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 praised former President Mohammad Khatami in a blatant challenge to the judiciary’s media blackout on the prominent Reformist figure.

President Rouhani praised Khatami by name as “my dear brother” and announced that Iran “will never forget its servants… No one can erase the names and greatness of those who have served the people.” Rouhani denounced the judiciary-mandated media ban on the former president as a “joke” and stated, “It is a lie to say that [coverage of Khatami] is forbidden… The Supreme National Security Council has passed no such resolution on Mr. Khatami. From day one up until now, I have been in this council. There has not been any resolution, and at no time has one been debated.” 

The judiciary prohibits Iranian media from publishing any images or videos of Khatami, who served as president from 1997 to 2005. Despite the media ban, many attributed the sweeping Reformist-moderate victory in Tehran to Khatami after he released a short video on social media outlets encouraging Iranians to vote. President Rouhani’s remarks are a direct challenge to the hardliner establishment in Tehran, particularly the judiciary, which may seek to curb Rouhani’s influence after his supporters won an impressive victory in the parliamentary elections. Judiciary Spokesman Hojjat ol Eslam Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei criticized Rouhani’s comments during a press conference today and stated that Rouhani does not remember the Supreme National Security Council’s resolution on the media blackout “because he is so busy.”

Iranian media outlets reported that a “volunteer” recently killed in Syria will be buried in Tehran.

Matthew McInnis discusses Iranian perspectives on the possible deployment of Saudi Arabian and Emirati special operations forces to Syria in his latest blog post, “Iran isn’t sweating Saudi intervention in Syria.” For the latest analysis on Iran’s elections, see the Critical Threats Project’s “Iran Elections Tracker: Updates and Analysis.”

