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: IRGC Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari hailed Iranian-backed operations to recapture Aleppo as the “frontline of the Islamic Revolution.”

Jafari added that the “liberation” of Aleppo marks “one of the greatest defeats to our enemies led by America and Israel.” Jafari also noted that efforts to “ensure [Iran’s] security have surpassed our borders.” Regime officials have characterized Iran’s military activities in Syria as part of the regime’s broader strategy against foreign threats to Iran’s borders. IRGC Deputy Commander Brigadier General Hossein Salami, meanwhile, praised cooperation among Russia, Iranian-backed “resistance forces,” and the Syrian Army during a televised interview. He added, “There is natural harmony between the allies of Syria on an operational level...Each power acts in concert with the other forces.” Senior Military Advisor to the Supreme Leader IRGC Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi had previously confirmed that Iranian-backed forces share intelligence with Russian air units operating in Syria.

Reformist leader Mehdi Karroubi announced his resignation as secretary-general of the reformist National Trust Party. Karroubi, who has been under house arrest since 2011, stated that he does not know how long he will remain under house arrest and resigned “for the sake of interests more important than the party.” He also called for the National Trust Party to cooperate with other reformist groups ahead of the May 2017 presidential election. Conservative politicians also moved to unify ahead of the elections. A new principlist organization called the Popular Front of Islamic Revolutionary Forces formed on December 26 with the aim of proposing a single conservative candidate to challenge President Hassan Rouhani in the election. For more on Iran's upcoming presidential election, please see "Iran Presidential Tracker: Updates and Analysis.

AEI Must-Reads

Regional Developments & Diplomacy

  • IRGC Commander: “Aleppo is the frontline of the Islamic Revolution.” IRGC Commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari hailed the “liberation” of Aleppo as the “frontline of the Islamic Revolution” and stated that the fall of Aleppo marks “one of the greatest defeats to our enemies led by America and Israel.” Jafari also noted that the task of “ensuring [Iran’s] security has surpassed our borders.” (Fars News Agency)
    • IRGC Deputy Commander Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami discussed cooperation among the Russian Air Force, Iran-backed “resistance forces,” and the Syrian Army during a televised interview. He stated, “There is natural harmony between the allies of Syria on an operational level...Each power acts in concert with the other forces.” During the interview, Salami also accused the U.S. of “interfering” in the Syrian civil war in order to curtail Iran’s regional influence. (Tasnim News Agency)
       
  • Putin and Rouhani hold telephone conversation on Syria. President Hassan Rouhani discussed developments in Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a phone conversation on December 24. This is reportedly the third telephone conversation between Rouhani and Putin on Syria over the past month. The two reportedly discussed “continuing the fight against terrorism” and “the necessary cooperation regarding the political talks in Kazakhstan.” Putin had announced on December 23 that Iran, Turkey, Russia, and Syria had agreed to participate in peace talks on the Syria conflict in Astana, Kazakhstan. (Fars News Agency)
     
  • Hardliners criticize Zarif over nuclear deal comment. Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy (NSFP) Commission released a statement condemning the actions of hardline parliamentarian Javad Karimi Ghodousi, who circulated a controversial remark allegedly made by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during a closed session of the commission. The NSFP Commission’s statement calls the circulation of Zarif’s comment an “unforgivable sin.” Ghodousi had claimed that Zarif told the commission that he made a “mistake” during the nuclear negotiations by trusting the U.S., specifically Secretary of State John Kerry’s alleged promise to prevent the renewal of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA). Ghodousi also claimed that Zarif refused to meet with Kerry after Congress renewed the ISA. The Foreign Ministry denied that Zarif made the comment, although hardline news outlets reported on and later published the transcript of Zarif’s remarks. Conservative Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani defended the nuclear deal by stating that the controversy over the ISA does not affect the deal’s integrity as a whole, however. Other prominent moderate-conservative figures, including Ali Motahari, criticized Ghodousi and hardline news outlets for disclosing “classified” material. (Entekhab) (Kayhan) (ISNA) (Jamaran)
     
  • Senior parliamentarian meets with member of Yemen’s Supreme Revolutionary Committee. NSFP Commission Chairman Alaeddin Boroujerdi reaffirmed Iran’s “humanitarian support for the oppressed Yemeni nation” during a meeting with Radwan al Haimi, a member of al Houthi Supreme Revolutionary Council, in Tehran on December 25. (IRNA)

Domestic Politics

  • Khamenei discusses 2009 election protests. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei discussed the disputed 2009 presidential election during a speech on December 27. Khamenei praised pro-regime demonstrations on December 30, 2009 as indicative of the regime’s strength. He also denied that the demonstrations were organized, despite evidence that the government arranged for transportation and food for Iranians attending the rally. Khamenei also briefly discussed nuclear weapons during his remarks, stating, “The ban on nuclear weapons is based on very important logical and jurisprudential foundations, but it is possible for the government and nation to work toward other types of power.” (khamenei.ir)
     
