Iran Update, May 13, 2024

Iran Update, May 13, 2024

Ashka Jhaveri, Kelly Campa, Annika Ganzeveld, Kathryn Tyson, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, and Nicholas Carl

Information Cutoff: 2:00pm ET

The Iran Update provides insights into Iranian and Iranian-sponsored activities abroad that undermine regional stability and threaten US forces and interests. It also covers events and trends that affect the stability and decision-making of the Iranian regime. The Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) provides these updates regularly based on regional events. Click here to see CTP and ISW’s interactive map of Israeli ground operations. This map is updated daily alongside the static maps present in this report.

CTP-ISW defines the “Axis of Resistance” as the unconventional alliance that Iran has cultivated in the Middle East since the Islamic Republic came to power in 1979. This transnational coalition is comprised of state, semi-state, and non-state actors that cooperate to secure their collective interests. Tehran considers itself to be both part of the alliance and its leader. Iran furnishes these groups with varying levels of financial, military, and political support in exchange for some degree of influence or control over their actions. Some are traditional proxies that are highly responsive to Iranian direction, while others are partners over which Iran exerts more limited influence. Members of the Axis of Resistance are united by their grand strategic objectives, which include eroding and eventually expelling American influence from the Middle East, destroying the Israeli state, or both. Pursuing these objectives and supporting the Axis of Resistance to those ends have become cornerstones of Iranian regional strategy.

We do not report in detail on war crimes because these activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We utterly condemn violations of the laws of armed conflict and the Geneva Conventions and crimes against humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.

Palestinian militias, including Hamas, claimed an unusually high number of attacks targeting Israeli forces in the northern Gaza Strip on May 13, demonstrating that these militias remain combat effective and retain a significant force presence there. This supports CTP-ISW’s assessment that Hamas and the other Palestinian militias remain active beyond just Rafah in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian militias claimed 33 attacks targeting Israeli forces in Jabalia, marking the most attacks claimed in a single day in 2024.[1]

Hamas has exploited Israeli withdrawals from the northern Gaza Strip to begin reconstituting there, which has in turn led Israeli forces to return to areas to re-clear them. Israeli forces moved back into Jabalia on May 11 after the IDF assessed that Hamas and other Palestinian militias were rebuilding their capabilities and networks there. There had been until now few claimed Palestinian attacks in Jabalia since January 2024 likely due to an absence of Israeli targets—rather than because the militias were destroyed.[2] Israeli forces have also launched a clearing operation into Zaytoun neighborhood on May 8, marking the third time that the IDF has conducted a clearing operation there.[3] Hamas exploits the fact that these Israeli clearing operations involve targeted raids. Hamas moves away into other areas during the Israeli operation, allowing Hamas to preserve some of its forces.[4] Hamas and the other Palestinian militias will almost certainly resume their reconstitution efforts in these neighborhoods after Israeli forces complete their current clearing operations there.

Senior US officials have indicated concerns that Hamas will survive in the Gaza Strip. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned on May 12 that without an alternative to Hamas, Israel will achieve unsustainable successes and ultimately Hamas would return to power.[5] US Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell told CNN that the United States doesn’t believe that Israel’s goal of a total victory over Hamas is ”likely or possible.”[6]

Iran is continuing to signal publicly that it could pursue a nuclear weapon. Strategic Foreign Relations Council Chairman Kamal Kharrazi stated during an annual Arab-Iranian dialogue conference on May 13 that Iran would need to change its nuclear doctrine if it faced threats from nuclear-armed countries.[7] This threat is particularly noteworthy given that Kharrazi is a senior adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Kharrazi similarly stated during an interview with al Jazeera on May 9 that Iran will have “no choice” but to change its nuclear doctrine if Israel threatened Iran existentially.[8] That Kharrazi made both comments to Arabic-speaking audiences suggests that he meant to signal to Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, in particular. CTP-ISW has observed that Iranian officials have normalized public discussion about pursuing a nuclear weapon in recent months.[9]

Key Takeaways:

