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: Registration for the February 2016 Assembly of Experts elections opened today.

Over 60 people submitted their candidacy for the Assembly of Experts today, including current members Interim Tehran Friday Prayer Leader Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami and Ayatollah Abbas Kaabi. Khatami also downplayed the commentary surrounding Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s December 13 comments that the Assembly of Experts is currently “examining” candidates to become the next Supreme Leader. Khatami stated, “I have heard several times from the Supreme Leader that the Assembly of Experts must have a few leaders up its sleeve. This is not anything new.”

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?

Domestic Politics

  • Candidates begin registering for February elections. At least 65 Iranians submitted their candidacy for the Assembly of Experts elections on December 17. Candidates for the Assembly of Experts can register from December 17 until December 23, while candidates for the parliamentary elections can register from December 19 until December 25. Elections for both the Assembly of Experts and Parliament will be held on February 26. (Rasa News)
  • Khatami and Kaabi register as candidates in forthcoming Assembly of Experts elections. Interim Tehran Friday Prayer Leader Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami and Ayatollah Abbas Kaabi filed their candidacies for the fifth Assembly of Experts elections on December 17. (Alef) (Rahyab News)
  • First female candidate registers for Assembly of Experts elections. Dr. Esmat Savadi filed her candidacy on December 17. Savadi is the former Cultural Deputy of Islamic Azad University and is the first female candidate to register in the fifth Assembly of Experts elections. (Farhang News)
  • Khatami: The Supreme Leader has said that we must have candidates ready to succeed him. Assembly of Experts’ Board of Directors member Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami reflected on Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s recent comments about the Supreme Leader’s succession in an interview and stated:
    • “This issue is nothing new. A group of prominent members of the Assembly of Experts’ 109 and 111 commission were elected to be part of this committee not in order to determine a new leader, but so that individuals who are possible candidates can be reviewed and investigated.”
    •  “This committee has done this work while observing the secrecy of this issue. If the Supreme Leader wants, the names will be presented only to him, no one else.”
    • “I have heard several times from the Supreme Leader that the Assembly of Experts must have a few leaders up its sleeve. This is not anything new.”
    • “It is incorrect for us to view the idea of the [Assembly of Experts] supervision as meaning a sort of strict monitoring. However, we can say that the principle of supervision means that we must observe the good points and state the bad points, if they exist.” (Alef) (Ghatreh)
  • Deputy Parliament Speaker: The Assembly of Experts should not be partisan. Principlist Parliamentarian Mohammad Reza Bahonar discussed the Assembly of Experts elections in February 2016. The Deputy Parliament Speaker, who is the secretary general of the conservative parliamentary Front of the Followers of the Imam and Leader's Line, claimed that “some have disturbed dreams for the Assembly of Experts with plans for new faces.” He stated:
    • “Parliament’s success is such that it has reformists, principlists, and moderates, and we are all able to work with each other in the end. But the Assembly of Experts’ position is beyond that… The Assembly of Experts must not enter political and partisan debates…” (IRIB)
  • Kowsari calls on the administration to take responsibility for its shortcomings. Principlist Parliamentarian Mohammad Esmail Kowsari criticized Iranian officials that want foreign help. The National Security and Foreign Policy (NSFP) Parliamentary Commission member also chided the administration’s foreign policy initiatives and stated:
    • Kowsari possibly alluded to Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh’s recent comments that Iran can benefit from foreign companies’ management experience when he stated, “Our brother minister… says that we must bring directors from abroad to teach our authorities business and management, but one must tell him, if you do not know how to work, step aside, because there are many people in the country that can perform the job.”
    • “Once you [the administration] accept responsibility, either manage or step aside so that capable people can work.” (Basij)  
  • Naghdi warns of enemies disguising themselves as friends of Iran. IRGC Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naghdi criticized foreign influence and called for economic reform on December 17. The Basij Organization Commander called foreign influence “the most important tool that the enemy has on its agenda today because other methods [against Iran] have failed.” He referenced President Barack Obama’s annual commemoration of the Iranian New Year in the spring and stated, “The enemy’s primary goal with influence is to present itself to us as a friend.” Naghdi also said:
    • “Today the U.S. stretches its claws against Iran in cyberspace and in academia. See how they even use cyberspace to teach street riots.”
    • Naghdi criticized “some members of the [Rouhani] administration’s cabinet” and stated, “Attention should not only be paid to whether an individual is a seditionist or not during the review of [candidates’] qualifications; some of these individuals were seeking wealth in addition to political power. An individual who has an aristocratic lifestyle and has a child studying in the UK – how can he want to understand the pain of the people?”
    • “If, instead of crude oil, we export its products, then one and a half million jobs will be created in the country. This is while the relevant minister says every day in Parliament that we want to export more oil… Why shouldn’t we use the Russian market, for example, which is an import market? Annually, 200,000 tons of dates go rotten [in Iran]. Why don’t we prepare the groundwork for exporting them?”
    • “At the present moment, the American economy is $19 trillion dollars in debt, and in a day, $2.5 billion will be added to it. By the end of Obama’s era, it will reach $20 trillion… This very issue has caused the global arrogance to be pushed to the sidelines and the world to move towards an awakening.” (Basij Press)
  • Salehi: “Legitimate freedoms” must not be suppressed in the name of security. Ali Akbar Salehi stated that senior officials “have always stressed that the suppression of legitimate freedoms under the pretext of maintaining security will [result] in the country’s grand security goals not being realized...The people’s legal and legitimate rights cannot be restricted under the pretext of maintaining security.” The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Head, who made the comments during a speech at the First Congress of the Soldiers of Peace of Iran, also addressed causes of violence in modern society and the importance of education. (Entekhab)


