but the ills of Afghanistan won’t leave the West and that is just fine with Pakistan. Iran believes it would have more influence on Afghanistan with the Americans gone and that is another reason why so many Afghans want the foreign troops to stay.
Danger In The West
Iranian efforts to dominate Iraq have fallen way short of expectations. Most young Iraqis see no future in Islamic radicalism and terrorism, which has, for most of their young lives been more of a threat than a source of salvation. Down in Basra the ongoing riots and demonstrations are about basics, like clean water and regular electricity supplies. The Basra unrest has been going on for ten weeks and at least 25 protestors have been killed and many more wounded or arrested. Dozens have disappeared and feared dead. The protesters note that Iran backed militias are also involved in attacking the demonstrators. This, for many young Iraqis, confirms suspicions that Iran is not their friend. The government has promised to improve living conditions in Basra but that slow in coming.
Iraqi anti-government demonstrators were always angry at Iran. In part, this was because of the Iranian backed PMF (Peoples Mobilization Forces) militias in Iraq, whose leaders often speak of imposing a religious dictatorship in Iraq and generally ignored all the corruption. Protestors in Shia majority Basra are also criticizing Iran for halting electricity exports in early July. Iran cut the electricity because corrupt Iraqi officials had not paid for much of it. Moreover, there was an electricity shortage developing in Iran. It was necessary for Iraq to import electricity because for a long time (the Saddam era) there were not many electric power plants in Basra because it was a Shia majority area and Shia were starved for resources before 2003 (when the Sunni Arab minority ruled). But after Saddam was overthrown in 2003 and Shia politicians gained power, corruption prevented the construction of power plants. Iran thought cutting the power, especially since they had a good reason, would increase the anger against the Iraqi government. But the protestors saw through the Iranian intentions and added that to the long list of reasons why Iraqi Shia do not like Iran. After a few weeks Iran restored the electricity exports.
The current Iraqi enthusiasm for battling corruption is hurting Iranian efforts to expand its influence inside Iraq. That’s because pro-Iran groups in Iraq have long justified outlaw behavior in order to serve their mentor Iran. This has led to Iraqi army commanders being more aggressive in dealing with Iran backed PMF units. Most of the PMF units were formed in late 2014 to fight ISIL. Since then the PMF has been put on the government payroll, despite the fact that nearly half of them are also supported by Iranian cash and equipment. Since the government began paying PMF militiamen the PMF became part of the defense forces. Technically the army can order PMF units around but until recently the Iran-backed PMF would often ignore those orders. In some cases PMF commanders would threaten army officers. Given the results of the recent elections (pro-Iran parties did poorly) and the growing popular unrest in Iran attitudes have changed. Iraqi army officers are not just ordering pro-Iran PMF units to back off but using force to make the PMF comply. So far this has not go much beyond armed confrontations (which often work) and arresting (“kidnapping” according to pro-Iran Iraqis) PMF men who disobey army orders. Apparently the anti-Iran election results have led to pro-Iran PMF commanders being advised (by Iran) to play nice with the army and back off. This is seen as temporary as there is no sign that pro-Iran PMF groups will cease to take orders from Iran. Iraqis believe the pro-Iran PMF units are backing off as part of an Iranian effort to persuade Iraq to oppose the renewed American economic sanctions on Iran. Iraqi leaders were under a lot of political pressure from Iran to ignore the American sanctions, if only because complying would hurt the Iraqi economy. That pressure caused some hesitation by Iraqi leaders until they realized that most Iraqis preferred the Americans to the Iranians. After all, when Iraq asked the Americans to leave in 2011 they did. Iranians are not very cooperative in that respect and for centuries have been trying to get its way in what is now Iraq.
