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: IRGC Brigadier General Mohsen Kazemeini claimed that the attack on the Saudi embassy was “completely organized” beforehand.
Greater Tehran IRGC Mohammad Rasoul Allah unit Commander Kazemeini decried the January 2 attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran as “very wrong” and unjustifiable. Kazemeini also stated that “faithful forces” – likely a reference to members of the IRGC or the paramilitary Basij Organization – did not carry out the attack, which he claimed was “completely organized.” It is unclear which organization or group Kazemeini considers responsible for organizing the attack. Kazemeini’s defensive distancing of the IRGC or the Basij from the attacks is unsurprising, as Iran has faced significant global backlash for the attacks.
Iran released footage of an IRGC underground ballistic missile depot, including images of Emad ballistic missiles, on January 5. The footage continues Iran’s defiant reaction to reports that the White House has begun preparing additional sanctions against Iran’s ballistic missile program. IRGC Deputy Commander Brigadier General Hossein Salami stated that Iran will “accelerate” its missile program so long as the U.S. continues its policies in the Middle East, while President Hassan Rouhani also called for the expansion of Iran’s missile program.
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
Senior IRGC commander claims that the embassy attack was “organized.” IRGC Brig. Gen. Mohsen Kazemeini denounced the January 2 attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran. The Greater Tehran IRGC Mohammad Rasoul Allah Unit Commander stated, “The attack and burning of the Saudi Embassy… was very wrong, and by no means can this ugly act be justified.” He added that the embassy attack was not carried out by “faithful forces.” He attributed blame to an unnamed person or group, claiming that the attack was “completely organized.” (Basij Press)
Rouhani: Saudi Arabia severed ties to distract from al Nimr’s execution. President Hassan Rouhani reiterated his criticisms of Saudi Arabia for its execution of Shia Sheikh Nimr al Nimr during a January 5 meeting with Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen in Tehran. Rouhani claimed that Riyadh severed diplomatic ties with Tehran in order to “cover up its great crime” and stated, “The response to criticism must not be beheading. We hope that the European countries, which always react to human rights issues, also fulfill their human rights responsibilities on this issue.” (President.ir)
Naghdi: Sheikh Nimr’s execution will serve as a “burial certificate” for the Saudi royal family. IRGC Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naghdi rebuked Saudi officials and stated, “The martyrdom of Sheikh Nimr will undoubtedly be the House of Saud’s burial certificate.” The Basij Organization Commander vowed that Shias and Sunnis will take revenge on Saudi Arabia. Naghdi, however, blamed the West for enabling Saudi aggression and supporting Riyadh’s destructive policies in the region. He claimed that the West is exacerbating regional tensions and insecurity by directing “everyone’s hate” towards the Saudis in order to create religious conflict. Naghdi also criticized the U.S. for double standards regarding human rights, adding, “What kind of human rights will they [the Americans] develop? They should have gone after the criminal al Saud regime.” (Defa Press)
Grand Ayatollah Hamedani urges “everyone” to resist Saudi extremism. Grand Ayatollah Hossein Nouri Hamedani condemned the Saudi government for executing al Nimr. Hamedani stated that “such incidents threaten the whole world” and that all Muslims should respond to Riyadh’s “malicious” acts. (Rasa News) (E)
Rezaei calls on President Obama to stop Saudi “crimes.” IRGC Maj. Gen. Mohsen Rezaei issued a statement on his Instagram page in response to al Nimr’s execution. The Expediency Discernment Council Secretary censured Saudi authorities and the U.S. for supporting Saudi Arabia’s policies and stated, “Mr. Obama, your comrades and friends did not [do] anything for honor, human rights, and freedom in Palestine, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria…” Rezaei also called for the U.S. “to end these crimes.” (Rezaei.ir)
Parliamentarians respond to Saudi Arabia’s decision to cut ties with Iran. National Security and Foreign Policy (NSFP) Parliamentary Commission members reacted to the attacks on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and consulate in the northeastern city of Mashhad as well as Saudi Arabia’s decision to break diplomatic relations with Iran.
- NSFP Parliamentary Commission Chairman Alaeddin Boroujerdi claimed that since King Salman’s “new government took power,” it has carried out such “evil” as the “brutal attack” on Yemen and “injustice” against Syrians and Iraqis. Boroujerdi stressed that “we still have not forgotten” the September 24 Hajj stampede in Mina, Saudi Arabia and claimed that only the countries “which owe money and are obsessed with Saudi wealth” have announced their support for Saudi Arabia’s decision to break ties with Iran.
- NSFP Parliamentary Commission member Mansour Haghighat Pour stated that “just as we have no interest in a relationship with the Zionist regime, so do we approach our interest in a relationship with the al Saud government,” and condemned Saudi Arabia’s “treacherous acts against Muslim countries’ economies and the oil market.” Haghighat Pour added, “According to the authorities of the Islamic Republic, ties with Saudi Arabia must be cut completely and in all respects; even if there are Saudi officials present at meetings related to Syria, we must not participate.”
