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 with contributors Ken Hawrey and Alice Naghshineh. To receive this daily newsletter, please subscribe online.

(E) = Article in English

Key takeaway: Ayatollah Rafsanjani and other prominent moderate figures called for increased voter turnout in the Parliamentary and Assembly of Expert elections on February 26. Their comments were likely aimed at urging Reformist supporters to vote for more centrist candidates, who have historically relied upon the Reformist base to edge out their more hardline opponents.  

Reformist and moderate leaders urged Iranians to vote in the parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections, despite the disproportionate disqualification of Reformist candidates. Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani also called for disqualified candidates to endorse candidates still running. These efforts are part of a larger effort by President Hassan Rouhani and his allies to form a centrist, non-hardliner faction in the Parliament in order to  marginalize the hardliners. For up-to-date analysis on these electoral developments, please see the Critical Threats Project’s “Iran Elections Tracker: Updates and Analysis.

IRGC Ground Forces Deputy Commander Brig. Gen. Abdollah Eraghi announced the formation of a new helicopter unit under the IRGC Ground Forces. Iranian news outlets noted that the new unit “is required for supporting logistic and  offensive operations considering the type of missions carried out by the IRGC Ground Forces across the world.”

Iranian news outlets reported the death of an IRGC member in Syria.Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu, meanwhile, traveled to Tehran on February 21 to discuss the crisis in Syria with senior Iranian officials.

Matthew McInnis discusses Iranian perspectives on the possible deployment of Saudi Arabian and Emirati special operations forces to Syria in his latest blog post, “Iran isn’t sweating Saudi intervention in Syria.”

Domestic Politics
 

  • Rafsanjani: President Rouhani was elected because of me. Expediency Discernment Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani emphasized the importance of disqualified candidates supporting other candidates during a meeting with election staff on February 20. Rafsanjani claimed that President Hassan Rouhani’s victory in the 2013 presidential election was due to his support.  He stated that after he endorsed President Rouhani, “Rouhani’s support went from three to four percent to over 50 percent.” Rafsanjani also noted that there are currently 200 moderate candidates running for the Parliamentary elections and 60 moderates running for the Assembly of Expert elections. Many moderates are likely hoping to attract reformist-inclined voters in order to edge out their more conservative opponents, who have dominated the last several parliamentary elections. (Entekhab)
     
  • Hassan Khomeini: The people must not be “indifferent” towards elections. Hojjat ol Eslam Hassan Khomeini stated, “through correct voting and selection, we can take steps to solve the problems [including unemployment, inflation, addition, oppression, and injustice]; taking out one’s anger at the ballot box [by not voting]... is not the solution.” He continued, “all people who have complaints about some processes should pursue their complaints in the future. This week, they must act for the best and most capable people.” The grandson of Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini stressed, “The elections are our right, and we must not be indifferent towards that right.” The Guardian Council barred Khomeini from running in the February 26 elections. (IRNA)
    • Prominent Reformist politician Mohammad Reza Aref also urged Iranians to participate in the elections. He called for Iranians to “continue in the path of the [2013 presidential elections], because we have no other route than this; we must compete with rivals in such a manner that we can be friendly the day after the election.” (Fars News Agency)
       
  • Principlist Coalition Council Spokesman: We are not worried about Principlist unity.Principlist Coalition Council Spokesman Gholam Ali Haddad Adel dismissed concerns that some Principlists in the next Parliament might be “inclined towards the Reformists” during a press conference on February 21.  Haddad Adel was responding to the inclusion of several well-known Principlists on Reformist and moderate lists, as was announced last week. He stated, “Do not doubt that  there is a wide political spectrum in the Principlist list, our opponents’ lists have this issue as well.” Haddad Adel added, “It is important for Principlist candidates to define their own boundaries with each other…” (IRNA)
     
