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: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned of “divine retribution” against Saudi politicians following the execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al Nimr.

Saudi Arabia executed al Nimr and 46 other prisoners on January 2, prompting attacks by Iranian protesters on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashhad. Saudi Arabia subsequently severed diplomatic relations with Iran. Khamenei warned Saudi politicians that they will face “divine retribution” for the execution, while the attacks prompted strong criticism from President Hassan Rouhani, who criticized them as “unjustifiable” and “damaging” to Iran’s reputation. The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Sudan each downgraded or severed diplomatic relations with Iran as well.

IRGC Deputy Commander Brigadier General Hossein Salami praised Iran’s missile program in response to recent reports that the White House has begun preparing additional sanctions against Iran’s ballistic missile program. He asserted that Iran will “accelerate” its missile program so long as the U.S. continues its “occupation of Muslim lands,” “massacre of Palestinian children,” and “support [for Israel] in bombing Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria.” President Hassan Rouhani had similarly responded to the reports of additional sanctions by calling for an expansion in Iran’s missile program, marking a notable agreement between Rouhani and the IRGC.

Iranian media reported the death of IRGC Major Abdullah Ghorbani in the vicinity of Aleppo, Syria, on January 3.

Matthew McInnis critiques the argument that the U.S. should hasten sanctions relief in order to empower moderate Iranian leaders and avoid raising the ire of hardliners in his latest blog post, “The U.S. can’t play Iranian domestic politics.


Reactions to Sheikh Nimr al Nimr’s Execution

  • Khamenei warns Saudi Arabia of “divine retribution.” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei criticized Saudi Arabia’s execution of Sheikh Nimr al Nimr as a “political error” and warned of “divine retribution” against Saudi politicians on January 3. Khamenei stated, “Without a doubt, the unjustly spilt blood of this innocent martyr will soon have an effect… The Islamic world, and all of the world, must have a sense of responsibility” for the execution. (
  • Rouhani calls for embassy and consulate attackers to be “brought to justice.” President Hassan Rouhani released a statement condemning Nimr al Nimr’s execution as “an inhuman act in stark contrast to human rights and Islamic values.” Rouhani also strongly criticized the January 2 attacks on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashhad, Razavi Khorasan province. Rouhani called the damage to the embassy and consulate “unjustifiable” and stated:
    • “Before anything, [the attacks] were offensive to the political system [of Iran] and damaging to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s reputation. All government officials are determined to deal seriously with this willfulness and these criminal acts. I therefore want the Interior Ministry, in collaboration with the Judiciary and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security… to identify and bring the perpetrators of this attack to justice, in order to permanently put an end to such ugly acts and guarantee the complete security of governments’ political representatives in the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
    • “I have no doubt that the Saudi government has tarnished its global reputation, especially amongst Muslim countries, more than before with this un-Islamic act. Such sectarian policy measures have fueled terrorism and extremism in the region and the world and has led to the destabilization of the region and the creation of war and conflict.”
    • “Although the Muslim people of Iran, alongside all the world’s Muslims, strongly condemn this un-Islamic act, it is impermissible for this crime [al Nimr’s execution] to be capital for rogue individuals and groups to carry out illegal acts and tarnish the Islamic Republic of Iran’s reputation.” (
  • Police spokesman reports arrest of 50 people in embassy attack. Spokesmen for both the Law Enforcement Forces and the Interior Ministry criticized the attacks on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and the consulate in Mashhad.
    • Law Enforcement Forces Spokesman Brig. Gen. Saeed Montazer al Mahdi stated that 50 individuals have been arrested in connection to the attacks and called upon Iranians to “control their pure emotions.”
    • Interior Ministry Spokesman Hossein Ali Amiri called the embassy and consulate attacks “regrettable” and stated, “Before the outbreak of events against the Saudi embassy, the Interior Ministry had given the necessary orders to police forces and the Interior Ministry’s Security Department to adopt the necessary measures... in order to prevent actions potentially caused by hurt feelings.” He added that in Iran’s political system, “no person has been given permission to contradict existing laws or criteria under the pretext of defending values. If there is a claim, it must be pursued through legal channels.” (Fars News Agency) (Hamshahri)
  • Principlist parliamentarians call for government to prevent future embassy attacks. Deputy Parliament Speaker Hassan Aboutorabi Fard stated that the “perpetrators” of the January 2 attacks on the Saudi embassy and consulate “will be seriously dealt with.” He also stated that the Interior Ministry “must monitor these types of issues and take appropriate actions...  to prevent the outbreak of such issues.”
    • Parliamentary representative for Tehran Mehdi Hashemi criticized the Rouhani’s administration’s diplomacy as “unconstructive.” He called for the Iranian government to “protect the Saudi embassy like it would [protect] Iranians in Saudi Arabia” and stated that measures should be put in place to “prevent” such incidents.
    • Hossein Naghavi Hosseini criticized President Hassan Rouhani for addressing al Nimr’s execution and the attacks on the Saudi embassy and consulate in the same statement; the National Security and Foreign Policy (NSFP) Parliamentary Commission member claimed that it would have been better for Rouhani to have treated the two issues “separately.” He also questioned what the Rouhani administration has done to investigate Iranian deaths in the September 24 Hajj stampede in Mina, Saudi Arabia and stated, “Now the question is this... What has his government done for the safety of Iranians in Saudi Arabia?” (ISNA) (Fars News Agency)
  • Deputy Foreign Minister: Saudi Arabia cannot cover up its mistake by severing ties. Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir Abdollahian emphasized that no diplomats were in the Saudi embassy in Tehran or the consulate in Mashhad when they were attacked by protesters on January 2. The Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs added, “Riyadh cannot cover up its great mistake of executing a cleric with the announcement of its decision to sever relations with Tehran.” (Fars News Agency)


