Iran News Round Up - December 14, 2016

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. 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: Senior Iranian officials praised Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s “victory” in Aleppo and reaffirmed Iran’s continued support to the Syrian regime.

IRGC Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi hailed the “Iran-Russia-Syria-Hezbollah coalition” for “liberating” Aleppo. He added, “This coalition is approaching victory, and this has increased our political power. The new U.S. president should take heed of the fact that Iran is the strongest power in the region.” President Hassan Rouhani vowed that Iran will “stand alongside the government and people of Syria until the terrorists are driven from the country” during a phone conversation with Assad. Iran’s deployments from its regular IRGC ground units played a key role in setting the conditions for the encirclement and eventual capture of Aleppo. For more information on how the Iranian military structured and conducted its operations around the city of Aleppo since October 2015, please see “Iran's Evolving Way of War: How the IRGC Fights in Syria.”

An IRGC brigadier general was killed near the Syrian city of Palmyra, which was recaptured by ISIS forces on December 11. He is the second IRGC casualty in Palmyra this week, underscoring the fact that Iran will continue deploying military forces in support of pro-regime operations beyond Aleppo.

AEI Must-Reads

Regional Developments & Diplomacy

  • Supreme Leader’s military advisor: The Iran-Russia-Syria-Hezbollah coalition liberated Aleppo. IRGC Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi praised Iran’s support to the Assad regime and thanked “the Iran-Russia-Syria-Hezbollah coalition” for “liberating” Aleppo. Iran reportedly placed new demands on the Russia-Turkey brokered ceasefire in Aleppo, which effectively broke down with continued airstrikes and shelling by pro-regime forces. Safavi stated, “This coalition is approaching victory, and this has increased our political power. The new U.S. president should take heed of the fact that Iran is the strongest power in the region.” (Basij Press)
    • Defense Minister IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan similarly praised the “complete liberation of Aleppo” during a phone call with Syrian Defense Minister Fahd Jassem al Freij. Dehghan described the fall of Aleppo as a “turning point” in the conflict, while the Syrian defense minister thanked Iran for its support to the Assad regime. (Tasnim News Agency) (Press TV(E)
    • President Hassan Rouhani vowed that Iran will “stand alongside the government and people of Syria until the terrorists are driven from the country” during a phone conversation with Syrian President Bashar al Assad. (Tasnim News Agency)
    • A total of 163 Iranian lawmakers issued a statement congratulating pro-regime forces on the fall of Aleppo. (Fars News Agency)
    • Conservative newspaper Kayhan praised the victory as “shattering the trumpets of Saudi Arabia and the U.S.” An editorial in Iranian newspaper Jahan Sanat argued, “Although the battle for Aleppo has ended with a victory for the Syrian army and the Axis of Resistance, this development does not mean the end of the war… The next targets of the Axis of Resistance will be Idlib and Raqqa provinces and the ancient city of Palmyra… In any case, the victory in Aleppo has fundamentally changed the balance of the Syrian conflict.” (Kayhan) (Jahan Sanat)
       
  • Khamenei meets with PIJ head. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Head Ramadan Abdullah Shallah in Tehran on December 14. Khamenei reaffirmed Iran’s support for Palestinian groups and reiterated his previous comments that “the Zionist regime will cease to exist in 25 years.” Khamenei also warned against “takfiri infiltration” of Palestine and criticized “some reactionary states” for trying to “make compromises with the enemy.” (Tasnim News Agency)
    • Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani also met with the PIJ head and his delegation. During the meeting, Larijani appeared to criticize Hamas’s decision in 2012 to break with the Assad regime during the Syrian Civil War. Larijani stated that the move “benefited the Zionists.” (Khabar Online)
       
  • Zarif: We want to launch nuclear deal’s dispute resolution process over the ISA.Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif discussed President Hassan Rouhani’s recent directiveto him during a session of Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy (NSFP) Commission on December 13. Rouhani had called for Zarif to use “legal and international” measures to address America’s alleged “violation” of the nuclear deal, referring to Congress’s renewal of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA). Zarif told the NSFP Commission that he sent a letter about the ISA to Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief and the head of the nuclear deal’s Joint Commission. The nuclear deal’s dispute resolution process directs parties’ complaints to the Joint Commission, which is tasked with monitoring the deal’s implementation. Zarif noted that Rouhani wants to begin formal proceedings with the commission over the ISA. (Mehr News Agency)
     
  • Foreign Ministry to name new ambassadors to Syria, Oman. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Ghassemi announced the appointment of two new ambassadors to Syria and Oman. Ghassemi added that their names will be announced after the completion of “necessary diplomatic and administrative procedures.” Tehran’s previous ambassador to Damascus was Mohammad Reza Raouf Sheibani. Some Iranian news agencies have circulated reports that Hossein Sheikholeslam, the former international affairs deputy to Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, will become the next Syrian ambassador, although these reports have not yet been confirmed. (Farda News)

Domestic Politics

  • Judiciary to pursue case against reformist politician despite apology. Tehran Prosecutor-General Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi announced that the Judiciary is pursuing a case against reformist parliamentarian Mahmoud Sadeghi over several recent controversial speeches. Sadeghi’s remarks included the claim that corruption in Iran today is “greater than under the Shah” and his repeated questioning of Judiciary Head Ayatollah Sadeghi Amoli Larijani’s use of public funds in personal bank accounts. Sadeghi apologized on December 11 for some of his “harsh” comments about Larijani. Dolatabadi dismissed Sadeghi’s apology, however, and said it would not prevent the Judiciary from pursuing the case against him. Security forces attempted to arrest Sadeghi on November 27 after he called for an official inquiry into the allegations against Larijani. (Mehr News Agency) (ILNA) (SNN)

Casualties in Iraq & Syria

  • IRGC brigadier general killed in Syria. IRGC Brig. Gen. Hassan Akbari was killed by “takfiriterrorists” near the city of Palmyra. He reportedly was a “battalion commander” in the city. (qasemsoleimani.ir)

Economy

  • Russian and Iranian officials strike deal on development of Iranian oil fields. Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh signed an agreement with Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak for Russian oil company Gazprom to develop two oil fields in western Iran. Iranian and Russian officials also reportedly signed a contract to build a thermal power plant in the southern Iranian province of Hormozgan. (Tasnim News Agency) (IRNA) (E)