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 Analyst Mehrdad Moarefian and Marie Donovan, with contributors Farzin Farzad and Diana Timmerman. To receive this daily newsletter, please subscribe online.
Key takeaway: Hossein Amir Abdollahian praised Russia’s regional involvement and accused the U.S. of supporting ISIS. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif stated that a deal could be reached “this time” if it removed sanctions. IRGC Cyber Security Command announced a new surveillance project to monitor messaging apps.
Hossein Amir Abdollahian reiterated the regime stance on U.S. support for ISIS, citing food drops into ISIS-controlled territory. He also noted that prevalence of non-state actors in West Asia, including “Hamas and Hezbollah, on the plus side” and “al-Nusra and ISIS, on the negative side.” Abdollahian also praised Russia’s regional involvement, stating, that “Russia’s role in the prevention of extremism and terrorism… in order to help the region achieve peace and stability, as we’ve seen in Syria, Yemen, and Egypt, has been different in the past 2 to 3 years.”
Foreign Minister Javad Zarif stated, “We are making progress, and have made progress in past [nuclear] negotiations; if the political will necessary for the acceptance of this notion – [namely,] there is no possibility of continuing sanctions in the instance an agreement is reached – we can reach an agreement this time.” His statement echoes the cautious optimism Tehran has recently projected that an emerging nuclear deal could meet its expectations while still alleviating sanctions.
The IRGC Cyber Security Command’s Center for the Investigation of Organized Crimes announced planes to intensify efforts to monitor crimes on social media. It will employ a surveillance project named “Spider,” which will monitor the Viber and Whatsapp messaging apps. It was announced last week that the IRGC Cyber Security Command will be restructured, including undergoing a change of command.
IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Hamedani announced that a Basij-style organization named “Sons of Jihad” has been established in Syria. The Advisor to the IRGC Commander said that the group is modelled after the Iranian Basij Organization and added: “…fortunately the people of Syria have given widespread support for this Islamic Revolutionary action.”
Abdollahian: US military aircraft are dropping aid into the hands of ISIS. At the second International Conference on the International System: Regional and Foreign Policy of Iran, Hossein Amir Abdollahian said that since the Cold War, West Asia “has witnessed increasing foreign interventions and complex developments” and “foreign countries do not have a clear vision of what to do about the region.”
- On the Arab Spring. “A dense mass of people in countries in West Asia is claimed to be the cause of the Arab Spring and Islamic Awakening and it will continue despite its ups and downs.”
- On the anti-ISIS coalition under American leadership. “America formed a coalition of 60 countries to fight in Iraq and Syria, however intelligence from regional countries suggests… that America alone is managing ISIS.”
- Abdollahian further claimed that the U.S. has been supplying food aid to areas controlled by ISIS and in turn aiding them. “Northern Iraq is supposed to be the target, but they aim at the center of Iraq, a distance gap 800-900 km.” He claimed that computational errors are usually within 50-100 km.
- He also warned of the danger of state-building for Yemen by external actors and cited Somalia and Libya as examples.
- Abdollahian stated that one of the principles of Iran’s foreign policy toward the region has been the strengthening democratization. He went on to praise Iran’s pursuit of effective strategies for national dialogue and consensus among all internal actors and opposition to foreign intervention. In particular, “Iran has a single policy in regards to Egypt and Yemen.”
- Abdollahian stressed that non-state actors have a significant impact in West Asia and said, “Groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, on the plus side, and groups such as Al-Nusra and ISIS, on the negative side, are among influential actors in West Asia.”
- At the end of his speech, Abdollahian said, “Russia’s role in the prevention of extremism and terrorism, in assisting effective currents in the political and international field, in order to help the region achieve peace and stability, as we’ve seen in Syria, Yemen, and Egypt, has been different in the past 2 to 3 years.” (Tasnim News Agency)
Judiciary official discusses details of $234 million debt and smuggling of bank notes. First Deputy to the Head of the Judiciary Branch, Hojjat al-Eslam Mohseini-Ejehi, concerning recent cases of bank loan fraud, said that the Judiciary has identified a larger amount of debt than the originally reported ~$234 million. Ejehi explained that since the beginning of the case 10 years ago the amount of the debt has increased. This specific case has been filed in court and the name of the individual has been revealed. Ejehi insisted that banks are more at fault than the receivers of the loans because they provided the loans without receiving the necessary guarantees. Ejehi requested that the banks fulfill their obligations in guaranteeing loans before it is necessary for the Judiciary to become involved.
