Iran News Round Up - March 9, 2015

A selection of the latest news stories and editorials published in Iranian news outlets, compiled by AEI Critical Threats Project Iran Analyst Mehrdad Moarefian and Marie Donovan, with contributors Farzin Farzad and Diana Timmerman. To receive this daily newsletter, please subscribe online.

Key takeaway: President Hassan Rouhani praised the Islamic Republic’s resistance and growing strength, while the IRGC unveiled a new long-range surface-to-surface cruise missile.

President Rouhani lauded Iran’s nuclear negotiations team for safeguarding national interests and resisting pressure, claiming that the regime is “10 times” stronger.  Rouhani said that Tehran’s seat at the P5+1 negotiation table is a source of great pride. He stated: “Yesterday your brave generals stood against the enemy on the battlefield and defended their country. Today, your diplomatic generals are defending [our nation] in the field of diplomacy; this too is jihad.” Rouhani’s statement has significant domestic implications; elevating Iran’s negotiations team to the status of Iran-Iraq War commanders, who are traditionally revered by the regime as upholders of Islamic Revolutionary values, could potentially lead to rhetorical backlash from regime hardliners opposed to the nuclear negotiations.

IRGC Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh reiterated the regime’s stance that Iran’s defense capabilities are non-negotiable in the nuclear talks during an unveiling ceremony for the new “Soumar” cruise missile. The IRGC Air Force Commander, moreover, dismissed the effects of sanctions on the regime’s defense capacity; “This is a message which should be understood by the bullying powers which raise excessive demands."


Official Statements

  • Rouhani reiterates Iran will stand against global oppressors. President Hassan Rouhani stressed the importance of sacrifice over self-interest. Rouhani said that, sacrifice and martyrdom were witnessed by the world during the Iran-Iraq War. Rouhani called the Vietnam and Iraq wars a show of U.S. aggression and said Iran has never attacked or invaded a country, instead it stood against American-backed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Rouhani added:
    • “Our negotiations with the world powers are a source of national pride. Yesterday [during the Iran-Iraq War], your brave generals stood against the enemy on the battlefield and defended their country. Today, your diplomatic generals are defending [our nation] in the field of diplomacy; this too is jihad.”
    • "Today, we are 10 times more powerful than at the time of the [Iran-Iraq War]. We are not hostile and we don’t intend to initiate an aggression at all."
    • "Our power is growing each day, but we don’t intend to be aggressive towards anyone; however, we will certainly defend our country, nation, independence and honor whole-heartedly.”
    • “The country’s defensive power reflects a serious deterrence to the enemies’ threats.” (
  • Zarif: Israel is shifting regional attention away from important matters. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif stated that Israel “is trying to shift regional countries’ attention from the main issues to subsidiary issues; attention to this trick of the Israelis will benefit all.”
    • Following his visit with Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani on March 7, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh stated, “Iran is an important country in the region, and we believe we can engage with Tehran on regional issues and exchange on various issues.” (IRNA)
  • Rafsanjani: Israel formed and supported Boko Haram. Head of the Expediency Discernment Council Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said that takfiri [‘heretic’] groups, including, Boko Haram, ISIS, the Taliban, and al Qaeda were formed through the support of certain countries, especially Israel. Rafsanjani emphasized the need for openness of Islam in seminaries and universities in today’s society, and said that religious intellectuals must inform the youth of “genuine Islam,” so they will not be attracted by deviating extremist groups that will fill their minds with “superstitions” and “distorted beliefs.” (Mehr News)
  • Hamedani blames regional crises on Western support for terrorism. IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Hamedani asserted that Western money and supplies helped create a religious conflict in the Middle East. The Advisor to the Commander of the IRGC said that the U.S. and Europe are dependent on their military industry, whereas Iran relies on its people and mobilizes the local population. Hamedani pointed to America’s military and said that it has advanced technology, but Iran has proven to have an efficient strategy to regional conflicts. Hamedani stated that Iran has good cooperation with the armies of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, adding:
    • “If the popular volunteer forces were not formed, today Syria would be a field of criminals…”
    • “Today all of the world’s media know Iran’s role in the region and American commanders come to the region and suggest that [they] did everything [that was] needed; but it was Iran that finished the job.” (YJC)
  • Firouzabadi: Iraqis are responsible for their own security. Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi said that Iraqis are responsible for their own security. The Chief of the Armed Forces General Staff said unlike the Americans who are interested in maintaining the “strength of the capitalists,” Iran provides only “advisory assistance” to Iraq and is naturally inclined to help. Concerning Iran’s influence in the region, Firouzabadi said, “Today Iran is of the opinion that its political and military power and political and geopolitical influence is prominent in the region; no problem in the region can be solved without the blessing of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and so we know of no threat to Islamic Iran.” Firouzabadi also claimed that Israel’s foundation was gone and that “its regime is in decline and world support for Israel is lost.” Meanwhile, Jews in Iran live comfortably unlike Palestinians, whose land was “usurped” by Israel. When presented a question about Iran’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, Firouzabadi replied that Iran had no problem with Saudi Arabia. (Basij Press)
  • Hajizadeh says sanctions have no effect on Iran’s defense programs. At the unveiling ceremony of the “Soumar” cruise missile RGC Air Force Commander Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh said, the joint message of the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces (MODAFL) and IRGC to friends and enemies is that western sanctions have had no effect on Iran’s defense capabilities. Hajizadeh added that “bullying powers” should understand that Iran’ defense capabilities are non-negotiable especially its ballistic missile defense capabilities. (Sepah News)


