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 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: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani intensified their criticism of Saudi Arabia’s management of the Hajj pilgrimage.

Khamenei delivered his second statement this week calling for Muslims to reconsider permitting Saudi Arabia to administer the Hajj. While meeting with families of Iranians killed during the 2015 Hajj stampede, Khamenei stated that the incident “indeed demonstrated that this government is not qualified to manage the Two Holy Mosques, and this reality must be spread in the Muslim world and be understood.” Rouhani, meanwhile, called for Muslim countries to focus on “punishing the Saudi government” and criticized Saudi officials for “tactlessness and ineptitude.” The Hajj is scheduled to begin on September 9.

Economy and Finance Minister Ali Tayyebnia issued a statement in defense of Iran’s cooperation with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). He noted that the FATF’s restrictions prevented Iran from engaging in international banking transactions after the nuclear deal and claimed that “removing Iran from the FATF’s blacklist” is in the “nation’s interest.” In June, the FATF suspended some of its restrictions against Iran for a year to allow Tehran to implement an anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing action plan. If Iran is able to meet its commitments under the plan, the FATF has claimed that it will consider “next steps” regarding Iran’s status on its blacklist. Regime hardliners have criticized Iran’s cooperation with the FATF, however. Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to the Supreme Leader Ali Akbar Velayati, for example, claimed that the regulations are aimed at “depriving Iran of its financial and economic resources and are a type of sanction.”

Three Iranian fighters were reported killed in Aleppo, where pro-regime forces have managed to tighten their siege of the city. Meanwhile, Harakat al Nujaba, an Iraqi Shia militia with close ties to Iran, announced that it deployed nearly 1,000 fighters to reinforce regime-held areas in southern Aleppo.  Pictures of IRGC Quds Force Commander Major General Qassem Soleimani meeting with Harakat al Nujaba fighters in southern Aleppo were released on pro-Assad social media accounts on September 6.

Ten Kurdish fighters were killed during a firefight with Iranian border guards in Sardasht, West Azerbaijan province, marking the latest iteration in clashes over the summer between Kurdish militants and Iranian security forces along Iran’s western border.

AEI Must-Reads

Regional Developments & Diplomacy

  • Rouhani, Khamenei reiterate criticism of Saudi Arabia for Hajj pilgrimage. President Hassan Rouhani criticized Saudi officials for “tactlessness and ineptitude” in managing the Hajj last year, when a stampede killed at least 2,400 pilgrims in Mina, Saudi Arabia. Rouhani added that Muslim countries should focus on “punishing the Saudi government.” Meanwhile, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated that the 2015 stampede “indeed demonstrated that this government is not qualified to manage the Two Holy Mosques, and this reality must be spread in the Muslim world and be understood.” He added, “Even if no act of deliberation was involved, this level of incompetence and imprudence from a political ruling body should be considered a crime… If the House of Saud is confident about its claims of guiltlessness in the Mina tragedy, it needs to stop stuffing criticizing mouths with money and allow the fact-finding mission to closely pursue the case.” (Press TV(E) (ABNA(E) (Tehran Times(E)
    • Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded via Twitter to senior Saudi cleric Grand Mufti Abdulaziz al Sheikh’s statement that Iranians are “not Muslims.” Zarif stated that there is “no resemblance” between the “Islam of Iranians and most Muslims” and the “bigoted extremism that Wahhabi top cleric [Abdulaziz al Sheikh] and Saudi terror masters preach.” (Twitter) (E)
  • Italian military delegation meets with Artesh Navy commanders. Italian Rear Admiral Roberto Chia Marcella led a five-member delegation of Italian military officers to meet with their Iranian counterparts in Tehran on September 6. During the meeting, Chia Marcella reportedly invited Iranian military vessels to travel to Italy’s territorial waters. (Mehr News Agency(E)


