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 Alice Naghshineh. 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: President Hassan Rouhani challenged hardliner rhetoric by questioning the use of the term “revolutionary,” stating, “The revolution occurred for morals, national unity, and brotherhood. What use is there in saying, ‘I am a revolutionary’?”

Rouhani’s remarks are an indirect criticism of conservative politicians, who often use the term “revolutionary” when describing themselves and political ideals. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself stated recently that the Assembly of Experts must “remain revolutionary, think revolutionary, and act revolutionary” when it eventually exercises its constitutional mandate to select his successor. Rouhani also defended the involvement of Iranian military forces in Iraq and Syria and called threats against Shia shrines there a “red line” for Iran. Rouhani’s comments come after IRGC Air Force Commander Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh rejected reports that Iran has reduced its force levels in Syria.

The Guardian Council announced that it will release finalized results for the first round of the parliamentary elections by the end of the Iranian year (March 20). The Guardian Council is constitutionally required to approve the parliamentary election results. Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, meanwhile, noted that the Guardian Council’s delay in releasing finalized election results is “worrisome.

Parliament approved the passage of the two-month emergency budget on March 14. Parliament is currently reviewing the annual budget, which the Rouhani administration submitted to Parliament on January 17.

Matthew McInnis discusses Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s decision-making following the elections and explains five steps the Iranian leader may take to shape the resulting political arena in his latest blog post, “After Iran’s elections, the Supreme Leader’s next steps.”

Domestic Politics

  • Rouhani challenges hardliner rhetoric. President Hassan Rouhani criticized “revolutionary” rhetoric during remarks on March 12. He stated, “The [1979 Islamic] Revolution occurred for morals, national unity, and brotherhood. What use is there in saying, ‘I am a revolutionary’? The revolution means obedience to God. It means that the people feel safe from our actions and words.”
    • Rouhani also stated, “Unfortunately, some newspapers are just missives of insults. Fearfully and trembling, a person opens the newspaper to see where they have insulted us again. Is this Islam and an Islamic society?” 
    • On military involvement in Iraq and Syria: Rouhani defended the presence of Iranian military forces in Iraq and Syria during his remarks. He called terrorist attacks against Shia shrines in Iraq and Syria a “red line” and stated, “The issue is not whether [the shrines] are based in Iraq, Syria, or other countries. We will not tolerate attempts by terrorists to assault the holy shrines of the household [of the Prophet Muhammad] and will stand against them.” Iranian media frequently refers to Iranian casualties in both Iraq and Syria as “defenders of the shrine.” (Hamshahri) (Press TV(E)
  • Mesbah Yazdi criticizes Rouhani camp as “lower than beasts.” Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, a hardline senior cleric who lost his seat in the Assembly of Experts elections, criticized President Hassan Rouhani and his supporters during remarks made in the office of former conservative presidential candidate Saeed Jalili on March 12. Mesbah Yazdi stated:
    • “There is a side willing to surrender the values of the country’s 70 to 80 million people to the enemy… It is all in order to sit for a few more days as president. What is lower than this? …God graced you so that you would not be lower than the cow and the donkey. Those who try to get closer to the enemies so that they smile at them -- they are lower than beasts.” The successful implementation of the nuclear agreement is widely seen as supporting Rouhani’s bid for reelection in 2017. (Raja News)
  • Rafsanjani: It is possible Khamenei did not get everything he wanted in the elections.Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani discussed the election results during a meeting with reformist and moderate politicians on March 12. He asserted that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is “satisfied” with the election results and stated, “It is possible that some of the election results were not satisfactory for him, but [he is satisfied because] the principles of the elections were observed.” Rafsanjani added that he hopes for more reformist-moderate victories in the runoff parliamentary elections, scheduled for late April.
    • On Donald Trump: Rafsanjani contrasted Iranian “unity” with American disunity. He called Donald Trump a “strange person” and added that Trump “did not receive permission [to hold] a rally. In Iran’s elections, however, the people had a good environment.” (Ghatreh) (YJC)
  • Guardian Council: Final parliamentary election results to be announced by March 20.Guardian Council Spokesman Nejatollah Ebrahimian announced that the Guardian Council will “hopefully” release finalized results for the first round of parliamentary elections by the end of the Iranian year (March 20). He added that the Guardian Council has confirmed approximately 50 of 207 electoral districts as of March 14. Tehran was not among the confirmed districts. Runoff elections, which will fill 69 remaining parliamentary seats, are also scheduled to take place on April 29, according to an Interior Ministry official. (Entekhab) (Fars News Agency)
    • Interior Minister: People are worried about the Guardian Council’s delay. Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli reiterated that the Guardian Council must certify the election results before they are official. He added that “in several districts, the people have been stricken with worry as they wait for [finalized results]. I hope that the Guardian Council will release the final results more quickly.” Fazli also criticized the vetting process for electoral candidates in this election cycle. He stated, “The lack of confirmed qualifications and approbatory supervision were issues that pulled the Guardian Council’s scope of responsibilities beyond the law. There must be changes in the law in the near future to clarify these issues.” (Ana)
  • Rezaei: The reformists lied during the elections. Former IRGC Commander Mohsen Rezaei pushed back against reformist complaints about mass disqualification in a post on his Instagram account. Rezaei criticized statements that only 30 reformist candidates were approved to run as “treasonous” and stated, “A revolutionary does not commit treason against the people.” Rezaei also reiterated his previous comments on the composition of candidates who were approved to run; he claimed that the “number of reformist candidates was 2.5 times the number of seats in Parliament, three times for Principlists, and two times for independents.” (Tasnim News Agency)

