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 Shayan Enferadi and Ali Javaheri. 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: Judiciary Head Ayatollah Sadegh Amoli Larijani proposed that Iran hold talks with European countries on human rights but called for the U.S. to be excluded due to its “deception” in the nuclear deal. 

Larijani’s comments follow statements from both Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani rejecting non-nuclear negotiations with the U.S. as a result of its allegedly substandard implementation of the deal. Khamenei has not said that Iran should abandon the nuclear agreement despite calls to resist additional talks.

The newly appointed head of the Armed Forces General Staff (AFGS), IRGC Major General Mohammad Bagheri, appointed former Defense Minister IRGC Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi as the new president of the Supreme National Defense University, the AFGS officer training school. Vahidi is believed to have been the commander of the Quds Force from 1990 to 1997, after which Qassem Soleimani was appointed as its commander. Vahidi was also appointed to head the Center for Strategic Defense Research in 2013. Interpol issued a Red Notice for Vahidi’s arrest due to his alleged involvement in the 1994 bombing of the Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires.

Iranian security forces arrested Hassan Abbasi, a prominent scholar linked to the IRGC who caused an uproar in recent days over his public criticism of the Artesh. Iranian news agencies reported that he was charged with “disseminating lies” and “creating skepticism about the armed forces.”

A Basij medic and a commander in the Afghan Shia Fatimiyoun Brigade were reportedly killed in Syria.

AEI Must-Reads

  • Caitlin Shayda Pendleton analyzes and translates a recent interview with the newly elected spokesman of the Guardian Council in “Is this proposal the future of Iranian elections?
  •  J. Matthew McInnis and Daniel Schnur consider recent shifts within Iran’s military leadership, and what those changes may indicate for Iran’s military posture as it modernizes over the next decade, in “A new direction for Iran’s military?
  • Paul Bucala and Ken Hawrey document Iran’s aerial resupply network to Syria as part of Tehran’s expanding ground campaign to support Assad in “Iran’s Airbridge to Syria.”

Regional Developments and Diplomacy

  • Judiciary head proposes human rights talks with Europe, excluding U.S. Judiciary Head Ayatollah Sadegh Amoli Larijani made an “unprecedented proposal” for Iran to hold talks with European countries on human rights, according to Iranian Students’ News Agency. Larijani specifically called for the U.S. to be excluded from any talks, stating, “They are deceptive, and they showed it in the nuclear agreement. We are not discussing human rights with them.” Western activists and organizations have repeatedly censured the Iranian government for its human rights record. Iran executed 966 prisoners in 2015, the largest number in nearly two decades, according to the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran. (ISNA)
  • Report denies Iran sent message to Mahmoud Abbas after MEK meeting. An anonymous “informed source” in the Foreign Ministry denied that Iran sent a message to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after his recent meeting with the president of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a controversial Iranian opposition group. The Palestinian ambassador in London had claimed that the Iranian chargé d'affaires gave the message for Abbas to him. The anonymous source rejected the ambassador’s claim as “completely false and incorrect” and stated, “No type of meeting [between the chargé d'affaires and ambassador] or transfer of a message occurred.” Senior Iranian officials have strongly criticized Abbas for meeting with the MEK. (ISNA)
  • Foreign Ministry denies shipping weapons to Yemen. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bahram Ghassemi denied claims reportedly from the UK Foreign Office that Iran is sending weapons to Yemen. Ghassemi criticized the claims as “clear interference” in the affairs of Middle Eastern countries and emphasized that Iran’s fundamental policy is creating stability in the region. For more on Iran’s weapon shipments to the Houthis, see “Signaling Saudi Arabia: Iranian Support to Yemen’s al Houthis.” (Tasnim News Agency)