Military and Security

  • IRGC Deputy Commander: We will accelerate our missile program so long as American policies continue. IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami defended Iran’s missile program before Friday prayers in Tehran on January 1. His comments followed recent reports that the White House has begun preparing additional sanctions against Iran’s ballistic missile program.
    •  The IRGC Deputy Commander claimed that Iran possesses so many missiles that it is confronting a “shortage of space” in its warehouses. He told Iranians that there are “hundreds of lengthy tunnels full of missiles that are ready to fly in defense of your honor, independence, dignity, freedom, and power… We will never stop the development of your defensive deterrent power.”
    • Salami referenced the possibility of new sanctions on Iran’s missile program and stated, “We say to the Americans that we will accelerate our missile program so long as you massacre Palestinian children; so long as you bury the oppressed children of Yemen under the roofs of their own houses; so long as you displace the dear and Muslim nation of Syria; so long as you attack the houses of Pakistanis; so long as you bring Islamic lands under your own occupation; and so long as you support the Zionist regime in bombing Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria.” (Sepah News)


Domestic Politics

  • Khamenei warns of U.S. interference in upcoming elections. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with Friday prayer leaders on January 4. He warned that the U.S. “has its eyes on the elections” to achieve its goals of “distancing” Iranian society from revolutionary values. The February 2016 elections are for Parliament and the Assembly of Experts, the body charged with selecting the next Supreme Leader. Khamenei’s warnings follow recent statements by other senior officials that the elections will likely be an opportunity for enemies of Iran’s political order to spread seditionist influence. Khamenei also referenced the 2009 Green Movement protests during the meeting and stated:
    • “Some actors have been infected with a bad habit and disease in which they always [yell] about the uncertainty of results close to elections… Of course there may be violations here or there, but organized violations that change results certainly do not exist.” (Fars News Agency)


Casualties in Iraq and Syria

  • Third Iranian casualty from Fasa county to be buried. Iranian media reported the death of IRGC Maj. Abdullah Ghorbani in the vicinity of Aleppo on January 3. His funeral will be held on January 5 in his hometown of Sahrarud, a village in Fasa county, Fars province. He is the third reported martyr from Fasa county. No information on his unit affiliation was provided. (Shahid News) (Asriran)
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