Iran News Round Up - February 8, 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: The Guardian Council approved 1,500 additional candidates to run in the parliamentary elections, bringing the total number of approved candidates to 6,300. It remains unclear what proportion of these newly approved candidates are Reformists, however.
The Guardian Council confirmed that it has approved an additional 1,500 candidates to run in the February 26 parliamentary elections, raising the number of approved candidates to 55 percent of the nearly 12,000 candidates who initially registered. The Guardian Council will investigate complaints from disqualified candidates before submitting a final list of approved candidates to the Interior Ministry on February 16. An official list of disqualified candidates still has not been published, however, so it is impossible to identify what proportion of the approved candidates fall into the Reformist camp.
Many prominent reformist-inclined politicians reportedly remain disqualified, including Rasoul Montajab Nia, a founder of the Reformist National Trust Party, and Mohsen Hashemi and Fatemeh Hashemi, two of Ayatollah Ali Akbar Rafsanjani’s children. Rafsanjani himself welcomed the Guardian Council’s announcement, stating that the additional approved candidates will both ensure a “competitive election” and high voter turnout. For more on the debate surrounding the parliamentary elections in Iran, see “Rouhani’s Challenge in Parliamentary Elections: The Disqualification of Key Allies” by CTP Iran Analyst Caitlin Shayda Pendleton.
Iranian news outlets reported an additional eight Iranians killed in Syria. One of them, IRGC Brigadier General 2nd Class Hossein Rezaei, was from the 14th Imam Hossein Division based in Esfahan province. Over 35 Iranian fighters -- many identified as IRGC members -- have been killed in Syria over the past week.
IRGC Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, meanwhile, mentioned that there is “much competition among IRGC ground troops” to fight in Syria during a funeral ceremony for six Iranians killed in the vicinity of the Aleppo. Jafari’s posturing is likely in response to Saudi Arabia’s comments that it is prepared to send ground troops to Syria.
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.”
- Guardian Council confirms increase in approved parliamentary candidates. The Guardian Council confirmed that it has approved an additional 1,500 candidates to run in the February 26 parliamentary elections, raising the number of approved candidates to 55 percent of the original applicants. The Guardian Council, which is charged with overseeing the vetting process for candidates, will investigate complaints from disqualified candidates in its final round of qualifications review from February 9-15 and will submit its final list of confirmed parliamentary candidates on February 16 to the Interior Ministry.
- The Guardian Council has reportedly approved outspoken conservative parliamentarian Ali Motahari.
- Rasoul Montajab Nia, a prominent Reformist parliamentarian and founder of the National Trust Party, reportedly remains disqualified from the parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections as well. (YJC) (Asr Iran) (IRNA)
- Rafsanjani praises disqualification reversals. Expediency Discernment Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Rafsanjani told reporters on February 6 that he is satisfied with the Guardian Council’s decision to confirm an additional 1,500 candidates for the February 26 parliamentary elections. He stated that the additional confirmations will ensure both a “competitive election” and high voter turnout. Rafsanjani has been an otherwise vocal critic of the mass disqualifications.
- Reformist newspaper: The Reformists’ situation is still not “hopeful.” Reformist newspaper Shargh published an editorial claiming that “situation of the Reformist camp does not appear hopeful,” despite the Guardian Council’s recent reversal of disqualifications. The newspaper noted, however, that this observation was only based on candidates’ announcements of their own disqualifications rather than an official, comprehensive list. (Shargh)
- Rouhani warns against disillusioning the electorate. President Hassan Rouhani reiterated his previous criticisms of the Guardian Council’s mass disqualification of candidates during a speech on February 7. He added, “I feel that if we do not think about some of the issues and procedures in the elections, society may face despair and might not participate in the elections.” (President.ir)
- Khamenei: High turnout in elections will inject “fresh blood” into Iran. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei discussed the forthcoming elections and the danger of Western infiltration during a meeting with Artesh Air Force commanders and staff on February 8 in Tehran.
- On the elections: Khamenei stated that “mass participation in the elections… will guarantee the dignity and authority of Iran and the political system” by introducing “fresh blood” into Iran. Khamenei stressed that it is all Iranians’ “duty” to participate in the elections.
- On the West’s attempts to infiltrate Iran: Khamenei warned that “the enemy’s chief goal” is foiling Iran’s attempt to form “an Islamic society which enjoys science, justice, morality, dignity, and progress.” Khamenei warned that the enemy seeks to formulate “change within the political system of the Islamic Republic,” especially by means of soft war.
- Khamenei noted that the “possibility of hard war” against Iran “in the current situation” is “unlikely but not impossible.” (Press TV) (E) (Khamenei.ir)
Casualties in Iraq and Syria
- IRGC Commander: IRGC units are competing to fight in Syria. Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari emphasized the importance of Iranian involvement in Syria during a funeral ceremony for six Iranians recently killed there. The IRGC Commander stated that there is “much competition among IRGC ground troops” to fight in Syria and added, “When we say that we have limited our work in Syria to advising, they become very upset.” (Asr Iran)
- Eight Iranians killed in Syria.
- IRGC Brig. Gen. Second Class Hossein Rezaei was from the 14th Imam Hossein Division. (Tasnim News Agency)
- IRGC Col. Sattar Varang was killed during operations in the towns of Nabl and Zahra in Aleppo province. No further information on his unit affiliation was reported. (Fars News Agency)
- Mostafa Ghassempour and Ismael Shojaei were both from West Azerbaijan province. (Tasnim News Agency)
- Abdolsaleh Zareh was reportedly from Mazandaran province. (Tasnim News Agency)
- IRGC Maj. Sajjad Habibi was from Kermanshah province. (Fars News Agency)
- Mahmoud Hashemi Sanjani and IRGC 1st Lt. Said Samanloo and were reportedly killed during operations in Nabl and Zahra. No further information on rank or unit affiliation was provided. (Tasnim News Agency)
Military and Security
- Law Enforcement Forces commander announces arrests of “terrorist groups.” Brigadier General Hossein Ashtari announced the arrests of “10 members of terrorist groups, including an ISIS cell,” who were attempting to infiltrate Iran “through its eastern and western borders” over the past 10 months. The Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) Commander also called the LEF’s current budget “weak” during the press conference. Parliament is currently reviewing the proposed annual budget. (Mehr News Agency)
- Iranian state TV plays video of Iranian drone hitting targets in Syria. Iranian state TV ran a segment on the capabilities of Iran’s Shahed 129 UAV drones. Part of the segment included feeds presumably taken from the UAVs weapon systems targeting vehicles and personnel in Syria. The coordinates featured on the imagery geolocate to Aleppo province. (Video)
- Fars News Agency runs article on “Operation Nasr” in Syria. Fars News Agency published an article on so-called “Operation Nasr,” which refers to the Assad regime’s operations around Aleppo city aimed at isolating and encircling the opposition in Aleppo. The article – which includes several maps in Farsi -- notes that the multi-staged operation is supported by Iranian advisors and Lebanese and Iraqi forces. The article notes that the operation is designed to expand the regime’s control north and south of Aleppo “in order to create a deep rift in the occupied territories” and mentions that the operation has cleared “around 1400 kilometers” and has killed over “3,500 terrorists.” The article makes no note of Russian military support during this operation. The Iranian media had previously referred to the operations in the vicinity of Aleppo late last year as “Operation Muharram” or “Operation Harsh Revenge.” (Fars News Agency)
- Qassem Soleimani reportedly in Syria. Pictures of IRGC Qods Force Commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani allegedly in Syria have appeared on several Twitter accounts. (Twitter) (Twitter)