Iran News Round Up - February 3, 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: Iranian media reported the deaths of a dozen Iranian fighters in Syria, underscoring the depth of Iran’s ongoing military support for the Syrian government.

Iranian news outlets announced the deaths of 12 Iranians, including an IRGC brigadier general 2nd class, in Syria over the past several days. Their deaths coincide with a new pro-regime offensive to re-establish supply lines to several besieged towns northwest of Aleppo City, although it is uncertain if they participated in the offensive.

Debate continued over the Guardian Council’s extensive vetting of electoral candidates, particularly the disproportionate disqualification of Reformist-inclined candidates. Ayatollah Ali Movahedi Kermani, the secretary general of the influential Principlist Combatant Clergy Association, stated in an interview that “any attack on the Guardian Council is the greatest sedition of them all.” His comments were likely a criticism of Expediency Discernment Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, who recently questioned the legality of the Guardian Council’s vetting process.

Matthew McInnis explains the challenges facing President Hassan Rouhani following Implementation Day, including marshalling support for his budget and the Sixth Five-year Development Plan, dealing with dismal economic projections, and preparing his coalition for the February 26 elections, in his latest blog post, “After the nuclear deal, Rouhani’s real fights are just beginning.

Casualties in Iraq and Syria

  • IRGC brigadier general killed in Aleppo province. Iranian media reported the death of IRGC Brig. Gen. 2C Mohsen Ghajarian on February 3. Ghajarian, who fought in the Iran-Iraq War, became the commander of the IRGC Imam Reza unit - Khorasan Razavi’s 21st Imam Reza Armored Brigade in 2010. The date of his death is unclear. (ABNA)
     
  • Seven IRGC members killed on February 2 in Syria. Asr Iran reported that Hossein Razaghi, Habib Rahimimanesh, Hojjat ol Eslam Mustafa Khalili, Mahmoud Eskandiari, Neri Mesaei, and Saeed Alizadeh Barmi were members of the IRGC 1st Hazrat-e Hojjat Brigade of the IRGC Vali-ye Asr unit based in Khuzestan province. Haram Mahdi Kouchakzadeh was an IRGC member of Rasht, Gilan province.
    • Fars News Agency reported that Saeed Alizadeh Barmi was a member of the 12th Ghaem Brigade within the IRGC Ghaem al Mohammad unit of Semnan province rather than the 1st Hazrat-e Hojjat Brigade. Mehr News Agency reported that Alizadeh Barmi was from Damghan, Semnan province and was killed “on the outskirts of Aleppo.” (Asr Iran) (Mehr News Agency) (Fars News Agency)
       
  • Four killed in Syria. Reza Adeli, Mohsen Kavelbadi, Ahmad Eliasi, and Ahmad Amjadi were also killed in Syria. The dates of their deaths are unclear. (Dolatebahar)

Domestic Politics

  • Kermani: “Any attack on the Guardian Council is the greatest sedition of them all.” Secretary General of the Combatant Clergy Association Ayatollah Ali Movahedi Kermani denounced critics of the Guardian Council’s role in vetting candidates during an interview with Tasnim News Agency. Kermani’s comments are clearly in response to statements made by Reformists and influential moderates, especially by Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, challenging the Guardian Council’s vetting process. (Tasnim News Agency)
     
  • Reformist politicians encourage voter participation despite disqualifications. Majid Farahani, the Director-General of the Reformist Nedaye Iranian Party, called for Reformists to vote in the upcoming elections to Parliament and the Assembly of Experts despite the Guardian Council’s recent mass disqualification of Reformist parliamentary candidates during an interview on February 3. Farahani added that one of the Nedaye Iranian Party’s “primary goals” in the elections is to prevent “extremism from becoming a symbol of the country.” Separately, Farzaneh Torkan, a member of the Reformist Workers Party, also told reporters that the Workers Party does not plan on boycotting the elections “in any way.” (IRNA)
     
  • Rouhani unveils new satellite. President Hassan Rouhani praised Iran’s technological achievements and the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) during a speech celebrating Space Technology Day on February 3. Rouhani also unveiled the new “Friendship” satellite. He added:
    • “The meaning of the JCPOA is not opening up our borders for imports. Rather the meaning of the JCPOA is an opportunity for work, effort, and creating employment for the Iranian youth.” He stressed that Iran must “take advantage of the JCPOA” in order to acquire modern science and technology. Rouhani also reiterated the importance of privatization in the Iranian economy and emphasized the need to increase technology transfer to the private sector as well. (President.ir) (Mehr News Agency
       
  • Supreme Leader: SNSC must “confront” foreign and domestic opponents of the Revolution. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told members of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) that they must “confront” both domestic and foreign individuals who “have rejected Islamic Revolutionary thinking” and do “not believe in the fight against the Arrogance [the West].” Khamenei also stressed that the SNSC must incorporate the “multidimensional” aspects of security - including the “economic, cultural, political, social, and psychological” - into its decision-making. (IRNA
     
  • Larijani deemphasizes president’s role in implementing the Constitution. Ayatollah Sadegh Amoli Larijani discussed Article 113 of the Constitution, which states in part that the president has “the responsibility for implementing the Constitution and acting as the head of the executive, except in matters directly concerned with (the office of) the Leadership.” The Judiciary Head stated, “The independence of the Judiciary in the Constitution, the approbatory supervision of the Guardian Council, and the independence of the Expediency Discernment Council show that this [article in the Constitution] does not mean the administration implements the Constitution in every case.” (Mehr News Agency)