Iran News Round Up

A selection of the latest news stories and articles published in Iranian news outlets, compiled by AEI Critical Threats Analysts.

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 contributors Ali Javaheri and 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: The Rouhani administration announced details of a new press law that would take some press supervision away from government institutions.

President Hassan Rouhani stated that the new law would transfer some authority to supervise the press from government institutions to “the press itself” during remarks at the 22nd International Exhibition of the Press and News Agencies. He also criticized restrictions on the press based on “fake excuses” and “false pretenses.” Rouhani was elected on a platform that included greater social freedoms, but he has prioritized economic initiatives in his first term. Judiciary Head Ayatollah Sadegh Amoli Larijani censured Rouhani’s comments as “defamation” of the Judiciary, which monitors the press.

Senior Military Advisor to the Supreme Leader IRGC Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi warned Head of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Massoud Barzani against allowing “the Saudi consulate [in Iraqi Kurdistan] to give arms to anti-revolutionaries.” Safavi also stated that “the Barzanis are indebted to Iran.” Saudi Arabia recently opened a consulate in the KRG’s capital of Erbil and is rumored to be providing financial support to several Kurdish insurgent groups.

Former Armed Forces Chief of Staff Major General Hassan Firouzabadi provided new information on Russia’s historical use of the Shahid Nojeh Air Base in Hamedan province during an interview. Among other details, Firouzabadi claimed that Iranian Air Force personnel benefited from Russia’s deployments to the base by learning about Russian military operations.

AEI Must-Reads

Domestic Politics

  • Rouhani criticizes press restrictions, announces new press law. President Hassan Rouhani criticized Internet regulations and press restrictions at the 22nd International Exhibition of the Press and News Agencies on November 5. Rouhani stated, “We should not break pens with fake excuses and shut mouths based on false pretenses.” He also announced details regarding a new press law his administration is preparing that will transfer some supervision over the press from government institutions to “the press itself.”  Iran is one of the lowest-ranked countries for press freedom. (Entekhab)
    • Judiciary head calls Rouhani a hypocrite. Hardline Judiciary Head Ayatollah Sadegh Amoli Larijani criticized Rouhani’s comments at the press exhibition as “defamation” of and “insulting” to the Judiciary, which monitors the press. Larijani claimed that Rouhani calls in private for the government to confront newspapers and websites “but calls for freedom of the press” in public. (Tasnim News Agency)
       
  • Rouhani appoints third woman to cabinet position. President Hassan Rouhani appointed Zahra Ahmadipour as vice president and head of the Tourism and Cultural Heritage Ministry as “part of the policy to give more administrative roles to women,” according to Tasnim News Agency. Ahmadipour replaces Massoud Soltani Far, whom Rouhani recently appointed as minister of Sports and Youth Affairs. Ahmadipour brings the number of women in Rouhani’s cabinet up to three. (Tasnim News Agency) (E)
     
  • Hardline newspaper editor goes to court over coverage. Hossein Shariatmadari, the editor of the hardline newspaper Kayhan, arrived in court on November 6 after several government bodies filed complaints against the newspaper. Kayhan called the Supreme National Security Council’s complaint that the newspaper covered Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an “disrespectfully” one of the “strangest” complaints against it. Shariatmadari is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s appointed representative in Kayhan. The Office of the Supreme Leader appeared to distance itself from Kayhan last summer after the newspaper claimed that Khamenei did not support the nuclear deal, however. (Fars News Agency)

Regional Developments & Diplomacy

  • Foreign Ministry discusses impact of U.S. presidential election on the nuclear deal. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Ghassemi discussed the U.S. presidential election and Iran’s relationship with the EU on November 7. He stated:
    • “Washington has certain commitments. We believe whatever government comes to power will have to live up to the commitments made by the previous government, even if it does not want to do so.”
    • Ghassemi noted that Iran enjoys a renewed relationship with the European Union but added that an EU office in Tehran is unlikely to open soon. (Press TV) (E) (Mehr News Agency) (E)
       
  • Foreign Minister visits Beirut. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with Lebanese President Michel Aoun in Beirut on November 7. Zarif was the first foreign minister to meet with Aoun, an ally of Hezbollah, after his election. Zarif later told reporters that Iran is “determined to improve cooperation” with Lebanon. (Press TV)
    • Zarif also met with Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad on November 7. Zarif stressed “the need for continued consultation and cooperation between Iran, Syria, and Russia.” (Fars News Agency)
       
  • Supreme Leader’s military advisor: The Barzanis are indebted to Iran. Senior Military Advisor to the Supreme Leader IRGC Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi warned against the growing autonomy of Iraqi Kurdistan and stated, “Regarding the fact that [Head of the Kurdistan Regional Government] Massoud Barzani has allowed the Saudi consulate [in Iraqi Kurdistan] to give arms to anti-revolutionaries, the Barzanis must know that they are indebted to Iran.” Safavi added, “The Iraqi Kurds are Aryans and their roots are Iranian… They must know that if they enter these political games, it is unclear if Iran will help them anymore.”  Iranian authorities have routinely blamed the escalating instability along Iran’s western borders on Saudi or U.S. activity in Iraqi Kurdistan. For more on Iran’s relationship with the Iraqi Kurds and recent violence within Iranian Kurdistan, please see “Iran's Kurdish Insurgency.” (ISNA) (Fars News Agency)
     
