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 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: Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reportedly sent a letter to President Barack Obama calling for the return of $2 billion in Iranian frozen assets.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in April that the $2 billion could be distributed to victims of terror attacks linked to Iran. Ahmadinejad criticized Obama for failing to fulfill promises to “mend ties” with Iran and claimed that Obama has pursued “the same hostile policies” as his predecessors. Ahmadinejad has given political speeches criticizing President Hassan Rouhani over the past several months, prompting media to speculate that he is considering running in the 2017 presidential elections. Ahmadinejad himself appeared to deny last week that he is currently returning to politics but did not rule out doing so in the future. Iranian officials have mentioned that Ahmadinejad could be violating Iranian electoral laws, which limit campaigning to a period close to election day.
The Judiciary also confirmed the execution of Shahram Amiri, an Iranian scientist accused of providing the U.S. with intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program, on August 7. The Judiciary’s spokesman stated that Amiri “established contact with our number one hostile enemy, America, and gave vital information to the enemy.” Amiri disappeared in Saudi Arabia in 2009 before reappearing in the U.S. He alternatively claimed that he defected voluntarily to the U.S. or was abducted by the CIA and Saudi intelligence. Iranian authorities appeared to welcome Amiri’s return to Iran in 2010, however, with a deputy foreign minister greeting him at the airport and Iranian media celebrating him as a double agent.
Iranian news agencies reported the deaths of two Iranians in Aleppo, where pro-regime forces have sought to reverse rebel advances in the southwestern area of the city. One of the Iranians was a soldier in the IRGC 33rd al Mahdi Brigade, which previously contributed casualties during pro-regime offensives south of Aleppo in October 2015. Fars News Agency reported that reinforcements of Hezbollah and Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba fighters have also deployed to the city.
- 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?”
Regional Developments & Diplomacy
Ahmadinejad writes letter to Obama on frozen assets. Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reportedly wrote a letter to President Barack Obama criticizing his handling of U.S.-Iran relations on August 8. The letter was delivered to the Swiss embassy, which handles American interests in Iran. Ahmadinejad called for Obama to release $2 billion in Iranian frozen assets, writing, “Though I believe the Iranian nation will itself restore its right, I passionately advise you not to let the historical defamation and bitter incident be recorded under your name.” Ahmadinejad also stated that Obama’s “public as well as written announcements to mend ties with the Iranian nation… were never fulfilled.” He claimed that “the same hostile policies along with the same trend of enmity were pursued, in alternative ways,” under the Obama administration as under his predecessors. (Tasnim News Agency)
- Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli addressed Ahmadinejad’s potentially illegal political activities in remarks on August 8. Fazli referenced Ahmadinejad’s recent speeches in various cities throughout Iran and stated, “Any type of electoral activity before the set dates [for campaigning] is against the law. If we feel that something is electoral, we will certainly confront it.” (ILNA)
Iran executes nuclear scientist. Judiciary Spokesman Hojjat ol Eslam Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei confirmed the execution of Shahram Amiri, an Iranian scientist accused of providing the U.S. with intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program, on August 7. Ejei stated, “With access to classified information and military secrets, this individual established contact with our number one hostile enemy, America, and gave vital information to the enemy… American intelligence services had no idea that Iran knew of its connection to this individual when they brought him to Saudi Arabia with a plan.” (Tasnim News Agency) (Alef)
Shamkhani denies connection between $400 million payment and nuclear negotiations.Ali Shamkhani discussed the $400 million the United States paid Iran following the release of four American prisoners in January. The Supreme National Security Council secretary stated that the payment was “related to a case regarding military purchases prior to the  revolution and was not related to the nuclear talks.” Shamkhani called the timing of the payment following the nuclear deal a coincidence and said that “after the Islamic Revolution, Iran has used every opportunity to restore its assets that America seized.” Iran deposited the money prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution for the purchase of American military equipment. The United States later froze the funds following the 1979-1981 hostage crisis. Iran has been attempting to recover the assets in the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal in the Hague for decades. (Tasnim News Agency)
Iraqi Popular Mobilization spokesman: Soleimani will be involved in the Mosul operation.Iraqi Popular Mobilization Spokesman Ahmad al Assadi stated, “The direct presence of [IRGC Quds Force Commander Maj. Gen.] Qassem Soleimani in order to provide the required advice on the operation to liberate the provincial capital of Nineveh [Mosul] is essential.” Al Assadi also stated that the Popular Mobilization’s “presence in the Mosul operation is imperative.” He noted that “Iranian advisors… have a large role in most of the operations” in Iraq. (Fars News Agency)
Fars News Agency reports deployments of Hezbollah and Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba fighters to Aleppo. Fars News Agency, a news outlet affiliated with the IRGC, reported that 2,000 Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba fighters and a contingent of “special forces” from Hezbollah deployed to southwestern Aleppo after rebel forces managed to break the regime’s siege of the city over the weekend. (Fars News Agency) (Fars News Agency)
- Rouhani travels to Baku for trilateral summit. President Hassan Rouhani traveled to Azerbaijan to meet with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Russian President Vladimir Putin as part of a trilateral summit to discuss regional issues. The three reportedly discussed the creation of a new transport corridor between Iran and Russia by way of Azerbaijan. (Press TV)
Military & Security
- Iran purchases assault rifles from Russia. Tasnim News Agency reported that Iran has purchased AK-103 assault rifles from Russia. According to reports, “some units” in Iran’s armed forces will be equipped with the new rifle. (Tasnim News Agency)
- IPC issued to Oil Ministry. First Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri announced that Iran’s newly revised oil and gas contract model, the Iran Petroleum Contract (IPC), has been issued to the Oil Ministry for implementation with “150 amendments.” He told reporters that Parliament is not required to approve the amended version of the IPC, despite the fact that hardliners have continued to voice criticism of the IPC even after its revision by Rouhani’s cabinet. Jahangiri stated, “This new contract has 15 articles and has considered the opinions of all those who had criticisms and those who wanted to expand the development of our oil capacity.” The IPC is designed to provide international firms with more incentives to invest in Iran’s energy sector than the terms of the previous “buyback” model. For example, the IPC allows contracts to last up to 25 years and gives foreign partner companies more control over the development of oil fields. Jahangiri blamed some criticism of the IPC on the efforts of “some foreign countries” that have “shared oil fields with Iran” and wanted to prevent the IPC’s implementation. (Mehr News Agency)
Casualties in Iraq & Syria