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 Mehrdad Moarefian, Marie Donovan, and Paul Bucala, with contributors Ryan Melvin, Caitlin Pendleton, and Jordan Olmstead. To receive this daily newsletter, please subscribe online.
(E) = Article in English
Key takeaway: Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian claimed that Iran would withdraw from the Syrian peace talks if they were “unconstructive.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Abdollahian strongly criticized Saudi Arabia for its “negative role” during the Syrian peace talks. Abdollahian also warned that Iran might walk away from the talks if they prove “unconstructive.”
During a meeting with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and other Iranian diplomats, Supreme Leader Khamenei stressed that foreign countries should not dictate the future of Syria’s “governing system.” Khamenei instead claimed that “the solution to the Syrian issue is elections and for this action, war and unrest should first end...” The Supreme Leader also ruled out negotiating with the U.S. on regional issues, echoing his earlier statement to the same effect on October 7.
IRGC Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, meanwhile, reaffirmed Iran’s commitment to Syrian President Bashar al Assad. Jafari, however, acknowledged that Russia’s goals in Syria might differ from Iran’s regarding Assad, stating: “Our dear friend to the north, which has now come to Syria and is helping militarily, is pursuing its own national interests; it is possible… that [Russia] is not looking for Assad to remain. In any case, [Russia] has arrived…and it is helping the resistance front.” Jafari also promised that Iran will continue to support the Houthi movement in Yemen.
Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Head Ali Akbar Salehi told reporters that Iran has begun reducing its number of centrifuges as dictated by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JPCOA.
Matthew McInnis and Tara Beeny analyze Iran’s broader strategy towards Russia by examining recent developments in economic, security, and nuclear cooperation between Tehran and Moscow, in their most recent blog, “Iran’s strategy to ‘entangle’ Russia.”
Regional Developments and Diplomacy
Abdollahian: Iran will walk from Syrian talks if they are “unconstructive.” Hossein Amir Abdollahian stated that Iran would leave the Syrian peace talks if it found them “unconstructive.” The Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs said that some countries were "counterproductive" in the first meeting, and "Saudi Arabia specifically played a negative role..." Abdollahian added:
- "The main problem during the negotiation was that Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir did not support democratic solutions for Syria."
- On military advisors in Syria: “We [Iranians] are not fighting, but [have] military advisors in Syria to support the Syrian government in combatting terrorism... we also made it clear in recent weeks that the number of military advisors has increased in Syria."
- Abdollahian also emphasized that no country, including the U.S., Iran, and Saudi Arabia, can make a decision on Syrian rights, claiming, "Only the Syrian people can make decisions about their country's future." Abdollahian denied the "leaked news" that Iran had agreed to remove Syrian President Bashar al Assad, stating that "discussions on this issue will be in accordance with UN resolutions and the reality on the ground..." (ILNA)
Abdollahian: We have not made any concessions with regards to Syria. Abdollahian discussed the Vienna II negotiations on the Syrian conflict during an interview with Iranian state TV on October 31. The Deputy Foreign Minister claimed that in the lead-up to the talks, “no concessions [were] made; we have not made any deals over Syria’s political future.” He added, “Over the past five years, there have been various meetings with the participation of numerous countries on the topic of Syria. However, because Iran was not present at these meetings, not one of them had a practical result for solving Syria’s political [situation].” (ILNA)
Jafari: The resistance in Syria is “completely dependent” upon Assad. IRGC Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari discussed regional developments at a Tehran University conference on November 2. The IRGC Commander stated, “Since the beginning of the [Islamic] Revolution, Iran has been faced with four major seditions; the first sedition was the Imposed War [Iran-Iraq War]; the second sedition was cultural, political, or security-related.” Jafari called the 2009 election protests the “third sedition,” which he called “more dangerous than the Imposed War.” Jafari added, “The fourth sedition began with the nuclear excuse…this sedition can be called the sedition of influence.” Jafari warned, however, that “the inclinations of some officials [in government] are towards trusting the West and believing in liberalism.” Jafari also stated:
- On Syria: “Bashar al Assad wholeheartedly believes in the resistance front and opposing the arrogant powers and the West; after him, we do not have anyone to fill that hole.”
