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: Iranian officials hailed the Syrian regime’s recapture of Palmyra from ISIS and vowed to continue supporting pro-regime forces.
IRGC Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari described the situation in Syria as “very good” following the seizure of Palmyra by pro-regime forces on March 27. Jafari also said that the liberation of Palmyra demonstrates Russia’s coordination with “the Resistance Front,” the Iranian regime’s term for its network of allies in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere in the region who “resist” the pressure and influence of America and the West. President Hassan Rouhani, meanwhile, praised the operation and noted that “political talks should accelerate during the ceasefire, but these talks and the ceasefire should not stop the fight against terrorists in Syria,” during a phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin. At least one IRGC member has been reportedly killed during this operation. For more information on the capture of Palmyra, please see the Institute for the Study of War’s backgrounder, “Russian-Syrian-Iranian Coalition Seizes ISIS-Held Palmyra.”
Regime officials also promised to continue developing Iran’s missile program despite new U.S. sanctions. IRGC Air Force Commander Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh vowed that Tehran would expand its missile program even if the U.S. “built a wall around Iran.” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is considered to be among the more moderate foreign policy figures in Tehran, stated that “the recent U.S. measures...will be met with an even greater strengthening of the program.” These remarks indicate that the prevailing consensus in Tehran is overwhelmingly in support of developing the missile program regardless of U.S. sanctions.
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
Jafari: “The situation in Syria is very good.” IRGC Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari spoke with reporters on the sidelines of a ceremony honoring Iran-Iraq War veterans from Gilan province. The IRGC Commander hailed the Syrian regime’s recapture of Palmyra and announced that “the situation in Syria is very good.” Jafari also said that the liberation of Palmyra demonstrates Russia’s coordination with “the Resistance Front.” He added, “The Resistance Front has been practicing for the mobilization of the Islamic world against the enemies. Now, the situation in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen is good; the situation is moving in favor of the Islamic Revolution.” (Fars News Agency)
- Shamkhani: Iran will continue to support Syria and the Axis of Resistance. Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani congratulated the Syrian army on the seizure of Palmyra from ISIS forces. Shamkhani noted that Iran will continue to support Syria in the fight against terrorism. (IRNA)
Zarif: U.S. claims about the JCPOA should not be taken seriously. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif discussed the U.S. presidential election during an interview on state TV. Zarif claimed that statements made by U.S. presidential candidates in support of “annulling” the nuclear deal “should not be taken seriously.” Zarif added, “The JCPOA is a legal requirement of the U.S. government, and it does not matter who is in the White House.” (IRNA)
- During a separate interview, Zarif also responded to new U.S. sanctions on the Iranian ballistic missile program, claiming that “recent U.S. measures against our ballistic missiles will be met with an even greater strengthening of the program.” Zarif also referenced President Hassan Rouhani’s December 31 letter to Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan by stating, “According to the letter the president sent to the defense minister, Iran’s missile capabilities will be strengthened.” (Press TV)
Rouhani and Putin discuss Syria peace talks. President Hassan Rouhani and his Russian counterpart discussed developments in Syria and the need for Iran-Russia cooperation during a telephone conversation on March 28. President Rouhani also noted that “political talks should accelerate during the ceasefire, but these talks and the ceasefire should not stop the fight against terrorists in Syria.” President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, added that Russia “has been completely cooperative with Iran on the Syrian issue.” (Fars News Agency)
- Vice president: New sanctions do not violate the JCPOA. Majid Ansari, the Vice President for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, referred to the Treasury Department’s new sanctions against Iran’s missile program and stated, “From a legal standpoint, the Foreign Ministry must respond, but it is not obviously a violation of the JCPOA.” Ansari also stated that the first meeting of the “Resistance Economy Command Headquarters” was held on March 28 and added that First Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri attended. The Resistance Economy Command Headquarters is a body designed for coordinating Resistance Economy doctrine. During a speech on March 20, President Rouhani announced that this body has “started its work.” Hardliners have repeatedly criticized the Rouhani administration for not coordinating its economic policy well due to the complicated nature of Iran’s economic policy-making bodies. For more information on the development and policies of the Resistance Economy, please see the Critical Threats Project’s report “Iran’s Economy of Resistance: Implications for Future Sanctions.” (ISNA)
Rouhani: I do not want our relations with Saudi Arabia deteriorating any further. President Hassan Rouhani discussed Iran’s regional relationships during a press conference at the end of his trip to Islamabad. Rouhani noted that he remains “hopeful” that relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia will improve and thanked Pakistan for its efforts to relieve tensions between the two countries. Rouhani noted that instability and crime on the Pakistan-Iranian border requires “greater cooperation” between the two countries. Rouhani also rejected claims during the press conference that he had discussed the involvement of Indian intelligence operatives along the Iranian-Pakistani border with Pakistani leadership. Pakistani officials claimed on March 24 that they had captured an Indian intelligence officer on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. (Mehr News Agency)
- Foreign Ministry: The U.S. charges against Iranian hackers are unsubstantiated. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari responded to the Justice Department’s indictment for a “coordinated cyber assault” against 46 major financial institutions and a New York dam on March 24. He stated that the Justice Department’s claims are “unsubstantiated” and noted that the U.S. “is not in a position to level accusations against the citizens of other countries,” referring to the 2010 Stuxnet virus that targeted Iran’s nuclear program. For more information on the Justice Department’s indictment and Iranian cyber activities, please see the Critical Threats Project’s “Iranian cyberattacks: What the Justice Department's indictment means and what it doesn't.” (Press TV)
Military and Security
Hajizadeh: “Iran will continue to boost its defensive might.” IRGC Air Force Commander Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh lauded Iran’s ballistic missile program and vowed that Tehran would expand its missile program even if the U.S. “built a wall around Iran.” (Mashregh News) (Tasnim News Agency)
- Rouhani: Iran “will pursue any measure to boost defensive might.” President Hassan Rouhani stated that Iran “will pursue any measure to boost our [defensive] might, and this is a strategic policy,” during a cabinet meeting on March 27. Rouhani added that the country “should remain vigilant so that Iran’s enemies do not find any excuse” to target it, however. (Press TV)
- Interior Ministry to investigate vote cancellation. Interior Ministry Spokesman Hossein Ali Amiri told reporters that the Interior Ministry will investigate the case of parliamentary candidate Minoo Khalegi, who won a seat in Esfahan province in the February 26 elections before the Guardian Council “annulled” her votes shortly afterwards. Amiri noted that the Guardian Council has not provided the Interior Ministry with any information behind its decision. On March 24, the Reformist Coordination Council in Esfahan Province called upon President Rouhani to weigh in on this issue and send “the necessary order to avoid the violation of the people’s trust.”