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: Iran confirmed that it has removed the core of its Arak heavy water reactor and filled it with cement, signaling imminent implementation of the P5+1 nuclear deal.
Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi announced on January 14 that the core of the Arak heavy water reactor has been removed and reconfigured, thereby eliminating its ability to yield weapons-grade plutonium. Kamalvandi stated that the compliance measures are being finalized at the Arak reactor in preparation for an IAEA-led inspection on January 14. The removal of the core was a major issue during the negotiations on Tehran’s nuclear program.
Senior Iranian officials touted the Islamic Republic’s deterrence capabilities and its role as guarantor of security in the Persian Gulf following the January 13 release of 10 U.S. sailors. Expediency Discernment Council Secretary Mohsen Rezaei praised the IRGC Navy for its willingness to challenge the U.S. for breaching Iranian territorial waters. The former IRGC Commander advised the U.S. and its regional allies to heed this warning and refrain from making strategic miscalculations. Rezaei stated that the detainment of the American sailors was a direct message to Iran’s adversaries, “especially Saudi Arabia, to not play with fire.”
Iranian news outlets reported that six Iranian fighters were killed in Syria, one of whom was an IRGC colonel.
Matthew McInnis analyzes the recent Iranian detention and subsequent release of U.S. sailors in his latest blog, “Five lessons learned from Iran’s detention of US naval crew.”
Reactions to the Nuclear Deal
AEOI confirms removal of Arak reactor core. Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi confirmed on January 14 that Iran has filled the core of the Arak heavy water reactor with cement, thereby disabling its ability to produce the levels of plutonium required for a nuclear weapon. He told state television, “We have one or two hours of small work remaining that will be completed today or tomorrow. I think reaching the [nuclear agreement’s] implementation stage is very close.” He added that inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will also visit the Arak reactor on January 14 to report on the changes. Kamalvandi’s confirmation ends several days of conflicting reports from Iranian government officials over whether Iran had actually removed the core and filled it with cement. The move fulfills one of Iran’s most significant commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and brings it one step closer to Implementation Day, when the IAEA verifies that Iran has complied with its initial nuclear commitments and triggers sanctions relief. Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi previously stated that he expects the IAEA to release its report verifying Iran’s compliance on January 15 and that he anticipates the date for Implementation Day to be announced over the weekend. (Fars News Agency) (ISCA)
Senior nuclear negotiator: We are at the “last station” in talks. Hamid Baeidinejad referred to talks among Iran, the U.S., and the EU in Geneva regarding sanctions relief during an interview on January 14. The Foreign Ministry’s Director General for Political and International Affairs stated that negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program have reached their “last station” and added that Implementation Day is “looming.” (Tasnim News Agency) (E)
Basij Commander claims U.S.-Iran relations have deteriorated under JCPOA. IRGC Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naghdi discussed U.S.-Iran relations on January 14. The Basij Organization Commander stated:
- “Iran’s status in American public opinion has not improved after the JCPOA. Today American officials say during their election campaigns, ‘I’ll tear up [the nuclear agreement] and confront [Iran] more quickly.’ This indicates the deterioration of our status in the international arena and the ineffectiveness of our public diplomacy inside America… Congress has altered its responsibilities such that instead of passing laws for America, they have turned into a lawmaking institute for Iran.”
- “Obama said in his annual speech that he has not been able to do anything for the American economy, so why hasn’t this made headlines in our media? It’s because they want us to believe that America can fix our economy and create the delusion that America is providing our bread and water.” (Fars News Agency)
Regional Developments and Diplomacy
Rezaei to Saudi Arabia: Don’t “play with fire.” IRGC Maj. Gen. Mohsen Rezaei discussed the IRGC Navy’s detention of two U.S. Navy vessels and 10 sailors in a televised interview with the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting. The Expediency Discernment Council Secretary said the arrest “was very skillful and showed the Islamic Republic of Iran’s power.”
- Rezaei also claimed that following the sailors’ arrest, “U.S. planes and helicopters carried out incorrect and provocative actions. Their ships surrounded the island… such was the situation in the first 50 minutes. After the IRGC Navy warned the American aircraft, however, [the situation] changed, and they [the Americans] agreed that they should behave with respect.”
- Rezaei said that Iran’s detainment of the vessels has “two messages…The first message – to the countries of the region, especially Saudi Arabia – is to not play with fire and go in the wrong direction...The second message is to the Americans. It is that at the pinnacle of power Iran strikes honorably with its forces.”
- On Saudi Arabia: “Saudi Arabia’s actions in Yemen and Djibouti show that they are seeking that if war occurred in the region and we shut down the Strait of Hormuz, they would block our ships from the Bab el Mandeb” strait.
- On Iran’s missile capabilities and sanctions: Rezaei stated that the Americans “are mistaken [to think] that they can control our missile program through sanctions since we will not go under them.”
