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: Friday prayer leaders’ defense of Iran’s right to develop missiles reflects the regime’s unity in support of its missile program.

Several Friday prayer leaders argued during their sermons that the ongoing development of Iran’s missile program is a matter of self-defense, reiterating a common regime argument justifying the missile program. Senior Iranian officials across political lines have voiced their support for the missile program following the IRGC’s test-firing of a variety of short and medium-range ballistic missiles on March 8 and 9.

The Interior Ministry, meanwhile, joined the uptick in Iranians calling for electoral law reform. Spokesman Hossein Ali Amiri announced on March 18 that the Interior Ministry has begun drafting a reform bill, although he did not provide details on proposed changes. Hardliner parliamentarian Ruhollah Hosseinian also called for measures to “restrict, to an extent,” the number of candidates who can successfully register for the elections “so that the evil of disqualification is not around the necks of the Guardian Council or the system.” Their calls for some reform join politicians as senior as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who recently acknowledged that the Guardian Council faced a “legal difficulty” by needing to review the qualifications of 12,000 parliamentary candidates in just 20 days. No proposal for electoral reform has necessarily targeted the vetting powers of the Guardian Council itself, which has disproportionately disqualified reformist candidates from elections.

Iranian media reported that eight members of the Zainabiyoun Brigade were buried during funeral ceremonies on March 16.

Matthew McInnis discusses Iran’s calculations following the partial Russian withdrawal from Syria and the consequences if Russia scales back its use of airpower in his latest blog, “Did Putin just leave Iran holding the bag in Syria?

Military and Security

  • Friday prayer leaders reiterate regime’s stance on Iran’s right to develop its missile program.
    • Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani referred to the backlash following the IRGC’s test-firing of a variety of short and medium-range ballistic missiles on March 8 and 9. He stated, “We are equipped to defend ourselves, not to attack, but America says no, this is not right. Odd - we have no right to make ourselves stronger and better equip ourselves in order to defend ourselves?” The interim Tehran Friday prayer leader also reiterated Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s recent comments praising Iran’s seminaries as the major source of maintaining Iran’s revolutionary identity. (Mehr News Agency)
    • Ayatollah Mohsen Mojtahed Shabestari stated that the IRGC ballistic missile tests were “a response to the threats of America and Israel.” The Tabriz Friday prayer leader also commented on the Russian withdrawal from Syria, stating, “This recent action between Russia and Syria is in coordination with the ceasefire negotiations that have taken place.” (Tasnim News Agency)
    • Ayatollah Asadollah Emani stated that the U.S. failed in its attempts to create an “anti-Iran atmosphere in the UN Security Council.” The Shiraz Friday prayer leader, who is also a member of the Assembly of Experts, added that Iran remaining revolutionary “depends upon the Assembly of Experts, the scholars, the seminaries, the seminarians, and the clergymen remaining revolutionary… It is important that the continuity of the Islamic Revolution… be preserved.” Emani stated that the “reason” for Khamenei’s recent insistence on the importance of remaining revolutionary “is that there is a group of simple-minded people in today’s society who seek to instill doubt in the revolution in different ways.” (IRNA)

Domestic Politics

  • Interior Ministry announces “start” of election law reform bill. Interior Ministry Spokesman Hossein Ali Amiri “recognized the need for reform in the country’s electoral system” on March 18. He announced “the start of the drafting of a bill on the electoral system, by the Interior Minister’s order,” but did not provide details on the bill’s content. He added that the bill will be prepared “with the cooperation of university professors, experts in the Interior Ministry, the Guardian Council, and the Parliament Research Center” before being presented to Parliament.
    • Amiri also stated that parliamentary election results for 202 of 207 electoral districts have been confirmed. He noted that there may be a change in the elected candidate for Esfahan but did not specify why.
    • There will be runoff elections in 21 provinces, with 138 candidates competing for 69 seats. Campaign periods for the runoff elections will last a week before election day on April 29. (Mehr News Agency)
  • Hardline parliamentarian calls for election law reform. Ruhollah Hosseinian, a member of the hardline Islamic Revolution Steadfastness Front, called for the next Parliament to make passing an electoral reform bill “a priority.” He stated, “In every election cycle, we have some who register and are disqualified. That [the disqualifications] make individuals upset and cause them irritation is not good for the Islamic Republic.” Hosseinian called for measures “to restrict, to an extent,” the number of candidates who can successfully register “so that the evil of disqualification is not around the necks of the Guardian Council or the system.” Hosseinian, who threatened to bury Iran’s nuclear negotiators “in the cement of the Arak reactor” in October, lost his seat in the February parliamentary elections. (ISNA)

Regional Developments and Diplomacy

  • Zarif: Our missile tests were not “provocative.” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif criticized the West’s “forceful” stance towards Iran and stated that “no world power is in the position to preach” during an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. He condemned Israel and the U.S. for “having had the intent to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities and spread radioactive material that could create an environmental disaster.” He referred to these as “provocative steps” and disagreed with the West’s labeling of Iran’s missile tests as “provocative.” (IRNA)

Casualties in Iraq and Syria

  • Eight Pakistani fighters buried in Qom. Eight members of the Pakistani Shia militia Zainabiyoun Brigade were buried in Qom during funeral ceremonies on March 16. (ABNA) (ABNA)
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