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. 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: The IRGC has reportedly halted its deployments of troops from Mazandaran province to “operational areas” in Syria following heavy losses during the rebel offensive at Khan Tuman.

During a ceremony honoring “defenders of the shrine” in Mazandaran province, an Iranian official announced that “due to the martyrdom of a number of fighters [from the IRGC 25th Karbala Division], it has been decided that those from Mazandaran province will not be sent to operational areas in Syria.” The IRGC Karbala Division, which is based in Mazandaran province, suffered at least 13 killed and 21 wounded during the Khan Tuman offensive.

Iranian officials criticized Faezeh Hashemi, the daughter of Expediency Discernment Council Chairman Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, for recently meeting with Fariba Kamalabadi, a Baha’i leader on furlough from prison. Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi called for Faezeh Hashemi to face legal action and criticized Baha’is for being “agents of Israel and America,” a common accusation against Iranian Baha’is. Rafsanjani also condemned his daughter’s actions, stating that she “has made a bad mistake and must atone.”

Iranian news outlets reported that the former commander of a Basij Ashura battalion was killed near Fallujah on May 14.

AEI Must-Reads

Military and Security

  • 25th Karbala Division to stop sending fighters to operational areas in Syria. An Iranian cleric identified as “Hojjat ol Eslam Kazemi” discussed Iranian deployments to Syria during a ceremony honoring “defenders of the shrine” in Sari, Mazandaran province. He stated, “Due to the martyrdom of a number of fighters [from the IRGC 25th Karbala Division], it has been decided that those from Mazandaran province will not be sent to operational areas in Syria." Kazemi added, “The fighters whose turn it was to go to Syria complained severely about this issue. They even drafted a petition in regards to this issue and called for the cancellation of these restrictions.” Fars News Agency identified Kazemi as a “defender of the shrine,” a term used to describe fighters sent to the conflicts in Iraq and Syria. The 25th Karbala Division is based in Mazandaran province. (Fars News Agency)
  • Imam Hossein University: We have sent nearly 100 troops to Iraq and Syria over the last year. Imam Hossein University for Officers and IRGC Training Commander IRGC Brig. Gen. Morteza Saffari stated that “over the last year, a significant number of commanders and trainers - close to 100 people - have been dispatched for two-month missions” in Iraq and Syria. Saffari noted that following their missions, some of the members returned to Iran, others were injured or killed, and “meanwhile, some of the forces which were needed [for the Resistance Front] remained on [their] missions.” The Resistance Front is Iran’s term for its allies and proxies across Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen who “resist” the aggression of the U.S. and its allies. (Tasnim News Agency
  • Khamenei: “Cyberspace is a real battlefield.” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stressed the importance of spreading religious values in cyberspace during a meeting with religious professors and students in Tehran on May 14. Khamenei stated, “Cyberspace is a real battlefield, and the clergy must be armed and ready to confront incorrect and deviant thoughts.” (YJC)
    • Head of the Passive Defense Organization (PDO) IRGC Brig. Gen. Gholam Reza Jalali claimed that “cyber threats will be the number one priority of the PDO in the upcoming year” during a meeting with provincial PDO officials. (ABNA
  • Police arrest models for online images. Tehran Prosecutor-General Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi announced that police have arrested eight Iranians for posting pictures online of women without headscarves. The arrests were reportedly part of an operation called “Spider II” and targeted activity on Instagram. Dolatabadi also emphasized the importance of combatting foreign influence through the Internet. (ISNA) (Fars News Agency)
    • Disqualified reformist summoned to court. Dolatabadi stated separately on May 14 that Minoo Khaleghi, a reformist politician controversially disqualified by the Guardian Council after the February 26 parliamentary elections, has been summoned to court. He stated that Khaleghi will be given the opportunity to explain photographs circulating online of her without a headscarf, which reportedly prompted her disqualification. Khaleghi has denied that it is her in the photographs. Dolatabadi stated, “The Tehran court’s actions against this criminal behavior are neither to oppose the government nor to support the individual who shared the images with others.” Police arrested a journalist on May 10 for posting the photographs online. (ISNA)
  • Undercover police unit begins work in Tehran. Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) Spokesman Brig. Gen. Montazer al Mahdi told reporters on May 15 that a controversial 7,000-member plainclothes police unit has begun work in Tehran. The unit will report certain transgressions, including improper veiling, to police, although it does not have the authority to conduct arrests. He stated, “If necessary, we will change how we implement the plan.” (IRNA)