Military and Security

  • Vahidi becomes head of Supreme National Defense University. Armed Forces General Staff (AFGS) Head IRGC Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri appointed former Quds Force Commander IRGC Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi as the president of the Supreme National Defense University. Vahidi replaces Ibrahim Hassan Beygi. Vahidi was the Minister of Defense from 2005 to 2009 and the director of the Center for Strategic Defense Research. (Fars News Agency)
  • MOIS issues statement on security operations against “terrorist group.” The Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) announced that security forces have identified 102 members of a “takfiri terrorist group” named “Towhid and Jihad,” a number of whom have either been arrested or killed. The statement claimed that the group has been active for almost a decade and was responsible for the 2009 assassination of Mohammad Sheikholeslam, a Sunni cleric who was a member of the Assembly of Experts at the time. The statement notes that while “at first it appears that this was the work of the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK)... the investigation conducted by the Ministry of Intelligence and Security indicates that this assassination was conducted by the takfiri group ‘Towhid and Jihad.’” On August 2, the chief prosecutor for Kurdistan province announced the execution of a number of alleged “takfiriterrorists” who were members of this group. (Fars News Agency)
  • Artesh critic arrested. Iranian security forces arrested Hassan Abbasi, a prominent scholar linked to the IRGC, over his recent controversial criticism of the Artesh. Abbasi had apologizedduring a preliminary trial in a military court but reportedly failed to post bail, which led to his eventual arrest. Iranian news agencies reported that he was charged with “disseminating lies” and “creating skepticism about the armed forces.” (Entekhab)
    • An “informed source in the Artesh” told Tasnim News Agency that the Artesh will not lift its original complaint against Abbasi and stated, “We are awaiting the decision of the court and this issue will proceed through the legal channels.” (Tasnim News Agency)

Domestic Politics

  • Reformist parliamentarian: Some have exploited Khamenei’s statements on the nuclear deal. Mostafa Kavakebian, a reformist parliamentarian representing Tehran, discussed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s recent criticism of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Khamenei had called the agreement “useless” but did not say Iran should abandon the deal. Kavakebian stated, “The U.S. administration must understand that it should not have been disloyal. Of course, some have exploited the Supreme Leader’s recent remarks on the JCPOA.” Kavakebian praised the Rouhani administration’s resolve to reach the nuclear agreement, which he added has reduced the threat of military action against Iran. Kavakebian also briefly discussed Iran’s weak party system, which at least one other senior official has recently criticized. He noted that there are 240 parties currently registered and stated, “New registrations must be blocked. There should not be more than five parties in the country.” (ISNA)
  • Guardian Council spokesman discusses 2017 presidential election. Guardian Council spokesman Abbasali Kadkhodaei discussed several rumors about the 2017 presidential election and the Guardian Council, which vets all presidential candidates. He rejected a rumor in unnamed “foreign media” that Parliament’s recent election of three new lawyers to the twelve-member council signals that the council will disqualify President Hassan Rouhani from the upcoming election. Kadkhodaei called the rumors “insulting” to the parliamentarians who elected the new members. He also denied that the Guardian Council sent a pre-emptive message to several politicians that it would not approve their candidacies. (Alef)
  • Rouhani’s cabinet approves amendments to IPC contracts. President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet approved amendments to a draft of the Iran Petroleum Contract (IPC) on August 3. IPCs are awarded to foreign companies seeking access to Iran’s oil reserves. (Mehr News Agency)


  • Vice president announces 21 percent increase in non-oil exports compared to same period last year. First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri claimed that Iran exported $16.3 billion in non-oil products during the first four months of the current Iranian calendar year, a 21 percent increase compared to the same period last year. President Hassan Rouhani has promised to reduce Iran’s dependency on oil exports in the wake of the nuclear deal, even as hardliners have downplayed the nuclear deal’s effects on the non-oil economy. (Press TV(E)

Casualties in Iraq and Syria

  • Basij medic killed in Syria. Mohammad Hassan Ghassemi, a member of the Basij Organization Medical Society, was reportedly killed near the city of Aleppo. Iranian news agencies identified him as the Medical Society’s first martyr in Syria. One medic remains imprisoned and another is missing in Syria, according to the Basij Organization Medical Society president. In December 2015, a Syrian opposition group announced that it had captured two Basij members, one of whom identified himself as an ambulance driver and the other as a medic. (Golestan24)
  • Fatimiyoun commander buried in Tehran. Sadegh Mohammad Zadeh was a commander of a detachment of Fatimiyoun fighters and reportedly was killed in the vicinity of Aleppo. (Defa Press)  
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