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
Excerpts of these translations may only be used with the expressed consent of the authors.
Key takeaway: Former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili stated that accepting the JCPOA would violate the Supreme Leader’s redlines.
During a meeting with members from the Special Parliamentary Commission to Review the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, The Supreme Leader’s Representative to the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Saeed Jalili claimed that accepting the JCPOA would mean the renunciation of many of Iran’s nuclear rights. In response, the Supreme Leader’s Senior Foreign Policy Advisor Ali Akbar Velayati stated that the Jalili’s criticism was his “own interpretation.”
Expediency Discernment Council Secretary Mohsen Rezaei stressed that the JCPOA “must go to Parliament” regardless of whether President Hassan Rouhani signs it or not. Rezaei’s comment is likely a response to President Rouhani’s August 29 statement that the Parliament does not need to approve the JCPOA because it has not been signed by the president. Senior nuclear negotiator and the
Foreign Ministry’s Director for Political and International Affairs Hamid Baeidnejad, meanwhile, rejected the notion that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s September 3 comments on parliamentary involvement in the JCPOA review process meant that the Supreme Leader is calling for a parliamentary vote on the deal. The Research Center of the Guardian Council also issued a report concluding that the JCPOA is legally a treaty, and therefore must be approved by Parliament according to the Constitution.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei enumerated a 10-point mission for the SCC. The first point orders the “dissolution of the previously appointed supreme councils that function in parallel with the Supreme Council of Cyberspace (SCC)” and “transfers the responsibilities of those councils” to the SCC. The second point is to “[stabilize and consolidate] the position of the National Center of Cyberspace (NCC) as the arm of the… [SCC].” Khamenei also called for the SCC to approve the national information network, and thereafter “accelerate” its “launch.” Khamenei also appointed new members to the High Council for the Supreme Council of Cyberspace (SCC).
The Critical Threats Project of the American Enterprise Institute has created several pages on www.irantracker.org to help clarify the hyper complex language of sanctions relief under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and to provide additional information about some of the entities that will be freed of international restrictions.
AEI Resident Fellow J. Matthew McInnis and AEI Research Assistant Tara Beeny analyze recent attacks on Iranian vehicles travelling in Turkey in the context of expanding Turkish involvement in Syria and Iranian media reports claiming Turkey’s support to ISIS in their most recent blog post, “Are Iran-Turkey relations on the rocks?"
AEI Event: Thursday, September 10 at 3pm - A new Yemen model: The way forward against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. RSVP here.
Domestic Politics and Reactions to the Nuclear Deal
Jalili: The JCPOA is a retreat from the Joint Plan of Action. Former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili criticized the nuclear deal during a meeting with members from the Special Parliamentary Commission to Review the JCPOA. The Supreme Leader’s Representative to the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) claimed that accepting the JCPOA would mean the renunciation of Iran’s “100 God-given rights.” Jalili claimed that the JCPOA denotes Iran “as an exception” in the nuclear non-proliferation regime. As a result, Jalili argued, accepting the JCPOA would mean Iran is forced to accept fewer nuclear rights than other nuclear countries, even those “which are specified under the Geneva agreement.” Jalili noted that this would constitute violating the Supreme Leader’s specified redlines. (Fars News Agency)
Baeidinejad: “It is not required for Parliament to approve the JCPOA.” Hamid Baeidinejad discussed parliamentary review of the JCPOA and stated; “From the first day, the negotiating countries believed that the JCPOA had a different dimension than an international treaty. Therefore, it does not require parliamentary approval.” Baeidinejad added, “Our worry is that we are binding our political and voluntary commitments; the quality of the document is political and voluntary; no one made anything binding … with just us approving the document, the agreement is still voluntary for the other negotiating countries.” Baeidinejad also pushed back on the Supreme Leader’s Representative to the SNSC Saeed Jalili’s comments on the nuclear deal and stated, “If a right exists, nothing written can destroy that right.” Baeidinejad also stated:
- On Parliament’s options for reviewing the deal: “In the first option, Parliament has no role in the JCPOA. In the second option, Parliament can approve the JCPOA; this approval is the broadest action that the Parliament can take.” Baeidinejad described these options as “not detailed.”
- “The negotiating team from the first day believed in another option that was moderate and realistic; this was involving the Parliament completely with the JCPOA, which included the Parliament’s effective participation in confirming and implementing the JCPOA and completely understanding the document.”