Domestic Politics

  • Rouhani defends Reformist president. President Hassan Rouhani challenged a media ban on coverage of former Reformist President Mohammad Khatami during both a press conference and remarks to a crowd in the city of Yazd. Rouhani criticized the ban as “a joke” and stated, “It is a lie to say that [coverage of Khatami] is forbidden… The Supreme National Security Council has passed no such resolution on Mr. Khatami. From day one up until now, I have been in this council. There has not been any such resolution, and at no time has one been debated. The secretariat does not have the right to make decisions on this matter… If there is a resolution, it is illegal.” Rouhani also praised Khatami by name as “my dear brother” and added that Iran “will never forget its servants… No one can erase the names and greatness of those who have served the people.”
    • Rouhani also praised Mohammad Reza Aref, a senior Reformist politician who received the highest number of votes to Parliament in Tehran, for his role in the current parliamentary elections and in Rouhani’s election as president in 2013. Aref had dropped out of the 2013 presidential election to consolidate voter support for Rouhani, a move widely considered to have won Rouhani the election.
    • On Parliament: Rouhani urged unity while discussing the February 26 parliamentary elections, stating, “No faction was defeated, and all factions won. In these elections, morals prevailed over misconduct, and moderation prevailed over extremism.” He added that the elections indicate that Iranians “want interaction with the world.”
    • Rouhani also stated that he predicts “better relations” between his administration and the newly elected Parliament compared to parliaments “in the past.” (ISNA) (Entekhab) (IRNA)
  • Judiciary spokesman defends Khatami media ban. Judiciary Spokesman Hojjat ol Eslam Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei responded to President Hassan Rouhani’s criticism of the media ban against former President Mohammad Khatami. Ejei attributed the ban to a “judicial order” as well as “resolution 298 of the Supreme National Security Council” and added that “Mr. Rouhani probably does not remember this resolution because he is so busy.” Ejei also stated that anyone who “violates the order will be confronted.” (Mehr News Agency) (Raja News)
  • Aref: “We need a decisive majority in Parliament in order to implement our agenda.”Prominent Reformist and elected parliamentarian Mohammad Reza Aref stressed the importance of the runoff elections during a conference on March 6. He stressed that Reformists require a “decisive majority in Parliament” and estimated that Reformist candidates need to win 60 percent of the 69 runoff elections in order to do so. The head of the Interior Ministry’s Elections Committee announced on March 2 that 138 parliamentary candidates will compete for 69 seats in runoff elections scheduled for mid to late April. Preliminary results for Parliament indicate that the Reformist-moderate bloc has won 83 seats; hardline Principlists have won 78; independents formally unaffiliated with any faction have won 60. (ISNA)
  • Assembly of Experts term to begin in late May. Current Assembly of Experts member Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami stated that the newly-elected Assembly of Experts will begin its term on May 24. Khatami, who was re-elected to the assembly during the February 26 elections, stated that the assembly’s new chairman will be selected on May 24 as well. A new chairman is normally elected every two years, but Mohammad Yazdi, the current chairman, finished in 17th place in Tehran’s Assembly of Expert elections, just missing the cut off for Tehran's 16 available seats. It remains unclear who will replace him, but Expediency Discernment Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani will be a top contender. Rafsanjani lost the internal election for Assembly of Experts chairman to Yazdi in March 2015. (Basij News)
  • Interior Ministry dismisses claim that Tehran parliamentary candidate committed electoral violation. The head of the Interior Ministry’s Elections Committee, Mohammad Hossein Moghimi, dismissed claims that Mohammad Reza Najafi, one of the 30 Reformist-moderate coalition candidates elected in Tehran, had committed an electoral violation by not resigning from another position in time in order to run in the parliamentary elections legally. Moghimi promised, however, that the Interior Ministry will “investigate” this issue.
    • The head of Tehran’s Provincial Supervisory Board -- which is charged with reviewing the qualifications of parliamentary candidates -- recently told reporters that the “documents regarding Najafi’s electoral violations have been sent to the Guardian Council.” If the Guardian Council receives proof of the electoral violation, the candidate who received the 31st highest number of votes -- Principlist Coalition Council Spokesman Gholam Ali Haddad Adel -- will be elected in Najafi’s place. (Fars News Agency) (Tasnim News Agency)
  • Yazdi responds to Assembly of Experts election results. Assembly of Experts Chairman Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi stated that he completely accepts the results of the elections during an interview with reporters. Yazdi also responded to rumors that some elected candidates in the Tehran elections have been pressured to withdraw so that he could gain a seat in the next Assembly, stating “no individual must be involved in this issue on my behalf.” (Asr Iran) (Kaleme)
  • Billionaire businessman Babak Zanjani sentenced to death on corruption charges.Billionaire businessman Babak Zanjani was arrested originally in December 2013. Zanjani’s lawyer, Rasoul Kuhpayehzadeh, expressed shock at the sentencing and reiterated Zanjani’s claim that international sanctions kept Zanjani from paying his substantial outstanding debt to the government. The sentence can be appealed. (Basij News)
  • Supreme Leader appoints Ebrahim Raisi as head of major charitable organization.Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed Chief Prosecutor Hojjat ol Eslam Ebrahim Raisi as head of the Astan Quds Razavi Foundation, which manages the Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad. Raisi is replacing former Assembly of Experts member Ayatollah Abbas Vaez Tabasi, who passed away on March 4. (Alef)


  • Oil Minister: We will increase oil production. Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh promised that Iran’s daily oil production will reach 2 million barrels per day “soon.” Iranian officials have voiced their intention to expand oil production considerably in the post-JCPOA environment, threatening to drive global oil prices even further down. Other oil producers have repeatedly called upon Iran to freeze crude oil production in the face of unstable oil prices. (Shana)  
  • Member of Budget and Planning Parliamentary Commission announces emergency budget plan. Esmail Jalili announced a plan for an emergency budget that will fund the government for two months due to the Rouhani administration’s delay in presenting its annual budget for parliamentary approval. It is anticipated that the emergency budget will allocate funds to the government for the months of Farvardin and Ordibehesht (March 20 – May 20, 2016). He stated that the plan will likely be on the agenda tomorrow during a plenary session of Parliament. Parliament is currently reviewing the annual budget presented by the Rouhani administration and will likely finish its review by May.  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 by Azar 15 (≈ December 6 of last year). (ISNA)

Military and Security

  • Iranian security forces disrupt terror plot. Iranian security forces reportedly killed members of an unnamed terrorist group during an operation in the southwestern province of Khuzestan  on March 6. No further details regarding the operation have been provided. (ISNA) (Press TV) (E)

Casualties in Iraq and Syria

  • Iranian killed in Syria. Ahmad Goudarzi was a “volunteer” who was recently killed in Syria by “takfiri terrorists.” No further information was provided on his unit affiliation. He will be buried in Tehran province. (Tasnim News Agency)
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