Danger From Above
Although Iran has been aware of its serious deficiencies when it comes to air defense for over a decade, nothing it has done so far has made a major difference. Outsiders began to notice Iranian efforts to change that in 2009 when the Iranian Supreme Leader separated most missile based air defense systems from the air force and organized them into a separate air defense command. Despite vigorous efforts by the new Air Defense Force that did not produce air defenses that could keep up with the potential threats from the many enemies Iran has acquired (especially the U.S., Israel plus the Arab oil states). Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has been described as visibly alarmed at the inability of Iran to defend itself against the many enemy aircraft and missiles that could be used in wartime, especially for a surprise attack. Iran has been promising to destroy Israel and the United States since the 1980s and is now trying to take control of Syria and further threaten Israel. In response to that Israel has been fighting back and Iran is uncomfortable about how this is playing out. Khamenei replaced the commander of the air force in August, the fifth senior military commander replaced in the last year. New leaders does not seem to be the solution.
The Iranian Air Force is the weakest in the region. Air force commanders complain that, at best, there current warplanes are good for ground attack and little else. Worse, air force commanders admit that the IRGC is opposed to the air force obtaining modern jet fighters.
Supreme Leader Khamenei practices what he preaches when it comes to paranoia about enemy air attack. This year the U.S. Air Force, which tracks the positions of Iranian S-300 SAM batteries noted a seemingly random pattern of S-300 movements. After some analysis they found that these movements were not random at all. While Iranian S-300 batteries are deployed to protect a few key areas (like the capital and oil producing areas) the roving S-300 battery was actually following Khamenei around. Whenever he travelled to another Iranian city that lacked S-300 protection, an S-300 battery showed up and then left as soon as Khamenei did.
China Makes A Move
China is obtaining a larger economic presence in Iran by helping Iran deal with the return of sanctions. The economic problems in Iran are partly the result of the Americans resuming most of sanctions in November, which includes bans on buying Iranian oil. Already Iran is offering discounts to its customers to entice them to defy the Americans. China will seek, and pro-American Asian nations will get exemptions The United States announced this decision in March and that set off a financial panic in Iran, which was already suffering from massive government corruption and decades of mismanagement of the economy.
Even China and India, two major customers who said they would defy the sanctions, have cut orders because sanctions will increase shipping costs and also increase the risk of Iran going to war. Sanctions mean the cost of insurance rises and fewer shipping companies are willing provide tankers to move sanctioned oil. China remains on good terms with Arab oil states and both Iran and the Arabs will sometimes call on China to help set up secret talks between Iranians and Arabs. China has a way of seeing problems (like Iran getting hit by sanctions once more) as opportunities. China is willing to break international law, use bribes, and generally entertain just about any proposition.
There have even been proposals for Russia, China, Iran and anyone else interested establish a separate international payments system based on the Chinese currency (the yuan). But even Chinese bankers will explain (off the record) that this would not work because, compared to the dollar, the yuan is much less stable and subject to wide and unexpected changes in value (compared to other currencies). One reason the dollar has become the primary currency for foreign trade is because it is the most widely accepted, used and, most importantly, stable of the major currencies. European countries opposed to the resumption of sanctions are establishing a barter system for Iran, to help get around the sanctions. The American see all these moves as fair game for U.S. countermeasures.
October 4, 2018: The market (not the official) exchange rate for the rate for the Iranian currency recently peaked at 190,000 rials to buy one dollar but has now reversed to 140,000. This apparently means the initial panic over the full imposition of sanctions in November is over. Many Iranians and businesses rushed to turn some of their cash assets into dollars and that played a major role in the sharp decline in the value of the rial versus the dollar. Despite that Iranian currency has taken a beating. In 2013 it was 33,000 rials per dollar. Then as now that sort of thing hurts some critical government programs, like health care (which must import most medical supplies and pay for it in dollars). It is much worse now because at the start of 2018 it cost 45,000 rials to buy a dollar and it rapidly for worse as the year went on. The rate rose to 110,000 rials in late July, recovered a bit (to 90,000 rials) in August but after that has been sharply moving in the wrong direction and the government has stopped trying to cope. This is all about the return of economic sanctions. That has forced changes in spending patterns. Before the current crisis the defense budget has skyrocketed to $15 billion in 2017. While that is one of the lowest defense budgets in the region it more than triples when you add money spent on supporting foreign wars (Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Gaza and many smaller operations worldwide). No other nation in the regions spends that much on foreign wars. The fact that Iran keeps spending more on defense and foreign wars is no secret to most Iranians and a primary reason for the continuing protests. Iranians have noticed that spending that directly impacts the lives of ordinary Iranians has gone down and that gets worse as the rial gets weaker. For example the inflation is now 14 percent, versus less than ten percent (for the first time in 26 years) in early 2017.