On the Iranian economy: “If there is no trading of goods and services, and one looks only to oil, the implementation of the JCPOA will not have a major impact on the country’s economy; of course, the situation will be better, but society’s expectations will not be realized.” (IRIB)
Rouhani meets with Indonesian Foreign Minister in Tehran. President Hassan Rouhani promoted closer Tehran-Jakarta ties in a meeting with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi on January 13. (President.ir)
Comoros cuts diplomatic ties with Iran. The Union of the Comoros severed its diplomatic relations with Iran on January 13 as show of solidarity with Saudi Arabia. Comoros joins a list of countries including the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Bahrain, and Somalia that have either severed or downgraded diplomatic ties following the January 2 storming of the Saudi embassy and consulate in Iran. (ILNA)
Boroujerdi pens laudatory letter to the IRGC Navy. Parliamentarian Alaeddin Boroujerdi hailed IRGC Navy Commander Brig. Gen. Ali Fadavi in an open letter. The National Security and Foreign Policy (NSFP) Parliamentary Chairman said that the IRGC reinforced Iran’s role as the guarantor of security in the Persian Gulf when it detained two U.S. Navy vessels for breaching Iranian territorial waters on January 12. Boroujerdi praised the IRGC Navy for showing the world the “true” image of Islam by responding to the U.S. Navy in an honorable and courageous manner. (ICANA)
- Iran-Tajikistan security cooperation agreement ratified in Parliament. Lawmakers ratified a security agreement intended to boost cooperation between Iran and Tajikistan in multiple security-related areas, including terrorism, narcotics smuggling, and human trafficking. Tajikistan recently summoned Tehran’s ambassador to Dushanbe after Iran invited a prominent Tajik opposition figure to participate in the International Conference of Islamic Unity in Tehran. (Shafaf)
Rouhani holds cabinet meeting on budget and the 6th five-year development plan. President Hassan Rouhani held a cabinet meeting on January 13 in order to review next year’s budget and the 6th Five-Year Development Plan. Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, the Rouhani administration spokesman, told reporters that the annual budget and the 6th Five-Year Development Plan will “likely be submitted to Parliament after the JCPOA’s implementation” rather than on January 12, the scheduled submission date. Parliamentarians have censured the Rouhani administration for the delay in presenting the budget for parliamentary approval. (President.ir)
Parsian Bank: “20 banks have expressed willingness to work with us once sanctions are lifted.” A senior Parsian Bank official told reporters that talks are underway to open accounts with nine foreign banks in order in order to process transactions with Iran once sanctions are lifted. The official added that “20 banks have expressed willingness to work with us once sanctions are lifted.” Parsian Bank is a major non-governmental bank that is designated under U.S. sanctions. (ISNA)
Zakani: The IPC will bring “serious damage” to the country. Principlist Parliamentarian Ali Reza Zakani reiterated previous criticisms of the Iran Petroleum Contract (IPC), a new contract model that is designed to address weaknesses in the present “buyback system” and attract greater international investment. Zakani claimed that contracts under the IPC will bring “serious damage” to the country and urged fellow politicians to speak out against the contract “as soon as possible.” (Fars News Agency)
- Larijani: Sanctions relief is the “first step” for economic boom. Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani stated that sanctions will be lifted “in the coming days” during a discussion of Iran’s economic problems on January 14. He stated, “One of the reasons for such problems is the existence of sanctions… We must say that as a whole, Iran’s decision in pursuing the negotiations has been clear, and we hope that the first step for an economic boom will be taken with the lifting of sanctions.” Larijani identified “mismanagement” of economic issues as a contributing factor. (Tasnim News Agency)
IRGC Cultural Deputy: The Executive Committees did not do their job correctly. IRGC Cultural Deputy Brig. Gen. Mohammad Hossein Nejat claimed that the Executive Committees that conducted the initial review of parliamentary candidates “did not do their job properly.” The Executive Committees fall under the Interior Ministry and conduct a review of parliamentary candidates’ qualifications before sending the entire vetted list of candidates -- including all candidates who have been disqualified -- to the Guardian Council for final review. Candidates must receive the Guardian Council’s approval before being cleared to campaign officially in the parliamentary elections. Hossein Nejat stated that the Guardian Council will have to “make up for” the Executive Committees’ “lack of work.” The Interior Ministry reported that the Executive Committees have accepted the qualifications of a total of 10,967 candidates out of an original pool of 12,123. (Fars News Agency)
- Zakani warns of media’s ability to hurt officials’ “decision-making.” Principlist Parliamentarian Ali Reza Zakani warned that the media can “use its tools to influence the people and officials to cause them to make mistakes and neglect their decision-making.” Zakani also warned that the West will attempt to use the media to shape Iranians’ economic stance as way of waging “economic war” against Iran. Zakani stated, “We must use the capacity of the media to convey the clear, explicit message of the Islamic Revolution to our society.” (Fars News Agency)
Casualties in Iraq and Syria
Five Iranian fighters killed in Syria. Mostafa Chegini, Mohammad Inanloo, Majid Ghorbankhani, Mohammad Kamran, and Hojjat ol Eslam Jaber Zuhairi were killed in Syria. No ranks or unit affiliations were reported. (Tnews) (Farda News)
- Retired IRGC Colonel killed in Syria. IRGC Col. Sayyah Taheri was reportedly a commander during the Iran-Iraq war. Taheri also commanded an IRGC battalion from Abadan county, Khuzestan province, although it was unclear whether he held the post at the time of his retirement. (Defa Press) (IRNA)