  • Northern Gaza Strip: Palestinian militias, including Hamas, claimed an unusually high number of attacks targeting Israeli forces in the northern Gaza Strip, demonstrating that these militias remain combat effective and retain a significant force presence there.
  • Iran: Iran is continuing to signal publicly that it could pursue a nuclear weapon.
  • Southern Gaza Strip: Israeli forces continued to conduct a clearing operating in eastern Rafah and at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.
  • Political Negotiations: US President Joe Biden said that there would be a “ceasefire tomorrow” in the Gaza Strip if Hamas would release the remaining Israeli hostages.
  • West Bank: The Israeli Tsav 9 group organized protesters to block humanitarian aid trucks bound for the Gaza Strip at a border crossing between Israel and the West Bank.
  • Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: A Lebanese newspaper reported that Hezbollah is evading Israeli air defenses by using drones in its attacks into northern Israel, citing Iranian-backed sources.
  • Iraq: Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al Sudani requested that the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) permanently end its mission in Iraq by the end of 2025.
  • Yemen: US CENTCOM reported that it intercepted a Houthi drone over the Gulf of Aden.

Gaza Strip

Axis of Resistance objectives:
  • Erode the will of the Israeli political establishment and public to sustain clearing operations in the Gaza Strip
  • Reestablish Hamas as the governing authority in the Gaza Strip

Israeli forces continued to conduct a clearing operating in eastern Rafah and at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on May 13. The IDF Givati Brigade launched a “targeted brigade attack” against Hamas in an unspecified area of eastern Rafah, killing several Palestinian fighters.[10] The IDF 401st Brigade raided military infrastructure and found weapons in a school.[11] Israeli forces reportedly advanced west of the Salah al Din Road in eastern Rafah.[12] Palestinian militias used a variety of weapons, including explosively-formed penetrators, against Israeli forces in eastern Rafah.[13] Hamas mortared Israeli forces at the Rafah border crossing, which caused 10 IDF casualties.[14] An Israeli Army Radio correspondent noted that Hamas often targets static Israeli positions and is seemingly trying to range these targets.[15]

The Israeli clearing operation into Rafah threatens the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, according to an unspecified senior Egyptian official speaking to the Associated Press.[16] The official said that Egypt informed the United States, European countries, and Israel of its position. The report follows growing tension between Egypt and Israel regarding Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip.[17] Egypt reportedly refused to coordinate with Israel on the entry of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip via the now Israeli-controlled Rafah border crossing due to Israel’s “unacceptable escalation” in Rafah.[18] Two Egyptian officials and a Western diplomat previously told the Associated Press in February 2024 that Egypt may suspend the peace treaty if Israeli forces advance into Rafah.[19]

United Kingdom-based Sky News, citing an unnamed senior Palestinian source, reported on May 13 that Israel offered control of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt to the Palestinian Authority (PA).[20] The PA replied that it would not agree to manage the crossing under the IDF and conditioned its management of the crossing on Israeli commitment to the Arab Six Party peace plan.[21]

US President Joe Biden said on May 11 that there would be a “ceasefire tomorrow” in the Gaza Strip if Hamas would release the remaining Israeli hostages.[22] Hamas condemned Biden over his comments, saying that Biden did not  acknowledge Hamas’ acceptance of the latest ceasefire proposal.[23] Hamas altered and then approved an Egyptian-proposed ceasefire agreement and framed the approval as if Hamas had accepted the original agreement.[24] US officials have previously reported during rounds of ceasefire talks that Hamas is responsible for preventing negotiations from advancing.[25]

The New York Times reported on May 13 how Hamas has historically used surveillance to suppress dissent in the Gaza Strip.[26] Israeli military intelligence sources provided the New York Times with documents from the Gaza Strip, detailing how Hamas’ General Security Service surveilled civilians. The unit spread Hamas propaganda and criticized domestic and foreign dissidents online. Hamas also used the unit to suppress political opposition. Anonymous Israeli intelligence authorities believe that the Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, directly oversaw the unit.

Sinwar’s role in overseeing the General Security Service reflects his larger role in Hamas’ internal security apparatus. Sinwar previously headed Hamas’ internal security force, the al Majd and earned the nickname “butcher of Khan Younis” during his tenure.[27] Sinwar reportedly ordered an individual to bury their brother alive on allegations that the brother was an informant for a rival Palestinian faction.[28]

Palestinian militias have conducted two indirect fire attacks into Israel since CTP-ISW's information cutoff on May 13. Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) fighters fired unspecified projectiles at an IDF position.[29] Israeli Army Radio reported that Palestinian fighters fired a projectile at Netiv Haasara, but the projectile fell in an open area.[30]

Recorded reports of attacks; CTP-ISW cannot independently verify impact.

