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: A National Iranian Oil Company official claimed that Iran’s current daily oil production has reached a level that Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh previously deemed appropriate for an oil freeze.
National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) International Affairs Director Mohsen Ghamsari told reporters that Iran’s current daily oil production has reached a level of output that Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh called an appropriate ceiling for Iran’s oil production. Ghamsari also noted that the final decision of whether to freeze production would be left to Zanganeh. Saudi Arabia, Russia, and other oil-producing countries have repeatedly called upon Iran to join an oil freeze plan in order to curb falling oil prices.
At least two IRGC soldiers were reported killed in Khan Tuman, a Syrian village south of Aleppo. Syrian opposition groups reportedly seized Khan Tuman and nearby villages from pro-regime forces in the past 24 hours.
- Paul Bucala analyzes the details and significance of the Artesh’s deployment to Syria in “The Artesh in Syria: A fundamental shift in Iranian hard power.”
- The Critical Threats Project has also translated an interview with the Artesh deputy commander on the deployment to Syria that hints at a transformation in the orientation of Iran’s conventional military. Read the translation here.
- 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 the economic challenges facing President Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s newly elected parliament assumes office in his latest blog, “Will Iran’s new parliament be any better for Rouhani?”
NIOC official: We have reached our desired level of oil production. National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) International Affairs Director Mohsen Ghamsari told reporters that Iran’s current daily oil production has reached approximately 4.2 million barrels per day (bpd). He noted that Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh had previously called this level of output to be an appropriate ceiling for Iran’s oil production. He added that therefore Iran can enter “the oil freeze agreement” but noted that the final decision would be left to Zanganeh. The figure of 4.2 million bpd contrasts with Deputy Oil Minister Rokneddin Javadi’s remarks on May 5 that Iran’s daily oil production has reached 3.8 million barrels. (Tasnim News Agency) (Press TV) (E) (Damadam.ir)
Ilam Friday prayer leader: The people’s economic well-being has worsened under the JCPOA. Hojjat ol Eslam Mohammad Naghi Lotfi argued that “the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] has neither improved the living conditions of the people nor rescued the country’s ailing economy… Economists testify that living conditions have worsened and stagnation has deepened.” He also criticized Rouhani administration officials for “having tied the resolution of all the people's problems to the nuclear negotiations” and claimed that this led to “negligence towards economic planning in the country.” The Supreme Leader’s Representative to Ilam also stressed that “military might and deterrence power” will prevent U.S. military aggression, not the JCPOA. (Tasnim News Agency)
- India to clear $6.4 billion in pending oil payments to Iran. India and Iran’s central banks reportedly agreed to clear $6.4 billion in arrested payments owed to Iran as a result of past Indian oil purchases. Sanctions had previously blocked Indian refiners from using Turkey’s Halkbank to process the funds. European banks will act as the “clearing agents” for the payments, according to Indian Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan. (Press TV) (E)
Principlist parliamentarian repeats call for Supreme Leader to intervene in disqualified reformist’s case. Principlist parliamentarian Ahmad Tavakkoli called the Guardian Council’sdisqualification of reformist politician Minoo Khaleghi “unprecedented.” The Guardian Council, a hardliner-dominated body charged with vetting electoral candidates, controversially disqualified Khaleghi after she had already won a seat in Esfahan’s parliamentary election. Tavakkoli stated that the Guardian Council is paying a “heavy price” for giving an “insufficient explanation” of Khaleghi’s disqualification to the public. He added that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the “option and responsibility” to mediate the dispute between the Guardian Council and the Interior Ministry, which believes that the Guardian Council does not have the authority to disqualify candidates after elections take place. Tavakkoli is the second prominent parliamentarian to call for the Supreme Leader to intervene after influential moderate-conservative parliamentarian Ali Motahari did so in remarks on May 3. (Ghatreh)
Qom Friday prayer leader: Clerics support the JCPOA. Qom Friday Prayer Leader Ayatollah Ali Reza Arafi stated that the marajah taqlid (senior clerics who are “sources of emulation” for Shia) and “other scholars” support the JCPOA. He stated that the JCPOA “has followed all of the legal procedures. The Principlist Parliament ratified it and the Supreme Leader confirmed it. The content is clear. In this way, some people’s opposition to the JCPOA does not have justification…” He added that “the marajah taqlid’s attention to domestic and international problems and their rhetoric collectively indicate that to pass through crises, we must stress dialogue and interaction with the world.” (ILNA)
Firouzabadi voices support for morality police. Armed Forces Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi identified “protecting religious and moral values” as being among the main duties of country’s police forces. His comments are likely in reference to the proposed expansion of the morality police in Tehran that was criticized by President Hassan Rouhani. Firouzabadi noted that his opinion is “different from some perspectives that are based on political goals.” (Defa Press)
- Interim Esfahan Friday prayer leader: Larijani will probably remain parliament speaker.Hojjat ol Eslam Mohammad Taghi Rahbar said that current Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani’s experience in the position is “an important factor for preferring him over” prominent reformist parliamentarian Mohammad Reza Aref, who many believe will run against Larijani. He added, “In my opinion, [Larijani] will remain in the position of Parliament speaker.” (Mehr News Agency)
Regional Developments and Diplomacy
Velayati discusses developments in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to the Supreme Leader Ali Akbar Velayati discussed the crises in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen with Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar.