  • Economy and finance minister: We will implement FATF regulations according to our Constitution. Economy and Finance Minister Ali Tayyebnia weighed in on the ongoing debate surrounding Iran’s cooperation with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) regulations during an interview on state TV. Tayyebnia downplayed Iran’s commitment to cooperating with the FATF by claiming that Iran has given “no financial intelligence” or “commitments” to the group. He noted that Iran will continue to “conditionally implement” its agreement with the FATF “according to the Constitution,” however. Tayyebnia stressed the importance of the FATF’s “blacklist,” stating, “Because Iran was on this blacklist, the FATF recommended that companies not cooperate with Iran. So naturally, when sanctions were removed, we once again were not able to engage in international banking transactions.” Tayyebnia noted that “removing Iran from the FATF’s blacklist” is in the “nation’s interest.” (Fars News Agency)
    • Deputy Foreign Minister Majid Takht Ravanchi told reporters that the Supreme National Security Council will review the FATF regulations but noted that Iran “will not exchange our independence for anything.” (Fars News Agency)
    • Iran’s Anti-Money Laundering Supreme Council, a government body staffed by senior members of the Rouhani administration including Tayyebnia, issued a statement defending the proposed FATF agreement. The statement claimed that it would help integrate Iran into the global economy. The statement also noted that the agreement includes “no mechanism for collecting information” on Iran’s finances. (Iran
    • Reformist newspaper Shargh published an op-ed downplaying the controversy surrounding the FATF regulations as the latest efforts by opponents of President Hassan Rouhani to hurt his administration. The op-ed argues that Iran’s cooperation with the FATF can be traced back to policies adopted during former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s term, which were passed in Parliament and approved by the Guardian Council. (Shargh)
  • Supreme Leader’s foreign policy advisor: Cooperating with FATF is not in our national interest. Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to the Supreme Leader Ali Akbar Velayati criticized the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) regulations, claiming that they are aimed at “depriving Iran of its financial and economic resources and are a type of sanction. It limits Iran’s economic activities. We should not observe such a restriction.” Velayati’s criticism comes as a number of prominent hardline politicians, particularly in Parliament, have criticized Iran’s agreement with the FATF. (Tasnim News Agency
  • Deputy oil minister highlights Japanese and South Korean involvement in refinery projects. Deputy Oil Minister Abbas Kazemi identified “the reduction of fuel oil production capacity, the construction of new refineries, and the improvement of petroleum product manufacturing processes in existing refineries” as the Iranian refinery industry’s goals after the nuclear deal. Kazemi stated that Iran intends to increase its oil refining capacity from 1,850,000 barrels per day to “over 3 million barrels per day.” Kazemi noted that oil refineries in Bandar Abbas, Tabriz, and Esfahan have signed memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with various foreign companies, including South Korean companies SIKS and Daelim and Japanese companies Marubeni and Chiyoda, as part of the effort to reduce Iran’s fuel oil production. Another oil refinery in Esfahan also signed a MoU with South Korean company Daelim in order to improve manufacturing processes. Kazemi noted that Japanese companies have been more active than “any other Asian or European company” in Iran’s refinery projects. (Mehr News Agency)

Military & Security

  • Border guards kill 10 Kurdish fighters. Iranian border guards killed 10 militants who were reportedly members of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (DPIK) during clashes that began on September 6 and ended on September 7 in Sardasht, West Azerbaijan province. Iranian forces have clashed with DPIK fighters as well as Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) militants in northwestern Iran several times over the last three months. (Raja News)
  • Artesh Navy 43rd Fleet departs for Pakistan. The fleet is composed of tank landing shipLavan, missile attack crafts Falakhan and Khanjar, and logistics and support vessel Konarak.The fleet will travel to Pakistan before moving on to the Gulf of Aden and the Bab el Mandeb Strait. (Tasnim News Agency)

Domestic Politics

  • Court summons members of reformist party. A court reportedly summoned several members of the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF) on charges including “propaganda against the system” and “membership in illegal groups.” The IIPF was founded in 1998 and dominated the sixth Parliament (2000-2004), but the Guardian Council disqualified its members in subsequent elections. A court banned the IIPF after the contested 2009 presidential elections. The summoned members included Mohammad Reza Khatami, the brother of former reformist President Mohammad Khatami. The lawyer for Mohammad Reza Khatami and several other summoned IIPF members stated that their first court hearing will be held on November 7. (ILNA)

Casualties in Iraq & Syria

  • Two Iran-Iraq War veterans killed in Syria. Iranian news outlets reported that Hossein Alikhani and Akbar Nazari were killed in Aleppo. Both were veterans of the Iran-Iraq War and from Kermanshah province. (Mersad
  • Basij Organization member killed in Syria. Adel Saad was from Dezful, Khuzestan province. He was reportedly a commander of the Basij Beit ol Moghaddas Rapid Reaction Battalion based in Dezful. The Basij Beit ol Moghaddas Rapid Reaction Battalions are light infantry Basij combat units. (Dana
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