Iran News Round Up

The Iran News Round Up ran from February 2009-September 2018. Visit the Iran File for the latest analysis.

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 contributors Ken Hawrey and Alice Naghshineh. To receive this daily newsletter, please subscribe online.

(E) = Article in English

Excerpts of these translations may only be used with the expressed consent of the authors.

Key takeaway: At least three Artesh members were reported killed in Syria, confirming the deployment of elements of multiple Artesh brigades outside Iran. 

Iranian media reported the deaths of at least three Artesh special operations forces in Syria, all of whom appear to be members of different Artesh brigades. Brigadier General Amir Ali Arasteh, the Artesh Ground Forces Coordination Deputy, told reporters on April 4 that an Artesh deployment to Syria included the 65th Airborne Special Forces Brigade and other unspecified units. The deployment confirms a significant shift in the role of the Artesh, which has been limited historically to defending Iran’s borders. Separately, Iranian media reported the deaths of two IRGC members in Syria as well.

Several Iranian news outlets retracted a quote from Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari that Russia delivered the first part of the S-300 surface-to-air missile system. Outlets later replaced the quote with a separate statement from Ansari that “the first phase of the agreement” with Russia has been “implemented.” Ansari did not appear to provide further details on the “first phase.”

Senior officials continued to criticize U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent comment that the U.S. can reach a “new arrangement” with Iran over its missile program. Defense Minister IRGC Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan called Kerry’s comments “worthless” and reiterated the regime’s stance that “Iran’s missile capability is not the subject of bargaining, negotiation, and compromise.” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stated that the U.S. “knows well that the issue of [Iran’s] defense is not the subject of negotiation or bargaining.”

AEI Must-Reads

  • Paul Bucala analyzes Iran's deployment of Artesh special forces to Syria in "Iran in Syria: flexing more, not less, military muscle."  See also Bucala and Frederick W. Kagan,  “Iran’s Evolving Way of War: How the IRGC Fights in Syria.
  • Alice Naghshineh and Ken Hawrey have published a translation of an article from Iranian newspaper Shargh which provides insights into the Artesh’s evolving rhetoric towards the Syrian conflict and the organization of the Artesh 65th Airborne Special Forces Brigade, elements of which have deployed to the conflict. Read the translation here.
  • Marie Donovan discusses IRGC Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari’s warning to President Hassan Rouhani not to engage further with the West in “IRGC Commander warns President Rouhani to back off.”
  • Matthew McInnis discusses Iran’s consensus on the need to strengthen its ballistic missile program and U.S. strategies for mitigating and responding to Iranian missile advances in his latest blog, “Iran’s missile happy ‘moderates.’”

Casualties in Iraq and Syria

  • Three Artesh members killed in Syria.
    • 2nd Lt. Mohsen Ghiatsalu was a member of the Artesh 65th Airborne Special Forces Brigade. (ABNA)
    • Col. Zulfighar Nesab was a member of the Artesh 45th Special Forces Brigade based in Shushtar, Khuzestan province. (ABNA)
    • 2nd Lt. Mojtaba Yadollahi was a member of the Artesh 388th Brigade based in Iranshahr, Sistan va Baluchistan province. He is also listed as belonging to the Artesh’s special operations forces. (ABNA)
  • Two IRGC members killed in Syria.
    • Mohammad Taghi Salkhordeh, who was a member of 25th Karbala Division, was killed “south of Aleppo” on his “second deployment to Syria.” He was from Mazandaran province. (Fars News Agency) (Asr Iran)
    • Hossein Boas, who was also a resident of Mazandaran province, was killed on April 9. Fars News Agency circulated a picture of Boas in a uniform with a IRGC Saberin patch, but did not provide further information on his unit affiliation. The IRGC 25th Karbala Division is based in Mazandaran and appears to have deployed to Syria previously. (Fars News Agency) (Fars News Agency)

Military and Security

  • Foreign Ministry clarifies remarks on Russia’s S-300 delivery to Iran. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari announced that “the first phase of the S-300 contract has been implemented.” Tasnim News Agency and Mehr News Agency had initially reported that Ansari stated, “The first S-300 missile system has arrived in Iran, and the delivery of other parts will continue,” which was later retracted and replaced with, “Today I should announce that the first phase of the agreement is implemented, and the process will continue.” Unverified videofootage released on April 10 has caused some to suspect that the first S-300 system has been delivered to Iran. (Tasnim News Agency) (Mehr News Agency)
  • IRGC to stage “massive” military drills this week. IRGC Ground Forces Commander Brig. Gen. Mohammad Pakpour announced that the “Great Prophet” military drills will be held from April 12-14 in Hormozgan, Sistan and Baluchistan, Kerman, and South Khorasan provinces. According to Pakpour, the military drill will feature various IRGC Ground Forces divisions and brigades as well as Saberin special forces. Pakpour added that the newly formed IRGC Ground Forces Air Assault unit will also participate in the exercises. (Tasnim News Agency) (Etemaad

