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: Reformists and moderates fell short of winning a majority in Parliament after the April 29 runoff elections. Their plurality in Parliament nonetheless ensures that President Hassan Rouhani will face a friendlier parliament in the run-up to the 2017 presidential elections.
Unofficial results from the April 29 runoff parliamentary elections indicate that the reformist-moderate bloc won 32 seats out of the available 68, with independents and hardline principlists winning the remaining seats. The runoff elections put Parliament’s factional composition at roughly 120 reformists and moderates, 95 principlists, and 75 independents overall. Iran’s lack of formal political parties and debate over candidates’ true political affiliations often produce different counts, but most counts agree that the reformist-moderate bloc fell short of its goal of attaining a majority of 146 seats in Parliament. Legislation in the next Parliament will therefore depend largely on how these independents, who are not formally affiliated with any one faction, vote. The Guardian Council must still certify the election results before they are official.
Iraqi Shia cleric and Sadrist Trend leader Muqtada al Sadr reportedly arrived in Iran on May 2 a day after his supporters withdrew from their protests in Iraq’s Green Zone and parliament building. Reactions by senior Iranian officials indicate Iran’s desire to play a mediating role in the political crisis. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari stated that Iran is ready to “facilitate dialogue” and added that Iran believes in “safeguarding the Iraqi nation’s political process” and consolidating Iraqi “national unity.” Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior foreign policy advisor to the Supreme Leader, called for efforts “to maintain the status quo for establishing democracy” in Iraq.
- Follow the latest developments from Iran’s elections, including the results of the April 29 runoff elections, in “Iran Elections Tracker: Updates and Analysis.”
- Matthew McInnis discusses prospects for the Persian Gulf’s regional powers to collectively manage regional security issues, including proposals for an OSCE-style collective security organization, in his latest blog, “Can Saudi Arabia really ‘share the neighborhood’ with Iran?”
- The Iranian Foreign Ministry identified key challenges for the nuclear deal, including Iran’s financial system and U.S. “sabotage,” in its first official report evaluating the deal’s implementation. The Critical Threats Project translated an excerpt from the report here.
Iranians elect split Parliament. Unofficial results from the April 29 runoff parliamentary elections indicate that the reformist-moderate bloc won approximately 32 seats, principlists won 19, and independents won 17. Reformists and moderates will therefore control approximately 120 seats overall in the new Parliament, with principlists controlling 95 and independents 75. Reformists and moderates are now Parliament’s largest bloc, despite missing their goal of winning a majority in the 290-member Parliament.
- Leading reformist newspaper Shargh ran the headline “Reformist Victory” on its front page after the elections. Its elections coverage stated that reformists “will necessarily form an alliance with the independents” in order to reach a majority and claimed that the majority of independents “lean towards the reformist camp.” The article criticized the elections coverage by several prominent news agencies, particularly Fars News Agency and Tasnim News Agency, for claiming a “principlist victory” in the elections by overstating the number of independents who will vote with principlists. Shargh quoted Mohammad Kianoush Rad, a reformist activist and former parliamentarian, as attributing the different statistics to “the principlists’ fear of accepting defeat.”
- Hardline newspaper Kayhan tallied the election results as 118 principlists, 116 reformists and moderates, and 55 independents.
- May 24 will be the current Parliament’s last day, with the new Parliament holding its first session on May 27. Elections for parliament speaker will occur shortly thereafter. (Shargh) (Fars News Agency) (Tasnim News Agency) (Kayhan)
Rouhani praises election results. President Hassan Rouhani stated that the newly-elected Parliament “will have better coordination” with his administration, which will now be able to “act on the promises it has made to the people.” Rouhani also praised the fact that 18 women were elected to the new Parliament. His tally of 18 means that he included Minoo Khaleghi, a reformist parliamentarian controversially disqualified by the Guardian Council after the elections took place, in his count of elected parliamentarians. Rouhani criticized the Guardian Council on April 28 for overstepping its authority by disqualifying Khaleghi after the elections. His inclusion of Khaleghi in his count indicates that he is still supporting her candidacy against the Guardian Council. (President.ir)
Parliamentarians debate possible candidates for next parliament speaker.
