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. To receive this daily newsletter, please subscribe online.

(E) = Article in English

Key takeaway: The IAEA confirmed that Iran had fulfilled its initial commitments under the JCPOA on January 16, paving the way for international sanctions against Iran to be lifted.

The P5+1 officially implemented the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on January 16 after the IAEA issued its report verifying Iran’s compliance with its commitments under the nuclear deal. The U.S. and the EU lifted nuclear-related sanctions in response, although the UN arms embargo and sanctions on Tehran’s ballistic missile program remain in place. Tehran also freed four Iranian-Americans on January 16, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, in exchange for the release of seven Iranians held in the U.S. for sanctions evasion. In addition, the U.S. also dropped charges and Interpol arrest notices against 14 other Iranians.

President Hassan Rouhani, who was elected in 2013 on a platform of economic recovery, hailed the removal of sanctions as “a golden page” in Iran’s history. President Rouhani also submitted the annual budget and the Sixth Five-Year Development Plan to Parliament for review on January 17 following an approximately month-long delay as his administration waited for Implementation Day.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned 11 entities and individuals linked to Tehran’s ballistic missile program on January 17. Defense Minister IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan reiterated officials’ intransigence on ballistic missiles, vowing that Iran will strengthen its missile capabilities in response to the sanctions.

Approximately 60 percent of candidates in the parliamentary elections were disqualified during the second round of qualifications review. The vast majority of Reformist candidates and many current parliamentarians -- some reports indicate as high as 50 -- were also rejected. President Hassan Rouhani responded that he will “use all of his power” to address the disqualifications. Iranian news outlets have reported that Rouhani and Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani will meet with the Guardian Council to discuss the disqualifications. The Guardian Council is nevertheless likely uphold the vast majority of its disqualifications of Reformist candidates, as it has done in previous elections, in order to prevent the emergence of an influential Reformist bloc in Parliament.

Reuters reported that an Iranian-backed Shia militia kidnapped the three U.S. citizens who disappeared in Baghdad last week, according to two Iraqi intelligence and two U.S. government sources. The U.S. sources claimed that there is “no reason” to believe Tehran was behind the kidnapping.

Iranian news outlets reported that an IRGC member was killed in the vicinity of Aleppo, Syria.

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

  • Rouhani calls JCPOA implementation “a golden page in our history.” President Hassan Rouhani lauded the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) during a speech to Parliament and a press conference on January 17. He called Implementation Day “one of the golden pages in our country’s history” and stated:
    • “All are happy with the JCPOA’s result, with the exception of the Zionists, those seeking to create divisions within the Islamic world, and a small group of extremists in America.”
    • “Today a new chapter has begun in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s relations with the region and the world… We believe that with the JCPOA’s implementation, conditions for relations with regional countries -- both economic relations and political relations -- will be better than before. Under the shadow of these relations, we can solve the issues we have in the region.”
    • Rouhani further stressed political unity, stating, “In the JCPOA, one side did not win over the other; it is the Iranian nation that has become victorious. In the JCPOA, no one has been defeated – neither inside [Iran] nor any countries that negotiated with us.”
    • On U.S.-Iran relations: Rouhani downplayed the likelihood of the next U.S. administration refusing to implement the nuclear deal, as several Republican presidential candidates have proposed. Rouhani referred to “the commitments that [the U.S.] government has made to us” in the nuclear agreement and stated, “These commitments will continue, and it does not make a difference. Any administration [that comes to power] is bound to this framework. Resolution 2231 is for this [purpose].”
    • Rouhani stated that “commercial relations” between Iran and the U.S. will be “to the benefit of the people of both countries” and welcomed American “technology and investment” in Iran. When asked about new U.S. sanctions against Iran’s ballistic missile program during the press conference, however, Rouhani said Iran has experienced “much oppression and disloyalty” from the U.S. and added, “We do not need to trust a country like America because of the JCPOA… If they break their promises during the JCPOA’s implementation, there are mechanisms within the JCPOA through which we can pursue the issue. If the Americans take actions in other areas, they will receive a reciprocal response.” ( (


