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: Senior Iranian officials censured U.S. visa waiver changes that will require dual nationals or anyone who has travelled to Iran in the past five years to obtain a visa before travelling to the U.S.
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said that new U.S. visa regulations signed into law on December 18 “contradict the nuclear deal.” Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Secretary Ali Shamkhani claimed that the new law “increases distrust and could lead to irreparable effects on the implementation process of the mutual obligations in the implementation of the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action].” The changes to the Visa Waiver Program require dual nationals or those who have traveled to certain countries such as Syria and Iran in the last five years to obtain a visa before travelling to the U.S.
Intelligence Minister Hojjat ol Eslam Mahmoud Alavi dismissed the possibility of forming a “Leadership Council” in lieu of a single Supreme Leader on December 19. Alavi stated, “Not a single institution in the government is thinking about a Leadership Council. This idea does not exist in the Constitution.” Alavi’s remarks come amidst increasing pushback to Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani’s December 13 comments about the possibility of the Assembly of Experts selecting a “Leadership Council” to succeed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. IRGC Brigadier General Massoud Jazayeri stated on December 21 that “those individuals” who do not respect the principle of guardianship of the jurist “should not have a place in the government and governance.”
President Hassan Rouhani, Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, and Expediency Discernment Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani registered for the Assembly of Experts elections. Meanwhile, registration opened on December 19 for parliamentary elections. Both the parliamentary and the Assembly of Experts elections will be held on February 26, 2016.
Iranian news outlets reported that six Iranians have been killed in Syria. Eight members of the Afghan Shi’a Fatimiyoun Brigade and the Pakistani Shi’a Zeinabiyoun Brigade were also buried in Qom and Mashhad. The Syrian opposition group Feilaq al Sham (Sham Legion), meanwhile, claimed to have captured two Iranian nationals in Syria. Iranian authorities have not confirmed this report.
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
- Araghchi: U.S. visa law contradicts the nuclear deal. Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Abbas Araghchi condemned the new US visa regulations signed into law on December 18 during an interview with Iranian state TV. The Foreign Ministry’s Chief of Staff for the Implementation of the JCPOA stated that the measure “certainly affects economic, scientific, tourist, and cultural exchanges [with Iran] and the position of Iran is that this contradicts the nuclear deal.” Araghchi is referring to legislation that alters the Visa Waiver Program by requiring dual nationals or those who have traveled to certain countries such as Syria and Iran in the last five years to obtain a visa before travelling to the U.S. (Tabnak)
Shamkhani censures U.S. visa waiver bill. Ali Shamkhani met with President of the French Senate Gérard Larcher in Tehran. The Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Secretary stated that “taking constructive and joint steps to rebuild and strengthen confidence is the beginning of the formation of a new relationship [between Iran and France] based on mutual respect benefit to the two peoples.” Shamkhani censured the recent passage of the Visa Waiver Improvement Act of 2015 (H.R. 158), saying that it “increased distrust and could lead to irreparable effects on the implementation process of the mutual obligations in the implementation of the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action].” (Mehr News Agency)
Larijani says new visa waiver bill “will impair the nuclear deal.” Ali Larijani reacted to the Visa Waiver Improvement Act of 2015 (H.R. 158) during a meeting with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov. The Parliament Speaker said that the decision “will impair the nuclear deal.” Larijani also called “Turkey’s actions against the Russian aircraft and the Zionist regime’s actions in Syria…nothing but new incendiarism in the region.” (YJC)
- Salehi: Iran to begin transferring uranium to Russia. Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Head Ali Akbar Salehi announced that Iran will ship nine tons of enriched uranium to Russia “in the coming days.” Salehi added that Iran will receive in exchange “more than 137 tons of yellowcake.” (Press TV)
Alavi: We do not have a “Leadership Council” in the Constitution. Hojjat ol Eslam Mahmoud Alavi dismissed the possibility of a “Leadership Council” during an interview with reporters after registering his candidacy for the Assembly of Experts elections. The Intelligence Minister stated:
- “This issue [of a Leadership Council] must not be put forth [into the public discourse]. It causes people to be concerned.”
- “The notion of a Leadership Council was put forth in the 1979 Constitution but in the 1989 Constitution this idea was removed….This idea is not being put forth at all now.”