Regional Developments and Diplomacy

  • Ministers criticize John Kerry’s suggestion of a “new arrangement” with Iran. IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan responded to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s comments that the U.S. and its allies have told Iran they are “prepared to work on a new arrangement to find a peaceful solution” to issues such as Iran’s ongoing ballistic missile tests, but that Iran must indicate first that it is ready to cease activities which “raise questions about credibility.” The defense minister reiterated the regime’s stance that “Iran’s missile capability is not the subject of bargaining, negotiation, and compromise.” (Tasnim News Agency)
    • Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stated, “The American government knows well that the issue of defense is not the subject of negotiation or bargaining.” (Mehr News Agency)
  • Velayati: Assad must remain president “until the end of his term.” Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to the Supreme Leader Ali Akbar Velayati discussed Iranian policy towards Syria and ballistic missiles during an interview on April 9. Velayati stated, “Iran believes that Bashar [al] Assad has to remain the president [until] the end of his term. His presidency is the red line for Iran, and it should not be discussed in Syria peace talks.”
    • Velayati also criticized U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent remarks and stated that one of Kerry’s “characteristics is exaggeration.” Velayati added that U.S. officials “ask Iran to help settle the Syrian issue, but what they mean is to help [topple] Bashar [al] Assad. Iran’s response is that you don’t have the right to decide for the Syrian people and their president.” Velayati called Iran’s “defensive power” the key to both Iran’s sovereignty and ability to negotiate. (Entekhab) (Mehr News Agency(E)
  • Ayatollah Larijani criticizes “JCPOA 2,3, [and] 4.” Judiciary Head Ayatollah Sadegh Amoli Larijani stated, “If the Americans believe that they can change the nature of [our] foreign policy, and therefore the nature of the political system of the Islamic Republic, they are very wrong.” Larijani’s comments are in reaction to President Hassan Rouhani, who has named his policiesfor change on some non-nuclear matters, especially domestic economic rehabilitation and even negotiations with the West on other regional issues, “JCPOA 2.” (ISNA
  • Iranian official: Boeing has offered to sell three passenger plane models to Iran. Iranian Aviation and Space Industries Association (IASIA) Secretary Maqsood As’adi Samani stated that a delegation from Boeing “proposed to sell its 737, 787, and 777” passenger plane series to Iran during two days of negotiations with Iran Air, the Islamic Republic’s flag carrier airline, and other airlines. (Fars News Agency) (E)

Domestic Politics

  • Karroubi asks Rouhani for open trial to prove election fraud. Influential reformist figure and former presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi appealed to President Hassan Rouhani for an open trial in an open letter published on April 9. Karroubi, who has been under house arrest since 2011, claimed that the 2005 and 2009 presidential elections “were spoiled by the interference of some within the IRGC, Basij, and Intelligence Ministry.” Karroubi was a candidate in both elections, which were won by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Karroubi stated that he does not expect Rouhani to be able to end his house arrest, but he added that he might be able to prove "fraud in the 2005 presidential elections and the engineering of the 2009 presidential elections” in the open trial as well as “that which befell the children of this country in legal and illegal detention centers.”
    • Karroubi also criticized the Guardian Council as having departed “from its natural responsibilities” by “striving for the power of one specific [political] current and the elimination the other” – likely referring to widespread suppression of reformists. (Kaleme)


  • Parliament approves general outline of annual budget. Parliament approved the outline of the annual budget on April 10, with 135 members voting in favor of it, 37 voting against it, and 6 abstaining. Parliament must still approve the details of the budget. Parliament passed an emergency budget on March 14, which has provided short-term relief during the move towards finalization of the annual budget. (IRINN)
    • On key budget figures: Parliamentary Joint Budget Commission Spokesman Mohammad Reza Pour Ebrahimi announced that the budget reflects both a forecasted price of $40 for a barrel of oil and daily oil production of 2.25 million barrels. Subsidies for 70 percent of the population will remain in place, while subsidies for the remaining high-income earners will be cut. (ICANA)
  • Aref: One must not increase demands on Rouhani administration. Senior reformist politician Mohammad Reza Aref called for a greater focus on improving Iranians’ living conditions and implementing the Resistance Economy, an economic doctrine designed to insulate the Iranian economy from external pressure. Aref, who was also recently elected to Parliament, defended the record of Rouhani’s economic policies, stating, “he [Rouhani] administration cannot fix all of the country’s problems by itself. Just as the Supreme Leader recently emphasized, one must not raise the level of demands on the administration.” He noted  that the Parliament elected on February 26 “will certainly cooperate more with the administration compared to the current Parliament.” (Tasnim News Agency)
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