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 Mehrdad Moarefian, Marie Donovan, Paul Bucala, and Caitlin Shayda Pendleton. To receive this daily newsletter, please subscribe online.
(E) = Article in English
Key takeaway: President Hassan Rouhani stated that sanctions against Iran will be lifted by January 20.
President Rouhani praised the IAEA’s decision to close its file on the possible military dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program as a “great moral, political, and legal victory.” Rouhani also claimed that sanctions against Iran “will be lifted in the month of Dey [December 22-January 20].” IRGC Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan dismissed a UN panel’s report that Iran’s October 10 firing of the Emad ballistic missile violated a UN Security Council resolution because the missile was “capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.” The Defense Minister claimed that the Emad missile is “completely conventional.”
Senior Iranian officials continued to react to last weekend’s clashes between the Nigerian army and Shias. Expediency Discernment Council Secretary Mohsen Rezaei denounced the clashes as a “sectarian conflict” benefiting “the Zionists, radical groups,” and Western powers, and urged Iran to respond “appropriately” to the violence.
A Fatimiyoun Brigade member killed in Syria was buried in Tehran on December 15.
Matthew McInnis analyzes recent reports of Iran’s drawdown in Syria, and explains the movement is more likely to be a pre-planned redeployment, re-consolidation ahead of negotiations, or simply disinformation, in his latest blog post, “Is Iran recalibrating in Syria?”
Reactions to the Nuclear Deal
Rouhani: Sanctions will be lifted by the end of January. President Hassan Rouhani addressed the nation in a live televised address on December 16. Rouhani discussed the IAEA Board of Governors’ December 15 vote to end its investigation into the possible military dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program. He also reiterated his pledge to improve the economy and stated:
- “To the great Iranian nation, I announce that sanctions will be lifted in the month of Dey [December 22-January 20].”
- “We invite all domestic and foreign entrepreneurs, as well as Iranians residing abroad, to make the best use of the investment opportunities with the people who seek constructive interaction with the world.”
- “We must be prepared to stimulate the economy… The private sector and entrepreneurs should engage in this new space.”
- On closing the PMD file: “The victory of the Iranian nation in the wake of the closure of the PMD file was a success and a great moral, political, and legal victory.”
- “This success shows that this [political] system speaks with honesty to its [the Iranian] people and the world and is faithful to its promise; if it accepted and signed treaties and conventions, it will adhere to them.”
- “In the previous day’s IAEA Board of Governors’ meeting, not only did the PMD issue end… but the 12 IAEA resolutions against Iran were also canceled.”
- “The IAEA and the Board of Governors admitted that the Islamic Republic of Iran has never deviated from its peaceful path…”
- “Today, the path to implement the JCPOA is almost paved; the other side [P5+1] has made great strides [and] the Islamic Republic of Iran has also taken great steps. The final steps will be taken within the next two weeks.”
On national unity: “Today is the day that we must—more than any other time—think in [terms] of integrity and unity. The time of criticism, which was valuable in its own right, no longer has a place in implementing the JCPOA, and all of us must strive for implementing the JCPOA… for the growth and development of our country.” (President.ir)
Rafsanjani congratulates Rouhani on PMD closure. Expediency Discernment Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani congratulated President Rouhani on resolving the PMD file in an open letter on December 16. (ISNA)
- Salehi: We have begun fulfilling our commitments in order to cancel sanctions. Ali Akbar Salehi referenced the IAEA’s resolution to end its investigation into Iran’s nuclear file, stating that its passage clears the way for Iran to move forward with the nuclear agreement’s implementation. The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Head stated that Iran has begun dismantling active as well as inactive centrifuges and estimated that it will take three weeks to complete the dismantling. Salehi also stated that a “special working group comprised of Iran, China, and America” has been formed to oversee the renovation of the Arak heavy water reactor and added that “other countries can join this working group as well.” Salahi said that Iran hopes to fulfill all of its necessary commitments in order for sanctions to be cancelled by the middle of the month of Dey (approximately early January). (Tabnak)
Military and Security
Defense Minister: The Emad missile is conventional. IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan dismissed a UN panel’s report that Iran’s October 10 firing of the Emad ballistic missile violated a UN Security Council resolution because the missile was “capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.” The Defense Minister claimed that the Emad missile is “completely conventional” and stated:
- “Our goal in this test [of the Emad missile] was to say something to the world: that the Islamic Republic acts based upon its self-interest, and no individual and no power is able impose something on our country and people. We will not accept any limitations.”
- “Since the JCPOA was accepted, our various tests have not been delayed and we have not accepted limitations on our drills, research, and development activities… since we consider defense an inalienable and accepted right.”