October 2, 2018: In February the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) agreed to give Iran more time to prove that it is no longer engaged in illegal financial activities that aid Islamic terrorism. Iran was supposed to have complied by now but it hasn’t and the final deadline is the end of October. The FATF is threatening to move Iran to the blacklist, with North Korea, and make it very difficult for Iran to use the international banking system. In 2016 FATF suspended such sanctions on Iran for a year so Iran could Iran prove it had shut down these illegal activities by the Iranian government to finance terrorism. The Iranian government tried hard enough to get FATF extensions to that deadline. This may be the last extension because the U.S. and other nations keep providing new evidence that Iran continues to finance terrorism. The Iranian government knows that the problem is; the IRGC continues to do whatever it wants and expects the government to deal with nuisances like the FATF. The IRGC are religious zealots on a Mission From God and not concerned with whatever FATF is trying to do. This is a problem the Iranian government cannot admit even exists and is finding that getting the IRGC to cooperate does not seem possible either. Neighboring Pakistan is also having similar problems with the FATF. In Pakistan it is the ISI (military intelligence) that is dominated by supporters of Islamic terrorism and reluctant to cooperate. Pakistan had to prove it was clean otherwise it goes back on the “gray list” of countries who are not doing enough to block terrorist groups from using the international banking system to finance their violence. Pakistan had been on the gray list from 2012 to 2015 and that was bad for businesses that import or export. Pakistan is on the FATF list but not designated as dangerous. Being on the gray portion of the list makes it more expensive to do business and is very bad for the reputation of Pakistan and Pakistanis. China played a major role in keeping Pakistan off the gray list this time but the odds are against Pakistan staying off the list because it has long been an open secret that Pakistani support for its own pet Islamic terrorists included making it easier for Islamic terrorists, in general, to do business in Pakistan. The United States has been gathering evidence to justify the FATF to put Pakistan back on the gray list (along with Ethiopia, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago, Vanuatu and Tunisia).
October 1, 2018: For the second time Iran has fired Zulfiqar ballistic missiles from Western Iran at ISIL targets in Syria. This time three missiles were fired and the press release noted that each had a name; “Death to Israel.” “Death to America” and “Death to the Saud Family.” One missile failed and landed inside Iran and damaged a farm near the Iraqi border. The point of these names was to remind everyone that from western Iran Zulfiqar missiles can hit American bases in Syria (most of which are near the Iraqi border). These missiles can also hit the Saudi capital, although Iran has been trying, without success, to do that since 2016 by firing over a hundred ballistic missiles (with varying ranges) from Yemen into Saudi Arabia. All have been intercepted by Patriot air defense systems. If Iran could operate Zulfiqar from Iraq (dubious considering the current anti-Iran riots) the missiles could reach Israel and be intercepted by Israeli Patriot systems (plus several other air defense systems). The Iranian press release did not mention the failure or interception rates of Zulfiqar and similar Iranian ballistic missiles. The last time Iran fired missiles at Syrian targets was in June 2017 when six Zulfiqar ballistic missiles were fired at ISIL targets in Palmyra and Deir Ezzor. Only two of the missiles hit anything of value but some of them traveled about 620 kilometers. Four apparently landed in western Iraq. Iran denied these Israeli claims about accuracy and Israel dismissed the denials as more Iranian posturing. This public disagreement went on for a week and the Israelis did not back down with their claims that the Iranian missiles performed poorly. For a nation constantly threatened with attack by Iranian ballistic missiles the Israeli observation of the Zulfiqar performance is yet another embarrassment for Iran. The Iranian media described (and published pictures) of the Zulfiqar ballistic missile. This appeared to be another version of the Fateh-110 which is a 3.5 ton, solid fuel ballistic missile with a range of 250 kilometers and a half ton warhead. Iran first revealed Fateh-110 in 2002. These missiles were also manufactured in Syria (as the M-600). The Iranian version appeared to be based on the Chinese DF-11, which entered service in 1979 and continues to be used by China and was exported to Pakistan. The DF-11 (also known as the M11) is a single stage solid fuel missile that weighs 4.2 tons, has a range of 300 kilometers and carries a .8 ton warhead. By 2011 there were reports of a DF-11A which used a smaller warhead and larger solid fuel to achieve a range of over 700 kilometers. Several years later an update of the DF-11A entered service with a more accurate and reliable guidance system. This is a missile quite similar to the Zulfiqar, which Iran announced in 2016. So far no Zulfiqars have been sent to Syria or Lebanon. In 2013 Iran was found to be airlifting more Fateh-110s to Syria, apparently meant for Hezbollah. These longer range missiles, that can reach all of Israel’s major cities, are a primary target for Israeli forces in any future war with Hezbollah and some were destroyed by during at least one of the recent Israeli air strikes in Syria.
