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: A senior Artesh commander announced that Artesh special forces have deployed to Syria.
Artesh Ground Forces Coordination Deputy Brigadier General Amir Ali Arasteh stated that elements from the 65th Airborne Special Forces Brigade, along with other unnamed units, have been deployed to Syria to serve in “an advisory role.” The Artesh deployment marks a significant shift in the role of the Artesh, which has been limited historically to defending Iran’s borders.
U.S. news outlets reported that the U.S. Navy seized a cargo ship on March 28 in the Arabian Sea carrying a weapons shipment from Iran likely bound for the Houthi rebels in Yemen. The ship contained 21 12.7 mm machine guns, 200 rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launchers, and 1,500 AK-47s. Navy officials stated that it is the third such seizure of small-arms likely bound for the Houthis in the last two months.
Iranian media reported an additional eight Iranian casualties in Syria. At least two were reportedly killed in fighting on April 2 near the town of al Ais in Aleppo province, when Jabhat al Nusra launched a surprise offensive on the town.
Paul Bucala and Frederick W. Kagan debunk Iran’s repeated assertion that it is only training, advising, and assisting Syrian forces by analyzing data collected from Iranian media reports on military casualties in the Critical Threats Project’s latest report, “Iran’s Evolving Way of War: How the IRGC Fights in Syria.”
Matthew McInnis discusses Iran’s calculations following the partial Russian withdrawal from Syria and the consequences if Russia scales back its use of airpower in his latest blog, “Did Putin just leave Iran holding the bag in Syria?”
Military and Security
Artesh special forces deployed to Syria. Artesh Ground Forces Coordination Deputy Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Arasteh told reporters that elements of the 65th Airborne Special Forces Brigade have been deployed to Syria and “are currently serving in an advisory role.” Arasteh also noted that “this deployment is not limited to the 65th Brigade.” (Tasnim News Agency)
Artesh Navy 40th Fleet heads to Gulf of Aden and Red Sea. The fleet, which consists of the frigate Alborz and support ship Tunb, departed the port of Bandar Abbas on April 2. The fleet is reportedly set to conduct “anti-piracy patrols.” The Artesh Navy 38th Fleet, meanwhile, returned to Bandar Abbas on April 2 after a 75-day mission in the Indian Ocean, the Sea of Oman, and the Gulf of Aden. (Fars News Agency) (E) (Defa Press)
Former IRGC Commander: We want our missiles to come within a few centimeters of error. Former IRGC Commander Mohsen Rezaei discussed Iran’s ballistic missile program during a televised interview. He noted that “we have always moved towards improving the accuracy on our missiles… In the past our missiles have had 2-3 kilometers in error and now our error is within a few meters. We hope to bring our missiles to a few centimeters of error.” (Defa Press)
- Parliamentarians defend missile program in statement. At least 154 parliamentarians have signed a statement defending the deterrent capability of Iran’s missile program as of April 4. The statement criticized “the arrogant powers and their allied regimes” for increasing their military budgets and weapon systems. It also described the U.S.’s approach to Iran as “a joke of history” and criticized the U.S. for “constantly threaten[ing] Iran with military aggression” while simultaneously asking Iran “to withdraw the policy of expanding its defense and missile [capability].” (Press TV) (E) (Tasnim News Agency)
IRGC Public Relations: The enemy is trying to polarize IRGC and Rouhani administration. Brig. Gen. Ramezan Sharif warned that “the enemy is always trying to polarize the IRGC and the [Rouhani] administration… by escalating the nuclear and missile issues. The enemy wants to create a polarized [atmosphere]. You should know, however, that the country’s defense and missile system is a national issue and should not be tied to domestic political issues.” (Sepah News)
- Rafsanjani downplays disagreement with Khamenei over missiles. Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani dismissed a controversial March 23 tweet under an account in his name that read “the world of tomorrow is a world of discourse, not missiles,” as being part of an interview he conducted eight years ago for a Dutch documentary on the use of chemical weapons against Iran. Rafsanjani also criticized interpreting the tweet as evidence of a rift between himself and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as a “distortion” and “misunderstanding.” (Mehr News Agency)
Regional Developments and Diplomacy
Araghchi: The Americans are hurting our economic recovery. Abbas Araghchi discussed the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), ongoing sanctions, other problems facing Iran’s economic recovery, and the missile debate. The Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs stated,
- “All sanctions which should have been canceled have been canceled… We are facing two sides of a new problem… [First,] returning to former [economic] conditions… will take time,” and second, “American sabotages have made work difficult.” Araghchi “stated that some big banks are still afraid” and argued, “One of the problems is the lack of trust. The Americans do not allow trust to be created.”