- “The only difference between this option and the previous option has to do with the mode of ‘approving the document.’ In this field, we need legal specialists.”
- On the Supreme Leader’s comments regarding parliamentary review: “It was surprising that with the Supreme Leader’s remarks some people in the media said ‘so the Supreme Leader has clarified that the Parliament needs to pass the nuclear deal.’ His view is very specialized and precise….he highlighted… whether the need exists for Parliament to approve the nuclear deal or not.”
- “If lawmakers argue that Parliament must pass the JCPOA, the negotiating team and the administration will have no issue with this.”
On remaining sanctions: “Regarding the statements from American officials on preserving the structure of sanctions if the JCPOA is finalized, an official and unofficial response will be given that we will be satisfied with nothing less than canceling all economic and financial sanctions on the first day.” (YJC)
Velayati responds to Saeed Jalili’s comments on the nuclear deal. The Supreme Leader’s Senior Foreign Policy Advisor Ali Akbar Velayati stressed that Jalili’s criticism was Jalili’s “own interpretation.” (Entekhab)
Supreme Leader issues statement on Supreme Council of Cyberspace. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed new members of the High Council for the Supreme Council of Cyberspace (SCC) for a four-year term. The Supreme Leader issued a decree underlining the significance of the SCC’s mission to “vigilantly and forcefully confront the developments in this sphere.” Khamenei also enumerated a 10-point mission assigned to the SCC.
- The first point orders the “dissolution of the previously appointed supreme councils that function in parallel with the Supreme Council of Cyberspace” and “transfers the responsibilities of those councils to the Supreme Council of Cyberspace [SCC].”
- The second point in the SCC’s mission it to “[stabilize and consolidate] the position of the National Center of Cyberspace as the arm of the… [SCC].” The duties of the National Center of Cyberspace include “monitoring the current circumstances in cyberspace;” “coordination…among different relevant ministries…and institutions” in a variety of sectors “related to cyberspace; and “…supervision” of “relevant institutions and sectors’” activity “within the framework of the resolutions of the Supreme Council” of Cyberspace.
- The third point in the SCC’s mission is to grow Iran into a global “cyber power” that would take part in “in defining rules and regulations related to cyberspace.” The fifth point is for the SCC to approve the “national information network,” and thereafter “accelerate” its “launch;” the National Center of Cyberspace will supervise the “launch” and “operation” of the national information network. The sixth point is to attend to “cleaning and securing the country’s cyberspace” and combatting foreign “infiltration into and infringement of” Iranian cyberspace. The ninth point is to formulate “content and effective and competitive services in compliance with Islamic-Iranian values and culture in all segments of society.” The tenth point is to create and approve security, legal, judicial and disciplinary regulations required for cyberspace.” (Leader.ir) (E) (Leader.ir)
Supreme Leader meets with Rouhani and members of the SCC. Supreme Leader Khamenei called for enhanced cybersecurity measures in a meeting with President Hassan Rouhani and members of the SCC on September 7. Khamenei urged officials to maximize the “talent and capabilities of the country’s youth” and stressed the need for “calculated and coordinated measures” and the “production of reliable and attractive Islamic content” in cyberspace. (Khamenei.ir)
Rezaei: “Any international agreement must go to Parliament.” Mohsen Rezaei discussed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on September 6. The Expediency Discernment Council Secretary mentioned that the nuclear issue with the P5+1 “is not over” and advised that the government address “unresolved” matters in the JCPOA; he specifically called for the removal of “risky and hazardous pressures” on Iran. Rezaei praised Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and underscored his support for the Iranian negotiating team; he stated, however, that he has not met with the negotiators since the nuclear deal was reached. Rezaei also discussed the ongoing domestic debate over Parliament’s role in approving the JCPOA and stated:
- “The group that [wants] to prevent the JCPOA review in Parliament is of two types [of individuals]; some are compassionate, but some of them are questionable and are irrational…”
- “Any international agreement that will be enforced in Iran—regardless if [President Rouhani signed the agreement] or not—must go to Parliament, because this prevents secret and unofficial measures in the country…”
- “We reached some of our goals; however, we did not reach all of our goals because both sides were in distrust…” (Rezaei.ir)
????Araghchi: Access to military sites will be granted 24 days after request. Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Abbas Araghchi answered questions on the nuclear deal in a meeting with members from the Special Parliamentary Commission to Review the JCPOA. Araghchi claimed that UN Security Council [UNSC] Resolution 2231 only contains the “issue of Iran’s military equipment.” Araghchi noted that “this was one of the biggest achievements of the nuclear negotiating team.” Araghchi added:
- ?“If the Joint Commission votes to inspect a military site, access will be granted twenty four days after the vote.”