Domestic Politics

  • Senior officials criticize Rafsanjani’s daughter for meeting with Baha’i leader. Expediency Discernment Council Chairman Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani told reporters that his daughter Faezeh Hashemi “has made a bad mistake and must atone” for meeting with Fariba Kamalabadi, a Baha’i leader on furlough from prison, last week. Rafsanjani further criticized the Baha’i faith as a “deviant sect created by colonialists that we have always and will always oppose.” Other senior officials criticized Faezeh Hashemi and reiterated the regime’s typical accusation that the Baha’i faith is a foreign plot. Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi criticized Baha’is for being “agents of Israel and America” and called for Faezeh Hashemi to face legal action. Judiciary Head Ayatollah Sadegh Amoli Larijani criticized the meeting and claimed that Baha’is are only arrested after threatening national security by cooperating with foreign countries. Faezeh Hashemi has responded to criticism by calling Kamalabadi, whom she met in prison, a friend and stating that she does not regret the meeting. (Tasnim News Agency(Asr Iran) (Asr Iran)
  • Parliament to vote on bill seeking damages for “hostile” U.S. actions against Iran.Parliament voted to “fast-track” the debate of a bill that would require the Rouhani administration to seek compensation from the U.S. “for its hostile actions against Iran,” including America’s role in the 1953 overthrow of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh and its assistance to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War. Parliament will vote on the bill on May 17. (Press TV) (E) (IRINN
  • Nategh Nouri meets with Khatami on Larijani’s bid for parliament speaker. Head of the Supreme Leader's Inspectorate Office Hojjat ol Eslam Ali Akbar Nategh Nouri reportedly met with former reformist President Mohammad Khatami in order to gain Khatami’s support for Ali Larijani’s run for parliament speaker. Larijani is the current parliament speaker and a senior principlist politician, although he ran as an independent in the February 26 elections. Despite Nategh Nouri’s request, Khatami reportedly still supports reformist politician Mohammad Reza Aref for parliament speaker. The internal election for speaker will be a key test for the strength of the “moderate-reformist” coalition that won a plurality in the parliamentary elections. (ILNA)

Regional Developments and Diplomacy

  • Intelligence minister meets with Iraqi officials. Intelligence Minister Hojjat ol Eslam Mahmoud Alavi traveled to Iraq to meet with a number of Iraqi government officials, including Iraqi President Fuad Masum, former Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, the Speaker of the Council of Representatives of Iraq Salim al Jabouri, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ibrahim al Jafaari, and President of the Kurdistan Regional Government Massoud Barzani. (Fars News Agency) (Defa Press)
  • Parliamentarians reiterate support for Hezbollah. A total of 251 parliamentarians issued a statement in support of Lebanese Hezbollah after the death of senior Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine. Despite initial media reports blaming his death on an Israeli strike, Hezbollah issued a statement on May 14 blaming Sunni militants. (Press TV) (E)


  • Deputy foreign minister: Big European banks have not started transactions with us.Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Abbas Araghchi accused the U.S., Israel, and Saudi Arabia of creating “Iranophobia” in order to impede Iran’s reintegration into the world economy. Araghchi added, “The big European banks have not started transacting with us yet, but some of the smaller and medium-sized banks in Europe have opened up and had transactions with Iranian banks.” (Nasim Online)
  • IMF deputy managing director travels to Iran. Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) David Lipton met with Central Bank of Iran (CBI) Governor Valiollah Seif on May 16 in Tehran. Lipton highlighted opportunities for the IMF to assist Iran “with fighting money-laundering and curbing the routes of” financial assistance for terrorism.” (Mehr News Agency) (E)

Casualties in Iraq and Syria

  • Former Basij commander killed near Fallujah. Ali Reza Babaie was reportedly the former commander of a Basij Ashura battalion. He was killed by a “booby trap” near Fallujah, Iraq, on May 14. (Fars News Agency)
  • Three Fatimiyoun fighters buried in Iran.
    • One was buried in Semnan province and the other two were buried in Tehran. The two buried in Tehran, Ali Khan Rezaei and Abdolhossein Akhlaghi, were reportedly killed in the rebel offensive on Khan Tuman, Syria. (Tabnak) (Mersad News
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