Military and Security

  • Supreme Leader appoints new LEF Commander. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a decree making Brig. Gen. Hossein Ashtari the new Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) Commander. Ashtari will replace Brig. Gen. Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam, who was appointed LEF Commander in 2005. (
  • Most recent photos of Qassem Soleimani in Iraq. A purported photo of IRGC Qods Force Commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani smiling as he walks with Mahdi Mohandis and Iraqi forces was published today. Another photo showing Soleimani praying in the Al Askari shrine in Samarra, Iraq on February 28 was published on his website on March 6. The third photo published on March 5, purportedly shows Soleimani on the ground leading Iraqi forces against ISIS in Tikrit. (Qassem Soleimani)  (Qassem Soleimani) (Adyan News)
  • “Damavand” destroyer joins the Artesh 4th Naval District. The advanced training destroyer ‘Damavand’ “formally joined the Artesh Navy 4th Naval District at Bandar Azali on the Caspian Sea. The MODAFL Naval Industries’ Shahid Tamjidi Industries purportedly carried out “all phases of design” and “construction” of the Damavand, in collaboration with “over 700 industrial, research, [and] academic centers.” (Defa Press)
  • Surface-to-surface cruise missile “Sumar” unveiled. The IRGC Aerospace Force unveiled the new surface-to-surface cruise missile “Sumar” on March 8. The IRGC Aerospace Force also received a “bulk delivery of the… ballistic missiles Qadr and Qian.” (Mashregh News)


Nuclear Talks

  • Salehi: we hope negotiations reach a win-win outcome. Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi said that he was hopeful the negotiations would result in a win-win outcome. Salehi emphasized he entered the talks as a result of a deadlock in recent negotiations over the technical details of Iran’s nuclear program and that significant progress was made during the last two meetings in Switzerland with US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. (Tasnim News Agency)
  • IAEA to follow-up on remaining issues on visit to Tehran. Iran’s Permanent Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Reza Najafi is scheduled to meet with a 5-member IAEA delegation in Tehran today. AEOI spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said a total of 16 issues have been finalized between Iran and the IAEA, including, an alleged “powerful explosion” in Marivan province and “neutron transfer.” Kamalvandi noted, “We have stated many times that our views on these two subjects have been declared to the Agency.” He also added that the inspectors would have “managed” access to the site of the alleged explosion in Marivan once the specific location had been identified. (Mehr News)
  • AEOI Spokesman to travel to Moscow. Behrouz Kamalvandi will travel to Moscow today to follow up on a Russia-Iran agreement to produce nuclear fuel as well as two units at the nuclear power plant in Bushehr. The AEOI Spokesman said, “Our forecast is that after the initial stages, the operation of the two-unit nuclear power plant will begin the following year. (IRNA)


Regional Developments and Diplomacy

  • Ali Larijani travels to Kuwait to promote enhanced Iran-Kuwait relations. The Parliament Speaker departed on a two-day trip to Kuwait today. (Tasnim News Agency)
  • Zolfaghari: talks underway to extradite Sattar Rigi from Pakistan. Hossein Zolfaghari addressed several issues at a security policy conference at the Ministry of the Interior on March 8. In regards to the arrest of Sattar Rigi, the Deputy Interior Minister said “We are confident that he was arrested and we are in communication with the Foreign Ministry to request to send a team to Pakistan… Judicial records show that he can be reclaimed.” (Fars News Agency)