Iran News Round Up December 1, 2015

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: Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani claimed that he is not “drawing closer” to the Reformist camp during a press conference.

Larijani stressed the importance of having a “comprehensive view” instead of a “singular view” on issues facing the Islamic Republic. When asked about his political affiliation with the Reformists, Larijani claimed that Reformists “should not think that I am drawing closer to them.” Principlist Parliamentarian Mohammad Reza Bahonar, meanwhile, discussed preparations in the Principlist camp ahead of the February elections during a press conference.

Iran’s Permanent Representative to the IAEA Board of Governors Reza Najafi told reporters that the IAEA will release its report on possible military dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program “within the next two days.” Iranian officials have warned that Iran will halt the JCPOA’s implementation if the IAEA does not “close the file on PMD.”

The Supreme Leader’s Senior Foreign Policy Advisor Ali Akbar Velayati credited “victories” in Syria to the “perseverance of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hezbollah, the Syrian nation and government, Lebanon, Iraq, and Russia” during a meeting with Lebanese Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut.

Matthew McInnis analyzes the Iranian leadership’s recent moves regarding Syrian President Bashar al Assad and outlines Iran’s parameters for an end-state in Syria should Assad step down in his most recent blog, “Could Iran live without Assad?

Domestic Politics

  • Larijani: Reformists should not assume that I am becoming closer to them. Ali Larijani addressed the press regarding political groups mobilizing for the parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections in February 2016. The Parliament Speaker was asked: “Considering that groupings are common in today's political environment and that some are conservative and others are reformist and a third group (pro-government) calls themselves moderate… Which of these factions—explicitly and transparently—do you find yourself a member of?” Larijani called the reporter’s depiction of political factions inaccurate and stated:
    • “People act on the basis of detailed policies and convey principles for their political movement… [The] Reformist [movement], likewise, has a good slogan that the individual can accomplish in certain affairs… None of these slogans are without virtue.”
    • ​The Parliament Speaker stressed, “In the Islamic Republic it is important to have a comprehensive view. The Islamic Republic’s issues in the current situation are not unknown equations, in many affairs, such as social, economic and international matters, we [Iranians] have multi-faceted equations, and those who have a singular view do not reduce problems, instead they increase them.”
    • When Larijani was pressed by the reporter to give a direct answer about his political affiliation, specifically with reformists, he said: “We are not some property that they [political groups] can seize; people are introduced by their ideas… [Reformists] should not think that [I am drawing closer to them].” Larijani also dismissed the idea that former Parliament Speaker Hojjat ol Eslam Akbar Nategh Nouri is “drawing closer” to the Reformists. (Tasnim News Agency)
       
  • Bahonar: Candidates must clarify their positions on the 2009 Green Movement protests.Principlist Parliamentarian Mohammad Reza Bahonar called for candidates in the upcoming Assembly of Experts and parliamentary elections to “clarify” their positions on the 2009 election protests during a press conference. Bahonar, who is the secretary general of the conservative parliamentary Front of the Followers of the Imam and Leader's Line, also discussed preparations among the various Principlist political parties ahead of the elections:
    • “All of these efforts are the price we pay because we do not have several strong parties in the country…Therefore we must spend more time to create unity in order to send our message to the people and to heat up the election environment.”
    • “In the meetings (between Principlist politicians), the discussions have not been about creating a coalition of three parties, rather the conversation has been about coming together and creating unity [between the various parties].”
    • “The Front of the Followers of the Imam and Leader's Line will be part of the Principlist movement.”
    • “There have been meetings between three individuals, meetings between four individuals, and meetings between eight individuals.” Bahonar did not add any more details on the “three person meetings.”
    • On the “four-person meetings:” Regarding the meetings between Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, former Parliament Speaker Hojjat ol Eslam Akbar Nategh Nouri, Senior Advisor for Foreign Affairs to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Akbar Velayati, and Assembly of Experts member Morteza Moghtadaei, Bahonar stated: “These individuals have denied that these meetings are for creating a coalition. They said that these meetings have just been for consultations…it is not arranged that they will turn into a party or movement.”
    • On the “eight-person meetings:” “Three Principlist parties [The Steadfastness Front, the Society of the Devotees of the Islamic Revolution, and the Islamic Coalition Party] formed meetings and then they invited [Parliamentarian] Gholam Ali Haddad Adel and me to a meeting. I was there only to confer [with these individuals].”
    • “All of these meetings are for how the Principlist Coordinating Council should be formed.”
    • “These meetings themselves can produce divisions.” Bahonar added that there will be another meeting next week to “conclude” these meetings. (IRNA) (ILNA)
       

Regional Developments and Diplomacy

  • Velayati meets with Nasrallah. Ali Akbar Velayati stated that enemy “plots” for the Middle East will be foiled during a meeting with Lebanese Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut on December 1. The Supreme Leader’s Senior Foreign Policy Advisor also credited recent “victories” in Syria to the “perseverance of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hezbollah, the Syrian nation and government, Lebanon, Iraq, and Russia.” (Tabnak)
    • Velayati holds press conference with Lebanese Prime Minister. Velayati stressed Iranian-Lebanese “cooperation and support” in a joint press conference with Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil in Beirut on December 1. (ISNA)
       
  • Abdollahian: Syrian opposition meeting is against the Vienna declaration. Hossein Amir Abdollahian condemned the upcoming meeting of Syrian opposition groups in Riyadh. The Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs called the move “counterproductive” and warned that “decisions outside of the Vienna declaration are not supported by Tehran.” (Mehr News)
     
  • Iran denies link to detained Kenyans. The Iranian embassy in Nairobi released a statement on November 30 denying claims that Iranian intelligence and security agencies assisted two Kenyans accused of planning terror attacks in Nairobi. (Press TV(E)
     
