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Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Russian Operations Assessment 19FEB2204

Key Takeaways: 
•Russian actors conducted a cyber operation regarding Russia’s seizure of Avdiivka, likely aimed at generating panic in the Ukrainian information space and weakening Ukrainian morale.
•The tempo of Russian offensive operations near Avdiivka has reportedly dramatically slowed following the Russian seizure of Avdiivka.
•Ukrainian officials reported that Ukrainian forces shot down two more Russian fighter aircraft, a Su-34 and a Su-35S, in eastern Ukraine on the morning of February 19.
•The White House is reportedly considering the provision of long-range ATACMS missiles to Ukraine in the event that Congress passes security assistance for Ukraine.
•The Russian government eased the requirements for “compatriots” living abroad to apply to resettle in Russia.
•Emirati banks reportedly began to limit some transactions with Russian entities and close Russian citizens’ accounts in September 2023 due to the risk of Western secondary sanctions.
•Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan reiterated that Armenia does not support Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine against the backdrop of deteriorating Russian-Armenian relations.
•Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Donetsk City and in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
•Russian Security Council Deputy Chairperson Dmitri Medvedev claimed on February 19 that the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) has recruited more than 53,000 military personnel since January 1, 2024.
•Russian authorities have reportedly returned Ukrainian children in occupied Ukraine and Russia to relatives in Ukraine.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Iran Update 15FEB2024

Key Takeaways: 
• Iran: Russian Republic of Tatarstan Head Rustam Minnikhanov paid an official visit to Iran, likely to discuss Russo-Iranian defense industrial and military cooperation. 
• Iraq: Some Sunni and Shia Iraqi political factions appear divided on expelling US forces from Iraq. 
• Northern Gaza Strip: The Israel Defense Forces reported that it concluded a two-week long, division-sized raid in western Gaza City. 
• Southern Gaza Strip: The Israel Defense Forces continued to conduct clearing operations in several sectors of Khan Younis. 
• West Bank: Israeli forces clashed with Palestinian fighters at least six times. Hamas called for three days of demonstrations in the West Bank and abroad. 
• Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Iranian-backed militias, including Lebanese Hezbollah, conducted eleven attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.
 • Yemen: The Houthis claimed that they conducted a missile attack targeting a Barbados-flagged, Greek-owned vessel in the Gulf of Aden.

Russian Operations Assessment 15FEB2024

Key Takeaways: 
• Russian forces are conducting a tactical turning movement through Avdiika likely to create conditions that would force Ukrainian troops to withdraw from their positions in the settlement. Ukrainian forces have yet to fully withdraw from the settlement and continue to prevent Russian forces from making gains that are more significant than the current incremental Russian advances. 
• The Russian offensive effort to capture Avdiivka underscores the Russian military’s inability to conduct a successful operational envelopment or encirclement in Ukraine. 
• The potential Russian capture of Avdiivka would not be operationally significant and would likely only offer the Kremlin immediate informational and political victories. 
• The Russian command reportedly reorganized the command structures of the Russian grouping of forces in southern Ukraine. 
• Russian forces conducted a relatively larger series of missile strikes against Ukraine on the night of February 14 to 15. 
• Ukrainian security forces reportedly conducted a successful drone strike against an oil depot in Kursk Oblast. 
• Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to elaborate on an amorphous ideology for Russia to support geopolitical confrontation with the West by attempting to portray Russia as the leader of an international anti-Nazi movement. 
• Putin intentionally misrepresented a statement from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in an attempt to promote pseudo-history aimed at denying Ukrainian statehood. 
• Russian sources claimed that the Russian military officially removed Russian Black Sea Fleet (BSF) Commander Admiral Viktor Sokolov and replaced him with the BSF’s Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Sergei Pinchuk. 
• Select members of the US-led coalition the Ukraine Defense Contact Group (also known as the Ramstein format) formally launched an air defense coalition and agreed to form a drone coalition and demining coalition to support Ukraine following the group’s 19th meeting in Brussels on February 14. 
• NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced that NATO and Ukraine will create a joint analysis, training, and education center in Poland following the meetings of NATO Defense Ministers in Brussels on February 15. 
• Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Kupyansk, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area. 
• Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the Uralvagonzavod plant in Sverdlovsk Oblast, one of Russia’s largest tank producers, on February 15 to promote Russian efforts to expand Russia’s defense industrial base (DIB). 
• Head of Ukraine’s nuclear operating enterprise Energoatom Petro Kotin stated that the situation at the occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) is becoming more dangerous due to Russian activity near and at the plant.

Iran Update 13FEB2024

Key Takeaways: 
• Southern Gaza Strip: Israel presented a proposal to move displaced Gazans in Rafah to Egyptian-built tent cities in the southwestern Gaza Strip, according to the Wall Street Journal. 
• Negotiations: Senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan claimed on February 12 that Egyptian and Qatar mediators believe that the Hamas ceasefire proposal that Qatar delivered to Israel “opened a way to reach an agreement.” 
• Hamdan reiterated Hamas’ longstanding requirements for a ceasefire agreement in the Gaza Strip, which include the withdrawal of Israeli forces, the end of Israeli military operations, humanitarian aid and reconstruction, and a hostage-for-prisoner exchange deal. 
• Lebanon: France outlined a three-step plan to deescalate the conflict on the Israel-Lebanon border and force Lebanese Hezbollah to withdraw six miles from the Israeli border. 
• Iran: Former Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister and Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Director General Ali Akbar Salehi said during an interview on February 11 that Iran is able to develop nuclear weapons.