  • IRGC Quds Force deputy commander: “This year will determine the fate of Syria.” IRGC Quds Force Deputy Commander Brig. Gen. Esmail Ghani claimed that ongoing military operations this year “will determine Syria’s fate,” likely a reference to the Iranian and Russian-backed operation to besiege the city of Aleppo. He added, “This war will continue, of course. It is not as if  the war will end with developments in Syria and Iraq.”
    • Ghani also discussed Iran’s deployments of troops to Syria, stating, “Today we need commanders in Syria who will impose the will of the Islamic Republic on our enemies… Our enemies have put all of their energy into defeating our will. If our commanders do not possess the same type of perseverance, they will not accomplish Iran’s goals.” For more on Iran’s military involvement in Syria, please see “Iran's Evolving Way of War: How the IRGC Fights in Syria.” (Aftab News)
       
  • Iranian pilgrims among casualties in Samarra and Tikrit suicide attacks. Saeed Ohadi, the head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization, condemned the two suicide attacks in Samarra and Tikrit, Iraq, on November 6 which killed at least 21 and injured 132. The casualties included seven Iranian pilgrims. Ohadi attributed the attacks to ISIS. He also announced a ban on Iranian pilgrims traveling to Samarra. Shia Muslims are currently visiting Samarra and other holy cities to commemorate Arbaeen, which marks the 40th day after the death of Hossein, the third Shia Imam. (Mehr News Agency) (IRNA)

Military & Security

  • Former Armed Forces General Staff chief: Russia’s air force is our air force in Syria. Former Armed Forces Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi discussed Russia’s use of the Shahid Nojeh Air Base in Hamedan during an interview with Tasnim News Agency. He stated:
    • “In the war against ISIS, Russia is our partner, and this is the reality. The Russians are our air force in operations against ISIS. Iranian advisors manage the ground [operations] against ISIS and the Russians manage the air [operations]. Therefore, considering our cooperation, it was accepted that Russian warplanes could come along a certain flight-path...and strike ISIS positions.”
    • “They faced an issue, however. Their airplanes had to find a place to refuel since the flight-path was not direct. It was also very long for conducting surprise attacks. Otherwise, many different types of satellites and communication systems could have detected the operation and alerted ISIS.”
    • “We told the Russians that we will determine the flight path when they enter Iran. We also said that that the Iranian Air Force will escort the Russian planes as soon as they enter Iran and they will land at a military base in order to be refueled.” Firouzabadi denied that Russian warplanes fired at ISIS targets from Iranian airspace, however.
    • “Saying that Iran put a military base under control of Russia is 100 percent false.”
    • On Iranian perceptions of Russian basing in Iran: “The deployment Russians [at Hamedan] had a few advantages for us. First, ISIS was hit heavily.”
    • “In addition, Russia was encouraged to participate in the war against ISIS with this move. Before this, they did not have an earnest desire to do so.”
    • “This was also very good for the Iranian Air Force since this experience had a training effect. Iranian Air Force [personnel] were able to see the [Russian] planes and the way they were operated.” For more on how Russia’s use of the Hamedan air base benefited Iran, please see “Russian Basing in Iran is about More than ISIS.
    • “From the perspective of the Iranian Constitution and other laws, there were no issues. The resolution on [Russian] flight-paths was also approved.” Firouzabadi was likely referring to the resolution approved by the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) permitting Russia’s use of Iran’s airspace. Firouzabadi added, “No one knew the destinations and origins of these planes except for the armed forces which determined and controlled these flight paths. We sent the details of the operation to President [Hassan Rouhani] after the operation was completed.” Russian planes have used the Shahid Nojeh Air Base since at least November 2015. (Tasnim News Agency)

Economy

  • Iran to sign deal with Total, CNPC to develop gas field. The National Iranian Oil Company will sign a deal to develop the South Pars gas field with a consortium including the French oil company Total, the China National Petroleum Corporation, and the Iranian state-owned company Petropars on November 8. The deal is worth a reported $6 billion. It is also Iran’s first agreement with a European company under Iran’s new oil investment contract. International sanctions against Iran prompted Total to limit its investment in Iran in 2008. (Ghatreh)
     
  • Iran to finalize talks with Shell, BP. Managing Director of the National Iranian South Oil Company (NISOC) Bijan Alipour announced that Iran will finalize talks with Shell and BP in the next three months. Shell and BP intend to cooperate with NISOC in the development of the Karanj, Parsi, Rag-Sefid, and Shadegan oilfields in southern Iran. (Fars News Agency)
     
  • Iranian news agency: Egyptian oil minister is coming to Iran today. Mehr News Agency reported that Egyptian Oil Minister Tareq El Molla has confirmed he is traveling to Iran today to meet with Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh and discuss developments in oil markets. El Molla had told Reuters on November 7 that he would not be traveling to Iran today, but “sources close to his delegation told Reuters on Sunday night [November 6] that Molla was on his way to Iran.” The conflicting reports of the visit follow El Molla’s recent statement that Saudi Aramco “halted shipments of oil products to Egypt indefinitely.” (Mehr News Agency)
     
  • Iran reaches deal to partially finance purchase of Airbus jets. Iranian news outlets circulated a Reuters report that Iran signed a deal with an unnamed foreign leasing company to finance 17 of the over 100 jets Iran intends to buy from Airbus. Iran agreed to purchase aircraft from Airbus in January 2016. The deal has hit a number of bottlenecks, however, including a delay in the U.S.’s issuing of regulatory approvals. (Tasnim News Agency)
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