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 contributors Shayan Enferadi, Hirad Yaldaei, and Ali Javaheri. 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: Hardline clerics criticized President Hassan Rouhani over his administration’s cultural policies, indicating growing tension between Iran’s conservative clerical establishment and the Rouhani administration.

Prominent clerics criticized Rouhani and the Ministry of Culture for issuing a permit allowing a musical group to hold a concert in the holy city of Qom. The Society of Qom Seminary Teachers, an influential clerical organization, warned that the “patience” of Iran’s clerical leaders is “limited.” A former Assembly of Experts chairman and Society of Qom Seminary Teachers head, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, harshly criticized President Hassan Rouhani and called upon Abbas Daneshi, the Ministry of Culture’s managing director of cultural affairs in Qom, to resign. Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi and Grand Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi Golpayegani also censured the decision to hold the concert.

Iranian news agencies reported that a subsidiary of Setad will sign the first oil contract modeled off of the Iran Petroleum Contract (IPC) on October 4.  Setad, also known as the Execution of Imam Khomeini's Order (EIKO), is a business conglomerate under the control of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and is estimated to be worth more than $95 billion. Reports did not identify the specific subsidiary involved in the contract. The nuclear deal lifted U.S. secondary sanctions on Setad as well as around 40 of its subsidiaries, paving the way for Setad to expand in the post-nuclear deal environment.

The IRGC unveiled a new “stealth” drone called Saeqeh (Thunderbolt) modeled off the American RQ-170 Sentinel drone that Iran captured in 2011.

AEI Must-Reads

Domestic Politics

  • Parliament questions Zarif over nuclear deal. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif defended the nuclear deal and the Foreign Ministry’s conduct before Parliament on October 2. Zarif “angrily” denied an accusation from hardline parliamentarian Javad Karimi Ghodousi that “pressure from foreigners” prompted the Foreign Ministry to remove Hossein Amir Abdollahian from his post as deputy foreign minister for Arab and African Affairs in June 2016. Iranian news outlet Alef wrote that Ghodousi “tried to bring back the atmosphere of the [conservative-dominated] previous Parliament, but the majority of parliamentarians did not back him” during the October 2 session. Hardline politicians have repeatedly criticized the Rouhani administration for removing Abdollahian from the post and have suggested that the decision was intended as an overture to Saudi Arabia.
    • Zarif also praised the “Resistance Front,” Iran’s term for its network of allies in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere in the region, as a source of “pride” for Iran. He added, “I am pleased that my honorable brothers [IRGC Quds Force Commander] Qassem Soleimani, [Lebanese Secretary-General] Hassan Nasrallah, and [Palestinian Islamic Jihad Secretary-General] Ramezan Abdullah are in contact with me every day to thank [Iran for its] policies.” (Alef)
  • Hardline clerics blast Rouhani administration over Qom concert. The Society of Qom Seminary Teachers, an influential clerical group, issued a statement criticizing the Ministry of Culture for recently allowing a musical group to hold a concert in the holy city of Qom.  The statement warned that the “patience” of Iran’s clerical leaders is “limited.” (Aftab News)
    • The former Assembly of Experts Chairman and current Society of Qom Seminary Teachers Head Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi harshly criticized President Hassan Rouhani and called upon Minister of Culture Ali Jannati to “not interfere in religious affairs.” Yazdi also called upon Abbas Daneshi, the Ministry of Culture’s managing director of cultural affairs in Qom, to resign. In August, Mashhad Friday Prayer Leader and Assembly of Experts member Ayatollah Ahmad Alam ol Hoda blasted the Ministry of Culture for planning to hold concerts in Mashhad. The ministry backed down by announcing that it would not issue permits for concerts in Mashhad. (SNN)


  • Setad subsidiary to sign first contract modeled off of IPC. Tasnim News Agency reported that a subsidiary of Setad is set to sign the first oil contract modeled off of the Iran Petroleum Contract (IPC) for developing the Yaran oilfield. Tasnim News Agency reported that the contract is worth $2.5 billion. News sites did not identify the specific subsidiary involved in the contract. Reporting, however, indicates that Persia Oil and Gas Industry Development Company, a subsidiary of Setad-owned Tadbir Energy,  has previously been awarded contracts to develop the Yaran oilfield. (Tasnim News Agency)
  • President Rouhani calls for higher oil prices. President Hassan Rouhani praised OPEC’s recent agreement to curb oil production during a telephone conversation with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Rouhani also called upon OPEC members to hold “serious conversations” with non-OPEC members in order to stabilize oil markets. (Press TV) (E)
  • Iran resumes British oil sales. Seyyed Mohsen Ghamsari, the executive director for international affairs at the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), acknowledged the company’s resumption of oil exports to British companies. Ghamsari announced the sale of “two crude oil and gas condensate cargoes” to “two companies in the UK.” Ghamsari named British Petroleum as one of the companies but did not identify the other company. (Mehr News Agency)
  • German companies sign deals with Iran. German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel traveled to Iran with representatives from a number of international companies. Several German companies, including Siemens, the SMS group (a metallurgic plant supplier), Keller HCW, and Mitsubishi Germany, signed ten preliminary cooperation agreements with Iranian companies during the visit. Representatives from the German Federal Bank and the Central Bank of Iran also signed a cooperation agreement. (IRNA(E) (IRIB)
    • Judiciary Head Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani criticized the trip and claimed that Sigmar Gabriel should have been denied admittance to the country after his criticism of Iran’s human rights record. (Fars News Agency)

Military & Security

  • IRGC displays new “stealth” drone. The IRGC unveiled a new “stealth” drone called Saeqeh(Thunderbolt). Pictures circulated by Iranian news agencies show the drone carrying four bombs on external hardpoints. Stealth aircraft usually carry weapons within internal weapon bays in order to reduce their radar signature. (Fars News Agency)
    • IRGC Air Force Commander Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh praised the unveiling of theSaeqeh and claimed that Iran “is currently on par with the U.S. with regards to stealth bombers and drones.” (Tasnim News Agency)
  • Jalali: We will boost our defensive capabilities in “oil-producing regions.” Head of the Passive Defense Organization (PDO) IRGC Brig. Gen. Gholam Reza Jalali announced that the PDO plans on increasing security measures in “oil-producing regions.” Jalali noted that these efforts would focus on South Pars, Ahwaz, Mahshahr, Assaluyeh, and Kharg. He noted that a “senior commander” has been appointed to lead the coordination of security measures in these areas.  Jalali’s announcement follows reports of more than ten fires that have occurred in Iranian petrochemical facilities. Multiple Iranian officials have voiced concerns that cyber-attacks could have played a role in the fires. (Tasnim News Agency)
  • Iran and Pakistan hold joint naval exercise near Karachi. The Artesh Navy 43rd Fleet held a joint “relief and rescue” drill with Pakistani naval forces off the coast of Karachi on October 1. The Iranian forces consisted of the tank landing ship Lavan, missile attack crafts Falakhan andKhanjar, and logistics and support vessel Konarak. (Press TV
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