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 Iranian representative of Bahraini Shia cleric Ayatollah Isa Qassim warned that any action against Qassim or his supporters by the Bahraini government will prompt “killing and bloodshed” in a statement ahead of Qassim’s trial. 

Sheikh Abdullah Daqaq also denounced the charges against Qassim, which include “collecting illegal funds, money laundering and helping terrorism.” Qassim’s trial is scheduled to begin on July 27. Bahrain has dissolved the largest Shia political group in the country, detained multiple Shia clerics, and arrested a terrorist-cell with alleged links to the IRGC since the government revoked Qassim’s citizenship on June 20. Iranian officials have explicitly encouraged protests against the Bahraini government and warned that any action against the country’s Shia majority could lead to an armed rebellion.

Rouhani Administration Spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht announced new ceilings for government salaries in response to the ongoing scandal over government officials receiving “astronomical salaries.” Hardline figures have repeatedly asserted that President Hassan Rouhani’s brother and adviser, Hossein Fereydoun, is implicated in the scandal. Moussa Ghazanfarabadi, the head of the Tehran Revolutionary Court, addressed rumors that Fereydoun was involved in the “corrupt banking network” that led to the arrest of a former head of Bank Mellat. He stated, “President Rouhani must be very careful in selecting individuals in his administration and must remove unhealthy individuals from his environs - even his brother - much faster.”

IRGC troops clashed with militants in Kurdistan and West Azerbaijan provinces, marking the latest iteration in the increasing number of skirmishes between Kurdish separatists and Iranian forces in northwestern Iran. The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, meanwhile, reportedly issued a statement announcing that it has “increased the presence of its Peshmerga forces” at “more points” in Iranian Kurdistan.

AEI Must-Reads

Regional Developments and Diplomacy

  • Isa Qassim representative: There will be bloodshed if Bahrain lifts a finger against Qassim. Sheikh Abdullah Daqaq, the representative of Bahraini Shia cleric Isa Qassim in Iran, warned, “If [the Bahraini government] takes the smallest action against Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim, the Shia, and the supporters of this religious scholar, then killing and bloodshed will arise.” Qassim’s trial is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, July 27. Qassim is being charged with “collecting illegal funds, money laundering and helping terrorism,” which Daqaq called “unfounded accusations.” Daqaq said that Friday, July 29 “has been declared a day of solidarity” with the Bahraini Shia and called for world-wide demonstrations in support of Qassim on that day. (Tasnim News Agency) (E) (Tasnim News Agency)
    • National Security and Foreign Policy Parliamentary Commission member Javad Karimi Ghodousi stated that if a violation of “Sheikh Isa Qassim’s privacy occurs… a short and difficult crisis will certainly follow that will result in the accelerated defeat and fall of the al Khalifa in Bahrain.” He condemned Saudi Arabia’s role in the “al Khalifa’s crimes in Bahrain” and stated, “The planning of a trial for Ayatollah Isa Qassim, the arresting of Shia clerics, and the stripping of the citizenship of Bahraini people - which has been carried out by the Saudis - have provoked the wrath of the awakened people of the region.” (Tasnim News Agency
  • Foreign Ministry denies knowledge of al Qaeda operatives in Iran. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Ghassemi stated that the Iranian government has “no knowledge about the presence” of the three senior al Qaeda members whom the U.S. Treasury Departmentclaims to be living in Iran. Ghassemi added, “The Iranian government has always stressed its determination to combat takfiri groups.” According to the U.S. Treasury Department designation, one of the sanctioned al Qaeda operatives, Yisra Muhammad Ibrahim Bayumi, worked as a “mediator” with Iranian officials as early as 2015. Another operative, Abu Bakr Muhammad Muhammad Ghumayn, controlled the financing and organization of al Qaeda members in Iran. (IRIB)
  • Former foreign minister: “The nuclear deal has not been implemented well.” Head of the Iranian Strategic Council on Foreign Relations and former Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi blamed the U.S. for interfering in the implementation of the nuclear deal, stating, “The reality is that with the unfaithful actions of the Americans and with the pressure they have brought to bear on other countries, the nuclear deal has not been implemented well.” Iranian officials have increasingly criticized the U.S. for failing to create a “positive and constructive atmosphere” in order to facilitate foreign bank transactions with Iran, despite the formal removal of sanctions under the nuclear deal. (Jamejan)
  • Zarif tours West Africa. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is currently on a six-day trip to Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, and Mali with a trade delegation to discuss expanding political and economic relations with each country. Clashes between Nigerian authorities and a Shia opposition group in December raised new concerns about Iran’s expanding influence in West Africa. (Press TV(E) (Mehr News Agency)