West Bank

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Establish the West Bank as a viable front against Israel

Israeli forces have engaged Palestinian fighters in at least three locations in the West Bank since CTP-ISW's data cut off on May 12.[31] PIJ claimed that it fired small arms targeting Israeli forces across the border in Israel and separately engaged Israeli forces at an Israeli military position in Jenin.[32]

The Israeli Tsav 9 group organized protesters to block humanitarian aid trucks bound for the Gaza Strip at a border crossing between Israel and the West Bank on May 13.[33] Tsav 9 is a group comprised of demobilized Israeli reservists as well as families of Israeli hostages and settlers. Online videos show the protesters unloading and damaging food aid from the trucks west of Hebron.[34] Israeli police arrested at least four of the protesters.[35] Tsav 9 has repeatedly disrupted the delivery of aid to the Gaza Strip since the Israel-Hamas war began. The group staged a three-day encampment at the Kerem Shalom border crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, preventing over a hundred aid trucks from entering the strip in January 2024.[36] Tsav 9 seeks to end Israeli aid shipments to the Gaza Strip so long as Hamas holds Israeli hostages.[37]

This map is not an exhaustive depiction of clashes and demonstrations in the West Bank.

Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights

Axis of Resistance objectives:

  • Deter Israel from conducting a ground operation into Lebanon
  • Prepare for an expanded and protracted conflict with Israel in the near term
  • Expel the United States from Syria

Iranian-backed militias, including Lebanese Hezbollah, have conducted at least eight attacks into northern Israel since CTP-ISW's last data cutoff on May 12.[38] Hezbollah fired two drones targeting Israeli forces near Beit Hilel on May 13, marking the third Hezbollah drone attack targeting the area since May 11.[39]

A Lebanese newspaper reported on May 12 that Hezbollah is evading Israeli air defenses by using drones in its attacks into northern Israel, citing Iranian-backed sources.[40] Hezbollah has claimed 12 drone attacks targeting Israeli forces in northern Israel since May 1, which is as many drone attacks claimed during all of April 2024.[41] Hezbollah seeks to use greater quantities of drones to penetrate Israeli air defenses and cause greater damage and casualties, according to the sources.[42] The newspaper also reported that Hezbollah intends to withdraw some fighters from the Israel-Lebanon border while keeping reconnaissance units in the area

Lebanese Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah gave a speech on May 13 discussing Hezbollah’s continued support for Palestinian fighters in the Gaza Strip.[43] Nasrallah said that ”the link between Lebanon and Gaza is final and recognized” and that Hezbollah will continue to conduct attacks targeting northern Israel in support of Palestinian fighters in the Gaza Strip. Nasrallah also denounced Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s claim on April 24 that the IDF has killed half of Hezbollah’s field commanders in southern Lebanon.[44] Nasrallah added that Israelis must “turn to their government until the aggression against Gaza stops” if displaced civilians want to return to northern Israel.

Recorded reports of attacks; CTP-ISW cannot independently verify impact.

Iran and Axis of Resistance

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al Sudani requested that the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) permanently end its mission in Iraq by the end of 2025.[45] Sudani made this request in a letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on May 8.[46] The United Nations established UNAMI in 2003 to promote political dialogue, judicial and legal reforms, human rights, and transparent and credible elections in Iraq.[47] UNAMI advises and helps the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) conduct elections.[48] UNAMI has monitored previous elections, including the October 2021 parliamentary elections, but the Iraqi federal government did not ask UNAMI to monitor the recent provincial council elections in December 2023.[49] Ending UNAMI’s supervision of Iraqi elections could cause future elections to be less free and fair. Sudani claimed in his letter to Guterres that there is “no need” for UNAMI to continue its mission in Iraq and asked UNAMI to focus solely on “economic reform, service provision, sustainable development, and climate change” for the remainder of its mission.[50] The Iraqi federal government sent a request to the UN Security Council in May 2023 to review UNAMI’s operations “in preparation for its final closure.”[51] US Ambassador to Iraq Alina Romanowski met with Iraqi Foreign Affairs Minister Fuad Hossein on May 13 to discuss the future of UNAMI operations in Iraq.[52]