- “Not a single institution in the government is thinking about a Leadership Council. This idea does not exist in the Constitution.” (ISNA)
Jazayeri defends principle of ‘guardianship of the jurist.’ IRGC Brig. Gen. Massoud Jazayeri stated, “The skeleton of the political system of the Islamic Republic is completely inseparable from the principle of velayat-e faqih [guardianship of the jurist]. Those who do not like this important [concept] should not have a place in the government and governance.” The Armed Forces General Staff Headquarters Basij Affairs and Defense Culture Deputy continued, “A review of the arrogance’s [the West’s] soft war planning documents indicates serious designs and planning against the model of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution and the political system of an Islamic republic based on the guardianship of the jurist.” Jazayeri stated, “It is unfortunate that some domestic [figures] accommodate the enemy’s policies, strategies, and plans. In presenting viewpoints that are weak and under the influence of external and Western… coercion, they face this important principle of the Constitution with ambiguity.” (Defa Press)
Motahari: The Judiciary Head’s comments contradict the Constitution. Conservative Parliamentarian Ali Motahari released a statement pushing back on Judiciary Head Ayatollah Sadegh Amoli Larijani’s December 15 comments rejecting the role of the Assembly of Experts in “supervising” the Supreme Leader. Motahari stated:
- “It is clear that the phrase ‘supervision over the Supreme Leader’ is not brought up in the Constitution. Yet the meaning and content of this phrase is mentioned. Must we be so inflexible with these words?”
- “Your comments are not only against the message of Imam Khomeini and the Supreme Leader but also against logic and political science, the message of the Prophet of Islam, the Constitution, and the discussions in the Assembly of Experts.”
- “Your comments give the best pretext and evidence to those individuals who constantly accuse the Islamic Republic of religious dictatorship.”(Alef)
Registration opens for parliamentary elections. Registration opened on December 19 for the parliamentary elections. Registration will remain open until December 25. (Fars News Agency)
Moghimi: Over 1609 candidates have registered for parliamentary elections. Head of Iran’s Election Committee Mohammad Hossein Moghimi announced on December 20 that 1609 candidates had filed their candidacy for the parliamentary elections and 235 candidates had registered as candidates for the Assembly of Experts elections. Moghimi also claimed that there are 83 female candidates for Parliament and four female candidates for the Assembly of Experts. (Tasnim News Agency)
- Rouhani, Yazdi, and Rafsanjani register for Assembly of Experts elections. President Hassan Rouhani, Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, and Expediency Discernment Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani registered for the Assembly of Experts elections. (ISCA) (Tabnak) (Tasnim News Agency)
Fars News Agency: Mojtaba Khamenei has not indicated whether he will run in the elections. Fars News Agency released a report claiming that Hojjat ol Eslam Mojtaba Khamenei, the son of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has not yet indicated whether he will run for the Assembly of Experts elections. Rumors have been circulating for weeks that Mojtaba Khamenei intends to run in the February 2016 elections. (Fars News Agency)
- Boroujerdi declares candidacy for parliamentary elections. National Security and Foreign Policy (NSFP) Parliamentary Commission Chairman Alaeddin Boroujerdi officially registered for the parliamentary elections. (ILNA)
Rouhani calls for competitive elections. President Rouhani visited the registration office for the Assembly of Experts and Parliament elections on December 21. Rouhani underlined the importance of elections in showing the world that the Iranian nation and its votes are the “main decision makers for the management of the country.” Rouhani also stated:
- “In the Islamic system and religious democracy, we were also the first country to fulfil the Islamic Revolution...”
- “The most important pillar of the Islamic Republic is the Supreme Leader. If today we have unity, solidarity, and coordination in our country and we can easily overcome the difficulties, it is due to the velayat-e faqih [guardianship of the jurist] and the Supreme Leader himself.”
- “All those who consider themselves righteous should come to the scene and register…our country is a country of laws and the Guardian Council will undoubtedly act based on law.”
- “If there is no competition, elections will not have the necessary liveliness and vitality…”
- “If…there is an administrative violation, the government will strongly deal with it.”