  • Rouhani and Khamenei call for “cautious” implementation of JCPOA in open letters. President Hassan Rouhani stressed the continued strength of Iran’s nuclear program under the JCPOA in an open letter to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on January 18. Rouhani also called for caution during the nuclear deal’s implementation, stating that his administration “is determined to precisely and seriously monitor the implementation of the other side's undertakings; take proper reciprocal measures against any breach of undertakings, without excessive optimism and with a wise, realistic view… and foil any enemy attempts to misuse [the JCPOA’s implementation] for influence.”
    • Khamenei responded to Rouhani in another open letter on January 19. He called for Rouhani to be “vigilant that the other side fulfills their commitments completely” and added that “statements from some American politicians in the past two or three days have been deeply suspicious… Once again, I stress that deceit and the violation of promises by arrogant governments, particularly America’s, on this issue and other issues must not be neglected.” Neither Khamenei nor Rouhani discussed the January 16 prisoner swap. ( (E) (Fars News Agency) (E) (
  • Zarif: The debate over the JCPOA must end. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also lauded the JCPOA’s implementation during a televised interview on January 18. He stated:
    • On the JCPOA debate: “I was not pleased with some of the criticism. I think that much of it was not justified. Some individuals managed to find [controversial] news and put it in the headlines. Today, I am telling them to stop. Today it is time to benefit from the JCPOA. The entire world is saying that Iran has emerged victorious. Take a look at the press in the region and the cartoons which are now being published in the media. Look at whom they claim has won the field.”
    • On Saudi Arabia: Zarif accused Saudi Arabia of pursuing “escalatory policies” in the region, and claimed that Saudi Arabia was involved in the 2013 bombing of the Iranian Embassy in Beirut and the 2014 bombing near the Iranian consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan.
    • “[The Saudis] are using whatever they have up their sleeve, from decreasing the price of oil to other actions.” Zarif also noted that the cutting of oil prices “has hurt them more than it has harmed us.”
    • “Iran will not fall into Saudi Arabia’s trap of escalation.”
    • On Bank Sepah: “Bank Sepah and Bank Saderat had been sanctioned for non-nuclear reasons. However, we are able to remove Bank Sepah from the list of sanctions during the course of these negotiations.”
    • “We all knew however that Bank Saderat would remain sanctioned because it was not relevant to the nuclear sanctions.”
    • On the new missile sanctions: “In addition to the formal protest that was published by the Foreign Ministry, I sent five to six emails to the relevant sides so that compensatory measures could take place.” Zarif did not elaborate on what the “compensatory measures” were. (ISNA)

Regional Developments and Diplomacy

  • U.S. drops charges against Iranians linked to Mahan Air in prisoner swap. Iran freed Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Amir Hekmati, Christian pastor Saeed Abedini, and Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari on January 16 in exchange for the release of seven Iranian nationals held by the U.S. for sanctions evasion. The swap occurred following a “resolution” by the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) and was assessed to be “in the interests of the [Iranian] system,” according to Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafar Dowlatabadi.
    • A fifth American, Matthew Trevithick, was also freed, reportedly separately from the swap; the reasons behind his 40-day detainment are unclear.
    • The U.S. dropped Interpol arrest notices against 14 other Iranians in addition to the release of the seven Iranian nationals. At least two of those 14 Iranians, Hamid Arabnejad and Gholamreza Mahmoudi, are top officials at Mahan Air, an Iranian airline sanctioned for transporting IRGC-Qods Force members and materiel for Hezbollah.
    • Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari stated that 28 Iranians, not 21, were released or had “judicial restrictions” against them dropped as part of the prisoner swap. His statement contradicts previous reports by both Iranian and American officials on the total number of Iranians included in the swap. The identities of any additional Iranians involved in the swap remain unclear. (Fars News Agency) (E) (Tasnim News Agency) (Hamshahri)
  • Nawaz Sharif visits Tehran and Riyadh. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Saudi Arabia on January 18 and traveled to Tehran on January 19. Pakistani sources claim that Sharif’s main goal during this trip is to urge Iran and Saudi Arabia to reopen channels of communication. (Entekhab)
  • Araghchi to travel to Saudi Arabia. Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Abbas Araghchi is scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia on January 20 in order to attend attend an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The meeting is scheduled to discuss the deterioration of relations between Riyadh and Tehran following the execution of Saudi cleric Nimr al Nimr. (ISNA)
  • Parliamentarians issue statement praising IRGC Navy and construction company. A total of 230 parliamentarians issued a statement lauding the IRGC Navy for its “brave actions” in seizing two U.S. Navy vessels and their crewmembers on January 12. The statement also praises the development of phases 15 and 16 of the South Pars gas field by Khatam ol Anbia, a massive engineering and construction company linked to the IRGC. (Tasnim News Agency)