- “We accepted some restrictions and supervision [on our nuclear activity] in order to achieve our great goals…these restrictions, however, are time limited, and no restriction lasts longer than 15 years.” (ICANA)
Larijani: U.S. Defense Secretary’s comments on the “military option” are counterproductive. Ali Larijani responded to a question about expanding U.S.–Iranian relations during his trip to New York. The Parliament Speaker stated, “Look, we are supposed to be expanding the groundwork for approving and implementing the agreement. But every day it seems, your Secretary of Defense [Ashton Carter] opens the window when he wakes up and makes anti-Iran comments as much as possible; he says that the military option is still on the table; if they are really pursuing war, they have started off well.” (Mashregh News)
Hosseini: We cannot force the government to send the JCPOA as a bill to Parliament.Hossein Naghavi Hosseini addressed “doubts” surrounding the political beliefs of the members of the Special Parliamentary Commission to Review the JCPOA. The Spokesman of the Special Parliamentary Commission to Review the JCPOA stated that members “put aside their political beliefs” during the review process.
- On sending the JCPOA to Parliament as a bill: Hosseini also discussed whether the JCPOA should be sent to Parliament as a bill, stating, “According to Parliament regulations, we cannot require the government to send it to us as a bill. That authority rests with the government. But it is possible that the representatives will present a plan requiring the government to take action on the implementation of the JCPOA. At the same time, according to the Research Center of the Guardian Council… it is not the Guardian Council’s opinion that the government must present [the JCPOA as] a bill.”
- On upcoming commission sessions: Hosseini stated that Representative of the Supreme Leader to the SNSC Saeed Jalili and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will attend sessions of the commission on September 13. Hosseini further stated that members of the special commission will visit the Arak heavy water reactor on September 14, which is also when Araghchi will attend a commission session. On September 15, the President’s Chief of Staff Mohammad Nahavandian, Central Bank of Iran (CBI) Head Valiollah Seif, and Economic and Finance Minister Ali Tayyeb Nia will attend a session as the commission discusses the “economic dimensions” of the JCPOA. The commission will also discuss “security and defense” issues in the JCPOA on September 15, during which the “Minister of Information [Mahmoud Vaezi] and his colleagues” as well as “Defense Minister [Hossein Dehghan] and guests from the General Staff of the Armed Forces” will be present. Hosseini also confirmed that Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to the Supreme Leader Ali Akbar Velayati will attend a session of the commission on September 16.
On televising the sessions: Hosseini also discussed plans to televise the commission’s sessions and relayed concerns that some guests in the commission may want parts of the sessions to remain “confidential.” He added that Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Abbas Araghchi, Jalili, and Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Secretary Ali Shamkhani do not want “some parts of the sessions” to be televised, although “the commission wants the sessions to be broadcasted in their entirety.” (ISNA)
Guardian Council issues report on JCPOA. The Research Center of the Guardian Council issued a report titled Reviewing the Legal Dimensions of the JCPOA in the Political System of the Islamic Republic. The report concludes that the JCPOA is legally a treaty, and therefore must be approved by Parliament according to the Constitution. Guardian Council Spokesman Nejatollah Ebrahimian stated in a news conference that this report is not the official viewpoint of the Guardian Council. He added, however, that “even if the JCPOA is not an international treaty, the Parliament still has the power to legislate.” (Mehr News) (Shora-gc.ir)
Shamkhani: The negotiating team’s efforts should be assessed objectively. SNSC Secretary Ali Shamkhani reiterated the Supreme Leader’s order for Parliament to review the JCPOA, and urged officials to be objective in assessing the nuclear deal. (Raja News)
Najafi: Construction activity at Parchin is not the IAEA’s concern. Reza Najafi stated that “Parchin is a conventional military site in which construction is a normal issue, and is not the [IAEA’S] concern,” in response to IAEA Director General Yukia Amano’s concerns about construction work at Parchin. Iran’s Permanent Representative to the IAEA Board of Governors asserted that the IAEA should instead focus on executing the new Roadmap Agreement between Iran and the IAEA. (Tasnim News Agency) (E)