- “For defending our country, we will design, produce, and operationalize any type of conventional weapon or equipment that is necessary.” (IRNA)
- IRGC denies reports that Soleimani visited Moscow. The IRGC Public Relations Department denied a Fars News Agency report on December 16 that IRGC Qods Force Commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani recently visited Russia to discuss “issues related to Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon” with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin has denied this report as well. (IRIB) (Fars News Agency) (E)
Nobakht: The administration will likely finish reviewing the annual budget by December 20. Mohammad Bagher Nobakht discussed the 6th Five-Year Development Plan during a press conference on December 15. The Rouhani administration spokesman referenced a draft of the 6th Five-Year Development Plan that had been recently published; he criticized “the creation of stress among the people” as a result of the media’s “incorrect” handling of the draft. Nobakht stressed that the Development Plan must still receive Parliament’s approval and may undergo “far-reaching changes” before it is finalized. Nobakht also stated that the government is striving to complete its review of the 2016-2017 annual budget before December 20, when it will then transition to debating the 6th Five-Year Development Plan.
- On the “four-person meetings”: A reporter asked Nobakht to comment on whether he participated in a meeting among Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, former Parliament Speaker Hojjat ol Eslam Ali Akbar Nategh Nouri, Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Akbar Velayati, and Assembly of Experts member Ayatollah Morteza Moghtadaei. Nobakht stated that the claim “is fundamentally false.”
- On elections: Nobakht emphasized that the government does not interfere with elections other than to ensure that elections are “healthy.”
- Nobakht denied reported statements from Mohammad Reza Tajik, a former aide to 2009 presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, that the administration “must support the reformists because the reformists supported the administration in elections.” Nobakht asserted that the administration has a “positive outlook” on both “moderate reformists” and “moderate principlists.”
On the JCPOA: Nobakht referenced the U.S. Senate’s “anti-Iranian” actions, which he stated are attempting to “disrupt” the JCPOA’s implementation. He added that Iran “recognizes America’s administration as its opposite number [in diplomacy], not America’s Senate.” (Tasnim News Agency)
Nematzadeh meets with Spanish Secretary of State for Trade. Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh met with the Spanish Secretary of State for Trade Jaime Garcia-Legaz on the sidelines of the ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Nairobi, Kenya. The two sides discussed the “formation of an Iran-Spain Joint Economic Commission.” The Minister of Industries, Mines, and Trade expressed hope that Iran and Spain would be able to expand economic cooperation and stated, “With the lifting of sanctions imposed upon Iran, the grounds for joint cooperation will be provided more than ever.” Nematzadeh also discussed the issue of Iran’s application to join the WTO, stating, “We hope that with the affirmation of WTO members, the obstacles to Iran’s membership in this organization will be removed.” (Fars News Agency)
- Nematzadeh meets with Brazilian Minister of External Relations. Nematzadeh also met with Mauro Viera on the sidelines of the WTO ministerial meeting. Viera stated that Brazil supports Iran’s bid to join the WTO. (IRNA)
Regional Developments and Diplomacy
Velayati: The individuals responsible for the “Nigerian disaster” must be punished. Ali Akbar Velayati issued a statement condemning the clashes between the Nigerian army and Shia Muslims. The Supreme Leader’s Senior Foreign Policy Advisor urged the Nigerian government to “pursue and arrest as soon as possible” the individuals responsible for the violence. (IRNA)
Larijani denounces violence in Nigeria in statement to Nigerian counterpart. Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani condemned the “horrific violence” and the “persecution of Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky” in a letter to the Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara. The Nigerian government claims that it has arrested Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, who is the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, an opposition group that has alleged ties to the Iranian regime. (Tasnim News Agency)
- Rezaei: Iran should respond appropriately to clashes in Nigeria. Expediency Discernment Council Secretary Mohsen Rezaei released a statement denouncing the violence in Nigeria as a “sectarian conflict” that “benefits the Zionists, radical groups, and the arrogant powers.” The former IRGC Commander also urged Iran to respond “appropriately” to the violence and added that Iran “has extensive capabilities” for dealing with this type of “aggression.” (Mashregh News)
Principlist Coordinating Council has become the Central Council of the Principlist Coalition. Principlist politician and senior member of the Islamic Coalition Party Asadollah Badamchian told reporters that the Principlist Coordinating Council changed its name during a recent meeting to the “Central Council of the Principlist Coalition.” He also stated that the Central Council has “started its work” to “unify the Principlists” for the parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections in February under the “guidance” of Ayatollah Ali Movahedi Kermani, Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, and Assembly of Experts Chairman Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi. He announced that “based upon the opinions of the Council’s members,” Principlist Parliamentarian Gholam Ali Haddad Adel has become the spokesman for the Central Council. (Tasnim News Agency) (IRIB)
- Morteza Moghtadaei: The “four-person moderate Principlist” meetings have ended. Assembly of Experts member Ayatollah Morteza Moghtadaei discussed unity efforts among the Principlists during an interview with Tasnim News Agency. Moghtadaei stated that the “four-person” meetings between himself, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, former Parliament Speaker Hojjat ol Eslam Ali Akbar Nategh Nouri, and the Supreme Leader’s Senior Foreign Policy Advisor Ali Akbar Velayati have concluded after three sessions. It is rumored that these meetings were aimed at fostering unity among the “moderate Principlists” ahead of the February elections. (Tasnim News Agency) (Tabnak)
Casualties in Iraq and Syria
- Fatimiyoun Brigade fighter killed in Syria. Zulfiqar Mohammadi was buried in Tehran on December 15. (Defa Press)