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. 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:  Interim Tehran Friday Prayer Leader Hojjat ol Eslam Kazem Sedighi called on President Hassan Rouhani to “respond seriously” to the renewal of the Iran Sanctions Act.

Sedighi accused the Rouhani administration of failing to “apply pressure” on the U.S. following the 10-year extension of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA). On December 13, Rouhani ordered the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) to begin “planning” the development of nuclear-powered ships in response to the renewal. Rouhani also requested Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to take “legal and international” measures to address the alleged violation of the deal.  Sedighi dismissed these measures, however, and stated, “We expect that government officials will take appropriate action and respond seriously to the violation of the nuclear deal.” Sedighi’s comments underscore the continued dissatisfaction from regime hardliners over Rouhani’s management of the nuclear deal. 

AEI Must-Reads

Regional Developments & Diplomacy

  • Tehran Friday prayer leader: Rouhani must seriously respond to America’s violation of the nuclear deal.  Interim Tehran Friday Prayer Leader Hojjat ol Eslam Kazem Sedighi discussed the renewal of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) and the “liberation” of Aleppo during his Friday prayer sermon.
    • On the ISA: “America’s violation of the nuclear deal was predictable. From the very first day of the negotiations, the Supreme Leader warned us not to trust the Americans. The negotiating team should have entered this issue with more strength.”
    • “Now that a violation of the nuclear deal has taken place… there must be a response.”
    • “What President Hassan Rouhani ordered the head of the Atomic Energy Organization [Ali Akbar Salehi] and the Foreign Minister [Mohammad Javad Zarif] to do did not apply any pressure on America.”
    • “We expect that Rouhani administration officials will take the appropriate action and  seriously respond to the violation of the nuclear deal.”
    • On Aleppo: “Big and arrogant powers were not able to fight the warriors of the Islamic Resistance even with their wealth and oil money. Aleppo was liberated thanks to the blood of martyrs.”
    • “The victory in Aleppo was a victory for the Islamic Revolution.” (Asr Iran) (Tasnim News Agency)
       
  • Parliamentarian accuses U.S. of “plotting” assassination of Russian ambassador. Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the hardline chairman of Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, accused the U.S. of orchestrating the assassination of Andrey Karlov, Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, in Ankara on December 19. Boroujerdi claimed that the U.S. intended the assassination to be a warning to Turkey against developing relations with Russia. (Mehr News Agency)
     
  • Iran slams UN vote to investigate Syrian war crimes. Gholam Hossein Dehghani, Iran’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, criticized the UN General Assembly’s vote to form a team tasked with investigating war crimes in Syria. He called the decision a “malicious move” and warned that it could weaken efforts to find a political resolution to the civil war. (IRNA)
     
  • Deputy foreign minister travels to Lebanon.  Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Jaberi Ansari met with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and other senior officials in Beirut. During a press conference after his meeting with Hariri, Ansari stated, “I hope that the start of Hariri’s government and launch of the new Lebanese government will have positive effects on the region. I also hope that we will witness a new chapter in cooperation between Iran and Lebanon in various fields.”  Hariri, the leader of the Saudi-linked Future Movement, was a long-time rival of Hezbollah-allied Michel Aoun until he endorsed Aoun’s successful bid for the presidency in late October.  Hariri recently announced a new 30-minister government.  (Tasnim News Agency)
     
  • Rouhani calls for closer ties between Iran and Central Asia countries. President Hassan Rouhani announced that Iran is determined to build its relationship with the Eurasian Economic Union at a joint press conference with Kyrgyzstan’s President Almazbek Atambayev in Bishkek. Rouhani and Atambayev discussed preliminary plans to establish a railway through Central Asia connecting Iran and China as well as phasing out visa requirements between Iran and Kyrgyzstan. (Press TV) (E) (Fars News Agency)

Military & Security

  • Iranian military shoots down TV drone in Tehran. Anti-aircraft batteries under the command of the Khatam ol Anbia Air Defense Base shot down a drone as it approached the offices of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran. Authorities later discovered that a state TV agency owned the drone, which was being used to film a Friday prayer ceremony. The Khatam ol Anbia Air Defense Base is the branch of the Artesh responsible for Iran’s land-based air-defense systems. (Mehr News Agency)
     
  • AFGS chief: “We have the necessary expertise in cyber warfare.” IRGC Maj. Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, the head of the Armed Forces General Staff (AFGS), praised Iran’s technological achievements during a ceremony honoring Iranian engineers killed during the Iran-Iraq War. Bagheri claimed that Iran has “the necessary expertise” in cyber warfare and called upon Iranian officials to “ready themselves for the battlefields of the future.” He also hailed Iran as the “flag-bearer” in the fight against terrorism and added, “The victories in Aleppo and Mosul are a continuation of the Iran-Iraq War and its culture of martyrdom.”  (YJC) (Tasnim News Agency)
     

Domestic Politics

  • Reformist parliamentarian: Green Movement leaders could be released from house arrest. Prominent parliamentarian Mohammad Reza Aref claimed that he was “hopeful” that Mir Hossein Mousavi, Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi Karroubi, the reformist leaders of the 2009 Green Movement protests, could be released from house arrest. Karroubi, Mousavi, and Rahnavard have been under house arrest since 2011, but authorities have not formally charged them with any crime. Reformist activists have increasingly urged President Rouhani to publicly intervene on behalf of the three imprisoned reformist leaders, however. (Rahemrooz)
    • Esfahan Friday Prayer Leader Ayatollah Yusuf Tabatabaei Nejad criticized demands to try the imprisoned Green Movement leaders during his Friday prayer sermon. He stated, “If an individual has 30 grams of heroin, the law says that the punishment must be death… But when it comes to the leaders of the sedition [the Green Movement protests]...they must remain in their own houses and they should be happy.” Several other Friday prayer leaders today similarly condemned demands to hold trials for Karroubi, Mousavi, and Rahnavard. (Fars News Agency)

Casualties in Iraq & Syria

  • Fatimiyoun fighter buried in Semnan province. Iranian news agencies reported that Mohammad Issa Mohammadi, a member of the Afghan Shia militia Fatimiyoun Brigade, was buried in Semnan province. He was killed in Syria. (Tasnim News Agency)  
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