- Concerning the case of smuggling, Ejehi said, “First, it is believed that the Central Bank is smuggling currency, however the bank announced that it was coordinating with us [the Judiciary] and the case was closed.” Ejehi said that the Judiciary will support economic actors who operate correctly, adding that it will certainly offer assistance to those actors, especially in the matter of domestic production. (Fars News Agency)
Zarif: “Reaching an agreement depends on the removal of sanctions.” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stated that, “we are making progress, and have made progress in past negotiations; if the political will necessary for the acceptance of this notion – [namely,] there is no possibility of continuing sanctions in the instance an agreement is reached – we can reach an agreement this time.” Asked for his opinion on his meeting with John Kerry on the nuclear negotiations this week in Monteux, Switzerland, Zarif stated: “we will try to move forward as much as possible.” (IRNA)
- Velayati: even friends of Israel in the U.S. object to Netanyahu’s appearance. Ali Akbar Velayati stated, “This work [Netanyahu’s appearance before Congress] has reached the point that avowed friends of the Zionists in America have declared their aversion…” The Head of the Expediency Discernment Council Strategic Research Center and Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to the Supreme Leader reiterated the regime’s stance that Iran is acting “within the framework of international regulations” and is “pursuing its legal rights” “in the nuclear field.” (Fars News Agency)
- Hamedani: Basij organization established in Syria. IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Hamedani announced that a Basij organization named “Sons of Jihad” has been established in Syria. The Advisor to the IRGC Commander said that the group is modelled after the Iranian Basij Organization and added: “Today, the Basij mobilization in Syria has made the people of the country very hopeful and fortunately the people of Syria have given widespread support for this Islamic Revolutionary action.” (Mashregh News)
- Jazayeri says Secretary Kerry is “stupid” if he believes a military option is viable. IRGC Brig. Gen. Massoud Jazayeri criticized Secretary of State John Kerry for saying that the US will test diplomacy to see if it will prevent Iran from creating a nuclear weapon, “so [we] don't have to turn to additional measures including the possibility of a military confrontation," during an interview with ABC on March 1. The Armed Forces General Staff Headquarters Basij Affairs and Defense Cultural Deputy said, “The American Secretary of State is so stupid if thinks that the Islamic Republic of Iran would give up its certain interests by a military threat.” Jazayeri added that, if the US decides to take such “foolish” action, Iran will show America its great power. (Tabnak)
- Iran says it is prepared to cooperate with Google. Deputy Minister for Communications Nasrallah Jahangard announced that Tehran is negotiating with Google to establish a version of its server in Iran. Jahangard said that, similar talks with US and European internet companies are underway, adding: “Iran will of course not interfere in the services of the companies but we want what they present in the Iranian market to be in line with Iranian laws.” (Mehr News)
- Sharif expresses appreciation for national media coverage of Great Prophet 9 exercises. IRGC Brig. Gen. 2C Ramezan Sharif praised and thanked national media coverage of the IRGC Great Prophet 9 exercises and expressed his appreciation for support from the public. The head of Public Affairs for the IRGC claimed that the exercise had surprised the “Zionist dominated media” and coverage of the event was a source of national pride. The exercises had showcased the IRGC’s deterrent and defensive capabilities and “unconventional options” against the enemies of the Iranian nation and the “main enemy of the Muslim world,” the “fake Zionist Republic.” Sharif also said that the exercises showed the world “the defensive authority and… capabilities of the armed forces, especially the IRGC, to ensure the lasting security and also support-building for our country’s negotiating team.” (Sepah News)
Military and Security
- New details of IRGC cyber project “Spider” released. The IRGC Cyber Security Command’s Center for the Investigation of Organized Crimes “Gerdab,” on March 1, announced that it plans to intensify its efforts to monitor online crimes on social media, specifically Facebook. The IRGC will employ a surveillance project named “Spider,” which will also be used to monitor Viber and Whatsapp messaging apps. (Gerdab.ir)
Artesh Air Force forms UAV battalions. The Artesh Air Force UAV Units Commander stated that the UAV pilots would graduate “by the end of the year” and join the Artesh Air Force UAV fleet. He indicated that the pilots would undergo “continuous, specialized training.” He said that the Artesh Air Force has experienced “good progress in the UAV field,” and expressed hope that in five years, it will possess long-range UAVs. (Defa Press)
- Artesh Air Force denies MiG-29 presence over Tehran. The Artesh Air Force Communications Deputy denied that any “abnormal flights and unusual noise” of a MiG-29 aircraft occurred over Tehran. Brig. Gen. Aziz Nasirzadeh stated that “all Artesh Air Force flights,” including its MiG-29s “have occurred…without any accident or special event.” (Defa Press)
Al Jazeera: Concerns over Iranian military support to Houthis. According to Al Jazeera, the first Iranian flight to Yemen since the Houthis took control of the capital landed in Sana’a International Airport on Sunday. The plane landed one day after Yemen and Iran signed an aviation agreement to operate two flights daily, fourteen per week. A delegation comprised of the political council of Ansarallah also landed in Tehran yesterday for an official visit that will last several days. Fars News Agency claimed that the commercial flights are for increased trade. In a separate development, Persian Gulf countries have relocated diplomatic relations with Yemeni government to the city of Aden. (IRIB)
- Artesh Navy Commander arrives in Kazakhstan. Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari arrived in Astana, yesterday and will meet with his Kazak counterpart Zhandarbek Zhanzakov. The Artesh Navy Commander is scheduled to give a speech to Kazakhstan’s National Defense University. (YJC)
- Rouhani meets with cabinet members to discuss economic growth. President Hassan Rouhani held a cabinet meeting to discuss economic efforts to help deal with development, employment, and poverty, among other issues. Rouhani also expressed his appreciation for the support from Qom scholars, stressing the importance of the relationship between the state and seminaries, and noted the significance of his recent visit to Qom. Rouhani praised the Economic and Finance Ministry for its efforts in the implementation of policies to take Iran out of recession. Rouhani mentioned the achievements of policy measures such as, the restitution of rights of entrance and sale of state company shares for the purpose of settling government financial debt. (President.ir)
Regional Developments and Diplomacy
- Iran to supply gas to Iraqi Kurdistan. On Friday February 27 during an official visit to Erbil, an Iranian delegation headed by Iranian-Syrian Economic Relations' Development Committee President Rostam Qassemi signed a memorandum of understanding with the Kurdish Regional Government to supply gas to Iraqi Kurdistan and gasoil for its power plants. (IRNA)