On female candidates: “The women of our country are actively participating in social, political, and cultural fields and their presence in these scenes are no less visible than men; we are among the world’s most advanced countries in this area.” (President.ir)
- Rafsanjani: The Assembly of Experts elections must be “healthy.” Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani stressed that the Assembly of Experts elections “must be healthy and lively” during a news interview. Expediency Discernment Council Chairman noted that this concern is “more necessary for the Assembly of Experts elections than the parliamentary elections.” Rafsanjani warned that “if the elections are not acceptable, this will blemish our Islamic political system…The health of the administrative and supervisory forces is one of the most important things for the people [during the elections].” (Entekhab)
Regional Developments and Diplomacy
- Rouhani meets with French Senate leader. President Hassan Rouhani held talks with President of the French Senate Gérard Larcher on December 20 in Tehran. Rouhani highlighted investment opportunities in the post-sanctions environment and welcomed French investors. Both sides also discussed the Syrian crisis and Rouhani stated, “If the political system in Syria needs reforms, this should only be done through holding free elections and be resolved from the side of the people of Syria…”(President.ir) (E)
Velayati reiterates Tehran’s opposition to foreign intervention. Ali Akbar Velayati addressed the press following his meeting with President of the French Senate Gérard Larcher. The Supreme Leader’s Senior Foreign Policy Advisor stated that that Iran and France have a common interest in fighting terrorism. Velayati discussed the ongoing Syrian talks and stressed the need for a political resolution, adding:
- “The opinions of Iran and France are close to each other and both countries have agreed on the issues of Syria and opposition to terrorism, and we believe that the solution in not military one.” (Rahyab News)
Zarif: We hope that sanctions will be lifted before the end of January. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stated, “We hope that the sanctions will be lifted in the month of Dey [December 22-January 20] and that we move towards a more rational relationship with European governments.” (Farhang News)
Foreign Ministry Spokesman underscores Iran-Saudi efforts towards cooperation on regional issues. Hossein Jaber Ansari stated that Iran and Saudi Arabia are laying the groundwork to hold “direct talks between Iranian and Saudi official to solve the existing regional problems.” (IRNA) (E)
- Parliamentarians express condolences over Samir Kuntar’s death. Two hundred and twelve parliamentarians released a letter to Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah expressing their condolences over the death of Samir Kuntar, a senior Hezbollah commander, in Damascus, Syria. The letter condemned the “Zionist regime” for allegedly carrying out the strike which killed Kuntar and called for “revenge” against Israel. (ICANA)
Military and Security
Defense Minister: The design, manufacturing, and testing of missiles have not stopped. IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan urged candidates in the upcoming parliamentary elections to prepare plans to strengthen Iran. The Defense Minister stressed that the next Parliament cannot be weak in defending Iran’s independence. Dehghan also dismissed allegations about Iran’s missile program, stating: “Islamic Iran never sought to produce missiles with a nuclear warhead.” Dehghan also highlighted Iran’s defensive capacity and advanced capabilities, claiming: “We have not stopped designing, manufacturing, and testing our missiles and we have increased our production volume.” (Basij News)
Rafsanjani: Three terrorists arrested trying to bomb Tehran Friday Prayers, Mashhad, and Qom. Expediency Discernment Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani claimed that Iranian authorities have ”recently” arrested three terrorists who were planning to bomb Tehran Friday Prayers, Fatima Masumeh Shrine in Qom city, Qom province, and the Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad, Razavi Khorasan province. (ILNA)
- Iranian official rejects Rafsanjani’s claim. Hossein Zulfiqhari, the Deputy Minister for Security Affairs, dismissed the rumor that three individuals were arrested attempting to bomb Tehran Friday Prayers and holy sites in Qom and Mashhad. (Ghatreh)
Casualties in Syria and Iraq
Six Iranians killed in Syria.
- Mohammad Reza Fakhimi was from East Azerbaijan province. He was reportedly killed by Jahbat al Nusra in the vicinity of Aleppo. No rank or unit affiliation was reported.
- Ismaeil Khanadeh was an IRGC member from Mazandaran province. No further information on his rank or unit affiliation was reported.
- IRGC Col. Faramaz Reza Zadeh was from Khuzestan province. No unit affiliation was reported. Iranian media claimed that he is the 33rd Iranian casualty from Khuzestan province in Syria.
- Amir Siavashi was identified as a member of the IRGC Navy Special Forces.
- Sajjad Efati was reported to have been killed in the vicinity of Aleppo. No unit affiliation or rank was reported.
- Akbar Malekshahki was from Kermanshah province. He is reportedly the third Iranian casualty from Kermanshah in Syria. No rank or unit affiliation was provided. (Tasnim News Agency) (Tnews) (Tnews) (Defa Press) (Mehr News) (Basij Press)
Six Fatimiyoun and Zeinabiyoun fighters buried in Qom. Six members of the Afghan Shi’a Fatimiyoun Brigade and the Pakistani Shi’a Zeinabiyoun Brigade were buried in Qom city on December 21. (Serat News)
Two Fatimiyoun fighters buried in Mashhad. Hossein Hosseini and Ibrahim Sadat were buried in Mashhad, Razavi Khorasan province on December 20. (Defa Press)
- Two Iranians reported to have been captured in Syria. Syrian opposition group Feilaq al Sham (Sham Legion) claims to have captured two Iranian nationals in the vicinity of Aleppo, Syria. Iranian authorities have not confirmed this report. (IRIB)
Iran awards development contract to Dutch company. Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKIA) Managing Director Mahmoud Navidi awarded the Netherlands Airport Consultant Company a five-year contract to provide consulting services for the development of a town near the airport. (Press TV) (E)
- Russian trade exhibition opens in Tehran. Russian Minister of Trade and Industry Denis Manturov and representatives from 80 Russian companies attended the opening of the Russia-Iran Trade and Industrial Dialogue in Tehran on December 21. Industries represented at the exhibition include shipbuilding, car manufacturing, oil and gas operations, information technology, banking, insurance, aviation technology, and transportation. (Press TV) (E) (IRIB)