Russian Operations Assessment 13FEB2024

Key Takeaways: 
• The US Senate passed a supplemental appropriations bill that would provide roughly $60 billion of security assistance to Ukraine, the vast majority of which would go to US companies and personnel. 
• Ukrainian military observer Kostyantyn Mashovets reported that Russian forces are attempting to restore maneuver to the battlefield through Soviet deep battle theory but are struggling with implementing Soviet deep battle so far due to current Ukrainian capabilities. 
• The current Ukrainian battlefield capabilities that are denying Russian forces the ability to restore maneuver to the battlefield on Russian terms largely depend on the provision of Western military assistance in key systems, many of which only the US can provide at scale. 
• Ukrainian forces will not be able to retain these advantages and deny Russian forces the ability to restore maneuver to the battlefield on Russian terms without further assistance from the United States and its partner countries in the near and medium term. 
• Russian sources are purposefully exaggerating Ukrainian casualties in a Russian strike near Selydove, Donetsk Oblast on February 13. 
• The Kremlin appears to be asserting the right to enforce Russian Federation law on officials of governments in NATO member states over actions taken in the performance of their official duties within the territories of their own countries. 
• US sanctions are reportedly constraining Russian efforts to skirt the G7 oil cap amid continued indications that India may be rethinking its growing position as a customer of Russian oil. 
• Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Kreminna and in western Zaporizhia Oblast amid continued positional engagements along the entire frontline. 
• The British International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) think tank stated on February 12 that Russia is likely able to sustain its current rate of vehicle losses for at least two to three years by producing new vehicles and reactivating vehicles from storage.

Iran Update 12FEB2024

Key Takeaways:
 • Russia: Ukraine’s Main Military Intelligence Directorate reported that elements of Lebanese Hezbollah and the IRGC are training Russian drone operators at the Shayrat Air Base in Syria. 
• Northern Gaza Strip: The Palestinian Mujahideen Movement stated that it reestablished contact with its “combat units” in southwestern Gaza City. 
• Southern Gaza Strip: Israeli forces conducted an overnight raid to rescue Hamas-held hostages in Rafah. 
• West Bank: Israeli forces clashed with Palestinian fighters two times. 
• Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted seven attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel. 
• Iraq: The Iraqi Parliament discussed the removal of US-led international coalition forces from Iraq in a session. 
• Yemen: The Houthis launched at least two anti-ship missiles targeting a Greek-owned, Marshall Islandsflagged commercial vessel carrying Brazilian corn to Iran. 
• Iran: Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian is conducting a regional tour and politically coordinating with senior Axis of Resistance leaders in Lebanon, Syria, and Qatar.

Russian Operations Assessment 12FEB2024

Key Takeaways: 
• Ukraine’s Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported that elements of Lebanese Hezbollah (LH) and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are training Russian drone operators at the Shayrat Air Base in Syria. 
• The Russian State Duma is considering a bill to restrict actors that the Russian government designates as “undesirable” from entering Russia, likely as part of ongoing efforts to censor opposition media outlets and dismantle ties between Russia and foreign and international nongovernmental organizations. 
• Boris Nadezhdin, the only openly anti-war Russian presidential candidate, filed two lawsuits in the Russian Supreme Court challenging the Russian Central Election Commission’s (CEC) refusal to register him as a candidate as the Kremlin continues efforts to suppress popular opposition while trying to preserve the veneer of legitimacy of Russian presidential elections. 
• The European Union (EU) is beginning to take concrete steps towards possibly using frozen Russian assets to aid Ukraine. 
• Ukrainian forces recently made confirmed advances near Kreminna and Donetsk City and in western Zaporizhia Oblast, and Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Kupyansk and Kreminna. 
• South Korean news outlet Yonhap News Agency reported on February 12 that North Korea has developed 240mm guided multiple rocket launcher system (MLRS) mortar that North Korea may export to Russia. 
• Russian authorities continue to use youth engagement programs to Russify Ukrainian youth.

Russian Operations Assessment 11FEB2024

Key Takeaways: 
• Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appointed Lieutenant General Oleksandr Pavlyuk as Ukrainian Ground Forces Commander, replacing current Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi.
• Russian forces appear to have constructed a 30-kilometer-long barrier dubbed the “tsar train” in occupied Donetsk Oblast, possibly to serve as a defensive line against future Ukrainian assaults. 
• Ukrainian military observers indicated that the Russian defense industrial base (DIB) is not as productive as Russian authorities portray it to be, but that the Russian DIB is still capable of sustaining Russia’s war effort. 
• Russia’s current limited DIB production capacity and insufficient serial tank production lines are not guarantees that Russia will struggle to produce enough materiel to sustain its war effort at its current pace or in the long term. 
• Russian forces made confirmed advances near Avdiivka and in western Zaporizhia Oblast amid continued positional engagements along the entire frontline. 
• CNN reported on February 11 that Russia has recruited as many as 15,000 Nepalis to fight in Ukraine, many of whom complained about poor conditions and lack of adequate training before their deployment to the most active frontlines in Ukraine. 
• Russian authorities continue efforts to solidify social control over youth and students in occupied Ukraine and to culturally indoctrinate them into Russian identity and ideology.