- NSFP Parliamentary Commission member Nozar Shafiei stated that “the Saudis’ behavior in recent years has not been responsible; any action carried out in Iran in response to the Saudis’ behavior… started first with Saudi Arabia.” Shafiei said countries condemning the attacks on the Saudi embassy and consulate “should not see the attack on the embassy as the starting point of the crisis.”
- NSFP Parliamentary Commission member Hossein Sobhani Nia stated, “Many Sunni and Shia scholars and Muslim countries condemned the death of Ayatollah Sheikh Nimr, which established the global repercussions of this tragedy. These actions prompted the Saudis to change their process for propaganda; they made a pretext of the people’s protests in front of the Saudi embassy in Iran in order to change the global opinion of their crime.” Sobhani Nia claimed that while “police and security forces tried” to deal with the demonstrations at the embassy, “we believe that the behavior of the angry people of Iran was the result of the Saudi government’s action. They incited the Muslim people with the execution of Sheikh Nimr.” (ICANA)
Military and Security
Iran unveils ballistic missile depot. Tasnim News Agency aired footage of an IRGC underground ballistic missile depot on January 5. The footage featured images of Emad ballistic missiles, which are capable of delivering nuclear warheads, as well as Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani touring the base. Iran test-fired an Emad ballistic missile on October 11; a UN panel later determined the test to be a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1929, which required Iran to refrain from “undertaking any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” This footage marks the second underground missile base shown recently to the public after the IRGC aired footage of another base on October 14.
- Larijani pledged Parliament’s commitment to support the country’s missile program during his tour of the missile base. He reassured his domestic audiences that the Sixth Five-Year Economic Development Plan–a set of economic and social priorities designed to guide the annual budgets from 2016 to 2021—emphasizes funds for the missile program. (Tasnim News Agency) (ICANA)
Candidates for Assembly of Experts take required exam as part of vetting process. The Guardian Council, which leads the vetting process for electoral candidates, administered a mandatory exam testing candidates’ knowledge on Islamic jurisprudence on January 5 in Qom. The Guardian Council selected 537 of the 801 registered candidates to take the exam. Of the 537 candidates who successfully advanced to this test-taking stage, only 400 chose to take the exam. The Guardian Council will inform candidates the results of their preliminary review by January 26 and will review appeals until February 9. Election day is scheduled for February 26.
Khomeini absent from exam. Hojjat ol Eslam Hassan Khomeini, a grandson of Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and candidate for the Assembly of Experts elections, reportedly did not show up to the exam. His absence could result from his disqualification from the elections, given that the test is a mandatory component of the vetting process for most candidates and Khomeini is not exempt from the exam as a first-time candidate. (ILNA) (Tasnim News Agency)
- Khomeini absent from exam. Hojjat ol Eslam Hassan Khomeini, a grandson of Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and candidate for the Assembly of Experts elections, reportedly did not show up to the exam. His absence could result from his disqualification from the elections, given that the test is a mandatory component of the vetting process for most candidates and Khomeini is not exempt from the exam as a first-time candidate. (ILNA) (Tasnim News Agency)
Candidates in parliamentary elections told results of first stage of vetting process. Candidates for Parliament began to hear the results of the first round of review in the vetting process on January 5. While news outlets reported the numbers of candidates in each district who passed the first stage of the vetting process, lists with names of the candidates who were either disqualified or advanced to the next round of vetting were not published. Candidates must still undergo several additional rounds of review before receiving final confirmation to run in the February elections for Parliament and the Assembly of Experts. (IRNA) (IRNA) (IRNA)
Officials underline threat of sedition in upcoming elections. Guardian Council Secretary Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati warned of seditionists entering the February 2016 elections and stated, “If the elections do not end in their favor, they intend to say it was fraud.” The Guardian Council is generally charged with overseeing the vetting process for candidates.
- Principlist Parliamentarian Mohammad Esmail Kowsari discussed the 2009 protests after the presidential elections that year and echoed Iranian officials’ warnings about the importance of resisting counterrevolutionary movements. The National Security and Foreign Policy (NSFP) Parliamentary Commission member urged the Iranian nation to remain vigilant against plots of sedition in the February 2016 elections. (Basij News)
Regional Developments and Diplomacy
- Khamenei meets with Afghan Chief Executive Officer. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with Abdullah Abdullah, the Chief Executive Officer of Afghanistan, in Tehran on January 5. Khamenei called “ethnic unity” the most important challenge facing Afghanistan. He also noted that Iran is home to approximately 3 million Afghans, including 16,000 Afghan students, and called for the government of Afghanistan to “create incentives so that these students return home and serve their country.” (Khamenei.ir)