  • Karroubi resigns as secretary-general of National Trust Party. Mehdi Karroubi announced his resignation as secretary-general of the reformist National Trust Party in a letter issued from house arrest. Karroubi wrote, “Considering my illegal house arrest that started in 1389 [2011] and given that I do not know how long it will last, I ask to resign from my position as secretary-general of the National Trust Party. I ask my friends to accept my resignation for the sake of interests more important than the party.” Karroubi also called upon the National Trust Party to cooperate with other reformist groups. Karroubi’s letter comes as reports indicate quarreling between members of the National Trust Party over the party’s cooperation with the Reformist Policymaking Committee, which is led by prominent parliamentarian Mohammad Reza Aref, ahead of the 2017 presidential elections. In response to Karroubi’s letter, the National Trust Party spokesman announced that senior members of the party will convene to select a new secretary-general. He added that Karroubi’s resignation “surprised” party leaders. (ILNA) (Kaleme) (Etemad)
     
  • Mehdi Karroubi’s son: My father still wants a public trial. Hossein Karroubi told reporters that his father, imprisoned Green Movement Leader Mehdi Karroubi, is still hopeful that Iranian  authorities will grant him a public trial, despite warnings from Friday prayer leaders on December 23 that he would be sentenced to death in any public trial. Karroubi has been under house arrest since 2011, but authorities have not formally charged him with any crime. In early April, Karroubi wrote a letter to President Rouhani formally requesting a public trial. Reformist activists have repeatedly requested an open trial for Karroubi since. (ILNA)
    • Several prominent regime officials condemned demands to hold trials for Karroubi, Mir Hossein Mousavi, and Zahra Rahnavard. IRGC Brig. Gen. Massoud Jazayeri claimed that the leaders of the Green Movement protests deserve “harsh punishment.” (Fars News Agency)
    • Judiciary Head Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani called for the Judiciary to continue investigating the 2009 election protests and an ongoing controversy surrounding illegally high salaries for government employees during a meeting with high-ranking Judiciary officials on December 24. Larijani stated that the “dossier” on the 2009 protests remains open and claimed that the protests gave Iran’s enemies the “green light” to interfere in Iran’s domestic politics and to increase pressure and sanctions against the regime. (Fararu)
    • Basij Organization Commander IRGC Brig. Gen. Gholam Hossein Gheibparvar condemned the 2009 election protests and called on the Basij to be “vigilant against possible sedition in the future.” (Donya-e-Eqtesad)
  • New conservative organization founded. A new principlist organization called the Popular Front of Islamic Revolutionary Forces formed on December 26. In addition to focusing on economic issues and corruption, the group will aim to unify Iran’s conservative factions by introducing one conservative candidate to compete against President Hassan Rouhani in the upcoming May 2017 presidential election. (Fars News Agency(E) (Fars News Agency)

Military & Security

  • Iranian military holds air defense drills. Khatam ol Anbia Air Defense Base Commander Brig. Gen. Farzad Esmaili announced the start of a five-day air defense drill codenamed “Velayat Sky Defenders 7” along Iran’s southern coastline. Esmaili claimed that the drill aims to increase the “coordination” and “combat readiness” among the branches of Iran’s armed forces. The drills include air defense units from both the IRGC and the Artesh, including several F-4s from the Artesh Air Force. Indigenously-manufactured missiles, including the Mersad and Ya Zahra 3 missiles, are being tested during the exercise. (Tasnim News Agency)
     
  • New IRGC Intelligence Organization deputy appointed. IRGC Commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari appointed IRGC Brig. Gen. Mohammad Hossein Nejat as second-in-command of the IRGC Intelligence Organization. He was previously the IRGC cultural deputy and the commander of the IRGC Vali-ye Amr Security unit, which is an an elite IRGC protection unit tasked with protecting the Supreme Leader and his family. (Asr Iran)
    • Hossein Nejat discussed the 2009 Green Movement protests and the detention of Karroubi, Mousavi, and Rahnavard during a conference with security officials. He claimed that their continued detention is “not related to the 2009 protests” but rather due to their expressed support for 2011 protests in Syria. (Aftab News)

Economy

  • Rouhani administration: Weakening rial is due to “psychological issues.” Rouhani Administration Spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht expressed optimism after the rial significantly fell in value on December 26, when Iranian news agencies reported that the dollar was being traded for a record-breaking high of 1,500 rials. Nobakht blamed the weakening rial on temporary “psychological issues,” although he did not elaborate further. Several analysts have claimed that uncertainty over future investment prospects in Iran -- mostly fueled by Donald Trump’s recent election -- has led to the rial weakening against the dollar. Currency fluctuations were relatively common during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency, but the Rouhani administration has largely been successful in curbing currency instability. The rial has steadily weakened compared to the U.S. dollar since early November, however. (Mehr News Agency)
     
  • NIOC official: 10 new oil contracts to be awarded “in the near future.” Gholamreza Manouchehri, a deputy at the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), told reporters that Iranian officials will announce 10 new contracts with international oil companies “in the near future.” He added that Iran has announced 12 contracts with foreign oil companies since sanctions were lifted in January. Several western oil companies, including Total and Shell, have signed contracts with NIOC. (Press TV(E)
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