Talos Regional Snapshot 13 May 2022

May 13, 2022



In an effort to restart negotiations surrounding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), EU Envoy Enrique Mora arrived on a four-day visit to Tehran on 10 May. Details of the meetings were limited, but in a tweet before the visit Mora said he would discuss both the revival of the JCPOA and “other issues” with Iranian counterparts. In a related development, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani also arrived in Tehran on 12 May. Official Qatari sources claimed the visit would focus on bilateral ties as well as Qatari mediation in helping restore the JCPOA.

Meanwhile, the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Raphael Grossi said the agency is “extremely concerned” about uranium enrichment in “places that had never been declared by Iran”. Grossi also reiterated concerns about Iran’s lack of cooperation, adding that Tehran has “not been forthcoming” as the JCPOA negotiations remain stalled.

The Iranian Ministry of Intelligence announced the detention of two European nationals on charges of planning to cause “chaos, social disorder, and instability.” Few further details were released but the statement appeared timed to coincide with Mora’s arrival for the JCPOA negotiations and followed Tehran’s pledge in April to execute an Iranian-Swedish citizen held on espionage charges.

In a live TV interview, President Ibrahim Raisi claimed Iranian oil sales have “doubled” since he took office in August while adding that oil exports are not an area of concern despite extensive western sanctions. Further details were not provided, but the statement forms a likely attempt to downplay the consequences of existing sanctions amidst efforts to restore the JCPOA. Official statistics on Iranian exports remain vague, however, Oil Minister Javad Owji claimed in April that exports surged more than 40% since Raisi took office.


In a rare visit to a foreign country, President Bashar al-Assad visited Iran this week to meet with several senior Iranian officials, including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Raisi. Official readouts cited both sides praising strategic ties to counter US’ and Israeli influence in the region while stressing intent to deepen cooperation in the future. Further details were limited, but the meeting notably forms only the second visit by Assad since the start of the civil war in 2011. The importance of Iranian Syrian ties is also marked by Khamenei’s decision to meet with Assad who, aside from Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, is only the second foreign leader to meet the Supreme Leader since the start of the pandemic.

Assad’s visit coincides with reports of a repositioning of Russian forces in Syria, with some sources indicating a withdrawal from various bases across the country to support the war in Ukraine. More importantly, various reports indicate control over these locations has been transferred to Iranian-aligned militia groups, indicating Iranian intent to fill the vacuum left by the Russian withdrawal. The veracity of these reports is unclear, however, associated perceptions of Iranian expansion and growing reliance in Damascus on Iranian support is set to stoke Israeli concerns (see the full Talos report).

Meanwhile, Syrian state-linked sources claimed on 11 May that Israeli strikes targeted the outskirts of Hadar town, in northern Quneitra countryside. No casualties were discussed, but the reported missile strikes caused material damage to suspected Iranian-backed facilities located in the vicinity. The operations follow a two-week lull in Israeli air and missile strike activity within Syria.


The PKK escalated attacks against Turkish military sites in northern Iraq in recent weeks where the Turkish spring offensive launched in mid-April continues. On 9 May, PKK fighters fired an anti-tank guided missile against a Turkish base in the Siriye area outside Shiladze town, with PKK-linked sources indicating three Turkish soldiers were killed. The next day, artillery strikes targeted one of the largest Turkish bases near Bamerne, also located in the Amedi district. Damages and casualties were not specified amidst conflicting reports, but Turkish forces responded with multiple artillery strikes against PKK-linked positions.

According to statistics released by the official Turkish Statistical Institute on 5 May, the rate of inflation in Turkey increased to nearly 70% in April in comparison to the same period the previous year. This marks the highest year-on-year increase in consumer prices recorded since 2002. The announcement is set to intensify domestic criticism of President Erdogan’s economic policies as the central bank, under pressure from Erdogan, continues to refuse to increase interest rates.


Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) renewed cross-border operations against locations affiliated with Kurdish separatist groups in northern Iraq this week. On 11 May, multiple artillery and UAV strikes targeted locations affiliated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) in the Soran and Choman districts of the north-eastern Erbil province. Local officials said that no casualties or damage resulted from the strikes. The IRGC released a statement that claimed “terror bastions” were targeted, employing language typically used to denote Kurdish separatist groups operating in Iraq. The Iraqi Foreign Ministry denounced the operations, whole local authorities denied the presence of armed groups within KRG territory. See further context provided in the full featured report available to subscribers.

A Danish national was killed on 5 May when a roadside IED or landmine detonated in Kani Masi sub-district of northern Duhok province. The victim was visiting the area as a tourist and was reportedly riding a bicycle on an unpaved road when the incident occurred. The Kurdistan Region’s Counter-Terrorism Directorate and associated KRG-linked reporting emphasized that the IED was emplaced by the PKK. Further details are provided in the full Talos featured report.


A US-Palestinian journalist, Abu Akleh, employed by Al-Jazeera News network was killed on the West Bank on 11 May, while reportedly covering an Israeli security raid. Conflicting reports claimed Akleh was killed by Israeli forces or by a stray bullet fired by Palestinians, with the cause understandably subject to political sensitivities. The Israeli government said a thorough investigation would be conducted and the US called on both sides to support a transparent investigation.

Meanwhile, the UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed discussed prospects for enhancing cooperation with Israel in a phone call with Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid. Bin Zayed also expressed solidarity with Israeli following the killing of three Israeli citizens in the city of Elad, where two assailants armed with an ax attacked several individuals on 5 May.


In an effort to consolidate the two-month truce in Yemen, UN Special Envoy Hans Grundsberg arrived in Aden on 10 May to meet leaders of the newly appointed Presidential Leadership Council. The meeting follows allegations by both sides of continued violations, with Saudi-backed government forces recording 74 new violations by the Houthi Movement according to a statement released on 8 May. For their part, Houthi-linked sources accuse the Saudi-led coalition of more than 120 violations, citing alleged artillery strikes in Marib and al-Bayda that killed civilians. An absence of Saudi airstrikes and Houthi long-range strikes continues to uphold.

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