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 with contributor Ken Hawrey. To receive this daily newsletter, please subscribe online.
(E) = Article in English
Key takeaway: Parliamentary candidates began campaigning ahead of the February 26 elections.
Several politicians with Principlist ties reportedly appeared on Reformist candidate lists, underscoring the lack of hard party lines in Iranian politics. Reformist Policymaking Committee Head Mohammad Reza Aref defended the inclusion of known Principlists in a recently announced Reformist-moderate bloc’s list, called “Coalition of Reformists and Government Supporters.” Aref claimed these “individuals are not known as Principlists on our list… they represent the Government Supporters.” Parliamentary candidates have until February 24 to campaign, with election day on February 26.
IRGC Ground Forces Commander Brig. Gen Mohammad Pakpour confirmed the deployment of an IRGC Saberin unit along with other unspecified IRGC Ground Forces units to Iraq and Syria. Russian news outlet TASS, meanwhile, reported that the Russian Defense Ministry has denied reports that Russia delivered parts of the S-300 missile defense system to Iran on February 18.
Matthew McInnis explains Iran’s perspective on the stalled Geneva negotiations, its recent strategies in the Syrian conflict, and its broader goals for a final settlement in his latest blog post, “Syrian peace talks still a sideshow for Iran.”
Parliamentary candidates begin campaigning. Candidates in the parliamentary elections began formally campaigning on February 18. The campaign period lasts a week until February 24, and election day is February 26.
- There are approximately 70 Reformist candidates “competing against” 3,000 Principlists nationwide, according to Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA).
- Political parties and coalitions have not yet finalized their lists of endorsed candidates. Several politicians with Principlist ties have reportedly appeared on Reformist lists, underscoring the lack of hard party lines in Iranian politics. Mohammad Reza Aref, the head of the Reformist Policymaking Committee who recently announced that prominent Reformists and moderate parties will be releasing a joint list under a bloc called “Coalition of Reformists and Government Supporters,” defended the inclusion of several candidates known as Principlists on the Reformist-moderate bloc’s list. When a reporter pointed out that the Principlist individuals’ inclusion appears to violate Aref’s pledge not to form a coalition with Principlists, Aref denied that they are Principlists and stated, “These individuals are not known as Principlists on our list. Instead, they represent the Government Supporters.”
- Morteza Bank, a member of the Moderation and Development Party that includes Hassan Rouhani, confirmed that the party will not publish a candidate list separately from the Reformists. He added that “moderates and Reformists throughout the country are coordinating on most points.” (IRNA) (ILNA)
Military and Security
IRGC Ground Forces Commander confirms Saberin unit deployment to Iraq and Syria. Brig. Gen. Mohammad Pakpour confirmed that a Saberin unit was deployed to Syria and Iraq during a speech on February 18. The IRGC Ground Forces Commander stated that the Saberin unit, along with other unspecified IRGC Ground Forces units, have been deployed in an “advisory capacity” in order to protect holy shrines. Each of the provincial IRGC units has a Saberin unit, which has limited special operations capabilities. Pakpour added the IRGC has recently expanded its military operations along Iran’s northwestern borders, which have “forced some cornered terrorists to commit suicide.” Pakpour did not identify the terrorists. (Fars News Agency)
- Basij stage military drills. Basij Organization forces began military drills named “Towards Beit ol Moghaddas” in the western province of Lorestan. Over 1,200 male and female members from the Basij forces are reportedly attending the two-day military exercises. (IRNA) (E) (ILNA)
Security measures bolstered before elections. The IRGC, the Law Enforcement Forces (LEF), and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) have reportedly boosted security measures before the upcoming elections. Deputy Interior Minister for Security and Law Enforcement Affairs Hosein Zolfaqari announced that they have “stepped up border surveillance and security” and arrested “several counter-revolutionaries in eastern regions [of Iran].” (Fars News Agency) (E) (Tabnak)
Senior member of IRGC engineering arm discusses sanctions evasion. IRGC Brig. Gen. 2C Ebadollah Abdollahi, the IRGC Khatam ol Anbia Construction Base Commander, discussed the ways in which the base overcame sanctions during construction of the South Pars gas field. The IRGC Khatam ol Anbia Construction Headquarters is the engineering arm of the IRGC. It is involved in major construction projects around Iran and has supported Iran’s ballistic missile program.
- Abdollahi said that they changed transportation routes to transport the necessary materials to the construction site; he stated, “We routed through other countries and substituted ships with other means.” He also claimed that they rented an Antonov An-225 Mriya cargo aircraft to transport materials.
- Abdollahi also said that they used “legal avenues in the countries that had sanctioned us” and managed to “benefit from legal loopholes.” Abdollahi said that overall, the “battle was reciprocal,” and that “in a four-year span, for every sanction that you imposed, we found a new solution.” (Mashregh News)
Casualties in Syria and Iraq