Military and Security

  • Zarif praises missile program. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif defended Iran’s missile program in an interview on March 15. He denied that the recent missile tests violatedUN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorses the nuclear deal and calls upon Iran to refrain from activity involving ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Zarif added, “We have spent only a trivial portion on defense capabilities compared to other regional countries, and the missile program is an example of the defensive capabilities that we need.” (ISNA)
  • Soleimani: Don’t accuse Iran of adventurism. IRGC Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani stated, “Some seek to identify Iran as an adventuristic country in the region. We do not consider defending the lives and property of Muslims as adventurism… Is standing up to such crimes [as ISIS’s destruction of mosques and perpetuation of the sex slave trade] a blemish?” The IRGC Quds Force Commander also claimed that Iran’s enemies created “takfiri groups” like ISIS in order to “subdue the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Shia.” Soleimani stated that Iran “has become the center and axis of the world of Islam and Shiism," claiming that this matter “has been the cause of the increased hostilities against the Islamic Republic.” (Asr Iran)
  • Kowsari: “Only a few technical problems remain with S-300 delivery.” National Security and Foreign Policy (NSFP) Parliamentary Commission member Mohammad Esmail Kowsari stated that “only a few technical problems remain to be solved” on the S-300 transfer between Iran and Russia. He added that “work on these problems will continue.” Russian officialsannounced on March 11 that the first shipment of the S-300 missile defense system will be delivered in either August or September 2016. (Defa Press)
  • Artesh Ground Forces Commander says two ISIS-affiliated terrorist groups destroyed on western border. Artesh Ground Forces Commander Brig. Gen. Ahmad Reza Pourdastan claimed that “two terrorist groups connected to ISIS were shattered by the Artesh Ground Forces.” The Artesh Ground Forces Commander added that in the process of destroying the terrorists, “a large number of suicide vests and explosive devices were seized.” Pourdastan provided no further information on the groups. (Basij News)
  • Former French Embassy worker arrested. Former French Embassy employee Nazak Afshar was reportedly arrested upon her arrival at Imam Khomeini Airport in Iran. Her friends have claimed that she traveled to Iran to visit her sick mother. Afshar was previously detained during the 2009 election cycle in Iran on the basis of “sedition as well as networking and sheltering protesters in the cultural section of the French Embassy.” (Kaleme)


  • Parliament passes emergency budget. Parliament approved the passage of the two-month emergency budget on March 14. The emergency budget is expected to provide the government with short-term relief while it moves toward the approval of an annual budget. (Mashregh News)
    • Rouhani Administration Spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht explained the delay in the administration’s presentation of the annual budget before the parliamentary vote. He noted that the administration had waited until after the implementation of the nuclear deal to present the budget so that “the government’s revenue streams could be determined.” Hardliner parliamentarians have criticized the Rouhani administration for failing to present its annual budget on time for parliamentary approval. According to procedure, the administration was required to submit the annual budget to Parliament for review byAzar 15 (≈ December 6 of last year). (IRNA)
  • Oil Minister: No cooperation on oil freeze until daily production reaches 4 million barrels.Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak met with Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh in Tehran on March 14. Novak reportedly sought to convince Iran to join the oil freeze plan to which Saudi Arabia, Oman, Venezuela, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Russia have agreed. Zanganeh stated, “As long as daily production of Iranian oil does not reach 4 million barrels, we will not cooperate on any oil freeze plan.” Novak also met with Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian, who announced that Iran and Russia have made several agreements in the fields of electricity and water. (Mehr News Agency) (IRNA) (E)
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