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 Ken Hawrey and 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: Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani claimed that the Assembly of Experts has identified two potential successors to current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Rafsanjani stated that the Assembly of Experts, a clerical body formally charged with selecting the next supreme leader, has narrowed its search down to two people. Rafsanjani, who is also a member of the Assembly, did not provide any names or biographical details for the two individuals and noted that the process is confidential. Rafsanjani stated in December 2015 that the Assembly had begun “examining” candidates to succeed Khamenei, who is 76 years old with medical issues. In response to Rafsanjani’s December remarks, Assembly of Experts member Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami stated, “I have heard several times from the Supreme Leader that the Assembly of Experts must have a few leaders up its sleeve. This is not anything new.”
The Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) announced the arrests of individuals connected to one of the “largest takfiri-Wahhabi terrorist plots” in Iran. MOIS also claimed that a large number of explosives were discovered and that the individuals were planning on conducting attacks in Tehran and “a few provinces” during the month of Ramadan.
Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi criticized a Wall Street Journal report on the U.S. government’s conclusion that man-made uranium particles discovered at Parchin during the IAEA’s inspection in October 2015 were likely linked to nuclear weapons development at the facility. Kamalvandi dismissed reconsidering the Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program as “politically motivated.”
Iranian news agencies reported the deaths of three Iranians in Syria. According to Mehr News Agency, IRGC Quds Force Commander Major General Qassem Soleimani recently arrived in Aleppo following an intensification of fighting on the ground. Soleimani also released a warning to Bahrain’s government on June 20 that any “violation” of Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim, a leading Shia cleric, will “leave the people no choice but armed resistance.” It is not rare for Soleimani to comment on regional affairs, but he does not normally make statements of this kind. The Bahraini government also recently decided to suspend the largest Shia political group in the country, al Wefaq, which Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari strongly condemned in a press conference on June 16.
- Matthew McInnis analyzes President Hassan Rouhani’s ability to push through economic reforms in “Will Rouhani have a tough road to re-election?”
Rafsanjani: We have identified two potential successors to Khamenei. Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani told reformist newspaper Ghanoon that the Assembly of Experts, a clerical body formally charged with selecting the next Supreme Leader, has narrowed down its search to two people during an interview on June 18. Rafsanjani, who is himself an Assembly member and the head of the Expediency Discernment Council, noted that the 107-109 Commission in the Assembly is conducting the search and has held “discussions with several hundred people” regarding the succession. He added that the commission will rank potential successors and present them to the broader Assembly for a vote “when the day comes and it is necessary,” likely referring to current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s death. Rafsanjani did not provide any biographical details about the two men selected by the commission and added that the details are “confidential.”
On Rouhani’s re-election: Rafsanjani also discussed President Hassan Rouhani’s reelection campaign in the upcoming 2017 presidential elections. He stated, “If everything and all political, economic, cultural, and societal work are fulfilled normally, then Mr. Rouhani has no serious rival due to his popularity, especially because of the JCPOA.” When the reporter asked Rafsanjani if he is worried about former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad making a “comeback,” Rafsanjani responded, “No, because the people are well-informed. They understand the approach of that [political] current in those eight years [of Ahmadinejad's presidency].” (Asr Iran)
- On Rouhani’s re-election: Rafsanjani also discussed President Hassan Rouhani’s reelection campaign in the upcoming 2017 presidential elections. He stated, “If everything and all political, economic, cultural, and societal work are fulfilled normally, then Mr. Rouhani has no serious rival due to his popularity, especially because of the JCPOA.” When the reporter asked Rafsanjani if he is worried about former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad making a “comeback,” Rafsanjani responded, “No, because the people are well-informed. They understand the approach of that [political] current in those eight years [of Ahmadinejad's presidency].” (Asr Iran)
Reformist newspaper shut down. Reformist newspaper Ghanoon was shut down on June 20 after the IRGC Intelligence Organization filed a complaint about it spreading “libel and falsehood.” Reporting on the IRGC’s complaint did not identify specific stories that caused the shutdown. Ghanoon ran a controversial article critical of conditions in a Tehran penitentiary facility on June 11, and it has also repeatedly criticized the IRGC, including the IRGC’s detention of 10 American sailors in early January. Ghanoon’s closure is not necessarily indicative of a crackdown on reformist newspapers in particular. Jahan News, a conservative website, was also shut down last week due to its “false stories,” including one claiming that former Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour held negotiations in Iran over a two-month period before being killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan on May 21. (Hamshahri) (Ghanoon)