The 2017 Iranian ballistic missile attack was in response to a recent attack in the Iranian capital by six ISIL men armed with firearms and explosive vests. The attack went after two targets; the parliament (in central Tehran) and a shrine to religious leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (who established the current religious dictatorship) south of Tehran. All six attackers were killed but not before seven other people died and 43 wounded. It was soon discovered five of the dead ISIL men were Iranians who police knew or suspected had left the country to join ISIL. The five apparently returned to set up an ISIL branch in Iran and ISIL boasts that this is the first attack of many in Iran.
September 30, 2018: Iran has transferred ownership of four new cargo (container) ships to a Chinese company that does a lot of business with Iran. This transfer is apparently an effort to avoid the impact of sanctions. China has always been helpful to Iran in that respect.
September 29, 2018: The United States announced that it is temporarily shutting down its consulate in Basra (southern Iraq) because of growing threats from local pro-Iran groups to launch a major attack on the consulate. The consulate has been subject to some recent rocket attacks and American intel indicates some pro-Iranian Shia militias in the area are being encouraged by Iran to be more aggressive.
September 27, 2018: In the southern city of Shiraz police arrested a local public relations official in an effort to discover how a large billboard, meant to honor Iranian soldiers who died in action, used a photo of Israeli soldiers. Worse, the photo originally had four soldiers with their backs to the camera and one of them was obviously a woman. She was photoshopped out of the original, which was available on the Internet. The four soldiers are wearing Israeli uniforms and two have their M16 rifles slung across their backs and are easy to identify. Iranian soldiers have never used the M16. The billboard was taken down overnight and now the police want the public relations official in charge of putting the original up to explain what happened.
In the southwest (Saravan), IRGC troops ambushed a group of Iranian Baluchi rebels entering Iran from Pakistan (where these rebels often establish bases). Four of the rebels were killed and two wounded (and captured). One of the dead was a known leader of rebel group Jaish al-Adl. Several other rebels escaped the ambush and fled back into Pakistan.
Turkey told the U.S. that it would not observe the American economic sanctions against Iran. Turkey and Russia plan to continue trading with Iran using local currencies (lira, ruble and rial). That means all three of those currencies will become even less useful in foreign trade requiring dollars. Turkey is already having a financial crisis regarding the lira that is not related to the Iran sanctions. This pledge to trade with Iran anyway makes the Turkish financial situation worse.
The U.S. repeated that it would in Syria until Iranian forces were gone but that American presence would not always include troops on the ground. Currently, there are 2,000 American troops in Syria, most of them training and advising Kurdish forces. All these could be removed if the United States believed it could maintain its leverage in Syria using air power and diplomacy.
Israel released photos of an Iranian missile assembly and upgrade facility in Lebanon (next to the Beirut airport). This facility will be used to upgrade (with a GPS guidance system) a lot of the long range Iranian rockets Hezbollah already have. Israel also revealed photos of the Iranian capital where the hardware for the Iranian nuclear weapons program (including 15 kg of nuclear material) had been stored. Israel accused Western, especially European, nations of deliberately ignoring information like this even when it was obtained by their own intel agencies rather than via public Israeli revelations.