Military and Security

  • IRGC forces clash with militants in northwestern Iran. IRGC Brig. Gen. Majid Arjamand Far, the deputy commander of the IRGC Hamzeh Seyyed al Shohada Operational Base, told reporters that IRGC forces killed 23 militants in the northwestern Kurdistan and West Azerbaijan provinces. The IRGC Hamzeh Seyyed al Shohada Operational Base is the IRGC Ground Forces’ operational headquarters in northwestern Iran. Arjamand Far blamed the uptick in instability on foreign powers, stating, “America and Saudi Arabia are trying to send terrorists into Iran in order to spread instability.” (Press TV) (E) (Mehr News Agency)
    • Kurdish group increases military presence in western Iran. The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan reportedly released a statement announcing that it has “increased the presence of its Peshmerga forces” at “more points” in Iranian Kurdistan. The statement also rejected recent comments from Iranian officials blaming the instability in the Kurdish-populated northwest on “regional countries.”  (Kurdistan Media)
  • Iran seizes UAE vessel. Iran seized the UAE-owned vessel  Feodora at an inspection center in the Imam Khomeini Special Petrochemical Economic Zone, which is in the northern end of the Persian Gulf. The vessel was detained because it did “not use the name ‘Persian Gulf’ [in its documentation] and in order to protect the identity of this historic waterway.” Deputy of the Maritime and Port Administration of Khuzestan Province Abu Taleb Gerayalu said the vessel is currently under inspection at Bandar-e Imam Khomeini, a port city in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, and will remain until the “false word” - likely a reference to using the name “Arabian Gulf” instead of “Persian Gulf” - is removed from the vessel’s documentation. The vessel is a chemical and oil products tanker currently operating under the flag of Panama. (Tasnim News Agency)
  • Cyber Police: Don’t use Telegram. Iranian Cyber Police (FATA) Chief IRGC Brig. Gen. 2C Kamal Hadian Far warned users to avoid using the popular encrypted messaging application Telegram because the application’s “data is usually stored on servers” that are located outside of Iran and thus “can be misused by foreigners.” In May, the Supreme Cyberspace Council, the highest state body in Iran tasked with developing and coordinating cyber policy, orderedthat all foreign messaging services store data on Iranian users in servers located inside Iran, or else risk being blocked. (Mehr News Agency)

Domestic Politics

  • Government salary capped in response to scandal. Rouhani Administration Spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht announced new ceilings for government salaries during a press conference on July 26. He stated that monthly salaries for government officials will be capped at 10 million toumans ($3,230) and non-government officials will face caps of 19 million toumans ($6,137). Nobakht also downplayed the ongoing salary scandal, claiming that “only 30 to 40 government managers received exorbitant salaries.” (Mehr News Agency)
  • Judiciary spokesman: We are currently investigating the Bank Mellat case. Judiciary Spokesman Hojjat ol Eslam Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei announced that Iranian security forces have arrested a total of four individuals in connection to the case against the former head of Bank Mellat, Ali Rastegar Sorkhei, whom the IRGC Intelligence Organization arrested on corruption charges on July 1. Ejei added that other individuals “both inside and outside the country” are currently being investigated in relation to the case. In separate comments on July 26, Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi told reporters that the Bank Mellat corruption case involves around 800 billion toumans ($250 million). (Donya-e-Eqtesad) (Fars News Agency)
  • Tehran Revolutionary Court head: Rouhani’s brother may be involved in banking scandal.Moussa Ghazanfarabadi, the head of the Tehran Revolutionary Court, addressed rumors that President Hassan Rouhani’s brother and adviser, Hossein Fereydoun, is implicated in theBank Mellat corruption case. Ghazanfarabadi stated that while he does “not have specific information on this issue, there are reports of a link between Hossein Fereydoun and the corrupt banking network… If this news is true, it is a great disaster.” Several hardliners haveaccused Fereydoun of recommending the appointment of the Bank Mellat head, as well as several other banking heads who were recently ousted due to their involvement in the salary scandal. Ghazanfarabadi stated, “Hossein Fereydoun’s action is an incentive for government officials and employees to slip and move towards corruption… President Rouhani must be very careful in selecting individuals in his administration and must remove unhealthy individuals from his environs - even his brother - much faster.” Ghazanfarabadi added that Rouhani “should request that the court issue a heavy sentence against his brother and at least life imprisonment.” (Basij News


  • Iran begins gas exports to Iraq. Azizollah Ramezani, the director of the International Affairs Department at the National Iranian Gas Company, told reporters that Iran will begin exporting gas to Iraq in the current Persian month of Mordad (July 22 - August 4). Ramezani also announced that Iran is planning to export at least 68 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually over the next five years, the majority of which will go to regional countries. Ramezani added, “Currently 10 out of the 15 neighboring countries have the ability to import Iranian gas, and sending gas to China and India is also being planned.” (ISNA) (Tasnim News Agency)
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