- “The Westerners pledged to remove the oil-related sanctions but didn’t pledge to find us customers to buy oil. Right now, we are selling about 1.7 million barrels of oil. Returning to the previous level [of sales] requires much time.”
- On “U-Turn” transactions: “We have said from day one that American primary sanctions and non-nuclear sanctions will remain in place… I do not know why so many are interested in the dollar and continue to [ask] why the sanctions [involving trades with U.S. dollars] have not been removed. [Dollar transactions] are part of primary sanctions. This issue must be negotiated bilaterally with America in order for the [U-turn] sanctions to be lifted, and [such negotiations] are not our desire.” U-turn transactions involve offshore-to-offshore payments that cross a U.S. banking sector threshold in order to dollarize a foreign payment.
- “Our biggest problem is that primary sanctions, which include the dollar exchange, remain.”
- On negotiations with America: “We do not desire bilateral negotiations with America, nor will we allow such negotiations to occur.”
- “One of the concerns after the JCPOA was that there would be a connection between the missile issue and the JCPOA. After the Emad missile test, the Westerners said that a violation of the resolution had taken place. However, [the test] was not a violation of the JCPOA.” Araghchi may be referencing a violation of UNSC Resolution 1929, which was superseded by UNSC Resolution 2231 last fall.
- On missiles: “We’ve been having the missile debate for 10 years – it’s not at all a new debate. Even if they impose new sanctions because of missiles, this is not a violation of the JCPOA, just as our missile test is not a violation of the JCPOA. According to the orders of the [Supreme] Leader, however, new sanctions are a violation of the JCPOA... Our criteria are the intentions of the leader. According to his vision, [the sanctions] are a violation of the JCPOA.”
- “We foster our own climate of mistrust, somewhat; if we want a problem to go away quickly, we must create confidence… We must prepare an atmosphere in such a way that the Americans cannot take advantage…” (Fars News Agency)
Judiciary head accuses U.S. of “acting against” nuclear agreement. Ayatollah Sadegh Amoli Larijani claimed that the U.S. “is now acting against the JCPOA” by discouraging companies from doing business with Iran during remarks on April 4. Larijani added that he and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei view implementing Resistance Economy doctrine as the appropriate “response” for Iran. (Fars News Agency)
NSFP Parliamentary Commission member: Iran is “neutral” in Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. Ebrahim Agha Mohammadi, a member of the National Security and Foreign Policy (NSFP) Parliamentary Commission, announced that the commission “reviewed” the clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorny Karabakh during a session on April 4. He added a representative from the Iranian Foreign Ministry who was present at the session had called Iran “neutral” in the conflict.
- Defense Minister IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan called his Azeri counterpart Zakir Hasanov on April 4 to urge the two countries “to settle the crisis through peaceful approaches.” Dehghan reportedly spoke to both the Azeri and Armenian defense ministers on April 3 as well. (Press TV) (E)
- Zanganeh: Oil and condensate exports reach two million barrels per day. Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh announced that Iran’s oil and condensate exports have increased to nearly two million barrels per day. Zanganeh reiterated that Iran will “increase its oil and gas exports until it reaches the level achieved before sanctions.” Iranian officials have insisted that Iran will increase production even while OPEC and Russia have been engaged in discussions to cut crude oil production in the face of plummeting oil prices. Nevertheless, the Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, recently noted that the Kingdom would not freeze oil production unless other oil producers, such as Iran, also join the agreement. (Fars News Agency)
Casualties in Iraq and Syria
Eight Iranians reportedly killed in Syria.
- Jamal Razi and Saeed Mosafar were members of an IRGC special forces brigade from Gilan province. They were reportedly killed in fighting on April 2 near al Ais in Aleppo province. Their ranks were not reported. (Tnews)
- IRGC Colonel Mashallah Shamshi was from Boroujerd, Lorestan province. (Lorestan Khabar)
- Heidar Ebrahim Khani was an IRGC member from Hamedan province, where the IRGC 32nd Ansar al Hossein Division is based. (Mehr News Agency)
- IRGC member Mostafa Tash Mousa was killed in early February, but his body was reportedly lost. His death was officially announced on April 4. (Ghatreh)
- IRGC member Mohsen Elahi was reportedly from Fars province, where the IRGC 19th Fajr Division is based. (ABNA)
- IRGC Colonel Ali Taheri was from Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province. (YJC)
- Abuzar Ghavazi was reportedly a “Basiji” from Fars province. (Tnews)