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 with contributor Ken Hawrey. To receive this daily newsletter, please subscribe online.

(E) = Article in English

Key takeaway: Iran and China signed a joint statement on developing their “comprehensive strategic partnership,” which includes improving defense and space cooperation as well as economic activities.

President Hassan Rouhani and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a 20-point roadmap for expanding relations called the “Joint Statement on Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” during a meeting on January 23 in Tehran. The statement emphasizes developing bilateral relations in the economic, defense, and political realms and expanding cooperation in areas such as transportation, energy, and space over a 25-year period. The statement also affirms the two sides’ “readiness” to enhance cooperation on “major regional issues, including developments in Syria and Yemen.” Rouhani pledged that trade between the two countries will increase to $600 billion in the next decade. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lauded China as a viable alternative partner to the West, which he stated “has never won” Iran’s trust. The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, meanwhile, signed an agreement with Chinese officials to boost technology cooperation between the two countries. Under the agreement, Chinese multinational telecom company Huawei will establish a data center inside Iran.

Greek refinery Hellenic Petroleum has reportedly agreed to purchase crude oil from the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), marking Iran’s first post-sanctions oil deal with a European country. President Hassan Rouhani, meanwhile, arrived in Rome, Italy, on January 25, in the first stop of a week-long trip through Europe. Deputy Minister of Industry, Mines, and Trade Mehdi Karbasian told reporters that Iran and Italy will sign “multi-billion-dollar deals” between their mining industries during Rouhani’s trip.

The Guardian Council reportedly began informing Assembly of Experts candidates the results of its preliminary qualifications review. It will create a finalized list of candidates after reviewing disqualified candidates’ appeals from January 21 to February 9.

Iranian news outlets reported that four Iranians were killed in Syria. Eight members of the Pakistani Shia militia Zainabiyoun Brigade and Afghan Shia militia Fatimiyoun Brigade, who were also killed in Syria, were  buried in Qom city.

Matthew McInnis explains the challenges facing President Hassan Rouhani following 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.

Note:  There will be no Iran News Roundup on Tuesday, January 26.  The Roundup will be published again on Wednesday as usual.


Regional Developments and Diplomacy


  • Rouhani: “A new chapter in Tehran-Beijing ties has begun.” President Hassan Rouhani discussed plans to expand bilateral relations over a ten-year period during both a press conference and a meeting of Iranian and Chinese delegations in Tehran on January 23. Rouhani stated that the two countries seek to improve economic ties to $600 billion dollars over a decade. He also referred to the “Joint Statement on Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the People’s Republic of China,” a 20-point statement outlining methods to enhance relations over 25 years, and stated that he will help expedite signing and finalizing an agreement based on the statement.
    • The “Joint Statement on Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” emphasizes developing relations along several different lines, including politics, culture, and defense. It includes a provision for establishing “annual meetings” between the two countries’ foreign ministers and emphasizes “expanded cooperation” in areas including transportation, energy, trade, space, tourism, and media. It also asserts that Iran and China “have recognized terrorism, extremism, and separatism as threats [to] humanity, world peace, and stability” and support “the multi-polarization of the international system.” They each affirmed “readiness” to enhance cooperation on “major regional issues, including developments in Syria and Yemen,” as well. ( ( (
  • Khamenei calls for expanding Tehran-Beijing relations. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei emphasized the importance of expanding bilateral relations during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Chinese delegation, and President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran on January 23. Khamenei referred to the “Joint Statement on Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” and emphasized the importance of “reviving the ‘Silk Road’ and expanding cooperation among countries on this route.” Khamenei added that “Westerners have never won the Iranian nation’s trust” and that Iran therefore seeks to expand relations with “independent and reliable states like China.” (
  • Velayati says a new era of relations with the West has begun. The Supreme Leader's Senior Foreign Policy Advisor Ali Akbar Velayati echoed President Hassan Rouhani’s recent language on the nuclear deal, stating that the nuclear agreement will open a “new chapter in Iran’s relations with Western countries.” (IRNA)
  • Foreign Ministry denounces OIC statement on storming of Saudi embassy in Tehran. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari reacted to the statement from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) regarding the January 2 storming of the Saudi embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashhad. The OIC released the statement following a January 21 emergency meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to discuss the attacks, which occurred in reaction to Saudi Arabia’s execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al Nimr. Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi attended the meeting.
    • The statement said the attacks “contravene” both the Charter of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Charter of the United Nations. The statement also notes that the OIC “rejects and condemns Iran’s inflammatory statements” regarding Saudi Arabia’s decision to carry out the executions. The OIC “supports” the measures Saudi Arabia has taken following the attacks (such as its cessation of ties with Iran) and “denounces Iran’s interference in the internal affairs” of regional countries “including Bahrain, Yemen, and Somalia.” The statement also “expresses full support for and backing of the efforts of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and all Member States to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, regardless of its source and objectives.” 
    • In response, Ansari stated, “The Jeddah meeting was held pursuing the aim of supporting Saudi Arabia’s state terrorism… The OIC statement misses the existing realities pertaining to Iran’s swift action against the perpetrators of the incidents and is focused on pursuing the objectives of a specific country.” Ansari claimed that the OIC issued the statement “without the consensus of the member states.” (Mehr News Agency) (E)
  • Rouhani arrives in Rome. President Hassan Rouhani arrived in Rome on January 25 in the first stop of a week-long trip through Europe. Rouhani will visit the Vatican on January 28, France on the 27th, and return to Iran on the 28th. Rouhani is expected to sign several economic deals during his trip, the first since the nuclear deal’s Implementation Day lifted sanctions on January 16. Deputy Minister of Industry, Mines, and Trade Mehdi Karbasian told reporters that Iran and Italy will sign “multi-billion-dollar deals” between their mining industries during Rouhani’s trip. (Tasnim News Agency) (E) (Tasnim News Agency) (E)
  • Foreign Ministry: Iran will help find Americans kidnapped from Baghdad “if it is able.” Hossein Jaberi Ansari discussed the possibility of Iran’s assistance in recovering three Americans who were kidnapped in Baghdad  on January 15. Ansari stated that “if Iran has the capacity to help and it is confirmed along the relevant channels,” Iran will help find the three missing Americans. (YJC) (ISNA)

