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 defended Iran’s missile program in response to new U.S. sanctions.

Friday prayer leaders throughout Iran defended the country’s missile program the day after the U.S. Treasury Department imposed new sanctions. Mashhad Friday Prayer Leader Ayatollah Ahmad Alam ol Hoda claimed that the U.S.’s “anti-Iranian plots have doubled after the JCPOA” and criticized the new sanctions, while Interim Qom Friday Prayer Leader Ayatollah Ali Reza Arafi said the missile program “is not the place for dialogue, negotiations, and retreat.” The Office of the Supreme Leader often helps plan Friday prayer speeches, indicating that the speeches were a coordinated effort to defend the missile program as a right. State-owned Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), meanwhile, criticized the new sanctions as a “false pretense” for the U.S. to begin “a new round of sanctions against Iran” after the nuclear deal.

Paul Bucala and Frederick W. Kagan debunk Iran’s repeated assertion that it is only training, advising, and assisting Syrian forces by analyzing data collected from Iranian media reports on military casualties in the Critical Threats Project’s latest report, “Iran’s Evolving Way of War: How the IRGC Fights in Syria.

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?


Regional Developments and Diplomacy

  • Friday prayer leaders criticize sanctions against missile program.
    • Interim Tehran Friday Prayer Leader Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami criticized the notion of a “JCPOA 2, 3, and 4.” Khatami, who was also reelected to the Assembly of Experts in the February 26 elections, stated, “Watch how the American presidential candidates insult the Iranian nation. One of them says that he will chop up this nuclear agreement.” Khatami referenced the U.S. Treasury Department’s new sanctions against Iran’s missile program and stated that “our people know America as a promise-breaking country.” (Mehr News Agency)
    • Mashhad Friday Prayer Leader Ayatollah Ahmad Alam ol Hoda claimed that the U.S.’s “anti-Iranian plots have doubled after the JCPOA” and stated, “They say that you do not have the right to defend yourself with your own technology, mind, and thoughts… America is a predator that puts the military option on the table every few months and says that you must not prepare defensive measures for yourself.” (Tasnim News Agency)
    • Interim Qom Friday Prayer Leader Ayatollah Ali Reza Arafi also defended Iran’s missile program, stating that Iran’s “missile industry and the country’s scientific and technological progress are for the defense of the nation. This issue is not the place for dialogue, negotiations, and retreat.” (IRNA)
  • IRIB dismisses new sanctions as “false pretense.” State-controlled Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) published an article on March 25 criticizing the U.S. Treasury Department’s new sanctions against supporters of Iran’s missile program and the Justice Department’s indictment of seven Iranian nationals for cyber attacks. The piece read that “America has started a new round of sanctions against Iran under the false pretense of missile activities and supposed Internet attacks on banks and a dam in New York.” (IRIB)
  • Rouhani arrives in Pakistan. President Hassan Rouhani arrived in Pakistan on March 25 for a two-day diplomatic visit with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Navaz Sharif and other high-ranking officials. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, and Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh accompanied the president. The two countries signed six Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) in various areas, including security, education, health, and commerce. (IRNA) ( (E)

Domestic Politics

  • Friday prayer leaders underscore need for concrete steps towards Resistance Economy.
    • Hojjat ol Eslam Mojtaba Mirdamadi stressed the need for “planning and taking practical steps” towards achieving the Resistance Economy. The interim Esfahan Friday prayer leader emphasized that “the Resistance Economy will not be achieved through slogans, conferences, lectures, and the presentation of papers.” (IRNA)
    • Shiraz Friday Prayer Leader Ayatollah Asadollah Emani also underlined the importance of practical action and stated, “This year is the year of action and implementation. Accordingly, this is not the year of slogans. The people must witness tangible results of the Resistance Economy.” (IRNA)
  • Shahroudi’s office denies involvement in controversial image. The office of Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi released a statement denying any involvement in the circulation of images online implying that Shahroudi will be the next Supreme Leader by showing him alongside Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and former Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.  (Ghatreh) (Image)


  • Trade Promotion Organization head: Official membership in the World Trade Organization is a necessity. Valiollah Afkhami Rad, the head of Iran’s Trade Promotion Organization, urged officials to look at the work realized by the “advanced economies of the world” and to “bring it into practice in [Iran].” He criticized Iran for “avoiding” laws and agreements established on the international level relating to both tariffs and technical barriers. Afkhami Rad expressed disapproval of Iran’s absence from the World Trade Organization, saying that “official membership in the organization is a necessity” and asserting that “countries who recently joined the organization have realized better [economic] conditions.” (Donya-e Eqtesad)
  • Mashhad parliamentarian criticises “JCPOA 2.” Nasrallah Pazhmanfar stated, “Today, numerous trends can been seen which repeat the procedures dictated by the West to abandon our discourse… and seek a JCPOA 2 and 3.” Pazhmanfar argued that the West is attempting to force Iran to “set aside” this “discourse by which we are able to convert a threat into an opportunity.” The Mashhad parliamentarian warned, “A JCPOA 2 and 3 means that we set aside our discourse not only on the nuclear issue, but also on economic, cultural, and social issues.” (Fars News Agency)
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