September 25, 2018: In Yemen a team of British experts confirmed that components used in landmines and roadside bombs in Yemen were Iranian. There was similar evidence found in Saudi Arabia when components of destroyed ballistic missiles were collected and examined. Iran denies everything.
September 24, 2018: Russia announced that it would begin upgrading Syrian air defenses by delivering up to four S-300 SAM batteries. First deliveries will arrive by mid-October. In addition, Russia said it would try to jam electronics of aircraft making attacks in Syria. In other words, Russia is threatening to stop Israeli air operations in Syria. Unless Israel could get around this jamming electronically (possible, but difficult) the usual response is to destroy the jamming equipment. In most cases, the jammers will be operated by Russians and that would be a problem for Israel and disastrous for the Russians, who are trying to hide the fact that a lot of their military equipment is not as effective as the Russians claim it is. This is all about the recent loss of a Russian four engine Il-20 maritime patrol aircraft off the coast to Syrian S-200 SAMs. This sort of “friendly fire” is not supposed to happen, at least if your IFF (Identify Friend or Foe) equipment works. Something failed and it was apparently Russian and Russia does not want to dwell on that with existing or potential customers. One of those potential customers, Saudi Arabia, is not happy about the Syrians getting S-300 systems, because the S-300 surveillance radars have sufficient range (over 300 kilometers) to monitor air traffic in much of Saudi Arabia. Israel has repeatedly made it clear that it will not stop attacking Iranian targets in Syria. This sort of threat is usually the Russian way of saying (to Israel); we have to talk about how Israel is going to help get Russia out of this mess.
September 23, 2018: An Iranian diplomat, stationed in Algeria since 2015, was forced to leave the country after repeated complaints that he was a key operative in the recruitment of Algerian Shia Moslems to go fight as Iranian mercenaries in Syria. There are about 800,000 Shia in Algeria and the Iranian embassy encouraged Algerians to adopt the Shia form of Islam but did do quietly.
September 22, 2018: In the west (Khuzestan province) four gunmen fired on a parade killing 25 (including at least eight IRGC men) and wounding even more. Local Arab separatists (al Ahwaz National Resistance, a coalition of several groups) took credit as did ISIL. Over the next three days at least 20 people were arrested and Iran blamed Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States and threatened to take revenge by attacking American forces in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. responded by reminding Iran that it has only itself to blame and most Iranians would agree. Many Iranians, both in Khuzestan and the capital openly concluded that Arab separatists were responsible. Since 2003 the Iranian Arabs in Khuzestan have been increasingly vocal, and often violent, about the harsh rule of the Iranian Shia. Iran is acutely aware of how unruly its own Arab minority (a few percent of the population) can be. There are a growing number of terrorist incidents inside Iran traced to Iranian Arabs. Most Iranian oil is pumped from the ancestral lands of these Arabs, who are bitter about how they receive little from all that oil income. The three million Arabs in Khuzestan province (formerly Arabistan) are Shia and have been ruled by non-Arab Iranians for centuries. Arab unrest here has grown since 2003 when the Sunni dictatorship was overthrown in Iraq and the Shia majority won elections to take power. Iranian Arabs noted that the Iraqi Shia were now getting most of the Iraqi oil income, unlike just across the border in Khuzestan. Since 2003 hundreds of Iranian Arabs have been arrested for separatist activities. Many are still in prison and over 30 have been executed.
September 18, 2018: Due to the worsening economy in Iran (made worse by the American revival of sanctions in March) over 15 percent of the three million Afghan refugees still in eastern Iran have returned to Afghanistan so far this year. Nearly all of these Afghans are Shia who feared to return as long as the Afghan Taliban (and ISIL) were active in Afghanistan. These two groups and Sunni Islamic terror groups, in general, consider Shia heretics and targets them for death on a regular basis. But Iran has made returning to Afghanistan easier by increasing its support for the Afghan Taliban. This gesture is also a favor to Pakistan, which Iran is trying to maintain good relations with (as Pakistan is also an ally of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan is the only Moslem nation with nukes).