- “The resistance is completely dependent upon Bashar al Assad in Syria, and we cannot ignore this issue.”
- Noting that some of Iran’s actions in Syria “cannot be discussed,” Jafari stated that Iran “will help the people and government of Syria through advisory assistance with all of its power.”
- “Our dear friend to the north, which has now come to Syria and is helping militarily, is pursuing its own national interests; it is possible… that [Russia] is not looking for Assad to remain. In any case, [Russia] has arrived…and it is helping the resistance front.”
On Yemen: “We will do anything to support Yemen… The enemies think they have been victorious, but this is a strategy [of the Houthis]; just like [with] our negotiations and 20 percent enriched uranium.” (Fars News Agency) (Defa Press)
Supreme Leader: Negotiations with the U.S. are forbidden. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei outlined the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy principles in a meeting with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Iranian diplomats on November 1 in Tehran. The Supreme Leader underlined the dichotomy between American and Iranian foreign policy, stating: “America’s objectives in the region are 180 degrees different from Iran’s goals.” Khamenei claimed that Iran’s foreign policy is congruent with the Islamic establishment’s global objectives, and dismissed Western rhetoric regarding shifting foreign policy priorities in Tehran. Khamenei added:
- On the Iranian Foreign Ministry: “According to its objectives and tasks, the Foreign Ministry is working well, especially in the recent experience of nuclear negotiations. Dr. [Mohammad Javad] Zarif and his colleagues passed the test well...Feeling empowered and sitting in front of six global powers [the P5+1], defending the objectives and establishing your presence and existence to the counterparties, are among the strengths of our country’s negotiators in the nuclear talks.”
- “We do not claim to have reached all of our goals, or that we are even close to reaching them, because the implementation of Islamic Revolutionary foreign policy has been in practice accompanied by certain negligence, deficiencies, ineptitude, and external barriers; however, the current dignified position of the country is owed to these wise policies. If we had not acted on these principles, God knows with which strange problems and blows we would have struggled.”
- On reported negotiations on regional issues with America: “Americans seek to impose their own interests, not to solve issues. They want to impose 60 to 70 percent of their wishes throughout negotiations, and they implement and enforce the rest of their goals illegally. So what is the point of negotiations?”
- On Syria: “Our word in this context is the strongest. We do not believe that other countries should come together and decide the [future] of another governing system and the head of that government... The solution to the Syrian issue is elections and for this action, war and unrest should first end and military and financial aid should be cut to the opponents [of the government of Syria], so that the Syrian people, in a safe and calm environment, can elect anyone they want.... Referring to one armed group to decide on the formation of a [Syrian] government is not logical and it will not be accepted. Such formulas actually cause continual war.”
- On Yemen: “Saudi action in Yemen and Syria is contradictory. Regarding Yemen, they [the Saudis] say they have intervened militarily in this country upon the request of Yemen’s resigned and runaway president, but in Syria, they are not ready to stop supporting armed opponents upon the request of the legal president of this country.”