Ansari replaces as Abdollahian as Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif removed Hossein Amir Abdollahian from his post as Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs and replaced him with Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari. Bahram Ghasemi will succeed Ansari as the new Foreign Ministry spokesman. ISNA reported that Abdollahian will become an “advisor” to Zarif. Conservative outlets Mashregh News and Basij News criticized Abdollahian’s removal as a farewell to “resistance diplomacy” and a weakening of the “Resistance Front.” Iran refers to its network of allies and proxies in the region who “resist” the U.S. and its partners’ hegemony as the “Resistance Front.” (Asr Iran) (SNN) (Mashregh News) (Basij News)
Khamenei warns academics about opposition to government. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for greater efforts to protect the “Iranian-Islamic” identity of university students and referred to the West’s “soft war” against Iran during remarks at a meeting with a group of academics on June 18. He stated, “Do not allow universities to foment opposition to the Revolution… Anyone who challenges the system at every opportunity, like the elections, is unreliable and does not have the qualifications to be in a university.” (ILNA)
Boroujerdi re-elected head of National Security and Foreign Policy Commission. Parliamentarian Alaeddin Boroujerdi was re-elected as head of the tenth Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy (NSFP) Commission. Boroujerdi previously headed the NSFP Commission during the seventh, eighth and ninth parliaments. Boroujerdi is a principlist politician but allied with President Hassan Rouhani last fall to ensure Parliament’s quick approval of the nuclear deal. The membership lists and chairs of Parliament’s other specialized committees were also finalized. (IRNA)
- Larijani supporter becomes head of Majles Research Center. Conservative parliamentarian Kazem Jalali, a close ally of current Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, was selected to head the Majles Research Center, the body under Parliament that conducts research for Parliament’s specialized committees and is frequently ranked among the most important research institutions in Iran. Mohammad Reza Aref, the head of the reformist Hope Faction, was also rumored to have been among the candidates for this position. (Mehr News Agency)
Military and Security
Major “terrorist plot” thwarted in Tehran, other provinces. The Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) announced the arrests of a number of individuals allegedly connected to one of the “largest takfiri-Wahhabi terrorist plots” in Iran. MOIS claimed that a large number of explosives were discovered and that the individuals were planning to conduct attacks in Tehran and “a few provinces” during the month of Ramadan. Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani commented on the arrest, stating, “ISIS and other takfiri groups… are the main enemy of Iran.” (Mehr News Agency) (ISNA)
- Soleimani dispatched to Aleppo. Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani recently arrived in Aleppo following an intensification of fighting on the ground, according to Mehr News Agency. The IRGC Quds Force commander was reported to be fighting alongside members of Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba, an Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia paramilitary group. (Mehr News Agency)
Soleimani warns Bahrain. Soleimani warned Bahrain’s government that any “violation to Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim is crossing a red line that will create a fire in Bahrain and throughout the region and leave the people no choice but armed resistance.” Bahrain stripped Qassim, the country’s top Shia cleric, of his citizenship on June 20. (Fars News Agency)
- IRGC arrests hacker of government websites. The IRGC issued a statement announcing that it has arrested the hacker using the alias “Mafia Hacking Team” that reportedly hacked the Organization for Registration of Deeds and Estates, an institution under the Judiciary, on May 26. The IRGC statement added that the hacker was unable to successfully steal the information despite gaining “access” to it. Iranian officials have attributed attacks against Iranian government websites in recent weeks to pro-Saudi hackers. If the IRGC statement is true, however, at least one of these attacks was perpetrated by an individual within Iran. (Donya-e Eqtesad)
Regional Developments and Diplomacy
Kamalvandi: Uranium enrichment report is “politically motivated.” Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi criticized a Wall Street Journal reporton the U.S. government’s conclusion that man-made uranium particles discovered at Parchin during the IAEA’s inspection in October 2015 were likely linked to nuclear weapon development at the facility. Kamalvandi dismissed reconsidering the Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program as “politically motivated.” (Tehran Times) (E)
- Iran to buy 100 passenger planes from Boeing. Head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization Ali Abedzadeh announced that Iran has reached a deal to buy 100 passenger planes from Boeing. Abedzadeh added that the agreement, estimated at $17 billion, has not been finalized and still is awaiting approval by the U.S. Department of Treasury. (IRNA) (Press TV) (E) (Iran Daily) (E)
Casualties in Iraq and Syria
Three Iranians killed in Syria.
- Mehdi Asghari was a “basij” from Alborz province. He appears in multiple pictures on Iranian websites wearing Lebanese Hezbollah insignia. (Golestan24)
- Mohammad Amin Karimian was from Mazandaran province. No rank or insignia was reported. (Golestan24)
- Mehdi Baedi was a member of the IRGC 27th Mohammad Rasoul-Allah Division. (Basirat)