Iraqi Interior Minister Abdul Amir al Shammari and Syrian Interior Minister Maj. Gen. Mohammad Khalid al Rahmoun signed a security agreement in Baghdad on May 12.[53] The agreement contains provisions for Iraq and Syria to strengthen border security, combat terrorism, and dismantle drug smuggling and human trafficking networks.[54] Rahmoun also met with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al Sudani in Baghdad on May 12.[55] Sudani called for increasing communication and intelligence sharing between Iraqi and Syrian security institutions.[56] Iraqi Popular Mobilization Committee (PMC) Chairman Faleh al Fayyadh recently discussed counterterrorism cooperation with Syrian President Bashar al Assad in Damascus on May 6.[57]

Anti-Iranian regime outlet Iran International and an Israeli social media account published a joint investigation on May 13 detailing senior Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) officer Mohammad Reza Zahedi’s last movements in Iran and Syria before Israel killed him in Damascus on April 1.[58] The article claimed that Zahedi flew on an IRGC-affiliated aircraft from Tehran to the Russian-controlled Hmeimim Military Airport in Latakia on April 1. Zahedi traveled later that day from Latakia to Damascus and arrived approximately fifteen minutes before Israel conducted the airstrike that killed him. CTP-ISW cannot corroborate or verify these claims. Hmeimim Military Airport is Russia’s largest military base in Syria.[59] CTP-ISW previously reported that Iran and Russia are likely coordinating to transport Iranian materiel to Syria through Hmeimim Military Airport.[60] 

US Central Command (CENTCOM) reported that it intercepted a Houthi drone over the Gulf of Aden on May 12.[61] CENTCOM determined that the drone presented an imminent threat to US, coalition, and merchant vessels in the region.

Houthi-controlled media claimed that the United States and the United Kingdom conducted an airstrike targeting Hudayduh International Airport on May 13.[62] US CENTCOM has not commented on the claim at the time of this writing.

The Iranian Parliament approved a bill on May 12 to strengthen information security cooperation with Russia.[63] The bill contains provisions for Iran and Russia to cooperate against “cyber threats” and to exchange intelligence.[64] The Iranian parliament originally approved the bill in December 2023, but the Guardian Council—a regime body responsible for reviewing and approving legislation—subsequently made several unspecified changes to the bill. Parliament approved these changes on May 12.[65]

Senior Iranian regime officials have openly expressed discontent about Iran’s worsening economy. Supreme Leader Office Chief of Staff Mohammad Mohammadi Golpayegani lamented on May 10 that Western sanctions have made Iran’s economic situation “difficult.”[66] Senior Iranian clerics separately criticized Iran’s “rampant inflation” and “exchange rate fluctuations” during meetings with President Ebrahim Raisi in Qom on May 10.[67] Prominent Shia cleric Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi listed high food and housing costs as among the most pressing issues facing Iranians during his meeting with Raisi.[68] Prominent Shia cleric Ayatollah Nouri Hamedani similarly told Raisi that “everywhere you go, people talk about how expensive and difficult life is.”[69] Hamedani previously called on the regime to listen to Iranians’ grievances during the Mahsa Amini protest movement.[70] Raisi’s official website did not include Shirazi and Hamedani’s criticisms about the economy in its official readouts of the meetings.[71] The Tehran Stock Exchange dropped by 32,000 points on May 13, and the Iranian rial reached a record low of 705,000 rials to one US dollar in mid-April 2024.[72]

Iran recorded a record-low turnout in Tehran for the second round of parliamentary elections on May 10.[73] Iranian state media reported an eight percent participation rate in Tehran, marking a four-percent decrease from the previous election.[74] Thirty-two hardliners, six moderates, and seven reformists won seats in the second round of parliamentary elections, according to Iranian state media.[75] Hardliners now comprise around 80 percent of Iran’s parliament.[76]


[2] https://www.haaretz dot com/israel-news/2023-12-22/ty-article/.premium/the-unbridgeable-gulf-between-israeli-politicians-rhetoric-and-the-reality-in-gaza/0000018c-8e1e-da31-adff-8e5eb1060000  





[7] https://www.irna dot ir/news/85474805



[10] https://www.idf dot il/200065;

[11] https://www.idf dot il/200065;









[20] ;













[33];;; https://www.timesofisrael dot com/liveblog_entry/right-wing-activists-block-aid-shipment-heading-to-gaza/



