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: IRGC Deputy Commander Hossein Salami underlined the depth and variety of Iran’s “advisory” roles in Syria, while highlighting joint operations between the Russian Air Force and Syrian Army.
IRGC Brigadier General Hossein Salami stressed the strategic and religious value of Syria to the Islamic Republic. The IRGC Deputy Commander specified the four categories of advisory assistance Iran provides the government and military of Syria. He stated that Iranian advisors work in conjunction with the Syrian military at the strategic, tactical, technical and logistical levels. Salami, moreover, underlined the importance of Russian air support in sustaining effective ground operations by the Syrian army. Salami downplayed reports about the rising Iranian death toll in Syria and stated, “The number of our martyrs is not huge, but it appears to be more than before.” Three more IRGC members, meanwhile, were killed in Syria.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif discussed the three-staged process of redesigning the Arak heavy water reactor and stated that Iran will direct the renovation work. Zarif also indicated that the IAEA file on the possible military dimensions of Tehran’s nuclear program could be resolved in December.
Matthew McInnis analyzes recent reports of Iranian deployments into Syria in support of the offensive towards Aleppo, and discusses the implications for Iran’s role in the ongoing conflict, in his most recent blog post, “Iranian deployments indicate a shift in the Syria conflict.”
Military and Security
Salami highlights Iran’s advisory capacity and Russian air support in Syria. IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami discussed Iran-Russia cooperation in Syria in an interview on October 26. The IRGC Deputy Commander highlighted the effective power of Russian air support and stressed that Syria’s political system is in a state of recovery. Salami also stated:
- “We place great strategic value and importance on Syria… Our presence in Syria, in addition to the religious aspects, has strategic aspects as well. This is why the training of [the Syrian military and volunteer forces] requires the presence of our advisors…”
- “… When the Syrian military began to rebuild itself, forces from Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Pakistan went to help [the Syrian government].”
- “We will guarantee the political, psychological, economic, and military stability of the Syrian regime that is fighting in the front line against America and Israel.”
- On the four levels of Iran’s role in Syria: “The first level is the strategic level. At this level we support the Syrian people and transfer our experiences to the Syrian army. In this level, we are helping them modernize and restructure the Syrian military. The Syrian military is need of supplementary defense, which are the popular mobilization forces.”
- “The next level is seen as operational assistance, namely the support given to the Syrian commanders in handling the war against the terrorists at the medium stages. [The third level of support] is tactical…and the fourth level is technical and logistical support in preparation of weapons and maintenance… [These] actions are based on requests and understanding that we formally have with the Syrian government.”
- On Iranian missile capacity: Salami discussed recent reports about Iran’s underground missile facility and said that this was footage from one of the “oldest” IRGC missile stockpiles, adding: “The modern facilities are yet to be made public.”
- On Iranian death toll in Syria: “The number of our martyrs is not huge, but it appears to be more than before.”
- On Russian air support in Syria: “These actions are effective when the air [campaign] is supported by ground forces… In the beginning Russia’s air force was operating without the Syrian army…”
- “The Russians believe that 20% of ISIS leaders and several thousand of these terrorists are from the Caucuses and Central Asia and if they [the Russians] do not come [to Syria] today… Russia will [eventually] have to confront these terrorists along its borders.”
- “A command center has been formed in for operational control of the Syrian army and Russian air force.”
On Saudi Arabia: “Saudi involvement in Yemen is part of the vast geography of the hegemonic system with Islamic Revolution. The Saudis are ineffective in the face of a war of attrition [in Yemen]…and they [the Saudis] will lose their focus on supporting terrorists in Syria and Iraq, and sedition in Lebanon.” (Sepah News)
Three more IRGC members killed in Syria. Iranian news outlets are reporting that over 20 Iranians have died in Syria over the past week.
- Mohammad Reza Asghari was an IRGC member from Khorramshahr city, Khuzestan province. No further details on his unit affiliation were provided.
- Jabbar Araghi was a Khuzestan province IRGC member.
- Abuzar Ahmadian was an IRGC member from Kermanshah province. He was reportedly killed in the vicinity of Aleppo. Iranian news outlets referred to him as the “fourth martyr” from Kermanshah province. (Afsaran) (Ghatreh) (Bultan News) (Basij News) (Fars News Agency)
Defense Minister Dehghan unveils new signals intelligence radar systems. IRGC Brig. Gen Hossein Dehghan highlighted the defense ministry’s latest achievements in electronic warfare capabilities. The Defense Minister unveiled 16 new systems, including a 3-D radar system that reportedly has the ability to track over 100 targets at high and low altitudes, up to 450 kilometers. (Mehr News)
Officials: A terrorist group plotted the Dezful shooting. Tasnim News Agency reported that “all the agents of a terrorist group” that committed the October 16 shooting in Dezful, Khuzestan province have been arrested. The report stated that the “terrorist group” was arrested before acting on plans to commit shootings in “four other spots.” The report also stated that the shooting occurred “with the organization and guidance of a foreign country.” (Tasnim News Agency)
- Jabbari: Our advisory activities do not violate other countries’ sovereignty. IRGC Vali-ye Amr unit Commander Brig. Gen. 2C Ibrahim Jabbari stated, “Our advisory activities do not intrude into the realm of domestic sovereignty of any country; rather, [they are] to prepare the people of these countries to defend their countries against bullying and coercion.” (Farhang News)
Domestic Politics and Reactions to the Nuclear Deal
President Rouhani: Sanctions will be lifted by end of the year. President Hassan Rouhani stated that he expects “the oppressive sanctions against Iran” to be lifted by the end of 2015 during a meeting with Spain’s new ambassador to Iran Eduardo Lopez Busquets. (President.ir)
Zarif: Arak reactor renovations are a multistep project. Mohammad Javad Zarif discussed the timeline for the Arak heavy water reactor renovations on October 27. The Foreign Minister said that the “formal document” for renovations will be composed during three stages:
- “In the first stage, a joint statement was made between [Ali Akbar] Salehi, America’s Energy Minister, and his Chinese counterpart; at the same time on Adoption Day [October 18], it was put on [an American] website through the White House.”
