Iranian cross-border military activity… Messages to the region and the West amid protests

In parallel with the intensification of protests in Iran, the government of Tehran, which for more than a month has not been able to extinguish the flame of protests, is showing its military power abroad, as it has been proven that it has Russia from provided drones that killed Ukrainian civilians, conducted exercises in a border area with Azerbaijan and bombed Kurdish sites in Iraq.

According to an Associated Press report, these moves show that Iran’s leaders are trying to mobilize support inside the country as protests continue over the killing of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old girl whose death in the custody of the country’s morality police on September 16 resulted in unprecedented protests in terms of numbers and expansion.

They also serve as messages to the region and the West that the Iranian government is still willing to use violence abroad and at home to stay in power.

And raising the risks of destabilization is Iran’s nuclear program, as Tehran now has enough highly enriched uranium to build a nuclear bomb if it wanted to, and continues to reach more specifically, with the collapse of negotiations on its deal with world powers.

Online videos from Iran show people of all stripes, from school children to the elderly, taking part in the protests that activists say have engulfed more than 100 cities since Amini’s death.

Women removed their headscarves at protests and during daily life in Tehran.

Even the threat of arrest, beatings and even lethal force by security forces has not dampened anger as Iran faces mounting economic problems.

Activist groups say thousands have already been arrested and more than 200 people have died.

Meanwhile, the Iranian government tried to provide counter-programs, mobilizing men and women waving pro-regime flags.

Mobilizing its supporters remains crucial for the Iranian government as it grapples with its worst crisis since the 2009 Green Movement protests.

As part of this effort, Iran has sought in recent weeks to demonstrate its ability to respond to its enemies “whether real or imagined,” the agency says.

Drone strikes

The first attacks came in late September, when Iran’s Revolutionary Guards unleashed drone and missile strikes on areas occupied by Kurdish separatists living across the border in Iraq.

Kurdish officials say those attacks have killed at least 16 people, including an American citizen, and wounded dozens.

At the time, Iran claimed, without providing evidence, that Kurdish separatists had fueled the protests over Amini’s murder.

Rumors of a heavy military presence persisted in western Iran, as security forces regularly clashed with protesters in Kurdish areas.

Azerbaijan.. Another target for Tehran

There was also military activity on Iran’s northern border with Azerbaijan, where the Revolutionary Guards conducted military exercises over several days.

The semi-official Tasnim news agency published a video clip on Wednesday showing IRGC soldiers riding pontoon bridges over the Aras River at the border and then driving tanks and trucks over them.

Azerbaijan regularly fights with Armenia, with the latest fighting killing 176 soldiers in September.

Relations between Azerbaijan and Israel have infuriated Tehran, especially since 69% of all its major arms imports between 2016 and 2020 came from Israel, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Iran also wants to keep its 44-kilometer border with landlocked Armenia, something that could be threatened if Azerbaijan takes new territory through war.

Russia is helping

As Moscow exhausted its stockpile of precision-guided munitions in the months-long war, it turned to Iran to supply it with cheap “suicide” drones.

These drones operate like a slow-moving cruise missile, arriving close to the ground before diving and firing at a target on impact.

In Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, Iranian Shahed-136 jets, known for their distinctive triangular design, blew up apartment buildings and other targets.

Iran and Russia have denied Tehran supplied the drones, but Khamenei conveyed his approval of their deadly battlefield capabilities in a telegram on Wednesday.

According to a text on his official website, Khamenei said: “A few years ago, when pictures of our advanced missile and our drones were published, some said they were photoshopped, but now they say: Iranian drones are very dangerous, why would you sell them for so and so? Why would you give it to so-and-so? ?”

The White House said Thursday that Iranian forces were “directly engaged on the ground” in Crimea in support of Moscow’s drone strikes on Ukraine.

core program

Iran’s nuclear program continues to build up more highly enriched uranium.

Amid the ongoing protests, US State Department spokesman Ned Price recently described efforts to create a road map for restoring Iran’s shattered 2015 nuclear deal with world powers as “not our focus right now.”

While critics of Iran’s crackdown on protesters praise Washington’s shift, the prolonged failure to restore the nuclear deal also raises the proliferation risks Tehran poses, potentially another springboard to regional tensions.

Iran is now enriching uranium to 60%, a short step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%, with Iranian officials openly discussing the pursuit of a bomb in recent months, something once considered taboo.

Israel has warned that it will never allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, and has carried out airstrikes in the past to destroy nuclear programs in Iraq and Syria.
This creates the risk of a wider conflict, even as tensions over Iran’s program have led to a decline in violent incidents in the region since 2019.

Meanwhile, the United States continues to signal that it remains prepared to use force in the region if necessary.

Overflights of B-52 nuclear bombers that began under former President Donald Trump’s administration have continued under current President Joe Biden.

And on Thursday, the US military’s Central Command acknowledged that its commander-in-chief had boarded a nuclear-armed US ballistic missile submarine in the Arabian Sea – an unusual visit to one of the largest US sites in its nuclear arsenal near Iran.

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