[36]; https://www.timesofisrael dot com/right-wing-activists-block-humanitarian-aid-headed-to-gaza-for-three-hours/; https://www.i24news dot tv/en/news/israel-at-war/1706518241-protests-persist-at-kerem-shalom-idf-declares-area-closed-zone; https://www.jpost dot com/israel-hamas-war/article-786051

[37] https://www.timesofisrael dot com/liveblog_entry/right-wing-activists-block-aid-shipment-heading-to-gaza/;;;;



[40] https://addiyar dot com/article/2172772-%D8%AA%D8%B9%D8%AF%D9%8A%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%A7%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%89-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AA%D9%8A%D8%AC%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%82%D8%A7%D9%88%D9%85%D8%A9-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%AC%D9%86%D9%88%D8%A8-%D9%84%D8%A8%D9%86%D8%A7%D9%86


[42] https://addiyar dot com/article/2172772-%D8%AA%D8%B9%D8%AF%D9%8A%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%A7%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%89-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AA%D9%8A%D8%AC%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%82%D8%A7%D9%88%D9%85%D8%A9-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%AC%D9%86%D9%88%D8%A8-%D9%84%D8%A8%D9%86%D8%A7%D9%86

[43] https://www.almayadeen dot net/news/politics/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%AF-%D9%86%D8%B5%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%84%D9%87-%D9%84%D9%84%D8%A5%D8%B3%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%A6%D9%8A%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%8A%D9%86--%D8%A5%D8%B0%D8%A7-%D8%A3%D8%B1%D8%AF%D8%AA%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D9%88%D8%AF%D8%A9-%D8%A5%D9%84%D9%89-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%84---%D9%81


[45] ;

[46] ;


[48] ;

https://www.kurdistan24 dot net/en/story/33474-Iraqi-government-did-not-request-UN-monitoring-of-provincial-elections,-says-UNAMI

[49] https://www.kurdistan24 dot net/en/story/33474-Iraqi-government-did-not-request-UN-monitoring-of-provincial-elections,-says-UNAMI ;

[50] https://www.rudaw dot net/english/middleeast/iraq/13052024

[51] https://ina dot iq/eng/32702-iraqi-government-issues-a-statement-regarding-ending-unami-mandate-in-iraq.html

[52] https://www.rudaw dot net/english/middleeast/iraq/13052024

[53] https://www.rudaw dot net/english/middleeast/12052024#:~:text=%E2%80%9CThe%20agreement%20included%20a%20number,money%20laundering%2C%E2%80%9D%20Shammari%20added.

[54] https://www.rudaw dot net/english/middleeast/12052024#:~:text=%E2%80%9CThe%20agreement%20included%20a%20number,money%20laundering%2C%E2%80%9D%20Shammari%20added.

[55] https://sana dot sy/?p=2085207

[56] https://sana dot sy/?p=2085207

[57] https://sana dot sy/?p=2081908





[62] https://www.saba dot ye/ar/news3329409.htm;

[63] https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1403/02/23/3084202

[64] https://www.irna dot ir/news/85317194 ;

[65] https://www.tasnimnews dot com/fa/news/1403/02/23/3084202

[66] https://www.mashreghnews dot ir/news/1600874

[67] https://www.makarem dot ir/news/fa/News/Details/429773

[68] https://www.makarem dot ir/news/fa/News/Details/429773

[69] https://www.tabnak dot ir/fa/news/1236502

[70] ;

[71] https://president dot ir/fa/151781 ;

https://president dot ir/fa/151779

[72] https://www.tehrantimes dot com/news/498401/TEDPIX-falls-over-32-000-points-on-Monday ;

[73] https://www.asriran dot com/fa/news/965769/

[74] https://www.asriran dot com/fa/news/965769/; ; http://www.ghatreh dot com/news/nn14030224419643451392/%D9%85%D9%82%D8%A7%DB%8C%D8%B3%D9%87-%D9%85%DB%8C%D8%B2%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%85%D8%B4%D8%A7%D8%B1%DA%A9%D8%AA-%D8%AF%D9%88%D8%B1-%D8%AF%D9%88%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AA%D8%AE%D8%A7%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%AA%D9%87%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%85%D8%AC%D9%84%D8%B3-%D9%86%D9%87%D9%85-%D8%AF%D8%B1%D8%B5%D8%AF

[75] https://t dot co/Tzish3ep83