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: President Hassan Rouhani criticized the recent mass disqualification of parliamentary candidates during a televised speech, stating, “If one faction is represented in the elections and another is not, then why are we holding elections?”
President Rouhani questioned the Guardian Council’s vetting process during a speech on January 21. He stated, “The Parliament is a house for the nation, not for a particular faction. The government supports no particular faction, party, or candidate… We must allow the nation’s house to belong to all people and reflect the realities of the nation.” Secretary of the Interior Ministry Election Headquarters Ali Pourali Motlaq, meanwhile, noted that if the Guardian Council does not revise these numbers, “the elections in some electoral districts will not be competitive.”
Rouhani has faced calls from Reformist leaders to interfere on their behalf after they were disproportionately disqualified from the elections, and Rouhani himself pledged to use “all of his power” as president to address unjustified disqualifications. The Guardian Council is currently investigating complaints from recently disqualified candidates until February 5.
Matthew McInnis explains the challenges facing President Hassan Rouhani following JCPOA Implementation Day, including marshalling support for his budget and the Sixth Five-year Development Plan, dealing with dismal economic projections, and preparing his coalition for the February 26 elections, in his latest blog post, “After the nuclear deal, Rouhani’s real fights are just beginning.”
Rouhani criticizes mass disqualifications. President Hassan Rouhani addressed the recent mass disqualification of parliamentary candidates during a meeting with election officials on January 21. He called for greater diversity in electoral candidates permitted to stand in the elections, stating, “The Parliament is a house for the nation, not for a particular faction. The government supports no particular faction, party, or candidate… We must allow the nation’s house to belong to all people and reflect the realities of the nation.” He also stated:
- “If one faction is represented in the elections and another is not, then why are we holding elections? ...This country belongs to all. All sectors, groups, and factions should be able to send their representatives to Parliament.”
- “During these elections, we must show impartiality, noninterference, the essence of the Constitution, complete security, healthy competition, and – as the Supreme Leader has ordered – spirited and lively elections.”
- Rouhani also referred to the seats reserved for Iran’s relatively small population of recognized religious minorities – Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians – and the apparent lack of seats for Reformists; he stated that the minorities’ representation “is very good, but should we ignore a faction whose membership has reached around 10 million?”
- Rouhani stated that he “urgently asked” Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli and Intelligence Minister Hojjat ol Eslam Mahmoud Alavi to “seriously cooperate and consult with” the Guardian Council about its vetting process. Rouhani added that he has specifically assigned Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri to discuss the mass disqualifications with the Guardian Council as well. (President.ir)
Jannati defends Guardian Council vetting. Guardian Council Secretary Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati defended the Guardian Council’s role as facilitating “healthy, free, legal, and competitive” elections, but added that the Guardian Council “will not be affected by pressure” over its vetting process.
- Guardian Council member Siamak Rahpeyk also addressed the disqualifications, stating that it is “probable” that “approximately 10 to 15 percent” of candidates who are currently disqualified will have the disqualifications reversed. (ISNA)
Fazli: I submitted a report on the disqualifications to the Supreme Leader. Interior Minister Abdol Reza Rahmani Fazli told reporters that he has “personally” updated the Supreme Leader on the vetting process. (ISNA)
- Rafsanjani criticizes disqualifications. Ayatollah Ali Akbar Rafsanjani criticized the mass disqualifications in the parliamentary elections during a meeting with the Society of Qom Seminary Teachers on January 21. The Expediency Discernment Council Chairman stated, “These elections must be held legally at each stage so that the people can vote for their preferred candidates… [This way,] we will have lively elections with the maximum presence of the people.” Rafsanjani has been one of the most vocal critics of the disqualifications and is himself a candidate who will be vetted in the Assembly of Experts elections. (IRNA)
Motahari: My disqualification was illegal. Conservative Parliamentarian Ali Motahari released a statement protesting his disqualification by the Guardian Council. He stated that he “completely believes in the political system” and simply has a “different view” towards the Islamic Republic. According to law, all parliamentary candidates must possess a “practical belief” in the “sacred order” of the Islamic Republic. (Entekhab)
Motlaq: 6,753 candidates were disqualified. Secretary of the Interior Ministry Election Headquarters Ali Pourali Motlaq condemned the disqualification of candidates during a news interview. He announced that the Provincial Supervisory Boards disqualified 6,753 candidates and noted that if the Guardian Council does not revise these numbers, “the elections in some electoral districts will not be competitive.” (IRNA)
Mohammad Reza Aref: I hope the Guardian Council “fundamentally” revises its decision. Reformist parliamentary candidate Mohammad Reza Aref denounced the Guardian Council’s mass disqualifications during a conference with officials from the reformist NEDA party. Aref stated that he hopes the Guardian Council will “fundamentally” revise its decision to disqualify large numbers of reformists. (IRNA)
IRGC reports arrest of foreign agent. Security services arrested an individual reportedly “linked to three European intelligence services” and shut down two satellite TV networks. According to information from the IRGC Intelligence Organization, British intelligence reportedly guided the individual as he attempted to sell the two television channels “to BBC Persian.” The individual had purportedly “designed and implemented extensive measures” aimed at damaging “religious and moral foundations of the youth.” (Tasnim News Agency)
Ayatollah Kermani defends Guardian Council vetting. Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani expressed his confidence in the Guardian Council’s “approach” to the vetting process, stating, “The Guardian Council is just… If someone is problematic, they will not confirm [his qualifications].” The Interim Tehran Friday Prayer Leader and Director-General of the Combatant Clergy Association also stated that the Principlists will be submitting a “single list” of candidates for the Assembly of Experts elections and added that a decision has not yet been made over whether Expediency Discernment Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Rafsanjani will be on the list.
