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: Iranian officials condemned a Saudi airstrike near the Iranian embassy in Sana’a, Yemen.
Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir Abdollahian criticized a Saudi airstrike near the Iranian embassy in Sana’a, Yemen that “seriously injured” several security guards. Abdollahian said that Iran intends to pursue “this issue through international law” and reiterated Saudi Arabia’s responsibility to protect diplomats and embassies. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jabari Ansari similarly claimed that the airstrike “violates all the international conventions and legal regulations for protecting the security and safety of diplomatic places in all situations.” Their comments indicate Iran’s attempt to create an equivalency between the strike and Iranian protesters’ storming of the Saudi embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashhad on January 2. Meanwhile, Somalia joined the growing list of countries that have either severed or downgraded diplomatic ties with Iran. Other countries include the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Bahrain, and Djibouti.
President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet voted to ban imports from Saudi Arabia on January 7 and to continue indefinitely a ban on umrah pilgrimages to Mecca. The ban on umrah pilgrimages precedes the recent severance of Tehran-Riyadh ties and has been in place since this past April, when two Iranian boys were allegedly sexually assaulted in the Jeddah airport. Unlike the Hajj pilgrimage, umrah pilgrimages are optional for Muslims and can occur at any point throughout the year.
Afghan Shia militia Fatimiyoun Brigade member Khodakaram Rezaei was killed in Syria.
Correction: The January 6 Iran News Round Up incorrectly stated that Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said that the cessation of Tehran-Riyadh relations “will not impact” the Syria peace talks in Vienna and New York. Abdollahian in fact stated that the cessation of relations “will impact” the Syria peace talks.
Matthew McInnis analyzes Iranian reactions to the Saudi execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al Nimr and explains why Tehran is unlikely to seek further escalation in the conflict with Riyadh in his latest blog post, “Iran backs down after Saudi embassy attack.”
Reactions to Sheikh Nimr al Nimr’s Execution
Officials condemn Saudi missile fire near Iranian embassy in Yemen. Hossein Amir Abdollahian criticized Saudi missile fire near the Iranian embassy in Sana’a, Yemen that reportedly injured several security guards late on January 6. The Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs clarified that “a rocket landed near” the Iranian embassy, in contrast to Iranian media headlines earlier in the day claiming that the airstrikes were “against” the embassy itself. Abdollahian stated that Iran intends to pursue “this issue through international law” and will submit details of the incident to the United Nations in a report. Abdollahian stated, “Saudi Arabia is responsible for the security of Iranian diplomats and maintaining the security of our embassy in Sana’a... Unfortunately, the Saudi authorities have not paid the slightest heed to the attack on the area in which our embassy is located...” Abdollahian made the remarks on the sidelines of a mourning ceremony for former Iranian ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi, who was killed during the September 24 Hajj stampede in Mina, Saudi Arabia.
- Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jabari Ansari also censured the missile strike, stating, “The Saudi government's conscious and deliberate measure violates all the international conventions and legal regulations for protecting the security and safety of diplomatic places in all situations. The Saudi government should account for this measure and compensate for the damages to the (embassy) building and injuries inflicted on a number of embassy staff." He added that Iran “reserves the right to pursue this matter.” (ISNA) (Fars News Agency) (E) (Fars News Agency)
Iran bans Saudi imports, reaffirms ban on umrah pilgrimages to Mecca. President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet voted to ban the import of goods from Saudi Arabia on January 7. The cabinet also voted to continue indefinitely a ban on umrah pilgrimages to Mecca. The ban on umrah pilgrimages precedes the recent severance of Tehran-Riyadh ties and has been in place since this past April, when two Iranian boys were allegedly sexually assaulted in the Jeddah airport. Unlike the Hajj, umrah pilgrimages are optional for Muslims and can take place at any point throughout the year. The Saudi Foreign Minister has previously stated that the severance of diplomatic ties will not affect Iranian Hajj or umrah pilgrims, while Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization Head Saeed Ohadi has said that any final decision on travel restrictions for Iranian pilgrims will rest with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (Fars News Agency) (ISNA)