On Bahrain: “The people of Bahrain want nothing but the right to vote and the right to elect, and we consider this request of theirs as reasonable.” (Khamenei.ir)
Judiciary Head: Our support for the oppressed is based on the Constitution. Ayatollah Sadegh Amoli Larijani discussed Iranian involvement abroad on November 2. The Judiciary Head stated, “Based on the clear text of the Constitution, we support all the oppressed in the countries of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Yemen, and Lebanon who seek our help.” Larijani called accusations of human rights abuses in Iran “political and hypocritical,” and stated, “Why is there is not a trace of human rights or elections in Saudi Arabia, but Saudi Arabia is never accused?” Larijani also criticized Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen and used the September 24 Hajj stampede as an example of Saudi Arabia’s “neglect of human rights.” (IRIB)
Parliament Speaker meets with Yemen’s Supreme Revolutionary Committee. Ali Larijani called Yemen a “constant concern” for Iran during a meeting in Tehran with members of Yemen’s Supreme Revolutionary Committee on October 31. The Parliament Speaker added that Iran is “constantly in touch” with other countries to resolve the crisis. (IRNA) (E)
- Tehran’s ambassador to Moscow: Iran-Russia ties will be “significant.” Mehdi Sanaei stated that the "post-sanction period" is a "new chapter in Tehran-Moscow ties." The Iranian Ambassador to Russia stated that Iran is in the process of joining the Eurasia Investment Bank and "establishing a joint bank with Russia." He added, "The relations will be more significant [compared] to the past." (ISNA) (E)
Reactions to the Nuclear Deal
Rouhani: It will be impossible to sanction us again if we act correctly. President Hassan Rouhani stressed that the era of “Iranophobia” is over and discussed new government priorities during a speech to Iranian diplomats on November 2.
- On the economy: Rouhani emphasized the importance of increasing foreign investment in Iran; he added that the responsibility of ambassadors in the “post-sanctions era” is “the attraction of investment and technological interaction for the development of Iran’s export markets.”
- “In the world today, no country can solve its problems and reach its goals alone. If we act correctly, we will arrive at such a point that isolating and sanctioning Iran will not be possible.”
- Rouhani added that the Sixth Development Plan must achieve “eight percent growth” and stated that such growth requires “150 billion dollars in annual investment.”
- On the nuclear talks: Rouhani claimed that the nuclear negotiations have turned Israel into “the world’s most isolated regime.”
- Rouhani praised the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) for “enforcing the cancellation of the six oppressive [UN Security Council] resolutions,” while also maintaining Iran’s “nuclear rights.”
On regional issues: Rouhani emphasized that Iran has “no doubt” about “political solutions” in Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain. He stated, “It is important for us to prevent the spilling of the blood of even one innocent person in the region.” (President.ir)
Salehi: We have begun dismantling centrifuges. Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Head Ali Akbar Salehi told reporters during a visit to Tokyo that Iran has started reducing its number of centrifuges, including at the Natanz reactor. (Tasnim News Agency)
Araghchi: Renovating the Arak reactor will occur after the PMD file is closed. Abbas Araghchi discussed the next steps for implementing the nuclear deal during an interview with the Islamic Consultative Assembly News Agency (ICANA). The Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs reiterated the Supreme Leader’s recommendations for implementing the deal, stating that “any type of renovating the Arak reactor will occur after the IAEA file (on the possible military dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program) is closed.” Araghchi also expressed his confidence that this file “will be closed in one and a half months.” (ICANA)
Twenty parliamentarians call for Rouhani to halt the dismantling of centrifuges. Twenty hardliner parliamentarians issued a statement arguing that the U.S. and the EU have not yet issued “sufficient guarantees” on the cancelation of sanctions, per the Supreme Leader’s first “recommendation” in his October 22 letter to President Rouhani. The parliamentarians urged for Rouhani to halt the dismantling of centrifuges at Natanz and Fordow until the Supreme Leader’s conditions for implementing the JCPOA “have been achieved.” (Fars News Agency)
- Zakani: “The JCPOA without the Supreme Leader’s recommendations is not the JCPOA.” Principlist Parliamentarian Ali Reza Zakani urged the Rouhani administration to implement the nuclear deal according to the Supreme Leader’s “recommendations” during a speech at the University of Tehran. (Mashregh News)
Casualties in Iraq and Syria
IRGC and Basij members killed in Syria.
- Mohammad Hossein Mirdousti was a member of the Greater Tehran IRGC Mohammad Rasoul Allah unit. “Takiri groups” purportedly killed Mirdousti in Syria “a few days ago.” He was buried in Tehran on October 31.