- Kermani discussed the candidacy of Hojjat ol Eslam Hassan Khomeini, who may have been disqualified as a candidate for the Assembly of Experts elections after missing a reportedly required qualifications exam in early January. Kermani stated that Khomeini “was told to take the exam, and he did not. Therefore he cannot participate [in the elections].” (Fars News Agency)
Regional Developments and Diplomacy
- Four al Houthi members buried in Mazandaran province. Iranian news outlets reported that four al Houthi members died in a Tehran hospital after traveling there to receive medical attention. The four were reportedly injured in the “first days of the Saudi invasion in Yemen.” (Pictures)(Mehr News Agency) (Barakish)
- Foreign Ministry denies Robert Levinson remains in Iran. The Foreign Ministry denied a CNN report claiming that FBI investigators think that retired FBI and DEA agent Robert Levinson remains in Iran after being taken hostage in March 2007. The Foreign Ministry’s comments come amidst conflicting reports from U.S. officials on the whereabouts of Levinson. White House and State Department officials have stated that they do not believe Levinson remains in Iran, a sentiment White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest reiterated during his January 19 press briefing. (Fars News Agency) (E)
Chinese president to visit Iran. Chinese President Xi Jinping sent an exclusive note to the newspaper Iran in which he wrote that his visit to Tehran on January 22 will be aimed at deepening bilateral ties. It is President Xi’s first trip to Iran. (Hamshahri) (Iran)
Jafari: Even the U.S. military can’t defeat popular forces in Iraq, Syria, and Libya. Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari delivered a speech on “popular forces” that have been fighting in Iraq, Syria and Libya in Tehran on January 20. The IRGC Commander spoke to the size and strength of this group by stating, “An over-200,000-strong organized popular force has been formed in these countries, and... no army, even of the U.S. and Israel, can confront it.” Last month, Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi lauded the efforts of the Syrian Army and these “popular forces.” As a result of these efforts, Safavi claimed that the opposition forces’ control over residential areas in the region has decreased. (Fars News) (E)
Zarif: We hope intra-Syria peace talks will start by the end of the month. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stated that Iran “certainly” hopes that intra-Syrian peace talks will begin in Geneva, Switzerland, by the end of January. (Fars News Agency) (E)
Reactions to the Nuclear Deal
Salehi: JCPOA Supervisory Board to discuss new ballistic missile sanctions. Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Head Ali Akbar Salehi stated that the Iranian JCPOA Supervisory Board will meet next week to discuss the recent sanctions the U.S. imposed on Iran’s missile program and later present their findings to the Supreme Leader. The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Head also warned that Iran’s “response to the missile-related sanctions must be smart; an emotional response is useless.” The Supreme Leader called for the formation of the Iranian JCPOA Supervisory Board The framework for the Iranian JCPOA Supervisory Board was established in the Supreme Leader’s October 21 letter to President Rouhani, which called for a “well-informed and intelligent panel” to monitor the progress of the nuclear deal’s implementation under the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC). (Fars News Agency)
- Bijan Zanganeh travels to Oman. Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh made his first international trip after the nuclear deal to Oman on January 21. Mehr News Agency reported that the goal of the trip is to finalize a contract for exporting gas to Oman. The two countries signed an gas agreement in 2012 to construct an subsea pipeline to make Iranian gas available for export. Since then, little work has been completed on the project. (Mehr News Agency)
Casualties in Iraq and Syria
- Fighter who was killed in Syria is buried in Iran. Gholam Reza Khavari Far, who was killed in southern Syria “about 10 days ago,” was buried in Mashhad, Razavi Khorasan province. No information about his rank, unit affiliation, or nationality was provided. (Mehr News) (Fars News Agency)