  • The Supreme Leader meets with Hungarian Prime Minister. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on December 1 in Tehran. The Supreme Leader praised Hungary’s outreach to Asia and called for enhanced economic and scientific cooperation between Iran and Hungary. (Khamenei.ir) (Fars News Agency(E)
    • Rouhani promotes greater Tehran-Budapest ties. President Hassan Rouhani in a meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán highlighted areas of potential cooperation between Iran and Hungary, stating: “We should try and help the private sector and companies of both countries to have closer cooperation with each other.” (President.ir(E)
    • Iran and Hungary sign cooperation agreements. Iran and Hungary reportedly signed eight agreements on cooperation in the ICT sector. (Gerdab)
       

Reactions to the Nuclear Deal

  • Najafi: IAEA report to be released today or tomorrow. Iran’s Permanent Representative to the IAEA Board of Governors Reza Najafi told reporters on December 1 that IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano’s report on the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program will be released within the next two days. (IRNA(E)
     
  • Kowsari: The dismantling of six thousand centrifuges was “a violation.” Principlist Parliamentarian Mohammad Esmail Kowsari claimed that the IAEA’s dismantling of six thousand centrifuges at Natanz before the formation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) Supervisory Board was “a violation.” The National Security and Foreign Policy (NSFP) Parliamentary Commission member added that the NSFP Commission will “certainly” raise this issue in its report on the JCPOA implementation to Parliament. The framework for the JCPOA Supervisory Board was established in the Supreme Leader’s October 21 letter to President Rouhani, which called for a “well-informed and intelligent panel” to monitor the progress of the nuclear deal’s implementation under the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC). According to SNSC Secretary Ali Shamkhani, the Supervisory Board has “met three times” and has discussed the agreement within “the framework set by the Supreme Leader.” (Fars News Agency)
     
  • Zakani: There is no “confidence” in the IAEA report. Principlist Parliamentarian Ali Reza Zakani criticized IAEA Director General Amano’s report as “black and white.” The former head of the Special Parliamentary Commission to Review the JCPOA stated that Iran has a “very bitter experience” with the IAEA and that there is no “confidence” in Amano’s report.  Zakani also discussed U.S.-Iran relations, stating that the U.S. recognizes “Islamic Iran” as “enemy number one.” Zakani added that the U.S. “will not adhere to its own commitments,” but that it has “acknowledged” that “nowadays no one can take nuclear knowledge from our country.” (Fars News Agency)
     

Military and Security

  • IRGC Ground Forces Commander: We will face domestic terrorism if we do not confront it in Iraq and Syria. IRGC Brig. Gen. Mohammad Pakpour called Iran a “necessary and logical advisor” in Syria during a conference in Sistan va Balochistan province on December 1. The IRGC Ground Forces Commander stated, “If we do not have an advisory presence in the Syrian and Iraqi fronts, we will face takfiri terrorism within our own borders.” (Sepah News)
     
  • Iran closes Iraqi border crossing. Brig. Gen. Hassan Karami announced on December 1 that the Mehran border crossing to Iraq will be closed that night for pilgrims travelling from Iran to Iraq to participate in the Arbaeen ritual in Karbala, which marks the 40th day following the death of Hussein, the third Shi’a Imam. The Zafar Military Headquarters Commander stated that Iran has had to set certain “restrictions” for the number of pilgrims and added that Iranian pilgrims with passports and visas will be redirected to the Shalamcheh and Chazzabe border points. (Mashregh News)
     
  • Ali Younesi: We do not have any movements siding with ISIS. Ali Younesi, the former Intelligence Minister and Ethnic and Minority Affairs Advisor to President Rouhani, claimed, “In Iran, we do not have any movements siding with ISIS. Even among the Sunnis, we do not have these types of individuals.” (Entekhab)
     

Economy

  • Rezaei calls for greater economic role for the Basij. IRGC Maj. Gen. Mohsen Rezaei reiterated Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s call for the Basij Organization to play a greater role in the national economy during a speech on November 30. The Expediency Discernment Council Secretary and former IRGC Commander stated that “the politicians who were running the Parliament and government were not able to apply the necessary laws and setup” for proper economic reforms. Rezaei claimed that the Basij can facilitate such reforms by bringing “honesty and devotion” into the economy. (Rezaee.ir)
     
  • Jahangiri: Developing exports is consistent with the Resistance Economy. Eshagh Jahangiri emphasized that the Rouhani administration has “serious will” to achieve the “complete implementation of Resistance Economy policies.” The First Vice President claimed  that the strategy of having an “outward-facing” economy is consistent with such policies and stated, “The development of exports is one of the most serious government plans regarding the extroversion of the economy.” (ILNA)
     
  • Nobakht: Next year’s budget is being drawn up according to the Resistance Economy doctrine. Planning and Strategic Supervision Deputy to the President Mohammad Bagher Nobakht stressed that the annual budget and the 6th five-year development plan will be based off the “general policies of the Resistance Economy” issued by the Supreme Leader. (Mehr News Agency)
     
  • Oil Minister: We will reach an agreement with Greece on its $800 million debt. Bijan Zanganeh stated that Greece and Iran intend to reach an agreement in “the next few months” on how Greece should repay its $800 million oil debt to Iran after a meeting with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias on November 30. The Oil Minister stated, “It was decided that the issue of this country’s debt to Iran should be resolved before the Greek Prime Minister’s visit to Tehran [in the spring] so that it does not create a negative point in the two countries’ relations.” (Entekhab)
     

Casualties in Iraq and Syria

  • Hezbollah member buried in Lebanon. Ali Jihad Tounana was killed by “takfiri terrorists” and was buried in southern Lebanon. The exact location of his death was not provided. (ABNA)