- Hamid Fatemi was a member of the Basij Organization, Khuzestan province. (Fars News Agency) (Tasnim News Agency)
- Fatimiyoun Brigade commander killed. Ali Hussain Alemi was killed in combat with “terrorist groups” in Syria. (Tasnim News Agency)
Military and Security
Air Force Commander meets with his Chinese counterpart. Artesh Air Force Commander Brig. Gen. Hassan Shah Safi met with his Chinese counterpart Ma Xiaotian in Beijing on November 2. Xiaotian explained that China hopes “that cooperation [between the two air forces] can go up another level." Safi is currently on a four day visit in China, where he will tour various defense companies. (Fars News Agency)
Nobakht: American and European private sectors are not malign foreign influence. Mohammad Bagher Nobakht discussed the Supreme Leader’s “concerns” about foreign influence in Iran after the implementation of the JCPOA. The Planning and Strategic Supervision Deputy to the President stated that Khamenei and the government share “the same concerns,” but added, “Now the private sectors of various countries, and even America, are ready for investment – but the Supreme Leader ordered our ban on American consumer goods. If American and European business want to come and invest according to our criterion, [then] [American and European investment in Iran] is certainly not an example of influence.”
- Nobakht cited reports from the Statistical Center of Iran that the economy had a “positive growth of one percent” in the first six months of the Iranian year 1394 [late March– late September]. He added that this growth rate is “favorable… compared to the negative growth rate of 6.8% in the past two years.” He added that the Central Bank of Iran (CBI)’s steps to increase purchasing power will help raise economic growth to two percent in the next year.
- Nobakht cautioned that while some Iranians imagine “the difficult chapter of sanctions to be over” because the JCPOA has been accepted and foreign delegations have been arriving to Iran, “we are still in sanctioned conditions… This year, our hands are not very open.” Nobakht also briefly discussed the Rouhani administration’s economic stimulus package and stated that the government is “ready to give export subsidies.” (Entekhab)
Interior Minister: Administration has presented Resistance Economy projects to Khamenei. Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli stated, “The government has planned a series of large projects in accordance with the Resistance Economy, which have been presented to the Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei); if approved, they will be implemented.” The Interior Minister continued, “One of the ideals of the Islamic Revolution was to be a good example for other countries. In this regard, we outlined a roadmap; one of the issues in this roadmap which must be addressed is the economic issue… Today, we have introduced [our] relations and regional developments as a model [for regional countries]; one of the things regional countries expect from us is a suitable pattern for economic issues. We must be able to provide good programs in this regard.” (Rasa News)
Deputy Oil Minister meets with British minister. Amir Hossein Zamaninia met with British Minister of State for Trade and Investment Francis Maude in Tehran on November 1. The Deputy Oil Minister for Commerce and International Affairs stated that the meeting was to discuss "ways of expanding bilateral cooperation in the fields of oil and gas." (Mehr News) (E)
German trade delegation arrives in Iran. Bavarian Minister of Economic Affairs Ilse Ainger led an economic delegation of 130 German businessmen to Tehran. The delegation, which includes representatives from BMW, Siemens, and Audi, will discuss methods of increasing bilateral trade. (Press TV) (E)
- ?Iranian airlines purchase 13 Boeing 737s. Nasim Air received the first two Boeing 737 aircraft in an order of eight from an undisclosed seller. Caspian Airlines also purchased three while Aseman Airlines purchased two of the aircraft. (Press TV) (E)
- ?NIDC signs MOU with two Italian oil and gas companies. Mohammad Reza Takaydi announced that the National Iranian Drilling Company (NIDC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with two Italian oil and gas companies, Eni S.p.A and Saipem S.p.A., to cooperate on joint projects. The NIDC Deputy Managing Director also stated that a major German firm was also engaged in talks with the NIDC regarding potential joint drilling projects. (Tasnim News Agency) (E)