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 Shayan Enferadi. To receive this daily newsletter, please subscribe online.

(E) = Article in English

Excerpts of these translations may only be used with the expressed consent of the authors.

Key takeaway: The IRGC Intelligence Organization arrested the former head of Bank Mellat and one of his deputies due to their “extensive involvement in an organized banking scam.”

The IRGC Intelligence Organization arrested Ali Rastegar Sorkhei and one of his deputies in a move presumably connected to the ongoing scandal over exorbitant salaries for government officials.  President Hassan Rouhani ordered Economy and Finance Minister Ali Tayyeb Nia to fire Rastegar and the heads of three other major public banks in connection to the scandal in late June. Hojjat ol Eslam Hossein Taeb, the head of the IRGC Intelligence Organization, recently praised the IRGC’s efforts to combat corruption and noted that the IRGC Intelligence Organization has been investigating “large-scale economic corruption cases,” although he did not mention the salary scandal specifically.

An Iranian court finished the two-day trial for 19 suspects accused of “participating in the destruction of property belonging to the Saudi embassy and disturbing public order.” One of the defendants admitted in court that he had heard of the protests in front of the Saudi embassy from social media groups linked to the IRGC. The judge presiding over the case, Farshid Dehghani, claimed that “23 or 24” other suspects will be tried separately in a special clerical court. Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashhad on January 2, in reaction to Saudi Arabia’s execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al Nimr and other dissidents. In the following weeks, Iranian officials denied any official involvement in the attack, despite the fact that security forces were reportedly present when the attack took place and an influential hardline cleric with ties to security organizations was implicated in the attack. Judiciary Spokesman Hojjat ol Eslam Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei announced in late January that security forces had arrested nearly 100 individuals “in connection with the attack.” President Hassan Rouhani has repeatedly called for those implicated in the attack to be “brought to justice” in a transparent trial.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reacted to an AP report that one of the confidential annexes of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) lists additional specifics about the expansion of Iran’s use of advanced centrifuges from year 11 to year 13 of the JCPOA. Zarif praised Iran’s ability to expand uranium enrichment after the tenth year of the nuclear deal and stated, “When the entirety of this document is published, it will be clear where we will be in 15 years.”

AEI Must-Reads

  • Paul Bucala and Ken Hawrey document Iran’s aerial resupply network to Syria as part of Tehran’s expanding ground campaign to support Assad in “Iran’s Airbridge to Syria.”

Domestic Politics

  • IRGC arrests former Bank Mellat head. The IRGC Intelligence Organization arrested Ali Rastegar Sorkhei, the former managing director of Bank Mellat, on July 19, likely in connection with the ongoing salary scandal in Iran. The bank’s vice president for international affairs under Rastegar was also arrested. (Tasnim News Agency)
  • Trial held for suspects in Saudi embassy attack. An Iranian court finished the two-day trial for 19 suspects accused of “participating in the destruction of property belonging to the Saudi embassy and disturbing public order.” The judge presiding over the proceedings, Farshid Dehghani, announced that sentencing will be delivered “within ten days.” One of the defendants acknowledged that he had heard of the protests in front of the Saudi embassy from social media accounts linked to the IRGC. Farshid Dehghani told reported that the remaining “23 or 24” suspects in the case will be tried in a special clerical court. (Aftab News)
    • Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri told reporters that the trial for the remaining suspects will be held “soon.” (Damadan)
  • Former deputy foreign minister becomes Larijani’s advisor. Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani appointed Hossein Amir Abdollahian, the former deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs, to be his “special international affairs advisor.” On June 19, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari replaced Hossein Amir Abdollahian as the deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs. Some Iranian hardline commentators have speculated that Abdollahian’s sudden replacement was intended as a “conciliatory gesture” in order to normalize relations with Iran’s neighbors. Officials, however, have adamantly denied these claims. (Tasnim News Agency)