- Iranian ambassador to Jordan meets with Jordanian Foreign Ministry officials. Jordan summoned Iran’s ambassador to Jordan, Mojtaba Ferdowsipour, regarding the attacks on the Saudi embassy and consulate and the breaking of Iran-Saudi Arabia ties. Ferdowsipour noted that the two sides discussed the possibility of the reduction of Iran-Jordan ties during the meeting. (ISNA)
- Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister meets with Kuwaiti counterpart. Deputy Foreign Minister Morteza Sarmadi met with Kuwait’s Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Sabah al Khalid al Hamad on January 7. Sarmadi condemned the January 2 attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and referred to President Hassan Rouhani’s call to investigate the attack as evidence of Iran’s condemnation of it. Kuwait recalled its ambassador from Iran on January 5, but the Iranian Foreign Ministry has denied rumors that Kuwait severed or downgraded diplomatic ties. (IRNA)
- IRGC Deputy Commander criticizes Saudi policies. IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami criticized Saudi Arabia’s execution of al Nimr, “support” for regional terrorism, and decision to lower the price of oil during a discussion with reporters on January 7. The IRGC Deputy Commander stated, “The policies that are being pursued by al Saud are like pressure on a domino [that catalyzes] an earthquake. The Saudis will be buried under the debris of this earthquake.” (Tasnim News Agency)
- Khomeini reportedly withdraws from Assembly of Experts race. Hojjat ol Eslam Hassan Khomeini withdrew his candidacy from the February 2016 Assembly of Experts elections, according to Reza Seraj, a former head of the Student Basij Organization. Seraj denied earlier reports that Khomeini did not attend the Guardian Council’s mandatory January 5 theology exam for candidates because he did not receive proper notification of it, stating that instead Khomeini decided to skip the exam “as a way of leaving the election arena.” Seraj added that Khomeini made the decision to withdraw from the elections after he learned of “a scenario that has been devised to abuse his [family] name” in the elections. (Alef)
- Guardian Council spokesman discusses candidacy of Assembly of Experts hopefuls who did not take written test. In response to the question of whether or not Assembly of Experts candidates’ failure to participate in the January 5 written test would result in their disqualification, Guardian Council Spokesman Nejatollah Ebrahimian stated that according to the opinion of Guardian Council member Ayatollah Mohammad Momen, candidates who did not take the exam but whose “qualifications of ijtihad [the ability to exercise independent reasoning in matters of Islamic law] are confirmed” may still be able to proceed in the vetting process. (YJC)
- Fars province Chief Prosecutor identifies “first case” alleging election fraud in ongoing elections. Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported the “first case in cyberspace [alleging] electoral fraud” in the parliamentary elections on January 6. Fars Province Chief Prosecutor Ali Alqaisi stated in a meeting of the Crime and Electoral Fraud Prevention Staff that the allegations of fraud have been made online by “some supporters of one of the candidates” in the elections. Al Qaisi added that the case is “being examined by a court” and called for preventative measures to protect “the people’s psychological security” during elections. A total of 728 candidates have registered for the parliamentary elections for Fars province and are receiving the results of the first round of qualification reviews before they are officially cleared to run in the February elections. (IRNA)
Regional Developments and Diplomacy
- Iranian officials meet with Nasrallah in Lebanon. Lebanese Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah discussed regional developments with Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Mohammad Fatahali, Iranian Health Minister Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi, and Hezbollah’s Representative to Iran Abdullah Safieddine in Lebanon. Hashemi arrived in Lebanon on January 6 with “a number of Iranian investors and managers of companies working in the field of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment.” (IRNA) (E)
Military and Security
IRGC commander denies “financial promises” to defenders of Syrian shrines. Ali Asghar Gorjizadeh reiterated that Iranian involvement in Syria is only “advisory” on January 6. The Commander of the IRGC Ansar al Mahdi Security Unit, which is responsible for providing security to senior regime officials, stated, “If the Islamic Republic of Iran’s gates opened today, a great number of the population would go to Syria for jihad. But that is not the country’s policy today. Our policies are advisory and educational so that the forces of that country can defend themselves.” He also denied that Iran “gives financial promises” to fighters defending holy shrines abroad against “takfiri groups like ISIS” in Syria, calling the accusation “a clear lie.” (Mehr News Agency)
- Fatimiyoun Brigade member killed in Syria. Khodakaram Rezaei, who was killed “in recent clashes” in Syria, was buried in the city of Tehran. (Tasnim News Agency)