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: Friday prayer leaders reiterated claims that outside forces could have been responsible for the storming of the Saudi embassy in Tehran.
Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani asserted during his sermon that it is “clear” that the January 2 storming of the Saudi embassy in Tehran was “carried out on behalf of infiltrators.” The Interim Tehran Friday Prayer Leader claimed that Saudi Arabia was looking to sever relations with Iran “from the beginning” and that the embassy attack, catalyzed by Saudi Arabia’s execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al Nimr, was a pretext to do so. Meanwhile, Qazvin Friday Prayer Leader Ayatollah Abd al Karim Abedini similarly warned officials not to “underestimate the mischief of America or the Saudis.”
The P5+1 and Iran met in Geneva, Switzerland to finalize measures for the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. Secretary of State John Kerry stated on January 7 that Iran may be “days away” from Implementation Day, when the International Atomic Energy Agency verifies that Iran has complied with its commitments under the JCPOA and sanctions are subsequently lifted.
Over the last week, Iranian media has reported the deaths of a number of IRGC and Afghan Shia militia Fatimiyoun Brigade members. The deaths include Mehrdad Qajari, a member of the IRGC 2nd Imam Sajjad Brigade based in Kazeroun, Fars province.
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
Tehran Friday Prayer Leader: Infiltrators organized the attack on the Saudi embassy. Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani condemned both the execution of Sheikh Nimr al Nimr and the subsequent storming of the Saudi embassy in Tehran during his Friday prayer sermon. The Interim Tehran Friday Prayer Leader called for the protesters who stormed the embassy to be “punished” but added, “It is clear that the attack on the Saudi embassy in Iran was carried out on behalf of infiltrators. Perhaps they used ignorant people in this attack. But there were two groups during this attack; one group... guided and led this offense and wanted this to happen in order to throw the ball that had fallen into the Saudi’s court back into Iran’s court. That way the enemy could have the higher hand and could then move to sever diplomatic relations with Iran.” Kashani added that Saudi Arabia was seeking to sever relations “from the beginning.”
- Kashani referenced the September 24 Hajj stampede in Mina, Saudi Arabia and stated, “After the killing of the Hajj pilgrims in the Mina incident, we saw how some regional countries reacted indifferently to these mass killings. Unfortunately, young and ignorant rulers are governing regional countries… If their predecessors wanted to take the kinds of actions that these young rulers are taking, they did so in secret.”
- Kashani identified the “three pillars” of “plots” against Islam: Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the U.S. He labelled Israel as the “planners” and the U.S. as the “investors” who use Saudi money. He stated, “I am surprised by some Western countries. You don’t need Saudi money, so why did you use it? Why did you go along with them?” (Fars News Agency)
Qazvin Friday Prayer Leader: The Americans and Saudis may have been behind the Saudi embassy attack in Tehran. Qazvin Friday Prayer Leader Ayatollah Abd al Karim Abedini discussed the January 2 attacks on the Saudi embassy during his sermon, stating, “Perhaps the Saudis wanted to commit some mischief from inside the embassy… We do not want officials to underestimate the mischief of America and the Saudis.” He also referred to the January 6 airstrike near the Iranian embassy in Yemen and stated, “The Saudis’ assault on the Iranian embassy in Yemen constitutes an infringement on Iranian soil. We therefore want officials to answer for this assault and crime in a way that is fitting.” (Fars News Agency)
Iranians hold nationwide demonstrations. Iranian news agencies reported “nationwide” demonstrations protesting Saudi Arabia’s execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al Nimr in several cities after Friday prayer services on January 8. Protesters reportedly chanted “death to al Saud,” referring to Saudi Arabia’s ruling family, during the protests. (Fars News Agency) (Photos)
Foreign Ministry denies reports of Turkey summoning Iranian ambassador. An “informed source” at the Iranian Foreign Ministry told Fars News Agency that Turkey did not summon Iran’s ambassador to Ankara, Ali Reza Bigdeli, on January 7 to protest stories in Iranian media linking Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an to al Nimr’s execution, as has been reported in some Turkish and English media outlets. The source stated that Bigdeli instead met with the Turkish Foreign Ministry “at his own behest” in order to discuss “the latest regional developments and Iran’s stances,” presumably including al Nimr’s execution and the January 2 storming of the Saudi embassy in Tehran. (Fars News Agency) (E)
