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 contributors Shayan Enferadi and Daniel Schnur. 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: Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Ghassemi downplayed Jabhat al Nusra’s “split” from al Qaeda, claiming that “the terrorist nature of this group has not changed.”
Ghassemi called the split “playing with words.” He argued that Jabhat al Nusra’s decision to rebrand itself was intended to “remove this group from the list of terrorists,” presumably in order to block the proposed U.S.-Russian partnership against the group. For more information on the significance of Jabhat al Nusra’s announcement, see “Avoiding al Qaeda's Syria Trap: Jabhat al Nusra's Rebranding.”
Friday prayer leaders called for a more aggressive investigation into the government’s salary scandal, in which leaked documents revealed that certain government managers have been receiving “astronomical” salaries and benefits far above the legal limit for public employees. Interim Tehran Friday Prayer Leader Hojjat ol Eslam Kazem Sedighi proposed trying the accused individuals, stating, “The people want to see how the country’s officials will respond to these types of salaries.” Rouhani’s opponents have repeatedly attacked the administration for failing to adequately investigate the scandal. Hardliners have also accused several of Rouhani’s close allies -- including Rouhani’s own brother --- of being implicated in the scandal.
- Caitlin Shayda Pendleton analyzes and translates a recent interview with the newly elected spokesman of the Guardian Council in “Is this proposal the future of Iranian elections?”
- J. Matthew McInnis and Daniel Schnur consider recent shifts within Iran’s military leadership, and what those changes may indicate for Iran’s military posture as it modernizes over the next decade, in “A new direction for Iran’s military?”
- J. Matthew McInnis analyzes Iran’s offensive cyber strategy in “How much should we fear Iranian cyber proxies?”
- 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.”
Regional Development and Diplomacy
Foreign Ministry dismisses Jabhat al Nusra’s split from al Qaeda. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Ghassemi downplayed the announcement by al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al Nusra, that it is ending formal ties with al Qaeda and changing its name to Jabhat Fatah al-Sham. Ghassemi called the split “playing with words” and stated, “The terrorist nature of this group has not changed… The goal of this game is to remove this group from the list of terrorists, but the ugly face of extremism and terrorism cannot be cleansed by such moves.” By ending its formal ties with al Qaeda, Jabhat al Nusra will be able to increase its appeal to opposition groups that otherwise would be reluctant to merge with an al Qaeda affiliate. (Entekhab)
Parliamentary nuclear committee head criticizes America’s “disloyalty” to nuclear agreement. Mojtaba Zolnour, the conservative head of the Nuclear Committee in Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, discussed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) during an interview. He emphasized America’s “disloyalty and ill will in fulfilling its commitments under the JCPOA” and added, “Not fulfilling commitments must have costs for the Americans and the opposing side. Having such costs forces action.” (Fars News Agency)
- Qom Friday prayer leader: “The Iranian people stand with Isa Qassim.” Interim Qom Friday Prayer Leader Ayatollah Ali Reza Arafi warned that Saudi Arabia and the Arab League should expect “a dangerous future” if they continue their regional policies. He added, “We in Qom condemn any sort of aggression against Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim, the clerics, and the youth of Bahrain.” Bahrain began trial proceedings against Qassim -- the spiritual leader of Bahrain’s Shia population -- on July 27 on charges of “collecting illegal funds, money laundering, and helping terrorism.” Qassim’s representative in Iran warned that any action against Qassim or his supporters by the Bahraini government will lead to “killing and bloodshed” in a statement ahead of the trial. (Tasnim News Agency)
Friday prayer leaders call for trials in salary scandal. Interim Tehran Friday Prayer Leader Hojjat ol Eslam Kazem Sedighi stated, “The people voted for those individuals to be entrusted with the public treasury. The people want to see how the country’s officials will respond to these types of salaries. The expectation of the people is that those people who illegally withdrew excessive money from the treasury will be tried.” (Fars News Agency)
- Tabriz Friday Prayer Leader Ayatollah Mohsen Mojtahed Shabestari called upon the Rouhani administration to “explain” its policy regarding the salary scandal “in a clear report to the people.” He added, “The various people [implicated in the scandal] must not be allowed to resign from their own positions only to be appointed to other offices.” (Tasnim News Agency)
- Karaj Friday Prayer Leader Ayatollah Mohammad Mehdi Hosseini Hamedani stated, “Apparently there are no serious efforts to investigate economic corruption. My recommendation is to take action and not create distrust and disappointment in society.” The Supreme Leader’s representative to Alborz province added, “The people seriously demand the administration and the relevant institutions decisively confront ‘corrupt officials.’” (Tasnim News Agency)
- Guardian Council spokesman: Involvement in the salary scandal could disqualify someone from elections. Abbasali Kadkhodaei, the newly elected Guardian Council spokesman, discussed the salary scandal on July 29. He noted that the Guardian Council is tracking the scandal and added that a person’s involvement in the scandal could be a factor in disqualifying him or her from future elections. The Guardian Council vets all candidates to Parliament, the presidency, and the Assembly of Experts, the body formally charged with selecting the next supreme leader. The presidential elections, which will be held in May 2017, are the next major elections in Iran. (YJC)