- Elected parliamentarian Mostafa Kavakebian stated that the parliament speaker should be a reformist and called for including more reformists in Parliament’s senior leadership. He also noted that current Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, a principlist who ran as an independent in the elections, should not be considered a reformist. (Tasnim News Agency)
- Parliamentarian Kazem Jalali, who won a seat in Tehran and was backed by the reformist-moderate List of Hope despite his record as a principlist, denied that the 30 parliamentarians elected to represent Tehran have signed a document vowing to support senior reformist politician Mohammad Reza Aref’s candidacy for parliament speaker. Jalali stated that he has “not seen” such a document. (Tasnim News Agency)
- National Security and Foreign Policy (NSFP) Parliamentary Commission Chairman Alaeddin Boroujerdi called Larijani “the best option for parliament speaker” due to his experience and “relationship with the administration.” Boroujerdi was reelected to parliament during the runoff elections. (Tasnim News Agency)
- Undercover police deployment will not report “moral transgressions.” Deputy Interior Minister Hossein Zolfaghari announced that no undercover police units will patrol moral transgressions -- referring to a controversial and newly created 7,000-member undercover police unit in Tehran -- because the unit “had caused concerns and worries between the people and officials.” Rouhani publicly criticized the deployment of this unit during an April 20 speech. (Entekhab)
Iraq’s Political Crisis
Velayati: “Status quo” should be maintained in Iraq. Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to the Supreme Leader Ali Akbar Velayati stated that the plans of some countries to partition Iraq and Syria are destined to fail “due to the vigilance of regional countries.” He also stated:
- “We believe Iraq is at a critical juncture, and serious developments are taking shape.”
- “We strongly support democracy in Iraq... In a country that has experienced numerous coup d'etats, and in which various anti-democratic countries are striving to upset the equations, one must strive to maintain the status quo for the creation of democracy and government institutions that can continue their own activities.” (IRNA) (Press TV) (E)
- Foreign Ministry: Iran is ready to “facilitate dialogue” in Iraq. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari said that Iran is ready “to utilize all its relations to facilitate dialogue” in order to achieve “political consensus among Iraqi political currents.” He urged all political sides in Iraq to exercise restraint and create “a proper atmosphere to settle the country’s existing issues through dialogue and political understanding.” He further called for a focus on “fighting corruption and terrorism” in Iraq, which “requires serious talks among officials of all political affiliations.” He added, “We believe that safeguarding the Iraqi nation’s political process and political achievements of the past two decades as well as respecting the rule of law will guarantee stability, continuation of development, and consolidation of national unity in Iraq.” (Press TV) (E)
Regional Developments and Diplomacy
Supreme Leader tells U.S. to leave Persian Gulf. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei condemned America’s presence in the Persian Gulf during remarks delivered in Tehran. Khamenei stated:
- “The Persian Gulf is the home of the Iranian nation. The shores of the Persian Gulf and a large portion of the Gulf of Oman belong to this great nation. Therefore we should be present in this region, hold military drills, and display our power.”
- “The Americans are the ones who should explain why they have come from their side of the world and hold military drills here. What are you doing here? Go back to the Bay of Pigs.” (Leader.ir) (Fars News Agency) (E)
Khamenei meets with PIJ delegation. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with a delegation from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), including the group’s head, Ramadan Shalah, on May 1. Khamenei reiterated Iran’s support for Palestine and noted that “defending Palestine symbolizes defending Islam.” The PIJ delegation also met with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. (Leader.ir) (E) (Leader.ir)
South Korean president seeks to expand Iran-South Korea economic and trade ties. Park Geun-hye arrived in Tehran on May 1. She is the first South Korean president to visit Iran since 1962. She met with President Hassan Rouhani and signed 19 memoranda of understanding (MoU) largely within various parts of the energy sector, including oil, natural gas, refineries, petrochemicals, and electrical energy.
- On North Korea: Geun-hye reportedly requested Iran’s cooperation in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Rouhani addressed the issue of weapons of mass destruction, stating, “We want a world free of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction, particularly within the Korean Peninsula and the Middle East.” (President.ir) (President.ir)
Casualties in Iraq and Syria
Fars News Agency: Artesh Special Forces and IRGC Qods Force are operating south of Aleppo. Fars News Agency published an article on recent clashes south of Aleppo. The article notes that Artesh Special Forces and the IRGC Qods Force are operating in the towns of al-Hadher and Zaytan in southern Aleppo province. (Fars News Agency)
Parliament approves legislation on benefits for foreign fighters. Parliament passed legislation allowing the Iranian government to grant citizenship to the families of “non-Iranian martyrs” killed in Iranian military missions during the Iran-Iraq War or afterwards. This legislation would theoretically cover families of Afghans and Pakistanis living in Iran that have been dispatched to fight in Syria and Iraq. (Defa Press)
Khamenei’s bodyguard rumored to be killed in Syria. Iranian news outlets reported that IRGC Col. Hassan Akbar was killed due to a “technical error” with his weapon during a training exercise. Although no information was given on his place of death in Iranian news outlets, Israeli media are citing Syrian opposition sources reporting that he was killed in the outskirts of Aleppo. (ILNA)
Iranian killed in Syria. Mostafi Erafi was from Khorasan province. No further information was reported on his rank or unit affiliation. (Jamerooz)
- Two Afghans killed in Syria. Mohammad Hossen Khavari was from Alborz province, and Enayat Ahmadi was from Tehran province. (ABNA)