Regional Developments and Diplomacy

  • Zarif reacts to AP report on JCPOA annex. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stressed that the media has not “seen the entirety” of the confidential document, but that “when the entirety of this document is published, it will be clear where we will be in 15 years.” (Tasnim News Agency)
  • Interior minister: Turkey’s regional involvement led to coup. Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli attributed the coup in Turkey to “domestic instability” stemming from Turkey’s involvement in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. He added, “The coup in Turkey indicates the weakness in Turkey’s internal structure. Iran does not accept the transfer of power in regional countries based upon force, coercion, interference, and violence and thus from the very beginning condemned the coup in Turkey.” (Tasnim News Agency)
  • Foreign Ministry: The U.N.’s report is groundless. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Bahram Ghassemi denounced the U.N.’s biannual report on the nuclear deal that claimed Iran’s ballistic missile tests have been “inconsistent with the constructive spirit” of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Ghassemi stated that the report was a product of “U.S. pressure on the U.N. Secretariat.” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif likewise claimed that the U.N. report was based on “incomplete information.” U.S. and Russian officials have also criticized the report. Samantha Powers, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., stated that the report’s “content goes beyond the appropriate scope.” 
    • Ghassemi also discussed the coup attempt in Turkey, noting that “security and stability in Turkey is very important to Iran.” He added that the Foreign Ministry has not received any reports of Iranian citizens being wounded or killed in the clashes that occurred during the attempted coup. (Tasnim News Agency) (Fars News Agency) (E) (Mehr News Agency)
  • P5+1 and Iran to consider implementation of the nuclear deal during joint meeting. Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Abbas Araghchi stated that representatives of the P5+1 and Iran will discuss obstacles surrounding the implementation of the nuclear deal during a meeting of the joint P5+1-Iran commission in Vienna. (IRNA) (E)
  • Senior Iranian cleric: Islamic community must not be silent on Kashmir unrest. Assembly of Experts member Ayatollah Abdul Nabi Namazi stressed that the Islamic community must not be silent on the deaths of Muslims during the recent unrest in Indian-administered Kashmir, following the killing of a Kashmiri separatist by Indian security forces. (Tasnim News Agency) (E

Military and Security

  • IRGC Navy Commander: We can inflict a great blow on the Saudi regime. IRGC Navy Commander Brig. Gen. Ali Fadavi praised Iran’s military capabilities, claiming, “If we wanted, we could bring the Saudi regime to the ground.” He added that the U.S. remains Tehran’s principal enemy, however, stating, “Our main enemy during the Iran-Iraq War was not Iraq and today our main enemy is not Saudi Arabia. The fact that some want Saudi Arabia to replace the U.S. (as our principal enemy) is an example of ‘influence.’” Senior officials often warn that the U.S. is attempting to “influence” Iranian decision-making in the wake of the nuclear deal. (Press TV)
  • IRGC discovers weapon cache in Kerman. IRGC forces discovered suicide vests and explosive material in Kerman province, according to a statement issued by the IRGC Sarallah unit based in Kerman. The statement attributed the seizure to a joint intelligence operation between the IRGC Sarallah unit and the IRGC Salman unit based in Sistan and Baluchistan province. (Fars News Agency)
  • Bagheri discusses proposed defense budget cut. Armed Forces General Staff (AFGS) Chief IRGC Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri discussed Iran’s defense budget during his meeting with Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission on July 18. The Rouhani administration has proposed cutting approximately $1.6 billion from the defense budget, despite objections from several parliamentarians on the matter. Bagheri voiced his objections to the cuts during the meeting, stating, “The armed forces… should not be concerned about its livelihood. We only care about enforcement of the law.” (Defa Press)
    • Amiri responds to AFGS criticism of defense cuts. Vice President for Parliamentary Affairs Hossein Ali Amiri defended the amendment and stated that said that the government has “limited resources” and must set a budget that “is realistic and can be implemented.” (ISNA)
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