- “In the second stage, the formal document will be signed between Iran and members of the 5+1 group by [their] foreign ministers or another appropriate level.” Zarif added that a draft of the document has been finalized and will be signed “in the near future.”
- The third and final stage “relates to the documents and details of each of the projects related to the Arak reactor. The Arak reactor’s renovation will probably not be a single project, but will take place throughout multiple projects.” Zarif emphasized that Iran will be the “administrator” of all projects.
- Zarif also stated that Iran predicts that the file on the possible military dimensions (PMD) of its nuclear program will be closed in December. (ILNA)
Nobakht: It is natural that sanctions have not yet been lifted. Mohammad Bagher Nobakht told reporters on October 27 that it is not “unexpected” that sanctions are still in place. The Planning and Strategic Supervision Deputy to the President stressed that sanctions will be lifted “with the complete implementation” of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but added that before commitments in the JCPOA are acted upon, “it is natural… that the sanctions are not lifted either.” Nobakht also emphasized that before the JCPOA, “not a single director general had permission to come to Iran. Now you see delegations at the presidential level coming to Iran.” He added that President Hassan Rouhani will visit Italy and France from November 9-13 and reiterated the Rouhani administration’s commitment to reducing inflation and avoiding economic depression. (IRIB)
Arani: Iran’s PMD file relates to Parchin, not Arak. Parliamentarian Abbas Ali Mansour Arani emphasized that renovations on the Arak heavy water reactor have “no relation” to the nuclear program’s PMD. The National Security and Foreign Policy (NSFP) Parliamentary Commission member stated, “The PMD [file] is in relation to military matters and especially Parchin. In Arak, medical issues and technological development are pursued.” (ICANA)
- Rafsanjani: If we want to, we can still acquire nuclear weapons. Expediency Discernment Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani published a statement on the history of Iran’s nuclear profile. Rafsanjani stated, “If the situation arises and we find it necessary or come across a certain enemy that wants to use these weapons [nuclear weapons], our power [to acquire these weapons] is preserved.” (INH News)
Regional Developments and Diplomacy
Velayati: Saudi Arabia is too weak to threaten us directly. Ali Akbar Velayati discussed the threat posed by Saudi Arabia during a news conference with Russia’s Director of the Federal Drug Control Service Victor Ivanov. The Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to the Supreme Leader condemned Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir’s recent criticisms of Iran and added that Saudi Arabia is “too weak” to threat Saudi Arabia directly and thus must rely upon “terrorism and extremism” to weaken Iran’s regional role. (Fars News Agency)
Rouhani meets with Sudanese ambassador. President Hassan Rouhani called for expanded bilateral ties and non-military solutions to regional issues during a meeting with Sudan’s Ambassador to Iran Adel Ibrahim Mustafa on October 27. (President.ir)
- Rouhani meets with Indian ambassador. President Rouhani discussed potential development projects for ports, railways, and other sectors of the economy with India’s Ambassador to Iran Saurabh Kumar on October 27. (President.ir)
Rouhani meets with Japanese ambassador. President Rouhani said he welcomes expanded relations and investment with Japan during a meeting with Japan’s Ambassador to Iran Hiroyasu Kobayashi on October 27. (President.ir)
- Zarif: Improving ties with Brazil top priority. Foreign Minister Zarif emphasized the importance of expanding Iran-Brazil relations during a meeting with Brazilian Minister of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade Armando Monteiro. Zarif added that Iran can help Brazil enter the Central Asian market. (IRNA) (E)
Oil Ministry to form working group with its Brazilian counterpart. Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh met with Brazil’s Minister of Development, Industry, and Foreign Trade Armando Monteiro. Zanganeh said that Iran’s Oil Ministry and Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy are forming a “joint working group” in order to pursue negotiations over Brazil’s purchase of LNG (liquefied natural gas) from Iran. Zanganeh also noted the two countries’ interest in cooperation in the field of oil industry equipment, and stated, “In partnership with Iranian manufacturers, the Brazilians can invest with reputable brands for the production of necessary equipment.” (ISNA)
- Monteiro also met with Economic and Finance Minister Ali Tayyeb Nia. Tayyeb Nia stated that Brazil and Iran have agreed to increase their mutual “trade level up to [$5 billion].” Tayyeb Nia also noted that Iran and Brazil are set to form a joint commission on economic cooperation in the near future. (Mehr News) (E)