- Advisor to Supreme Leader’s Representative: Saudis will pay serious price for attack on Iranian embassy. Senior Advisor to the Supreme Leader’s Representative to the IRGC Brig. Gen. 2C Yadollah Javani stated that the alleged Saudi “missile strike” on Iran’s embassy in Sana’a, Yemen was a “clear violation of international law” and emphasized that Iran must respond to the incident in line with international law and treaties. (Tasnim News Agency)
Reactions to the Nuclear Deal
P5+1 and Iran hold meeting to “finalize” JCPOA implementation details. Hamid Baeidinejad, the Foreign Ministry’s Director for Political and International Affairs, led the Iranian delegation at an “expert-level” meeting of Iran and the P5+1 in Geneva, Switzerland, on January 8. The meeting is scheduled for January 8-9 in order to finalize measures for the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Secretary of State John Kerry stated on January 7 that Iran may be “days away” from Implementation Day, when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verifies that Iran has complied with its commitments under the JCPOA and sanctions are lifted. (Fars News Agency)
- Boroujerdi: Congress wants to undermine the JCPOA. Alaeddin Boroujerdi claimed that Congress is pursuing bills to “undermine” the JCPOA because the U.S. is “unsatisfied” with its absence in Iranian markets after believing that the JCPOA presented an “opportunity for economic development.” The National Security and Foreign Policy (NSFP) Parliamentary Commission Chairman referenced a bill approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on January 7 that would require President Barack Obama to certify that Iranian financial institutions have not knowingly assisted terrorist organizations or Iran’s ballistic missile program before they are de-sanctioned. Boroujerdi stated, “To be sure, this plan is inconsistent with the JCPOA, and it damages the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1.” (Tabnak)
- Parliamentarian emphasizes importance of Guardian Council vetting. Ali Jalilian, a member of Parliament’s Legal and Judiciary Committee, reaffirmed the Guardian Council’s “responsibility to confirm the qualifications of candidates” for Parliament and the Assembly of Experts during an interview on January 8. Jalilian also likely made implicit references to ongoing debate over whether Hassan Khomeini, one of the grandsons of Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, could continue his candidacy for the Assembly of Experts despite having not taken the Guardian Council’s January 5 theological examination for candidates. Jalilian stated, “Someone who wants to enter the Assembly of Experts elections must have accepted the Guardian Council’s conditions and therefore participated in the examination… If a person did not take the test, it means he has not accepted the law and has rebelled against an official body.” He added that a “rebel” cannot “have a place in the Islamic Republic’s system.” He also stated, “If a person wants to have special privileges... and say, ‘I will not take this exam,’ it is unacceptable… The Islamic Republic of Iran’s system gives special consideration to no one.” (Fars News Agency)
Military and Security
- Parliament to propose increased defense spending. Esmail Kowsari announced that Parliament will present a proposal to increase defense spending in the upcoming Iranian calendar year, which begins on March 20, 2016. The National Security and Foreign Policy (NSFP) Parliamentary Commission member argued that the proposal is necessary due to Iran’s “meager” defense spending vis-à-vis “some regional countries.” (Tasnim News Agency) (E)
Casualties in Iraq and Syria
IRGC members killed in Syria.
- ?Shiraze.ir reported on January 6 that Mehrdad Qajari was killed in Aleppo province. Qajari was a member of IRGC 2nd Imam Sajjad Brigade, which is based in Kazeroun, Fars province.
- Fars News Agency reported on January 6 that a funeral was held for IRGC 1st Lt. Meysam Foulardi in Eslamabad-e Gharb, Kermanshah province, on January 5. The date of his death is unclear. (Shiraze.ir) (Basij News) (Fars News Agency)
- ?Fatimiyoun Brigade members killed in Syria.
- Young Journalists’ Club reported on January 6 that Mohammad Javad Rezaei, Ali Moradi, Ahmad Jafari, Hossein Fedaei, Javad Hosseini, Hossein Heydari, and Hassan Rahimi were killed in southern Syria. Their funerals took place on January 7 in Mashhad, Razavi Khorasan province. The dates of their deaths are unclear.
- Mohammad Javad Hosseini, who was killed in the month of Farvardin (March 21-April 19) and whose body was only recently identified, will also be buried in Mashhad.
- Mehdi Hosseini, Selim Salari, and Hassan Asadullah were buried in Qom on January 7. (YJC) (Asriran) (Qasemsoleimani.ir) (Defa Press)