Reactions to the Nuclear Deal

  • Amano and Salehi discuss implementation of nuclear agreement. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano and Ali Akbar Salehi “exchanged ideas” about the nuclear agreement’s implementation during a telephone conversation on December 17. The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Head told Amano that Iran is striving to fulfill its obligations under the nuclear agreement so that Implementation Day will occur in two weeks. (IRNA)
  • Larijani: The IAEA resolution proves opponents of diplomacy wrong. Ali Larijani hailed the IAEA Board of Governors’ resolution closing its investigation into the possible military dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program as a “diplomatic victory” for Iran. The Parliament Speaker also stated:
    • “Based on this resolution, all of the Board of Governors’ previous resolutions have been cancelled. This is an important achievement.”
    • “Around ten years ago, a group that was an enemy of Iran submitted a report against us to the Board of Governors that claimed Iran has deviated towards nuclear weapons… [This report] caused all of the commotion and sanctions against our country... They had reported that Iran had studies on nuclear issues in 2003. This is while every country can have studies in various fields… Everything in this report was false, but its conclusion was ultimately to Iran’s benefit.”
    • “Despite claims from those inside [the country] based on the error of pursuing negotiations, the resolution of the PMD issue and the end of this international mischief was an indicator that the course of diplomacy and negotiations was correct. Overall, the Islamic Republic made a correct and prudent decision.”
    • Larijani also criticized the U.S. Congress’s proposed visa restrictions on Iranian-Americans and recent travellers to Iran as “contrary to the nuclear agreement.” (ISNA)
  • Zakani: Misconceptions about the economy weakened Iran’s negotiating position. Principlist Parliamentarian Ali Reza Zakani claimed that the administration did not want Parliament to scrutinize the nuclear deal and stated, “Even [Parliament Speaker] Larijani also said that it does not need to be examined…” The former head of the Special Parliamentary Commission to Review the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) also identified three Iranian views on the internal nuclear debate:
    • “One view was that the shadow of war overshadowed the nuclear issue. Another view was based on the fact that the country’s economic resources, with a focus on oil, are coming to an end. The third claim was that the country’s economic problems reached an impasse and that continuing work under sanctions is not feasible. These three [views] by default created a critical situation in the country, until there was no choice but to accept the terms and conditions of the hegemonic powers [the West].”
    • On foreign plots: Zakani claimed that the West imposed tough sanctions “to induce the [Iranian] people to believe that if they want to be removed from the sanctions they should rebel against the status quo, or appeal to people who are associated with America…”
    • “America—from zero to one hundred—is our enemy. They wanted to use the JCPOA as a platform for infiltration and influence… In the meantime, some people want to prettify a large and bloodthirsty wolf like America, which will certainly not happen…” (Tasnim News Agency)
  • Parliamentarians praise IAEA resolution. Several members of the National Security and Foreign Policy (NSFP) Parliamentary Commission praised the IAEA Board of Governors’ resolution to  close Iran’s PMD file.
    • NSFP Commission Chairman Alaeddin Boroujerdi called the resolution a “demonstration of the Islamic Republic’s honesty in its nuclear program and of the flimsy nature of Western countries’ claims and lies against our country’s peaceful nuclear program.”
    • Abbas Ali Mansouri Arani stated that the resolution “removed the most important barrier to interaction with the IAEA.” The NSFP Parliamentary Commission member added that the resolution should make one “optimistic about the implementation of the JCPOA.”
    • Principlist Parliamentarian Mansour Haghighat Pour congratulated the Iranian nuclear negotiating team and said that the resolution affirms Iran’s “legitimacy.” The NSFP Parliamentary Commission member stated, “Now it has become apparent that [the West’s] claims about our deviance [from a peaceful nuclear program] were incorrect.” He added that he expects sanctions to be “completely removed early next year.” (ICANA)
  • Shirazi: The JCPOA is the not the solution to all problems. Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi stressed the importance of the Resistance Economy doctrine, stating, “We must not think that after the JCPOA all of the problems will be removed; we must pay attention to the Resistance Economy that the Supreme Leader has emphasized.” (Raja News)


Regional Developments and Diplomacy

  • Rezaei: “The region is on the brink of a big explosion.” IRGC Maj. Gen. Mohsen Rezaei addressed the First Congress of the Soldiers of Peace of Iran on December 17. The Expediency Discernment Council Secretary and former IRGC Commander stated, “Today, the region is on the brink of a big explosion; the first steps which are emerging at the regional level are greater than World War II… America attacking Afghanistan and Iraq initiated this event…” (Defa Press)
  • Zarif meets with Chinese and German counterparts in New York. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif held bilateral meetings with his Chinese and German counterparts on the sidelines of the Syrian peace talks in New York. Zarif also said that he may meet with Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss the JCPOA’s implementation. (Mehr News Agency)
  • Salami: The Americans have no plan for Syria. IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami discussed regional developments during a speech addressing senior Basij Organization members in Mashhad. The IRGC Deputy Commander stated:
    • “The Americans have no plan for Syria. They do not know whether it would be for their benefit or not if Assad leaves.”
    • “America is unable to use its power for its benefit. This is the decline of American power.”
    • “It is enough just to look at our operational radius. The fortunate children of the Revolution are managing developments in the field along the eastern Mediterranean.” 
    • “Saudi Arabia has decreased the price of oil to $35 per barrel in order to combat us. Yet, they have been halted in Yemen both on the ground and in the air.” (Sepah News)
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