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 and contributor Wali Miller. 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: An Iranian official announced that Iran has lost over 1,000 “defenders of the shrine” in Syria, underscoring the depth of Iran’s military support for the Assad regime. 

Mohammad Ali Shahidi Mahallati, the Supreme Leader’s representative to the Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs, was presumably referring to both Iranian troops and Afghan and Pakistani militia fighters who were recruited in Iran. Iranian officials typically use the phrase “defenders of the shrine” to refer to both Iranian forces and Iranian-backed militias operating in Syria. Open-source reporting indicates that Iranian troops have suffered less than 500 casualties. In early May, the former IRGC commander for Mazandaran province told reporters that Iran has lost over “1,200 combatants” in Syria, likely including losses among Afghan and Pakistani forces as well. On November 17, the managing director of the Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs in Qom province announced that 235 “defenders of the shrine” have been buried in Qom province alone.

Iranian news outlets meanwhile reported the death of an Iranian fighter near the city of Aleppo. He was from Gilan province. No unit identification was provided, but Gilan is home to the IRGC 16th Quds Division, which has previously contributed troops to Iran’s expeditionary operations in Syria.

Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani criticized the Mashhad city prosecutor’s cancellation of a speech by outspoken Deputy Parliament Speaker Ali Motahari. Motahari, who is also a member of the reformist-backed Hope parliamentary faction, was scheduled to deliver a speech in Mashhad, Razavi Khorasan province on November 20. The city prosecutor reportedly ordered security forces to cancel the speech, however, and sealed the reformists’ local office. President Hassan Rouhani, who was elected on a platform of lifting sanctions and increasing social freedoms but has prioritized the former, has criticized the cancellation as an infringement on freedom of speech.

AEI Must-Reads

Domestic Politics

  • Outcry continues over deputy parliament speaker’s cancelled speech. Conservative Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani criticized the Mashhad city prosecutor’s cancellation of a speech by outspoken Deputy Parliament Speaker Ali Motahari and noted that an investigation is ongoing in remarks delivered in Parliament on November 22. Larijani called the city prosecutor’s actions “regrettable” and “divisive.” He added that the city prosecutor “supposedly” received information about a security issue that would have affected the speech, which coincided with the religious pilgrimage of Arbaeen.
    • Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli criticized the cancellation and warned that “harshening the atmosphere is not in the country’s interest.” He also claimed that if Motahari had given his speech, “nothing would have happened.” (Jamaran) (ISNA)
  • Senior cleric defends cancellation of speech. Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani, the secretary-general of the influential conservative Combatant Clergy Association and a member of the Assembly of Experts, criticized Motahari. He claimed that Motahari’s remarks “are not in the country’s interest” and stated, “The prosecutor's statement must be accepted. This does not mean that we must shut mouths, but we must shut mouths against the Supreme Leader and to please God.” (Entekhab)

Regional Developments & Diplomacy

  • AEOI head: Iran shipped 11 tonnes of heavy water to Oman. Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), clarified that Iran transferred 11 metric tonnes of heavy water to Oman to resume compliance with the nuclear deal’s stockpile restrictions. The AEOI’s spokesman previously announced that Iran transferred “some quantities” of its heavy water without specifying the amount. After the International Atomic Energy Agency announcedin early November that Iran had exceeded the nuclear deal’s 130-tonne limit on heavy water by 0.1 tonnes, Iranian officials pledged to ship the surplus out of the country. Salehi added that Iran sold the heavy water in Oman to an unnamed third party.
    • Salehi also addressed the future of the nuclear agreement under President-elect Donald Trump, who has alternatively pledged to scrap or renegotiate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Salehi stated that Trump “will act within the framework of reality because the JCPOA is not a plan between two countries… We imagine that there will not be many problems.” Before the election, Salehi predicted “difficult days” for the nuclear deal depending on the election’s outcome. (Fars News Agency)
  • Velayati: The ISA violates the “spirit” of the nuclear deal. Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to the Supreme Leader Ali Akbar Velayati reacted to the U.S. House of Representatives’ recent renewal of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA), which authorizes a variety of sanctions over Iran’s missile and nuclear activities. Velayati stated that “anything which causes the continuation of sanctions by any other name against Iran is a violation of the spirit of the nuclear deal. If this trend continues, it will definitely be the Americans who damage the nuclear deal.” (ISNA)
  • Supreme Leader meets with Slovenian president. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani met with Slovenian President Borut Pahor in Tehran to discuss regional issues and expand economic ties between the two countries. During the meeting, Khamenei criticized the U.S. for “not having a plan to completely eliminate ISIS” and accused some signatories of the nuclear deal of “not implementing their commitments” under the agreement. (Tasnim News Agency)

Casualties in Iraq & Syria

  • Iranian killed in Syria. Yadullah Ghasemzadeh was killed in Syria and was from Rasht, Gilan province. Social media accounts reported that he was killed near the city of Aleppo. No unit identification or rank was provided.  (Fars News Agency)
  • Senior official: More than 1,000 “defenders of the shrine” have been killed in Syria.Mohammad Ali Shahidi Mahallati, the Supreme Leader’s representative to the Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs, announced that Iran has lost over 1,000 “defenders of the shrine” in Syria. (Mizan Online)

Military & Security

  • MOIS operatives “destroy” terrorist cell in eastern Iran. Deputy Interior Minister for Security Affairs Hossein Zolfaghari stated that Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) forces killed one and arrested three members of a terrorist cell in eastern Iran on November 21. Further information on the exact location or affiliation of the group was not provided, however. (Fars News Agency
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