Military and Security

  • Defense Minister and Foreign Ministry vow to strengthen ballistic missile program. IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan responded to new U.S. sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile program, stating that Iran will “unveil new missile achievements” soon that will demonstrate the sanctions’ “ineffectiveness.” The Defense Minister claimed the new sanctions are based on “irrelevant excuses" and are evidence of “the continuation of America’s hostile policies” and “hatred of the Iranian nation.”
    • The Foreign Ministry released a similar statement, asserting that Iran “will respond to such propaganda and harassment by pursuing its legal missile program more seriously and by enhancing its national defense and security capabilities.” The statement also reiterated the general Iranian claim that Iran’s ballistic missiles do not violate international law because they “have not at all been designed to carry nuclear weapons.” (Fars News Agency) (Hamshahri)
  • Hardliner newspapers censure new sanctions. Hardliner newspaper Vatan-e Emruz published an editorial criticizing the new sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile program. The article claims that the new sanctions show that “America is determined to say to Iran that its main strategy against Iran will not change. The Rouhani administration must clarify its position...on what its policy is against the America.” The editorial added, “The Americans have a completely clear plan to renew sanctions against Iran. There are now more than 11 bills and resolutions under consideration in various stages in Congress…” (Vatan-e Emruz)
    • Kayhan also published an article censuring the new sanctions. The editorial states, “Less than 24 hours after the announcement of the beginning of the JCPOA and the removal of sanctions, the U.S. Treasury announced new sanctions under the excuse of our missile program!” (Kayhan
  • Tehran prosecutor: We have arrested three important individuals linked to the Saudi embassy attack. Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi announced the arrests of three “key individuals” behind  for the January 2 attacks on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashhad. He did not provide additional information on the arrested individuals’ identities. (Alef)


  • Rouhani submits annual budget and Sixth Five-Year Development Plan for parliamentary review. Rouhani submitted the annual budget and the Sixth Five-Year Development Plan to Parliament for review on January 17 following an approximately month-long delay. Rouhani justified the delay by explaining that his administration did not consider it “appropriate” to submit the budget before Implementation Day because the budget is “based on the assumption of lifted sanctions.” Parliament will revise and approve the budget and Sixth Five-Year Development Plan before they are implemented.
    • Rouhani stated that the annual budget and the Sixth Five-Year Development Plan include “necessary economic reforms” and emphasized the necessity of attracting greater foreign investment. He described his administration’s three-pronged “main approach” for economic issues in the post-sanctions period: attracting foreign investment, cultivating non-oil exports, and increasing the use of foreign exchange reserves. He added that Iran requires $30 billion to $50 billion in foreign investment annually in order to reach the Sixth Five Year Development Plan’s goal of eight-percent annual growth.
    • Rouhani stressed the importance of encouraging the private sector’s greater participation in economic issues, including attracting foreign capital. He also identified the “necessity” of cooperation with the private sector in order to “increase efficiency” in development projects, including unfinished development projects throughout Iran.
    • Rouhani stated that Iran can benefit from an “economic mutation” as a result of “opening new windows for the development of economic relations with the world” in the post-sanctions period; he added that “thousands of letters of credit” have been opened for Iranian banks on the first day of implementation alone. He also emphasized that improving Iranians’ living conditions “must be the primary priority.” ( (