Domestic Politics

  • Guardian Council to send list of vetted Assembly of Experts candidates to MOI. Guardian Council member Siamak Rahpeyk announced that that the Guardian Council will officially notify the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) of the results of the vetting process on January 26. The Guardian Council is the political body charged with vetting candidates for the February elections to Parliament and the Assembly of Experts. It is currently informing Assembly of Experts candidates of the results of the review on an individual basis and will create a finalized candidate list after reviewing disqualified candidates’ appeals from January 31 to February 9. (IRINN)
  • Tasnim News Agency removes report that the Guardian Council has rejected Hassan Khomeini’s qualifications. Conservative news outlet Tasnim News Agency, which has ties to the IRGC, published an article claiming that the Guardian Council has approved the qualifications of Expediency Discernment Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and rejected the qualifications of Hojjat ol Eslam Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in the Assembly of Experts elections. Tasnim News Agency removed the article after the Guardian Council published a statement requesting media outlets “not to create speculation” about the results of the vetting process. (Tasnim News Agency) (
  • Reformist candidate confirmed in Assembly of Experts election. Rasoul Montakhab Nia, the deputy secretary-general of the Reformist National Trust Party, announced that he passed the Guardian Council’s review of candidates for the Assembly of Experts on January 25. (ISNA)
  • Shariatmadari:‌ Rouhani’s speech on the elections was disrespectful to the nation. Managing Editor of the conservative news outlet Kayhan Hossein Shariatmadari wrote an editorial criticizing Rouhani’s January 21 speech, during which Rouhani called for more competitive elections. Shariatmadari called the speech “disrespectful to the nation” and noted that Rouhani is paying more attention to the elections “than solving the issues and weaknesses of the administration.” (Saat24)
  • Society of Qom Seminary Teachers responds to Rouhani. The Society of Qom Seminary Teachers issued a public statement to Rouhani defending the Guardian Council’s disqualification of parliamentary candidates. The statement notes that any “weakening” of the Guardian Council would be a “crime against the ideals of the revolution.” The secretary of the Society of Qom Seminary Teachers is Guardian Council member and Assembly of Experts Chairman Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi. (Mehr News Agency)
  • Principlist parliamentarians: “Rouhani wants to have a submissive parliament.” Twenty-one Principlist parliamentarians released a statement to the Guardian Council accusing President Hassan Rouhani of trying to introduce “moderates” to Parliament in order to achieve a “submissive parliament.” The letter also accuses Rouhani of being “biased” in the debates surrounding the role of the Guardian Council in the vetting process. Most of the signatories are members of the hardliner Steadfastness Front. Notable signatories include Ali Reza Zakani and Hossein Naghavi Hosseini. Hardliner clerical members of Parliament also slammed Rouhani’s recent comments in a separate statement, accusing him of “creating controversy” in the elections. (Mehr News Agency) (Jamnews)
  • Vaez Tabasi: We need a heterogenous parliament. Ayatollah Abbas Vaez Tabasi discussed the vetting process during a meeting with members of the Khorasan Razavi Provincial Supervisory Committee, which oversaw the vetting process for parliamentary candidates in Khorasan Razavi province. The Assembly of Experts member stressed the need for political pluralism in Parliament, noting that a “homogenous parliament will not be able to be active.” Tabasi, who is also the Supreme Leader’s Representative in Khorasan Razavi province, claimed that “all political currents [should] be represented in Parliament as long as their beliefs towards the Revolution, the Constitution, and the Guardianship of the Jurist are correct.” Tabasi has not been the only senior cleric who has advocated for a less stringent vetting process for the elections. Ghorban Ali Dori Najafabadi, an Assembly of Experts member and the Supreme Leader’s Representative in Markazi province, spoke out last week against the mass disqualification of candidates and called for a “wise review” of the individuals who have been disqualified. (Asiran)
  • Hossein Marashi: The Reformists will not leave the political field! Hossein Marashi, a member of the Reformist Policy-making Committee, told reporters that the Reformists will not leave the political field despite the Guardian Council’s mass disqualification of Reformist candidates. He added that “the public is behind the Reformists and supporters of the Rouhani administration.” Marashi noted that the Reformists’ unity during the elections has “been so impressive” that it has even affected the Principlists’ calculus. (ISNA)
  • Parliament approves “political crime” legislation. Parliament ratified a law defining “political crimes” that would require a public trial on January 24. Under the Constitution, “political crimes” must be tried in a public trial, but the exact nature of such crimes has never been defined. As a result, political offenses are usually tried in secret tribunals. President Rouhani, who was elected on a platform of creating political transparency, has repeatedly called for clarifying the nature of “political crimes” to ensure accountability. (Full text of law: Fararu)

