Iran News Round Up
A selection of the latest news stories and articles published in Iranian news outlets, compiled by AEI Critical Threats Analysts.
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: President Hassan Rouhani criticized the creation of an undercover police unit recruited to report moral violations in Tehran.
President Rouhani distanced his administration from the decision to deploy 7,000 undercover agents tasked with reporting certain “moral transgressions,” including improper veiling, to police in Tehran. He claimed that “the administration implements some plans in the country, and others are implemented through other apparatuses like the Judiciary or other forces.” He added that the government does “not have the right to interfere in the public and private lives of the people except regarding the implementation of laws.” Rouhani has previously criticized the police’s strict enforcement of the dress code in a direct challenge to the hardliner establishment, particularly the Judiciary. Iran’s police, however, report to the Ministry of the Interior, whose head is a member of the president’s cabinet. Rouhani’s comments therefore highlight the degree to which Iran’s security forces operate independently of Rouhani, even when nominally under his authority.
Artesh Commander Major General Ataollah Salehi walked back comments made by other senior Artesh commanders that elements from Artesh units have been dispatched to Syria. He dismissed the notion that an entire Artesh brigade is operating in the country and contended that “some volunteers,” possibly including Artesh special forces, had been sent to Syria under the authority of an unnamed “organization.” Salehi is likely referring to the IRGC Qods Force, which is ultimately responsible for conducting Iran’s missions abroad. Salehi’s comments and others suggest that the Artesh troops operating in Syria are integrated within the IRGC’s larger force structure on the ground.
Iranian news outlets, meanwhile, reported the deaths of two more Artesh soldiers in Syria. Their deaths bring the total number of Artesh casualties in Syria to seven. Both soldiers appear to be members of the 65th Airborne Special Forces Brigade. For more information on the 65th Airborne Special Forces Brigade, please see the Critical Threat Project’s “The Deployment of Artesh Special Forces to Syria.”
- Katherine Zimmerman argues that Iranian activities in Yemen are actually part of a struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia for regional influence and discusses U.S. policy options in “Signaling Saudi Arabia: Iranian support to Yemen’s al Houthis.”
- Frederick W. Kagan discusses current and requested Iranian and Russian assets in the Middle East in “Iran’s Plans to Transform the Middle East Military Balance.”
- Frederick W. Kagan and Vice Admiral John Miller (USN, Ret.) examine how Iran’s military shopping list could force the West to alter how it operates in the Persian Gulf in “Iran is muscling up. We should push back.”
- Rouhani criticizes expanded police presence in Tehran. President Hassan Rouhani criticized the recent addition of 7,000 undercover agents recruited to report certain “moral transgressions” to police in Tehran. Rouhani responded to a reporter’s question on the additions by stating, “God has given human dignity to humanity, and this dignity precedes religion. The dignity of all must be preserved… We do not have the right to interfere in the public and private lives of the people except regarding the implementation of laws.” Rouhani also distanced his administration from the additions, stating, “The administration implements some plans in the country, and others are implemented through other apparatuses like the Judiciary or other forces.” On April 18, Hossein Sajedinia, the commander of the Tehran Law Enforcement Forces (LEF), or police, announced the addition of 7,000 “undercover agents” in Tehran who do not have the power to conduct arrests but who are responsible for alerting police to certain violations, including “noise pollution, harassment of women, improper veiling, and reckless driving.”
Regional Developments and Diplomacy
Supreme Leader: “Hezbollah is a source of pride for the Muslim world.” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reiterated Iran’s continuing support for Hezbollah during an address to students in Tehran. He called a Hezbollah “a source of pride” and stated that “its condemnation by a corrupt, dependent, hollow, and ineffective government has no importance,” likely referring to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states’ recent efforts to sanction entities linked to Hezbollah. During the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) conference in Istanbul last week, leaders from more than 50 states denounced Hezbollah for destabilizing the region. (Leader.ir)
- Ayatollah Shirazi urges speedy end to domestic crises in Iraq. Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi commented on the recent political crises in Iraq, including calls for the resignation of Prime Minister Haidar al Abadi and the creation of a rump parliament last week. Shirazi stated, “Today, the conflict between Iraqi government officials and politicians is very painful... All must be united in expelling the enemy out of your home.” Shirazi said that shutting down “the government and the Parliament… is not in Iraq’s interest.” He continued, “Today, the enemy is in your home; we do not know how to interpret any of these conflicts, but in this situation, these differences are not right and must end.” Shirazi stated, “One may argue that these issues are related to the internal situation in Iraq, and someone does not have the right to comment on them; it must be said [in response] that marjayat do not have borders, and belong to all.” A marja-e taqlid is a very senior Shi’a cleric who serves as a “source of emulation” for his followers. For more information on the political developments in Iraq, see the Institute for the Study of War’s “Iraq government collapse likely as a rump Parliament calls for resignations.” (ILNA)
Military and Security
- Artesh Commander: We do not have responsibility for the advisory mission in Syria. Artesh Commander Maj. Gen. Ataollah Salehi discussed the Artesh’s involvement in Syria during a conversation with reporters. Salehi downplayed the Artesh’s role, stating that it “does not have responsibility to deliver advisory services to Syria. There is an organization in the country which implements these measures.” Salehi added, “At no time did we claim that the 65th NOHED [Airborne Special Forces] Brigade was present in Syria; rather, some volunteers have been sent to Syria under the authority of this organization. It is possible that [the men] of the 65th [Airborne Special Forces Brigade] were among these [forces].” Salehi did not name this organization, but he is likely referring to the IRGC Qods Force, which is responsible for coordinating Iran’s missions abroad. (Tasnim News Agency)
Casualties in Iraq and Syria
Two Artesh soldiers killed in Syria. Sadegh Shabik and Hossein Hemati appear to have been members of the Artesh 65th Airborne Special Forces Brigade. (tnews)
IRGC officer killed in Syria. IRGC 2nd Lt. Afshin Zorghui was from Golestan province. No unit affiliation was reported. (Mehr News Agency)
- Thirteen Fatimiyoun fighters buried in Iran. Seven of the thirteen Fatimiyoun fighters were buried in Qom city, two in Markazi province, one in Fars province, and three in Tehran province. (Rasa News) (tnews) (Shahid News) (Rasa News)