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 called for the expansion of Iran’s missile program in response to reports of additional U.S. sanctions.

Rouhani called for Iran’s missile program to continue “with greater speed and seriousness” in a letter to Defense Minister IRGC Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan. Rouhani’s letter follows reportsthat the U.S. is considering new sanctions against Iran’s ballistic missile program in response to the October 11 and November 21 test-firings of ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads. A UN panel determined in mid-December that the October test-firing constituted a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1929. Rouhani wrote that the Ministry of Defense must enact “a new plan for the expansion of the country’s missile capabilities” if the U.S. continues its “wrong and interventionist actions,” while Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari called any additional sanctions under the “pretense” of missiles “illegal.”

The IRGC, meanwhile, dismissed reports that several IRGC Navy vessels conducted a live-fire exercise near U.S. warships as “lies” and part of a “psychological operation” against Iran.

Iranian media has not reported the deaths of any Iranians in Syria in recent days.

Matthew McInnis critiques the argument that the U.S. should hasten sanctions relief in order to empower moderate Iranian leaders and avoid raising the ire of hardliners in his latest blog post, “The U.S. can’t play Iranian domestic politics.”

Military and Security

  • Rouhani calls on Defense Minister to expand missile development programs. President Hassan Rouhani called for Iran’s missile program to continue “with greater speed and seriousness” in a letter to Defense Minister IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan on December 31. Rouhani’s letter follows reports that the U.S. is considering new sanctions against Iran in response to the October 11 and November 21 test-firing of ballistic missiles capable of delivering a nuclear warhead. Rouhani defended the missiles as not being “designed to carry a nuclear warhead” and wrote:
    • “In the event that such wrong and interventionist actions continue from America, the Ministry of Defense, with the backing of the armed forces, is responsible for enacting a new plan for the expansion of the country’s missile capabilities, by all available means... Iran has declared throughout the nuclear negotiations that it has never negotiated regarding its legitimate defensive power… It will not accept any type of restriction in this field.” ( [Note:  UN Security Council Resolution 2231 calls upon Iran "not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons..." Iranian officials have used various expressions to describe their ballistic missile activities so as to present them as being unaffected by this resolution. Rouhani's language continues this pattern.]
  • Foreign Ministry: We will respond to any new sanctions. Hossein Jaberi Ansari condemned reports that the U.S. is preparing new sanctions in response to Iran’s recent ballistic missile testing. The Foreign Ministry Spokesman called any additional sanctions under the “pretense” of missiles “illegal” and promised that Iran would “respond” to any new sanctions. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other Iranian officials have repeatedly insisted that the imposition of any new sanctions will violate the nuclear deal. The planned U.S. sanctions will target multiple companies and individuals based in Iran, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates that are allegedly linked to Iran’s ballistic missile program. (Mehr News Agency) 
  • IRGC denies reports of live-fire exercise near U.S. warships. IRGC Brig. Gen. 2C Ramezan Sharif denied U.S. reports that several IRGC Navy vessels conducted a live-fire exercise near the U.S. aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman and other warships in the Strait of Hormuz on December 26. The IRGC Public Affairs Head stated that the IRGC Navy did not conduct “any missile-related exercises at the time claimed by the Americans” and added that the deliberate publication of “such lies” is part of a “psychological operation.” (Press TV) 
  • Sayyari: “We provide security for Iranian ships from the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea.” Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari lauded the Artesh Navy’s regional reach during a conference on economic development in southeastern Iran. The Artesh Navy Commander added that the 6th Five-Year Economic Development Plan – a set of economic and social priorities designed to guide the annual budgets from 2016 to 2021 – will “definitely” prioritize the economic development of the Makran coast, an undeveloped region that comprises parts of Hormozgan and Sistan va Baluchistan provinces. (Fars News Agency) 