- On Syria and Russia: Velayati reaffirmed that Iran “insists” upon Syrian President Bashar al Assad serving the remainder of his “term” as president. He added, “The Russians have also realized that an alternative to Assad does not exist… I believe that in the absence of Bashar al Assad, Syria could be in a worse situation than Libya.”
- On Iraq: Al Akhbar asked Velayati to react to “Washington’s accusations” that Iran had attempted a coup in Iraq with the help of Sadrist Trend leader Muqtada al Sadr. Velayati responded, “What coup?... We saw that the Popular Resistance Forces succeeded in ousting those who had occupied Parliament, the Prime Minister’s office, and the Green Zone within a few hours… The Americans’ presence in Iraq today is weaker than two months and even a year ago.”
- On the Houthis and Yemen: “We feel that the Saudis have realized that they do not have the power to beat the Houthis. Riyadh was ultimately forced to allow Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi to sit at the negotiating table with the Houthis because it recognized that the basic military power in Yemen is in the Houthis’ hands. For this reason, former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh was compelled to unite with them [the Houthis].”
- “The Americans have come to the conclusion that they must reach an understanding with the Houthis and their allies.”
- Velayati also arrived in Syria on May 6 after a trip to Lebanon. (Mehr News Agency) (Fars News Agency) (IRIB)
Friday prayer leaders reiterate Supreme Leader’s criticism of English-language education. Ayatollah Mohammad Mehdi Hosseini Hamedani, Hojjat ol Eslam Mehdi Ghorayshi, and Ayatollah Abdolkarim Abedini, the Friday prayer leaders of Karaj, Urmia, and Qazvin respectively, echoed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s recent denunciation of the high level of interest in English-language education among Iranians. The Friday prayer leaders contended that the promotion of the English language weakens Iranian culture and labeled it as Western, particularly American, infiltration into Iran. President Hassan Rouhanipushed back on the Supreme Leader’s criticism during remarks on May 4. (Mehr News Agency) (Fars News Agency) (Ghatreh)
- Tehran Friday prayer leader: “We will rip our rights from America’s throat.” Hojjat ol Eslam Kazem Sedighi asserted that Islam currently faces “the most difficult conditions” in its history for dealing with “today’s U.S., one equipped with science and industry.” He also stated, “We condemn the encroachment of the thieving, worthless American bullies who violated the spirit of the JCPOA and whose courts confiscated Iran’s money with the support of their government.” He continued that the U.S. “is on the path of decline, and we will rip our rights from America’s throat.” Sedighi’s comments are partly in response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing families of the victims of the 1983 Marine barracks bombing and other attacks blamed on Iran to collect almost $2 billion in frozen Iranian assets. (Tasnim News Agency)(IRNA)
Casualties in Iraq and Syria
IRGC soldiers from Mazandaran province killed in fighting south of Aleppo.
- Reza Hajizadeh was from Amol county, Mazandaran province. It appears that he was a member of an IRGC Special Forces unit. Another unnamed Iranian from Amol was also reportedly wounded. Iranian reports identified both soldiers as fighting in Khan Tuman, a village south of Aleppo. (Mazandarane.ir)
- Maj. Mohammad Balbasi was from Qaem Shahr, Mazandaran province. No information on their ranks or unit affiliations was provided, but it is likely that all three soldiers were from the IRGC Karbala unit stationed in Mazandaran. (qasemsoleimani.ir)