Iran News Round Up - February 11, 2016

A selection of the latest news stories and editorials published in Iranian news outlets, compiled by AEI Critical Threats Project Iran Analysts Marie Donovan, Paul Bucala, and Caitlin Shayda Pendleton with contributor Ken Hawrey. To receive this daily newsletter, please subscribe online.

Key takeaway: Iranians marked the 37th anniversary of the Islamic Republic’s founding with mass rallies. President Hassan Rouhani called for unity in the elections rather than confronting the Guardian Council over its disqualification of electoral candidates. 

President Hassan Rouhani’s remarks commemorating the anniversary emphasized political unity during an election cycle that has controversially disqualified most Reformist candidates. He stated, “True Reformists, true Principlists, and true moderates are all revolutionary… In our time, being revolutionary means favoring participation, tolerance, resistance, and having our country’s goods be competitive in world markets.” Rouhani acknowledged discontent, stating that Iranians who “have an issue with the political system and government” should still vote. For further analysis on election-related developments in Iran, please see Critical Threats Project’s “Iran Elections Tracker: Updates and Analysis.”

Matthew McInnis explains Iran’s perspective on the stalled Geneva negotiations, its recent strategies in the Syrian conflict, and its broader goals for a final settlement in his latest blog post, “Syrian peace talks still a sideshow for Iran.

Domestic Politics

  • Iranians mark anniversary of Islamic Republic’s founding. Rallies across Iran marked the 37th anniversary of the Islamic Republic’s founding in 1979. The top strata of Iran’s leadership, including IRGC Quds Force Commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, attended the Tehran rallies, which also included displays of the Emad ballistic missile, the Shahed-129 drone, and several satellite launch vehicles. Fars News Agency reported that “some young people in Tehran wore American-style clothing and sat on the floor of a float to reenact the scene of the American sailors’ arrest,” referring to the January 12 detainment of two U.S. Navy vessels.
    • Candidates for the Assembly of Experts reportedly began campaigning at the event. There were also reports of “illegal” campaigning by parliamentary candidates, who are not permitted to campaign until February 18, after the Guardian Council finalizes its list of approved parliamentary candidates. (Fars News Agency) (Tasnim News Agency) (E) (Photos of Soleimani)
       
  • Rouhani calls for political unity. President Hassan Rouhani called for Iran’s various political factions to remain united during remarks commemorating the Islamic Republic’s 37th anniversary. He stated, “True Reformists, true Principlists, and true moderates are all revolutionary… In our time, being revolutionary means favoring participation, tolerance, resistance, and having our country’s goods be competitive in world markets. It means favoring hope, liveliness, and development.” Rouhani also emphasized the importance of high voter turnout in the February 26 parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections, stating, “If people have an issue with the political system and government, for example, they must not take out their anger at the ballot box. This ballot box is the right of the people.”
    • Rouhani also focused on domestic issues in the post-sanctions period, stating that Iran now needs a national program, which he referred to as a “JCPOA 2,” that concentrates on domestic development. Rouhani identified $30-50 billion in foreign investment as a requirement for achieving eight percent economic growth.
    • He added that the nuclear agreement compelled the international community to “understand well that the Iranian government is not an interim government. The Iranian government is not a government that can be isolated.” (President.ir)
       
  • Senior political and military leaders celebrate founding of the Islamic Republic.
    • Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani reiterated a standard regime message that the major turnout at the rallies commemorating the founding of the Islamic Republic indicates the depth of popular support for its ideology. Larijani also reiterated his earlier praise for Iranian involvement in Iraq and Syria, stating, “Iran’s presence on the regional scene has been a factor of stability and security. Everyone acknowledges the positive influence of Iran in the field. It is said that without Iran’s presence, one cannot build security in the region.” (YJC)
    • IRGC Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi stated that the people’s presence at rallies commemorating the founding of the Islamic Republic has “an enormous strategic capacity to repel the enemy’s plots against Iran.” The Supreme Leader’s Senior Military Advisor added that “the nations of the axis of Resistance - meaning Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen - are moving towards...victory over the enemies. By the grace of God, the US-Zionist-Arab coalition is failing… The Iran-Russia-Iraq-Syria-Lebanese Hezbollah coalition is winning.” Safavi also called Saudi Arabia’s expression of willingness to send troops to Syria “a stupid propaganda maneuver,” stating, “If they could, they [Saudi troops] would be in Yemen.” Safavi also warned about the dangers of hostile influence on Tehran’s “decision-makers.” (Basij Press)
    • IRGC Deputy Commander Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami stated that “the people’s association with the Revolution… has increased day by day.” (Defa Press)
       
  • Haddad Adel defends Hassan Khomeini’s disqualification. Principlist Coalition Spokesman Gholam Ali Haddad Adel referenced the Guardian Council’s recent disqualification of Hojjat ol Eslam Hassan Khomeini, a Reformist-inclined grandson of former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, from the Assembly of Experts election. He stated, “This was the Guardian Council’s decision, and one must respect it.” (YJC)

Regional Developments and Diplomacy

  • Zarif attends Syria talks in Germany. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif traveled to Germany to attend a meeting of the International Syria Support Group and the Munich Security Conference. Zarif reiterated the importance of properly identifying terrorist groups in Syria to the peace talks and noted that he is also set to hold separate meetings with UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura, the Foreign Minister of China, and the Foreign Minister of Russia, respectively. (Press TV) (E) (YJC