Domestic Politics

  • Former Intelligence Minister criticizes Rafsanjani. Hojjat ol Eslam Heydar Moslehi criticized Expediency Discernment Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s recent comments suggesting that the Assembly of Experts could elect a Leadership Council in lieu of a single Supreme Leader. The former Intelligence Minister stated, “In the Assembly of Experts elections, there are some who are seeking a new sedition and propound controversies such as the Leadership Council.” (Fars News Agency)
  • Resaei: The “Leadership Council” is part of the “next sedition.” Principlist Parliamentarian Hojjat ol Eslam Hamid Resaei noted that the “next sedition” is aimed at destroying the “public’s confidence in the guardianship of the jurist.” In a direct reference to Rafsanjani, he added, “For this reason, issues like the ‘Leadership Council’ are brought up and spread around cyberspace and the media.” (ISNA) 
  • Rafsanjani: The people must vote in these elections. Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani called for a high voter turnout in the upcoming Assembly of Experts and parliamentary elections during a meeting with political activists from Khuzestan province. The Expediency Discernment Council Chairman noted that the “people’s presence” in the elections will show the “credibility” of Iran’s elections to the international community. Rafsanjani also commented on Khuzestan province’s plentiful oil reserves, stating, “We must correctly plan our use of these national resources for the next generation and not let the enemy use oil as a political tool.” (ILNA)  
  • Ayatollah Kermani: Larijani is with the Principlists. Ayatollah Movahedi Kermani addressed reporters on the sidelines of a Principlist coalition conference on December 31 in Tehran. The Combatant Clergy Association Secretary General downplayed Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani’s absence from the conference and reassured his domestic audiences that Larijani — who is a prominent pragmatic conservative — remains among the Principlists despite his nonattendance. (Tasnim News Agency) (Entekhab)
  • Gheibparvar: Leaders of the sedition must be “cleansed.” IRGC Brig. Gen. Gholam Hossein Gheibparvar discussed the threat of sedition on the anniversary of the December 30, 2009 pro-government protests, organized in response to the Green Movement. The IRGC Imam Hossein Battalions Commander echoed senior Iranian officials’ sentiments regarding ongoing nature of plots to spread sedition in Iran and stated that the “impure” leaders of sedition must be “cleansed.” IRGC Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari recently appointed IRGC Brigadier General Gholam Hossein Gheibparvar as Imam Hossein Battalions Commander. Gheibparvar replaced IRGC Brigadier General Hossein Hamedani, who was killed on October 8 in Syria. The Imam Hossein Battalions are composed of paramilitary Basij Organization veterans who work closely with the IRGC Ground Forces. (Basij News)
  • Principlist parliamentarian criticizes Secretary of the Anti-Corruption Office. Principlist Parliamentarian Ali Reza Zakani criticized a recent statement from Kazem Palizdar, the Secretary of the Office for the Fight against Economic Corruption, as “unprofessional.” Palizdar had asked Iranians and the media in particular to refrain from “trying to fashion a hat for themselves from the felt of the anti-corruption fight,” or to avoid pursuing their own self-interest. Zakani added, “If the office’s anti-corruption approach had been correct, there would not have been a need to form an organization for the fight against economic corruption.” Parliament is currently reviewing a plan for establishing a larger anti-corruption organization. (Mashregh News) (Hamshahri)


Regional Developments and Diplomacy

  • Iranian ambassador meets with Putin’s representative in Russia.Tehran’s Ambassador to Moscow Mehdi Sanaei met with Mikhail Bogdanov, the Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and President Vladimir Putin’s Special Representative in Middle East and Africa Affairs, on December 30. The two discussed regional crises and recent developments in Syria. (Donya-e Eqtesad)   
  • Shirazi: We should not negotiate with the U.S. to resolve our issues. Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi criticized “some individuals” who present a “simplified view” of the U.S. and other Western states. Shirazi noted that these countries are “completely untrustworthy” and stated, “We should solve our issues ourselves.” (Rasa News)



  • Oil Minister praises post-sanctions era. Bijan Zanganeh warned that “some people’s bread will dry up” after the implementation of the nuclear deal. The Oil Minister stated, “In the post-sanctions environment, there will be no need for money transfers in which 30 percent of the money is poured into the pockets of middlemen.” 
    • On pollution: When asked whether the distribution of low-quality gasoline contributes to high air pollution levels in Iran, Zanganeh stated that reports have been submitted to the Energy Commission on December 29 that “benzene, sulfur, and aromatics in Tehran have fallen sharply and are at reasonable levels.” He blamed CO2 emissions for “most of the pollution” and stated, “I don’t know why some are insisting that the amount of [CO2] emissions from fuel has gone up.” President Hassan Rouhani proposed several “short-term” solutions to improve pollution levels yesterday in response to criticism of his administration’s management of the issue. (Entekhab)
  • Iranian and Russian firms sign deal to build oil rigs. Iran Shipbuilding and Offshore Industries Complex Company (ISOICO) Managing Director Hamid Rezaian told reporters on December 30 that ISOICO signed an agreement with Russian shipyard Krasnye Barrikady (Red Barricades) earlier in the month for “oil rig construction and technology transfer.” Both parties will construct rigs for the “exploration and production of hydrocarbons” in the Persian Gulf under the agreement. (Press TV) (E)
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