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Security Brief: CENTCOM Week of March 21, 2022

Week of Monday, March 21, 2022 | Issue 66

Giorgio Tiberio, Ashani Wijesuriya, Mohammad Ali, CENTCOM Team

Jennifer Loy, Chief of Staff



Map of Israel, Iran, and Afghanistan[1]



Date: March 21, 2022

Location: Vienna, Austria

Parties involved: Iran; US; Israel; United Arab Emirates; Palestine; Lebanon; Yemen; Iraq; Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Hamas, Hezbollah, Houthis, Shiite militias in Iraq, Saudi Arabia

The event: One final point in reviving the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) involves the removal of the IRGC from the US Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list.[2] Under this list, whoever attempts or knowingly provides material support or resources to the foreign terrorist organization is subject to fines or imprisonment.[3] Iranian policymakers have now presented a non-nuclear related request if member states of the JCPOA wish to revive the agreement.[4]

Analysis & Implications:

  • Removing the IRGC from the US FTO list will very likely lead foreign companies to resume economic transactions since they would have previously suffered criminal penalties for doing so. An increase in funding will likely allow the IRGC to expand its military capabilities in terms of weapons procurement, technological development, and number of military personnel. Removing the IRGC from the FTO will likely incentivize Iran to continue, if not, increase its support for terrorist activities in the Middle East including backing Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, Hamas in Palestine, and Shiite militias in Iraq.

  • Tensions between the US and its allies in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, will likely emerge because these States see a revival of the JCPOA as a threat to regional security and stability. These States will likely implement or reinforce their own security policies to counter the actions of the IRGC, but will unlikely adopt measures against the US. Israel will likely continue to publicly oppose the proposal, as it is directly fighting Hezbollah, one of Iran’s strongest proxies, directly supported by the IRGC.

  • The removal of the IRGC from the US FTO will likely facilitate IRGC covert actions in the Middle East, as it will operate under less pressure and control from the US and its allies. Under this framework, the IRGC will likely strengthen Iran’s political and economic control over Iraq to maintain the Shiite parties in power and to secure its own border. Iran’s proxies in the Middle East will almost certainly benefit from the change of policy. The IRGC will likely be able to support them under fewer constraints.


Date: March 22, 2022

Location: Beersheba, Israel

Parties involved: Israel; ISIS; Hamas; Palestinian Islamic Jihad; Mohammad Ghaleb Abu al-Qi’an

The event: An Arab Israeli man stabbed one woman at a gas station in Beersheba. Then he drove into a cyclist before stabbing more people at a shopping center. An armed bus driver confronted the perpetrator and shot him after he had tried to attack the bus driver. him. Four people were killed, two wounded.[5] Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad praised the attack but neither claimed responsibility nor the assailant as a member. The assailant was identified as 34 year-old Mohammad Ghaleb Abu al-Qi’an, jailed from 2015 to 2019 due to links to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).[6]

Analysis & Implications:

  • Copycat attacks are likely to occur ahead of Ramdan, which begins on April 2. Both events will likely lead radicalized Palestinian individuals to carry out similar actions as it is very likely that they will perceive both events as ideal times to avenge the deaths caused by the May 2021 Israel-Hamas confrontation. Rammings and stabbings are likely to be used as attack methods as they are easier to be executed than firearms or explosive-based attacks.

  • ISIS or Hamas will likely capitalize on the incident to advocate for more lone wolf attacks. Such terrorist groups will likely seek to exploit the region’s preoccupation with measures to contain COVID-19 amid Ramadan celebrations by conducting violent attacks. ISIS will likely carry out similar attacks in Israel, as the group has been increasingly involved in the country since declaring a holy war against Israel in January 2020. ISIS will very likely target Israel to regain influence in the Middle East by gaining the attention of other jihadist groups.

  • The Israeli counterterrorism effort in the upcoming weeks will very likely increase as a result of the attack. Israeli police forces will likely conduct more raids against Hamas and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Violent clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians are likely to occur.


Date: March 23, 2022

Location: Afghanistan

Parties involved: The Taliban; Afghanistan’s female student population

The event: The Taliban-controlled government of Afghanistan reached a decision to allow girls to attend school after months of restriction but the government backtracked shortly after, stating that high schools would remain closed for female students.[7] Secondary education for female students is expected to remain closed until schools operate according to Islamic principles.[8]

Analysis & Implications:

  • Lack of education will almost certainly hinder Afghan economic recovery. Afghanistan’s economic indicators will very likely worsen, as the lack of higher education will likely prevent women from accessing better opportunities. Economic output will very likely decrease, as only men are enabled to work under the laws of the Taliban-controlled government. The absence of major international trade partners will likely aggravate this future economic scenario.

  • The Taliban’s ban on older female students attending school will likely hinder work opportunities for Afghan women in the future, causing its workforce to become male-dominant. Women who do not receive schooling beyond a primary education level will likely be forced to accept a homemaker role, reinforcing the Taliban’s perception about the submissive role of women in Afghan society. The Taliban very likely views the education of women as unnecessary since the duties of women under Sharia law are domestic-oriented. The group is unlikely to re-open secondary education to female students as doing so would be contradicting their interpretation of gender roles in Islam.

________________________________________________________________________ The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)

[1] Map of Israel, Iran, and Afghanistan, by Ashani Wijesuriya, via Google Maps

[2] Iran Nuclear Deal’s Final Hurdle Is Lifting Terrorism Sanctions on Revolutionary Guards, Wall Street Journal, March 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/iran-nuclear-deals-final-hurdle-is-lifting-terrorism-sanctions-on-revolutionary-guards-11647864073

[3] 18 U.S. Code § 2339B, Legal Information Institute, April 1996, https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2339B

[4] Iran says key issues still unresolved in nuclear talks, Reuters, February 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/iran-says-three-key-issues-remain-unresolved-vienna-nuclear-talks-2022-02-28/

[5] Four killed in knife attack in southern Israel, France24, March 2022, https://www.france24.com/en/middle-east/20220322-four-killed-in-kni

[6] Four killed after stabbing attack in Israel`s Naqab region, Al Jazeera, March 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/3/22/four-killed-after-stabbing-attack-carried-out-in-naqab-region

[7] Afghanistan: Taliban backtrack on reopening high schools for girls, BBC News, March 2022, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-60845540

[8] Taliban orders Afghan girls' schools to shut hours after reopening, i24 News, March 2022, https://www.i24news.tv/en/news/middle-east/iran-eastern-states/1648029841-taliban-order-afghan-girls-schools-to-shut-hours-after-reopening

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