  • Bahonar: The Principlists must remain unified. Principlist Parliamentarian Mohammad Reza Bahonar also urged unity among the Principlists in the elections during a speech with supporters in Tehran. Bahonar warned that divisions “will allow the Reformists to enter Parliament.” Despite the best efforts by the Principlist Coalition, the two Principlist political organizations in the Assembly of Experts -- the Society of Qom Seminary Teachers and the Combative Clergy Association (CCA)-- submitted different lists of endorsed candidates. Most notably, the Combative Clergy Association endorsed Rafsanjani-- who has received severe criticism from hardliners recently-- while the Society of Qom Seminary Teachers refrained from supporting the Expediency Discernment Council secretary. (Fars News Agency)
     
  • Kermani: We put Rafsanjani on the CCA list for the sake of unity. CCA Secretary General Ayatollah Ali Movahedi Kermani explained Ayatollah Rafsanjani’s presence on the CCA electoral list during a recent speech. Kermani stated, “I was not the decision-maker on this issue;the CCA Council made this decision. There were differences of opinion on this issue; the people who wanted Rafsanjani on the list argued that the Supreme Leader did not want to create polarization in the elections.” Kermani also responded to his own inclusion on a moderate list, stating “I am a revolutionary and a Principlist… I was not happy about this.” (Entekhab)

Military and Security

  • IRGC Ground Forces announces formation of an air assault unit. IRGC Ground Forces Deputy Commander Brig. Gen. Abdollah Eraghi confirmed that “the IRGC’s helicopters are being transferred to the IRGC Ground Forces” to form a new air assault unit by order of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Fars News reported that the IRGC’s helicopters have historically been under the purview of the IRGC Air Force. (Asr Iran)

 

  • Tehran police chief: We are ready to ensure security for the elections. Tehran Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) Commander Brig. Gen. Hossein Sajedi Nia stressed the LEF’s readiness to ensure security during the Tehran elections. He added that all qualified candidates “regardless of political affiliation” are currently being protected by LEF personnel. (IRNA)

Regional Developments and Diplomacy

  • Russian Defense Minister emphasizes importance of negotiations in Syrian crisis.Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu traveled to Tehran on February 21 to meet with senior Iranian officials. He reiterated in a meeting with President Hassan Rouhani that “the only way to solve the Syrian crisis is through political negotiations that respect the rights of the nation [Syria] and its people.” (Fars News Agency)
  • Abdollahian and Russian counterpart stress need to resume Syrian peace talks. Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir Abdollahian emphasized the importance of resuming the Syrian peace talks during a telephone conversation with Russian counterpart Mikhail Bogdanov on February 22. Mikhail Bogdanov is slated to visit Tehran in the near future. (Mehr News Agency
     
  • Italian Prime Minister announces visit to Tehran in April. Matteo Renzi’s announcement follows President Hassan Rouhani’s business-focused trip to Italy and France last month. An agreement to expand and improve Iran’s rail network was among the deals. (Press TV) (E)
     
  • Jazayeri: The Foreign Ministry must respond to Britain’s interference in our elections.IRGC Brig. Gen. Massoud Jazayeri accused the Iranian Foreign Ministry of being “silent” on the issue of foreign media outlets, specifically the BBC, “interfering in the domestic affairs of the country.” The Armed Forces General Staff Basij Affairs and Defense Culture Deputy added, “We expect the Rouhani administration to take steps on this issue and stop the voice of Satan.” (Tasnim News Agency)

Economy

  • Deputy Oil Minister: We will increase daily oil production to 4.7 million barrels a day.National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) Managing Director and Deputy Oil Minister Rokneddin Javadi reiterated his previous call to boost oil production. Iranian officials have voiced their intention to expand oil production considerably in the post-JCPOA environment, threatening to drive already low prices even further down, despite calls from other oil producers to freeze production. (Tabnak)

Casualties in Iraq and Syria

  • IRGC Ground Forces member killed in Syria.
    • Hamid Reza Ansari was buried in Markazi province on February 19. He was reportedly a member of IRGC Ruhollah unit of Markazi province. (Tasnim News Agency) (Basij News)
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