  • Proposed annual budget reduces IRGC funding. Iranian news outlets published breakdowns of the annual budget on January 17. Funding for the armed forces, which includes the Defense Ministry and the IRGC, was reportedly decreased by 4.27 percent. The IRGC’s funding was also reportedly reduced by 16.07 percent; the IRGC, however, likely receives a majority of its revenue through its business interests. The annual budget was also calculated based on oil prices of “$35 to $40” per barrel. (Raja News) (Fars News Agency) (Asriran)
  • Deputy Oil Minister orders increase in oil production. Rokneddin Javadi issued an order on January 18 to increase oil production following the lifting of sanctions. The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) Managing Director and Deputy Oil Minister called for an increase of an additional 500,000 barrels per day. (Shana)
  • CBI Head: “The transfer of unfrozen assets has begun.” Valiollah Seif told reporters on January 18 that the “transfer of unfrozen assets” under the JCPOA “ has begun.” The Central Bank of Iran (CBI) Head added, “Due to the lifting of sanctions and implementation of the JCPOA, $32 billion of blocked assets have been released. $28 billion belong to the CBI, and $4 billion will be converted to rials and will belong to the state’s treasury.” Seif noted that the $28 billion “will be spent according to economic priorities, which includes supporting investment.” (YJC) (Mehr News Agency)
  • Iran to buy 114 Airbus aircraft. Transportation Minister Abbas Akhoundi announced that Iran is preparing to purchase 114 aircraft from Airbus for state carrier Iran Air. An anonymous Iranian official confirmed that the deal includes new and used A320 and out-of-production A340 jets. Iran’s airlines have suffered from a lack of spare parts and modern airframes as a result of sanctions over the past three decades. (Tasnim News Agency)
  • SWIFT sanctions officially removed for delisted banks. Iranian officials announced that the banks which were  delisted following Implementation Day will be allowed back into the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT). Banks that remain sanctioned under EU laws, however, will not be allowed to reconnect to SWIFT. SWIFT is an international organization that provides a secure international transaction network to member banks. (Tasnim News Agency)
  • Khodro and Daimler announce plans to create venture companies. Iran Khodro, Iran’s leading automaker, and Daimler AG have reportedly signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish two venture companies in order to expand cooperation between the two firms. Daimler has also reportedly announced that it has signed agreements with Iran Khodro Diesel and Mammut Group to pave the way for a “comprehensive re-entry” into the Iranian market. (Donya-e Eqtesad)