Iran Update 11FEB2024

Key Takeaways: 
• Northern and central Gaza Strip: The Israel Defense Forces clashed with Palestinian fighters in the northern and central Gaza Strip. 
• Southern Gaza Strip: Hamas, Egyptian, and Houthi officials issued threats likely to dissuade the IDF from a military operation into Rafah. 
• West Bank: Israeli forces clashed with Palestinian fighters twice. 
• Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights: Lebanese Hezbollah conducted five attacks from southern Lebanon into northern Israel. 
• Syria: Likely Iranian-backed militants tried to conduct a drone attack targeting US forces at Conoco Mission Support Site in Deir ez Zor Province, Syria. 
• Yemen: US Central Command forces conducted self-defense strikes targeting Houthi antiship cruise missiles and unmanned surface vessels.

Russian Operations Assessment 8FEB2024

Key Takeaways:
• Russian President Vladimir Putin attempted to use an interview with American media personality Tucker Carlson published on February 8 to present to a wider Western audience a long-standing Kremlin information operation that falsely asserts that Russia is interested in a negotiated end to its war in Ukraine. Putin illustrated throughout the interview that Russia has no interest in meaningful or legitimate negotiations, however, and that Putin still seeks to destroy Ukraine as a state. Putin also displayed his overarching hostility towards the West and falsely accused the West of forcing Russia to attack Ukraine. 
• Putin also attempted to use the interview to absurdly reframe Russia as the wronged party and not the initiator of Russia’s unprovoked war of conquest against Ukraine. 
• Putin continued attempts to justify Russia’s invasions of Ukraine in 2014 and 2022 as responses to Ukraine’s and the West’s actions in order to defend his long-standing calls for regime change in Kyiv and Ukraine’s “demilitarization” “denazification,” and “neutrality.” 
• Putin continued to propagate pseudo-history in an effort to deny Ukrainian statehood and nationhood. 
• Putin also reiterated a quasi-realist world view that defines weakening the West and dismantling NATO as pre-requisites for the Russian-led multipolar world he desires to create. 
• Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky replaced General Valerii Zaluzhnyi with Ukrainian Ground Forces Commander Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi as Ukraine’s Commander-inChief on February 8, as part of wider military leadership changes. Such changes are normal for states engaged in a protracted war. 
• Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping held a routine phone call on February 8 that underscored China’s hesitance to support Russia’s desired bilateral RussoSino relationship while Russia forges deeper partnerships with Iran and North Korea. 
• Ukrainian and Russian forces conducted a one-to-one prisoner of war (POW) exchange on February 8. 
• The Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported that it recently conducted a cyberattack against the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) preventing Russian forces from automatically operating an unspecified number of likely first-person view (FPV) drones. 
• The Russian Central Election Committee (CEC) refused to register Boris Nadezhdin, the only anti-war Russian presidential candidate, for the March 2024 presidential election likely due to his larger-than-anticipated popularity. 
• Some Russian and Ukrainian sources claimed that Russian forces are using Starlink in occupied Ukraine. 
• Ukrainian forces recently made confirmed advances near Kreminna and Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Kreminna, Avdiivka, and Donetsk City amid continued positional fighting along the entire line of contact on February 8. 
• The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) proposed a draft bill on February 8 to establish a single maximum age for contract service personnel (kontraktniki) during a period of partial mobilization, martial law, or wartime. 
• Russian authorities are likely setting conditions to falsify voting results in occupied Ukraine in the March 2024 presidential election.

Iran Update 7FEB2024

Key Takeaways:
• Iraq: US Central Command (CENTCOM) killed a senior Kataib Hezbollah commander responsible for Syria on February 7 who planned and participated in attacks targeting US forces in the region. The strike also killed a Kataib Hezbollah field commander.
• Iraqis demonstrated outside the US Embassy in Baghdad following Iranian-backed social media calls to storm the embassy on social media.
• Iran: The Microsoft Threat Analysis Center reported that Iran accelerated its cyberattacks and influence operations after October 7 to support Hamas and weaken Israel and its allies and business partners.
• Negotiations: Israel rejected a Hamas three-stage proposal for a ceasefire on February 7.
• Hamas offered a three-stage ceasefire deal that would release all Israeli hostages over a four-month period in exchange for the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip and discussions on the end of the war.[32] Each phase would last 45 days.
• Southern Gaza Strip: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on February 7 that the IDF would prepare to operate in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.
• Israeli officials told CNN that the IDF briefed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the upcoming expansion of Israeli ground operations and that Blinken raised concerns regarding the densely populated area, particularly related to the measures the IDF would take to mitigate harm to civilians.