Reactions to the Nuclear Deal

  • Khatami: Don’t treat the nuclear deal as a “great victory.” Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami discussed sanctions and the Guardian Council during his Friday prayer sermon in Tehran. The Interim Tehran Friday Prayer Leader stated, “The JCPOA was a success; it removed some, but not all, of the sanctions. However, exaggeration [of its success] is damaging. A certain individual has considered it a great victory. This is not the case. It was not a great victory; rather, we have paid a heavy price.” Khatami’s comments are likely in reaction to President Rouhani’s January 17 comments lauding the implementation of the JCPOA as a “golden page” in Iran’s history. Khatami added that the Guardian Council will “not retreat” when faced with “rabble rousing.” (IRNA) (Tasnim News Agency) (Mehr News Agency)

Military and Security

  • Qassem Soleimani attends ceremony in Kerman province. IRGC Qods Force Commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani reportedly attended a ceremony in Sirjan county, Kerman province, on January 21. The ceremony was commemorating IRGC Brig. Gen. Mohammad Ali Allah Dadi’s death in an alleged Israeli gunship strike last year on January 18, 2015 in Syria. Pictures taken at the event appear to confirm Soleimani’s presence at the ceremony. Soleimani’s appearance at the January 21 ceremony in Kerman seemingly in good health discredits rumors that he had has been seriously injured or even killed fighting in Syria. (Photo) (Defa Press)
  • Khamenei praises IRGC Navy sailors. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with IRGC Navy Commander Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi and the IRGC Navy sailors who were involved in the January 12 detention of 10 U.S. Navy sailors. Khamenei praised the IRGC Navy sailors, calling their actions “heroic.” Khamenei noted that “we must consider this an act of God, who brought the Americans into our waters so they would be arrested… with their hands on their heads.” (IRINN)
  • Ejei: We have arrested 100 individuals linked to the Saudi embassy attack. Judiciary Spokesman Hojjat ol Eslam Mohseni Ejei announced the arrest of 100 individuals “in connection with the attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran earlier this month.” Ejei added that 40 cases have been opened in 31 provinces due to online threats made against electoral candidates.
    • Mohammad Reza Mohseni Sani, a member of Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy (NSFP) Committee, announced the arrest of a preacher named Hassan Kurdmihan for having a “leadership position” in the Saudi embassy attack. Mohseni Sani stated that Kurdmihan was arrested in the airport upon his return to Iran from Syria. Kurdmihan was active in both Tehran and Karaj, Alborz province; Entekhab News Agency reported that he also has links to Ansar-e Hezbollah, a pro-government vigilante group notorious for violent attacks against opposition groups. Pictures of Kurdmihan with senior IRGC officials -- including IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Hamedani -- and Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf have also circulated on social media platforms as well as a picture of Kurdmihan in Basiji military attire. (IRNA) (Entekhab) (Photo) (Photo) (Photo)


