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: Assembly of Experts members elected Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, a hardline cleric, as the Assembly’s new chairman.
Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, who is also the current head of the Guardian Council, won the chairmanship with 51 votes, well above a majority from the 86 members present. Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani and Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, meanwhile, were elected Jannati’s first deputy and second deputy respectively. Expediency Discernment Council Chairman and former head of the Assembly of Experts Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani did not run in the internal election. Jannati’s election demonstrates that the regime’s old guard will continue to dominate the Assembly of Experts, despite the fact that its current chairman and a noted hardliner, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, was not re-elected to the Assembly. Jannati will serve as the Assembly’s chair for a two-year term. The Assembly of Experts is constitutionally charged with selecting the next Supreme Leader, although other groups will almost certainly influence the decision.
Iranian news outlets have circulated photos of IRGC Quds Force Commander Major General Qassem Soleimani meeting in the “Fallujah operations room” with Iraqi Shia militia leaders, including Kata’ib Hezbollah leader and Deputy Chairman of the Popular Mobilization Commission Abu Mahdi al Muhandis.
The chairman of Iran's Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization, Saeed Ohadi, led a six-member delegation to Saudi Arabia to discuss Saudi Arabia’s preparations for the Hajj. Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Ali Jannati “tentatively confirmed” the cancellation of the Hajj for Iranian pilgrims following Saudi Arabia’s refusal to comply with Iranian demands on May 12. Ohadi’s delegation contradicts previous reporting in Western press that Iran definitely cancelled its participation in this year’s pilgrimage.
AEI Must Reads
- Follow the latest electoral developments in Parliament and the Assembly of Experts in the Critical Threats Project’s “Iran Elections Tracker: Updates and Analysis.”
- Caitlin Pendleton discusses how a reformist parliamentarian’s late disqualification could transform Iran’s domestic political scene in “Iran’s Guardian Council pushes the limits of its electoral control.”
- Paul Bucala has published a map depicting recent reports of Iranian military activity in Syria in “What the Khan Tuman defeat means for Iran.”
- Paul Bucala discusses the implications of the Artesh’s deployment to Syria in “Is Iran’s regular military pivoting to force projection?”
- Matthew McInnis analyzes the future of Iran-Iraq relations following the storming of the Iraqi parliament by supporters of Shia cleric Moqtada al Sadr in “Is Iran’s Iraq policy coming apart?”
Conservative clerics elected to Assembly of Experts presiding board. Assembly of Experts members elected Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati as their chairman in an internal election on May 24. Jannati reportedly won 51 votes out of the 86 members present. He is also head of the Guardian Council, the electoral watchdog body that vets candidates and has disproportionately disqualified moderates and reformists. (Fars News Agency)
- Combatant Clergy Association head Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani and Guardian Council member Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi were elected Jannati’s first deputy and second deputy, respectively. Shahroudi and Movahedi Kermani each won their seats with over 60 votes. (IRNA)
- Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wrote that the Assembly’s “responsibility” is to “carefully and comprehensively guard the Islamic and revolutionary identity of the country’s ruling establishment” in a statement issued after the election. (ISNA)
- President Hassan Rouhani and Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani praised the results as well. Rafsanjani, whom many had expected to run again for chairman, called the Assembly’s new leadership “very good” and added that the internal elections “were held peacefully, quickly, and without any sort of quarrel.” Rafsanjani was previously elected as the Assembly’s chairman in 2007, and was re-elected for another 2-year term in 2009. Rouhani stated that the results “reassure Iranians” during an otherwise “hard time for the nation.” (Fars News Agency) (Mehr News Agency) (E)
- Rouhani administration spokesman: We will not interfere in the elections for parliament speaker. Rouhani administration spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht dismissed concerns that the Rouhani administration will influence votes during the May 27 elections for parliament speaker. The large number of independents in the upcoming parliament will likely be the swing vote in the election, and it is theoretically possible that outside actors from the Rouhani administration or elsewhere could influence these votes. (ISNA)
Military and Security
MiG-29 crashes in Hamedan province. Iranian news outlets reported that an Iranian MiG-29 fighter crashed in the northwestern province of Hamedan due to technical issues. One of the crewmembers reportedly died from his injuries. (IRNA)
Jafari: The U.S. is trying to prevent the Islamic revolutionary model from spreading. IRGC Commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari discussed the IRGC’s role in the Islamic Republic during an Imam Hossein University graduation ceremony on May 23. He stated:
- “The IRGC and the Basij, along with the Iranian people, will never allow the pro-Western infiltrators to infect the pure life of the Islamic Revolution…”
- “Inspired by the wise ideas of their great Leader, and the bright horizons of the revolution, the young Guards have come… to play a role in changing the geometry of global power.”
- Jafari added that Iran’s enemies are using “continuous conspiracies and successive intrigues in the political, intelligence, cultural, and economic fields in order to confront [Iran’s] Islamic political system and prevent a model of this political system from establishing a great Islamic civilization…. The hegemonic system, headed by America along with its regional followers, has focused all of its capacities [against] the progress of the Islamic revolution; by the power and strength of God, however, this concentration is collapsing.” (Defa Press)
- Safavi: The U.S. is trying to infiltrate our decision-making bodies. IRGC Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi warned that one of the U.S.’s “tactics” against Iran is to increase influence “in different decision-making bodies” during a speech in Esfahan province on May 24. The Senior Military Advisor to the Supreme Leader warned that “Islam’s enemies” have laid out four “scenarios for our surrender,” namely “sanctions, soft and smart power, influence, and changing the priorities for the country.” (Fars News Agency) (E) (Fars News Agency)
Regional Developments and Diplomacy
Soleimani meets with Iraqi Shia leaders. Iranian news outlets circulated photos of IRGC Quds Force Commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani meeting with Popular Mobilization Commission (PMC) deputy chairman and U.S.-designated terrorist Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the Head of Badr Organization Hadi al Amiri, and other officials. The meeting was reportedly to help direct the Iraqi offensive on the ISIS-held city of Fallujah. (Jamejan)
Iranian officials travel to Saudi Arabia to discuss the Hajj. The chairman of Iran's Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization, Saeed Ohadi, led a six-member delegation to Saudi Arabia to discuss Saudi Arabia’s preparations for the Hajj. Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Ali Jannati “tentatively confirmed” the cancellation of the Hajj for Iranian pilgrims following Saudi Arabia’s refusal to comply with Iranian demands on May 12. (Mashregh News Agency)
- Supreme Leader meets with Afghan and Indian presidents. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei held separate meetings with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Tehran on May 23. Khamenei stressed expanding bilateral ties with both countries and increasing cooperation on regional issues. He added that Iran is “completely serious” in implementing the bilateral agreements between India and Iran that focus on developing the Chabahar port. (Fars News Agency) (Fars News Agency)