Salehi: We accept constructive criticism. Ali Akbar Salehi said that his recent attendance at a session of the Special Parliamentary Commission to Review the JCPOA was “positive” and that “we have an obligation to explain the actions” of the nuclear negotiating team. The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Head added, “We accept constructive, fair, and just criticism.” (Tabnak)
Kayhan editorial: The special parliamentary commission is only advisory. An editorial in the conservative news outlet Kayhan stressed that “since neither the JCPOA has been submitted in the form of a bill nor a proposal has not been presented, the special parliamentary commission’s proceedings are only advisory and unenforceable.” The editorial noted that “although the Parliament is on vacation... it is necessary for the Parliament to put reviewing the JCPOA on its agenda after the Supreme Leader called for the Parliament to enter the nuclear issue.” The editorial added, “The harsh truth is this: Iran must undertake its general commitments before Implementation Day, without the opposite side undertaking any steps towards its commitments.” (Kayhan)
Rafsanjani: People will create another epic in Parliament elections. Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani stated that Iranians will “create another epic” during upcoming parliamentary elections on February 26, 2016. The Expediency Discernment Council Chairman also called on the government to “remedy the country’s economic recession, which is [the] root cause of unemployment.” (IRNA) (E)
- Grand Ayatollah Hamedani warns of Western plots against Muslim countries. Grand Ayatollah Nouri Hamedani said that the West fears the Islamic Revolution’s influence and urged Iranian officials to remain vigilant against “enemy plots.” (Rasa News)
??Regional Developments and Diplomacy??
Khamenei meets with Kyrgyzstan’s president. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei discussed regional developments with Kyrgyzstan’s President Almazbek Atambayev. Khamenei described Kyrgyzstan’s closing of the Manas Airbase as an example of “resistance” against the “bullying powers.” President Atambayev claimed that Kyrgyzstan considers Iran to be a “role model.” (Leader.ir)
Rouhani and Atambayev issue joint statement. President Hassan Rouhani and President Atambayev released a statement on programs to expand cooperation between the two countries. The statement outlined several areas of cooperation, including constructing hydropower infrastructure in Kyrgyzstan, the establishment of an Iran-Afghanistan-Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan-China rail corridor, and combating extremist groups in Central Asia. The statement called for establishing direct flights between Iran and Kyrgyzstan and mentioned that the two countries have signed eight memoranda of understanding to facilitate bilateral cooperation. (President.ir)
- Rouhani and Atambayev issue joint statement. President Hassan Rouhani and President Atambayev released a statement on programs to expand cooperation between the two countries. The statement outlined several areas of cooperation, including constructing hydropower infrastructure in Kyrgyzstan, the establishment of an Iran-Afghanistan-Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan-China rail corridor, and combating extremist groups in Central Asia. The statement called for establishing direct flights between Iran and Kyrgyzstan and mentioned that the two countries have signed eight memoranda of understanding to facilitate bilateral cooperation. (President.ir)
Rouhani meets with Iraq’s new ambassador to Iran. President Hassan Rouhani met with Rajeh Saber Abboud al Mousavi, Iraq’s new ambassador to Iran. President Rouhani emphasized Iran’s continuing support for the nation and government of Iraq. He added that he wished for the Iraqi people to be victorious “in the fight against terrorism and for all the groups of Iraq to live in the framework of one nation and in peace and complete security.” (President.ir)
Rezaei: “Riyadh has failed in Yemen.” Mohsen Rezaei discussed the ongoing crisis in Yemen and said that Saudi Arabia has “failed” in Yemen and the Saudis “have gained nothing but hatred…” The Expediency Discernment Council Secretary added: “The fracture between Yemen and Saudi Arabia is very deep; before the war [Saudi-led campaign against Yemen] these disagreements [between Riyadh and Sanaa] paled in comparison; therefore, today Saudi Arabia has no choice but to finish the war as soon as possible.” (Rezaei.ir)
Judiciary spokesman: Prisoner exchange for Jason Rezaian not on the table. Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei denied that a prisoner swap for Jason Rezaian is under consideration. The Judiciary spokesman declined to further comment on the case. (Fars News Agency) (E)