  • Huawei to build data center in Iran. Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mahmoud Vaezi signed an agreement with Chinese officials to boost technology cooperation between the two countries. According to the signed agreement, the Chinese multinational telecom company Huawei will establish a data center inside Iran. (IRNA)
  • Iran makes first post-sanctions oil deal with Europe. The Greek refinery Hellenic Petroleum has reportedly agreed to purchase crude oil from the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC). Hellenic Petroleum reportedly owes Iran at least $542 million for oil it had purchased but was unable to pay back due to sanctions. Iranian oil officials have repeatedly called for an increase in production of 500,000 barrels of oil per day. (Alef)
  • Japan lifts nuclear sanctions. Japan lifted sanctions against Iran on January 22, allowing Japanese companies to invest in Iran’s oil and gas sector. Suzuki Motor Corp reacted to the prospect of removed sanctions on January 21 by stating that it is considering a return to the Iranian auto market. (IRNA) (E)
  • Iran and Egypt resume trade ties. The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) has begun shipping petrochemical cargo to Egypt on January 25 following the lifting of sanctions. NIOC International Affairs Director Mohsen Ghamsari stated, “With the annulment of sanctions, Iran’s oil ties with Egypt will definitely improve, and more crude oil will be exported to Europe through the SUMED transit line or Suez.” (Press TV) (E)
  • Roads and Urban Development Minister discusses finalization of Airbus contract. Abbas Akhoundi, the Minister of Roads and Urban Development, stated that the Airbus contract for the purchase of 114 aircraft will be finalized “in the coming days” during President Hassan Rouhani’s trip to France. Akhoundi also addressed the possibility of direct U.S.-Iran flights, stating that it is “the Civil Aviation Organization authorities’ responsibility to negotiate.” (Asriran)
  • Principlist parliamentarians criticize the Rouhani administration’s economic policies.
    • Mohammad Esmail Kowsari criticized the Rouhani administration’s policy achievements and noted that the economy is currently stricken by “unemployment and stagnation.” The National Security and Foreign Policy (NSFP) Parliamentary Commission member added that Iranians will give an appropriate response during the elections to “people who talk but do not take action.”
    • Mohammad Reza Bahonar noted that the current “economic growth of the country is not acceptable” during an interview with Tasnim News Agency.
    • NSFP Parliamentary Commission member Hossein Naghavi Hosseini chided Rouhani for his “interference” in the vetting process for the forthcoming Assembly of Experts and Parliamentary elections. He stated that Rouhani should be trying to solve Iran’s economic issues rather than “meddling in the elections.”
    • Jafar Ghaderi criticized the government’s proposed annual budget, which was submitted to Parliament last week. The Planning and Budget Parliamentary Commission member called basing the annual budget on an oil price of $40 per barrel “unrealistic” and stated that the price “must be lowered.” He noted that approving the budget in the current year will likely be impossible and added that Parliament will begin reviewing the budget after the elections end in late February. According to law, the Rouhani administration is required to submit an emergency budget to Parliament if the annual budget is not approved in time for the new year. Other parliamentarians have claimed that Parliament must focus on reviewing the 6th Five-Year Development Plan before the annual budget. (Tasnim News Agency) (Tasnim News Agency) (Tasnim News Agency) (??Fars News Agency) (ICANA)


Casualties in Iraq and Syria

  • Pakistani and Afghan fighters buried in Qom. Eight fighters who died in Syria were buried in Qom city. They reportedly belonged to the Pakistani Shia militia Zainabiyoun Brigade and Afghan Shia militia Fatimiyoun Brigade. (ABNA)
  • Two IRGC members killed in Syria.
    • IRGC 1st Lt. Ali Abdollahi was a former member of the IRGC Ansar al Mahdi Security Unit before being transferred to the IRGC Imam Hossein Base.
    • Mehdi Heidari was from Varamin county, Tehran province. No information on his rank or unit affiliation was provided. (Ghatreh) (Ghatreh)
  • Basij member killed in Syria. Abbas Asmia was a member of the Basij Organization based in Alborz province. He was reportedly from Fadis county, Alborz province. No information on his rank was provided. (Basij News)
  • Iranian killed in Syria. Meysam Nazari was a 27-year-old who “volunteered” to fight in Syria. A mourning ceremony for him was held in Tehran. No information on his rank or unit affiliation was provided. (Tasnim News Agency)


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