Domestic Politics

  • Provincial Supervisory Boards approve 40% percent of parliamentary candidates. Guardian Council member Siamak Rahpeyk told reporters that the Provincial Supervisory Boards, which are under the Guardian Council’s oversight, have approved the qualifications of “about” 40 percent of parliamentary candidates and have rejected the qualifications of the remainder during the second round of qualifications review. This number is significantly lower than the 90 percent of candidates approved during the first round of qualification review by the local Executive Committees, which fall under the Interior Ministry. The Guardian Council will review the list of candidates and investigate any complaints before submitting a finalized list of approved candidates to the Interior Ministry by February 16.
    • Nearly 50 sitting parliamentarians disqualified from running. Iranian media outlets reported that the Provincial Supervisory Boards have rejected the qualifications of close to fifty current parliamentarians, many of whom are reportedly members the Followers of the Velayat, the largest parliamentary faction and supporters of Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani. Larijani reportedly “expressed his surprise” when he saw the list of disqualifications.
    • Ali Motahari, a moderate-conservative parliamentarian from Tehran, was rejected. He is the brother in law of Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani. He has often been fiercely attacked -- sometimes even physically -- for his reformist-inclined views.
    • The Provincial Supervisory Boards have also confirmed Hojjat ol Eslam Hamid Resaei’s previous disqualification by the Executive Committees. Resaei ranks among Parliament’s most hardline parliamentarians. (Fars News Agency) (Iran) (Fars News Agency)
  • Reformist Policymaking Committee member: Of 3,000 Reformists, only 30 were approved. Hossein Marashi, a member of the Reformist Policymaking Committee, criticized the extensive disqualifications during an interview with Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA). Marashi remarked that the Provincial Supervisory Boards approved the qualifications of “only 30 of the approximately 3,000 Reformists that registered for the elections.” Marashi noted that “no Reformist candidates were approved to run” in some provinces. Marashi added that the Tehran Provincial Supervisory Board has approved the qualifications of Mohammad Reza Aref, the former First Vice President under President Mohammad Khatami.
    • Iranian media outlets report that Mohsen and Fatemeh Hashemi Rafsanjani, the children of Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, have been disqualified from the elections.
    • Hojjat ol Eslam Morteza Eshraghi, a grandson of Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, was also reportedly disqualified. (ILNA) (Jamaran) (Fars News Agency)
  • Rouhani criticizes second round of candidate vetting. President Hassan Rouhani discussed candidate disqualifications in the February 2016 parliamentary elections during his January 17 press conference. A reporter asked Rouhani how he is acting upon his own campaign promise to ensure “vibrant elections” while the news regarding ongoing disqualifications is “not good.” While Rouhani praised the low disqualification rate during the first round of qualification reviews by the Executive Committees as “good and promising,” he criticized the second round of review by the Provincial Supervisory Committees and stated,
    • “We are very hopeful that the Guardian Council will investigate this issue. If there is a case in which someone had been disqualified despite being worthy of confirmation -- in my opinion, there are an abundant number of these cases -- the Guardian Council should interfere… As president, I will use all of my powers in this area.” (
  • Rouhani and Larijani to meet with Guardian Council over disqualifications. Vice President Elham Aminzadeh told reporters that President Hassan Rouhani will meet with the Guardian Council “in case there was any mistake” with the disqualification of candidates. Mohammad Reza Tabesh, the secretary of the Reformist parliamentary faction, also announced that Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani is scheduled to meet with the Guardian Council to discuss the vetting process.
    • Principlist Parliamentarian Mohammad Biatian told reporters that a group of sitting parliamentarians who have been disqualified in the vetting process have met with Larijani to request that the Parliament Speaker meet with the Guardian Council “in order to determine what reason we were disqualified for.” (ISNA) (IRNA) (ISNA)
  • Reformist party member: Rouhani must ensure that the elections are “lively.” Ali Shakouri Rad, the Secretary General of the Reformist National Trust Party, told reporters that Rouhani must act on his promise to ensure “just and lively elections.” He stated, “The expectation exists. Rouhani has made promises on this issue, and his approach over the past two years shows that he lives up to his promises… He has promised that he will have talks with the Guardian Council in order to bring about the necessary conditions for people to participate in the elections.”
    • Secretary of the Reformist Parliamentary faction Mohammad Reza Tabesh also claimed that President Rouhani must “pursue” the issue of disqualifications in order to “bring about an environment where the approval of qualifications is done according to law.”  (Asiran) (ILNA)
  • Rafsanjani criticizes disqualifications. Expediency Discernment Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani stated during a speech in Tehran, “We have finished the JCPOA issue; but the same day that we want to celebrate, nearly 60 percent of candidates are disqualified. We must really try to create a just environment so people can participate with passion and excitement…” Rafsanjani later wrote on his Instagram account that the disqualification of some of the candidates was harmful to the “rights of the people.” (Hamshahri) (Ana)
  • Former Intelligence minister criticizes disqualifications. Former Intelligence Minister and senior member of the Assembly of Experts Ghorban Ali Dori Najafabadi spoke out against the Guardian Council’s expansive disqualifications of parliamentary candidates, stating, “Some unethical behavior in the holding of the elections cannot be defended and must be reformed.” Najafabadi, who is also the Supreme Leader’s Representative in Markazi province, called for a “wise review” of the individuals who have been disqualified. (Asiran)
  • Hamedani: The disqualification of candidates was “done according to the Constitution.” Grand Ayatollah Hossein Nouri Hamedani defended the process the Guardian Council is currently using to vet candidates for the parliamentary elections, claiming that the rejection of candidates’ qualifications is “done according to the Constitution.” (Tasnim News Agency)
  • Guardian Council Spokesman submits his resignation. Nejatollah Ebrahimian submitted his resignation from his position as Guardian Council spokesman to Guardian Council Secretary Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati. Jannati reportedly did not accept Ebrahimian’s resignation. In response, Ebrahimian stated, “My resignation from the Guardian Council spokesmanship does not need to be accepted by anyone!” Ebrahimian added, “It is not an appropriate time to explain the reason for my resignation.” According to Iranian news outlets, it is currently unclear who will be nominated to be Ebrahimian’s successor. (Entekhab) (Fars News Agency)
  • Combatant Clergy Association Spokesman: Nategh Nouri will not likely back the Principlists. Combatant Clergy Association Spokesman Hojjat ol Eslam Gholam Reza Mesbahi Moghaddam discussed the Principlists’ efforts ahead of the February Assembly of Experts and parliamentary elections during an interview with Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA). Moghaddam remarked that the Principlists “are not hopeful that [former Parliament Speaker Ali Akbar] Nategh Nouri will help the Principlists in the elections.” Former Parliament Speaker Nategh Nouri is a prominent politician and head of the Supreme Leader’s Inspectorate Office, and is rumored to be backing the moderate-conservative bloc rather than the more hardline Principlists in the upcoming elections.
    • Moghaddam also commented on rumors on whether the Combatant Clergy Association will support Expediency Discernment Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in the Assembly of Expert elections. He stated that the Combatant Clergy Association’s Central Council “has discussed this issue and has made a decision” about whether to support Rafsanjani but will announce its decision at a later date. (Hamshahri)

Casualties in Iraq and Syria

  • IRGC member killed in Syria. Saeed Ansari was a member of IRGC Vali-ye Amr Security unit. The IRGC Vali-ye Amr Security unit is an elite IRGC protection unit reportedly tasked with protecting the Supreme Leader and his family. (Modafeon)
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