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: Senior AEOI officials denied a January 11 report that Iran has finalized the dismantling of the Arak heavy water reactor core, but reiterated that the reconfiguration of the reactor- as required by the nuclear deal - is underway.
Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Deputy Head Zarean dismissed the unnamed source quoted in a January 11 Fars News Agency report. Zarean reassured his domestic audiences that a contract between Iran and China for redesigning the Arak reactor must be “finalized and signed” before the core is removed and filled with cement. AEOI Spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi added that although the reactor core remains intact, reconfiguration efforts are underway in accordance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Kamalvandi reiterated Iran’s commitment to fulfilling its nuclear obligations, insisting that all compliance measures will be undertaken before January 20.
Principlist Parliamentarian Kowsari asserted that, contrary to the claims made by AEOI officials, the core of the Arak reactor has been removed. The member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Parliamentary Commission, which is one of the bodies tasked with overseeing the JCPOA’s implementation, stated that this technical development has been corroborated by “information from AEOI specialists.”
U.S. officials report that Iranian military forces have seized two U.S. Navy riverine boats and ten crew members in the Persian Gulf after the vessels drifted into Iranian waters. Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters that the vessels were traveling between Kuwait and Bahrain. The crew is reported to be safe and negotiations are underway for their release.
Matthew McInnis analyzes Iranian reactions to the Saudi execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al Nimr and explains why Tehran is unlikely to seek further escalation in the conflict with Riyadh in his latest blog post, “Iran backs down after Saudi embassy attack.”
Reactions to the Nuclear Deal
AEOI: Iran will sell excess heavy water to U.S. Asghar Zarean told reporters that Iran will sell 40 tons of its excess heavy water to the U.S. through an unspecified “third country.” The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Deputy Head added that Iran will produce 20 tons of heavy water annually and will “sell the excess to foreign buyers.” Under the nuclear deal, Tehran is committed to “not accumulate heavy water in excess of the needs of the modified Arak reactor” and sell “any remaining heavy water on the international market.” (Alef) (IRIB)
Officials deliver conflicting reports on removal of Arak reactor core. Zarean also denied reports that Iran has removed the core of the Arak heavy water reactor and filled it with cement. He claimed that the contract between Iran and China must be “finalized and signed” before the core can be removed and added, “Other than the exchange of fuel reserves, none of Iran’s steps with respect to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) at Fordow, Natanz, and Arak have been finalized.”
- The Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported that AEOI Spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi similarly stated on January 12 that work on removing the core of the Arak heavy water reactor is still ongoing, although he added that the JCPOA will “certainly” be implemented in the month of Dey (December 22-January 20).
- Principlist Parliamentarian Mohammad Esmail Kowsari claimed that the core of the Arak reactor has been removed during an interview with Mehr News Agency on January 12. The member of the National Security and Foreign Policy (NSFP) Parliamentary Commission, which is one of the bodies tasked with overseeing Iran’s implementation of the JCPOA, stated, “Despite…[AEOI] officials’ denials of the Arak reactor core’s removal… it became certain for us based on information from AEOI specialists that they removed the reactor’s core.” Kowsari added that the NSFP Parliamentary Commission will issue a letter “soon” on the JCPOA’s implementation, but he did not provide a date. (Alef) (IRIB) (Mehr News Agency) (IRNA)
- Boroujerdi: Only 1044 centrifuges remain at Fordow. Parliamentarian Alaeddin Boroujerdi stated that Iran has reduced the number of centrifuges from 2,700 to 1,044 at the Fordow nuclear facility. The NSFP Parliamentary Commission Chairman called the measures in line with the nuclear agreement. (Tasnim News Agency)
Regional Developments and Diplomacy
Interior Minister meets with Syrian President Assad. Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli met with President Bashar al Assad on January 12 in Damascus, Syria. The Interior Minister reinforced Iran’s commitment to the Syrian nation and government, while Assad hailed joint Damascus-Tehran counterterrorism efforts. In a separate press conference, Fazli claimed that the January 2 storming of the Saudi embassy in Iran was organized “by the hidden hands of the Saudi government.” He stated that the Interior Ministry is “collecting evidence” and added that it will “take necessary measures” if the evidence proves that Saudi Arabia did organize the attacks. (Fars News Agency) (Mehr News Agency) (E)
Rouhani hosts former German Chancellor. President Hassan Rouhani proposed greater Tehran-Berlin relations during a meeting with former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder on January 12 in Tehran. Rouhani also highlighted investment opportunities in Iran and welcomed joint cooperation between Iran and Germany in the political and economic sectors. (President.ir)