September 17, 2018: Russian, Turkish and Iranian official worked out a way to deal with the remaining Islamic terrorists in northwest Syria (Idlib province) without triggering a large movement of refugees trying to get into Turkey. This deal calls for the establishment (by October 15th) of a demilitarized zone 15-25 kilometers wide that would separate government and rebel forces. Russia and Turkey would then deal with the Islamic terrorists in some undefined manner that apparently involves Turkey persuading most of the Islamic terrorist rebels that are Syrian to join a FSA, secular rebel group that Turkey backs. Those who refuse this offer would be attacked in such a way (a few small groups hit at a time) that a lot of civilians would not be compelled to flee. This compromise is vague on critical details but has delayed the offensive to take Idlib from the Islamic terrorists by force. Iran goes along with whatever Russia and Turkey want because Iran is more concerned with their efforts to destroy Israel.
September 16, 2018: In Syria, two more IRGC men were killed in combat. Unofficial data (collected from the Internet or local Iranian reports of funerals) indicates about 2,400 Iranians have died in Syria since 2011.
September 15, 2018: An Israeli airstrike in Syria (Damascus) not only destroyed a warehouse full of Iranian weapons. The airstrike also destroyed a B747 freighter aircraft belonging to Saha Airlines, an operation owned by the IRGC. This aircraft had recently landed at the airport and not yet been unloaded. The IRGC operates several freighter aircraft, most of them B747s using several Iranian airlines. Apparently, Israel is seeking to destroy the aircraft.
September 8, 2018: In the northeast (Erbil province) Iran fired long-range rockets and some Fateh 110 ballistic missiles at targets in northern Iraq (the town of Koya, halfway between the Kurdish capital of Erbil and the Iranian border). The missiles were aimed at the headquarters of two Iranian Kurdish separatist groups (KDPI and PDKI). At least 17 were killed and dozens wounded by the rockets. Some of the rockets landed in or near a refugee camp outside the town. The Fateh 110 is a solid fuel missile that can be launched from trucks that carry them and have a range of 300 kilometers. The guidance system enables them to hit a specific building, which one of them did in the Koya attacks. The next day Iran admitted it made the missile attack.
In a prison near the capital (Tehran), three more Kurdish Iranians were executed for opposing Iranian rule. That makes about 50 Kurds executed so far this year.
In southern Iraq (Basra), a large crowd of Iraqi Shia attacked the Iranian consulate, set fires and burned an Iranian flag and a picture of Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The protests in Basra have been going on since July and so far have left at least 25 dead. While the protests are mostly against government corruption that includes Iranian efforts to control events in Iraq.
September 7, 2018: The presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey met in Iran to decide what their common strategy will be in Syria and Syrian troops assemble in the northwest to retake Idlib province from the last major force of rebels left in Syria. Turkey asked for a truce in Idlib so that Turkey could try and negotiate a peaceful surrender. Russia and Iran rejected that at first but the final agreement was all about everyone coordinating their efforts in Syria and that means Turkey has an opportunity to negotiate and carry out as many deals with Idlib rebels as it can manage. Turkey intends to indefinitely maintain a buffer zone on the Syrian side of the border and this would include Idlib province. This would give Turkey the opportunity to offer somewhere for former rebels can live that is in Syria but not subject to retribution by Syrian or Iranian troops or secret police.
In the northwest (Kurdistan province) IRGC troops killed six PJAK men sought for taking part in a July clash that left 11 IRGC men dead.
In eastern Syria, near the American base at Tanf, a company of U.S. marines conducted a live fire training exercise involving an aerial assault. This was done for the benefit of Iran, Syria and Russia, who have indicated they might deal with the Tanf base (which is near the Iran and Jordan borders). The United States has already attacked Iranian mercenaries and Syrian troops who got inside the 35 kilometer “security zone” the United States has established around the Tanf base. The only way a ground assault could work would be if the attackers had air support and only Russia has modern warplanes in Syria that have a chance of dealing with American fighters and air defenses in general. Yesterday Russia said its aircraft might enter the 35 kilometer (from the base) zone in pursuit of Islamic terrorists. The U.S. responded that American forces could take care of any intrusion and Russian aircraft should stay out. The American show of force caused the Russians to withdraw their offer of air support.