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 Marie Donovan, Paul Bucala, and Caitlin Shayda Pendleton and contributors Ali Javaheri and Wali Miller. 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: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed IRGC Brigadier General Gholam Hossein Gheibparvar as head of the Basij Organization.
Gheibparvar replaces IRGC Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naghdi, whom Khamenei appointed as IRGC cultural deputy. IRGC Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari appointed Gheibparvar last year as commander of the Imam Hossein Headquarters, a body responsible for coordinating and ensuring the readiness of the Imam Hossein Battalions, which are light Basij combat units incorporated within the IRGC Ground Forces provincial units. Gheibparvar had also previously served as the commander of the IRGC Fajr unit based in Fars province and as the IRGC Ground Forces training deputy.
- Paul Bucala and Marie Donovan analyze recent changes to Iran’s military command structure in “A New Era for Iran’s Military Leadership.”
- J. Matthew McInnis and Ashton Gilmore argue that understanding Iran’s use of force is essential to prepare for potential crises with Tehran and develop effective strategies to respond to a modernizing Iranian military in “Iran at War: Understanding why and how Tehran uses military force.”
Military & Security
Gheibparvar appointed new head of Basij Organization. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed IRGC Brig. Gen. Gholam Hossein Gheibparvar as the head of the Basij Organization “and deputy commander of the IRGC for Basij affairs.” In a statement announcing the appointment, Khamenei urged Gheibparvar to boost the Basij’s activities in “science, culture, and defense” and to “track the enemy’s activities and prevent its infiltration.” Khamenei also stated that Gheibparvar will be responsible for “creating a clear mechanism to strengthen the synergy, cooperation, and coordination among relevant organizations” within the Basij.
- Gheibparvar replaces IRGC Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naghdi, whom Khamenei appointed as IRGC cultural deputy. Naghdi served as head of the Basij for over seven years, including during the 2009 Green Movement protests.
- Before his appointment to head the Basij Organization, Gheibparvar served as the head of the Imam Hossein Headquarters, a body responsible for coordinating and ensuring the readiness of the Basij Imam Hossein Battalions. IRGC Commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari appointed Gheibparvar as the headquarters’ commander in December 2015 after the previous commander, IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Hamedani, was killed in October 2015 in Syria. Several news outlets claimed at the time that Gheibparvar was appointed as “Hamedani’s successor in Syria” as a result. These reports may have stemmed from confusion over Hamedani’s official position when he was killed, however. It is unclear whether Gheibparvar was involved in spearheading military operations in Syria. Gheibparvar also previously served as the commander of the IRGC Fajr unit based in Fars province and the IRGC Ground Forces training deputy. (Fars News Agency) (Khamenei.ir) (IRNA)
Regional Developments & Diplomacy
JCPOA supervisory committee calls the ISA “violation” of nuclear deal. An Iranian committee tasked with supervising the implementation of the nuclear deal met on December 7 to discuss Iran’s response to the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA). Committee members reportedly discussed America’s “unjustifiable behavior” and “recognized the implementation of [the ISA] as an egregious violation” of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Senior Iranian officials on the committee, including President Hassan Rouhani, previously criticized the ISA as a violation of the nuclear agreement regardless of whether the U.S. implements the ISA with sanction waivers. The committee also “studied and passed” multiple proposals for for Iran’s response to the ISA depending on “likely future scenarios.” No further details on the committee’s decisions were made public. The committee will convene again next week. (Fars News Agency) (Fars News Agency)
Iran’s ambassador to UN files complaint over ISA. Iran's Ambassador to the UN, Gholam Ali Khoshroo, issued a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon criticizing the renewal of the ISA as “contrary to America’s commitments according to the JCPOA.” (Fars News Agency)
Prominent cleric: “The Supreme Leader warned us for years about our enemies’ tricks.” Astan Quds Razavi Foundation Head Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi referred to the ISA’s renewal and stated, “If only some were worried about the JCPOA yesterday, everyone is worried now due to recent events.” Iranian media recently started referring to Raisi as an ayatollah, a rank above his previously-held title of hojjat ol eslam. Some observers have considered his new rank to be a signal that the regime is grooming Raisi to succeed Supreme Leader Khamenei by bolstering his religious credentials. A recent Washington Post article described Raisi as a likely candidate to replace Khamenei as the next supreme leader due to his close ties with Iran’s Judiciary and security apparatus. (Tasnim News Agency)
Defense minister: Aleppo ceasefire would only strengthen opposition forces. Defense Minister IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan rejected calls for a ceasefire in the besieged city of Aleppo during a meeting with Peter Maurer, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Dehghan dismissed the ceasefire proposal as a “wartime trick for the regrouping and rearming of the terrorists, not for humanitarian reasons.” (Tasnim News Agency)
- Diplomat: IAEA confirmed Iran’s transfer of heavy water out of the country. An unnamed diplomat stated that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verified that Iran shipped 11 tonnes of heavy water out of the country, according to a “confidential” IAEA report sent to member states on December 6. The IAEA announced last month that Iran had exceeded the heavy water stockpile limit of 130 tonnes stipulated in the nuclear deal by 0.1 tonnes. Iran responded by promising to ship excess heavy water out of the country in order to re-comply with the limit. Iran has argued that the cap on its heavy water production is an estimate rather than a hard limit. (ISNA)
- Judiciary deputy: Corruption is the new sedition. Judiciary Deputy Hojjat ol Eslam Hamid Shahriari dismissed the ongoing scandal surrounding Judiciary Head Ayatollah Sadegh Amoli Larijani’s misuse of bank accounts during an interview with Mizan News Agency, a news outlet affiliated with the Judiciary. Shahriari characterized the scandal as part of a new “sedition” against the Iranian political system “under the slogans of corruption.” Security forces attempted to arrest reformist parliamentarian Mahmoud Sadeghi on November 27 after he called for an official inquiry into allegations of corruption in the Judiciary. (Mizan Online)
Iran signs oil deal with Shell. Iran signed a nonbinding agreement with Shell for the development of Iranian gas and oil fields on December 7. The agreement allows Shell to assess the South Azadegan and Yadavaran oil fields in southwestern Iran as well as a gas field near Kish Island. French company Total is expected to begom talks for an energy development agreement with Iran as well. Total, China National Petroleum Corp., and Iran’s Petropars signed an agreement of $4.8 billion for the development of a phase of the South Pars gas field in Iran last month. The two prospective deals with Shell and Total follow the OPEC agreement in late November permitting Iran to increase its oil production to 3.8 million barrels per day, roughly Iran’s production output prior to sanctions. (Raja News) (Tasnim News Agency)
- Rouhani administration proposes changing currency unit. President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet approved legislation changing the denomination of Iran’s official currency from the rial to the toman. Parliament and the Guardian Council, which has veto power over parliamentary legislation, will need to approve the change before it can be implemented. The Iranian government replaced the toman with the rial at a rate of 10 rials to a toman in the 1930s. Iranians continued using the toman to express prices and amounts of money thereafter, however. (Tasnim News Agency)