Jafari: We have over 200,000 armed youths in regional countries. IRGC Commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari praised the role of the “young generation” for advancing the goals of the Islamic Revolution during a ceremony commemorating the death of Hamid Reza Assadollahi, an Iranian recently killed in Syria. Jafari noted that a “positive result” of recent regional developments has been the mobilization of nearly “200,000 armed youths in regional countries.” (Fars News Agency)
Hosseini: Iran could convince other states to boycott the OIC meeting. Principlist Parliamentarian Hossein Naghavi Hosseini discussed Iran’s strategy ahead of the upcoming Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting that will address escalating tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The National Security and Foreign Policy (NSFP) Parliamentary Commission member stated that one option would be for Iran to attend the meeting in order to “defend its right to speak.” He added that another option is for the Iranian Foreign Ministry to abandon its “passive diplomacy” and convince other states to boycott the meeting. Hosseini noted that this latter option would have a “greater effect in protesting the aggressive behavior of Saudi Arabia” than the first option. (ICANA)
- Naghdi blames U.S. for attack on Saudi embassy. Basij Organization Commander IRGC Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naghdi stated that the U.S. was behind Sheikh Nimr al Nimr's execution and the attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran. (Aftab News)
Nobakht revises annual budget timeline. Mohammad Bagher Nobakht discussed the annual budget during a press conference on January 12. The Rouhani administration spokesman stated that the 1395 [2016-2017] budget and the Sixth Five-Year Development Plan will “likely be submitted to Parliament after the JCPOA’s implementation” rather than on January 12, the scheduled submission date. He did not provide a specific reason for the delay, stating only that government will announce its reasons “in the next few days.” (Mehr News Agency)
CBI Head: Iran is preparing for $30 billion in released assets. Central Bank of Iran (CBI) Head Valiollah Seif claimed that the CBI is making preparations to receive approximately $30 billion in frozen assets that will be released under the JCPOA. (Press TV) (E)
- Iran set to unveil $32 billion in oil product investment opportunities. Iran will present $32 billion in investment opportunities at the 12th Kish International Energy Exhibition, which opened on January 11. Countries represented at the exhibition include China, India, Turkey, Russia, France, and Germany. (ISNA) (E)
Military and Security
- Official confirms Iranian fighter jet crash near Pakistan border. Ali Asghar Mirshekavi, the Security and Political Deputy to the Governor of Sistan va Baluchistan province, confirmed that an Iranian fighter jet crashed during a training mission near Chabahar on January 12. Mirshekavi stated that both the pilot and co-pilot died in the crash and that the crash’s cause is still under review. He also specified that the jet belonged to the Artesh; IRGC Public Affairs Head Brig. Gen. 2C Ramezan Sharif also clarified separately to reporters that the jet did not belong to the IRGC. (Sepah News) (Tasnim News Agency)
Rafsanjani criticizes media outlets for elections coverage. The Office of Expediency Discernment Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani published a statement criticizing segments of the Iranian media on January 11. The statement read, “Unfortunately, some of the media, particularly in the lead-up to the elections, give bogus alerts and publish them with abundant relish and fervor. Contrary to the text of the press law, they refuse to insert notices [about their mistakes].” Rafsanjani’s office also pushed back on false criticisms against Rafsanjani and censured people who “are taking an axe to the roots of the [Islamic] Revolution in order to protect their own political and factional interests.” (Entekhab)
Jazayeri: we must be aware of the “problem of generational change.” IRGC Brig. Gen. Massoud Jazayeri warned of the danger of U.S. “influence” on the forthcoming elections for the Assembly of Experts and the Parliament, stating that the U.S. “will take every opportunity to change the Islamic Republic in the perspective of the people and the authorities.” The Armed Forces General Staff Headquarters Basij Affairs and Defense Culture Deputy added:
- “One of the other issues we face in the elections is the problem of generational change; the better a political system can guide the generational change, the more successful it will be… Therefore we must pay attention to generational changes, and push it forward towards the goals and values of the revolution.” (Defa Press)
Casualties in Iraq and Syria
Three Iranians killed in Syria. Ali Reza Moradi, Morteza Karimi, and Hossein Omidvari were reportedly killed in Syria. According to Ahlul Bayt News Agency (ABNA) all three were members of the Tehran Imam Ali Basij Battalion. The Imam Ali Battalions were formed following the 2009 election protests to deal with domestic "disturbances and security challenges." (ABNA)
- Three fighters buried in Shiraz. Jamshid Ahmadi, Mohammad Zaman Ataei, and Nezam Mohseni were buried in Shiraz province. No unit affiliation or ranks were reported. (Ettelaat)