Iran and Spain pledge further cooperation. Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel García Margallo stated the JCPOA has laid a foundation for Iran and Spain to pursue cooperation on “all fronts” during a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. The Spanish Foreign Minister also announced that Iran and Spain will exchange delegations and sign a memorandum of understanding on mutual cooperation. (Press TV) (E)
Velayati: No one can save Syria like Bashar al Assad. The Supreme Leader’s Senior Foreign Policy Advisor Ali Akbar Velayati met with Spanish Foreign García Margallo on September 7 in Tehran. Velayati told reporters afterwards that the two discussed economic and regional developments, including the civil war in Syria. Velayati criticized countries that had called for toppling the Syrian regime and noted, “There are militants in Syria from 80 countries; we must recognize that no one can save Syria like Bashar al Assad.” (Tasnim News Agency)
- Rouhani’s Chief of Staff meets with senior Venezuelan official. Mohammad Nahavandian met with Venezuelan Vice President for Economy Rodolfo Marco Torres on September 6 in Tehran. The President’s Chief of Staff advised Caracas to reduce its reliance on oil revenues and stated: “Iran managed to considerably reduce the inflation rate and turn the negative growth into a positive growth rate by minimizing the damages of the oil market’s fluctuations on the country…” (ISNA)
Military and Security
Jalali warns against personal identity theft through smartphones. IRGC Brig. Gen. Gholam Reza Jalali warned against the possibility of smartphones being engineered to “identify” users by taking pictures of their corneas and to “monitor individuals and their personal lives” by means of the phones’ cameras and microphones. The Passive Defense Organization Head warned that “this information” would be used for “information networking” and procuring “communications and social engineering of all of the country’s social fabric and mechanisms.” (Sepah News)
Gholam Reza Ahmadi appointed new IRGC Ali Ibn Abu Taleb unit Commander. IRGC Brig. Gen. 2C Gholam Reza Ahmadi replaced IRGC Brig. Gen. 2C Mehdi Mahdavi Nezhad as the commander of the IRGC Ali Ibn Abu Taleb unit, which is based in Qom province. Ahmadi previously served as IRGC Imam Reza Unit – Khorasan Razavi province Commander. At the appointment ceremony, Basij Organization Head IRGC Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naghdi stated, “Now, the thought of the Islamic Revolution has penetrated the heart of Europe and America. If America’s problem with us was the nuclear issue, [America] would say after the talks, ‘starting today, our behavior towards Iran will be different.’ While previously if there was a military threat once every three months, after the talks, there is a military threat every day.” (Tabnak) (Ghatreh)
Artesh Air Force stages two-day drill in Esfahan province. The drill, named “Devotees of the Velayat Sanctuary 5,” took place on September 5-6. An assortment of military aircraft were used during the drills, including drones which carried out a “reconnaissance mission.” C-130 transport aircraft also “carried out tactical air drop operations…along with close air support from F-14 fighters.” (Press TV) (E) (Defa Press) (Defa Press)
Pourdastan: We will hold military exercises in the eastern and western regions of Iran.Artesh Ground Forces Commander Brig. Gen. Ahmad Reza Pourdastan announced that the Artesh Ground Forces will hold a set of drills in “the west” of the country during the month ofMehr [September – October] and another set of drills “in the east” during the month of Aban[October-November]. Pourdastan noted that these military drills were directed at the threat posed by ISIS and noted, “Today we are confronting a regional proxy way, and ISIS is its major player. ISIS is active in neighbors to the east as well.” (Tasnim News Agency)
- Two IRGC members killed during firefight with PJAK. Local officials reported that two IRGC members were killed and two others wounded during an engagement with PJAK fighters in Khoi county, West Azerbaijan province, on September 7. Two PJAK fighters were also reportedly killed during the firefight. (Fars News Agency) (IRNA)
- Iran, Austria sign four cooperation documents. President Hassan Rouhani and Austrian President Heinz Fischer held a “ceremony” on September 8 during which “four cooperation documents” were signed. An economic delegation consisting of representatives from 130 Austrian companies accompanied Fischer to Tehran in order to “take advantage of Iran’s new atmosphere after the removal of sanctions.” (IRNA) (E)