Iran News Round Up - December 30, 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: Tehran’s hardline Friday prayer leader praised Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for allegedly “apologizing for being deceived” by the U.S. during the nuclear negotiations.

Interim Tehran Friday Prayer Leader Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani argued during his sermon that America’s actions following the nuclear agreement prove that the U.S. still should not be trusted. He used Zarif as an example and stated, “We hope there are no officials who are still attached to America.” Movahedi Kermani’s comments refer to a recent controversy in which a hardline parliamentarian claimed that Zarif said he made a “mistake” during the nuclear negotiations by trusting the U.S., specifically Kerry’s alleged promise to prevent the renewal of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA). The U.S. renewed the ISA earlier this month. The circulation of Zarif’s remark renewed hardliners’ criticism of the nuclear agreement, although some conservatives defended the deal as a whole and argued that the controversy applied only to the ISA.

AEI Must-Reads

Domestic Politics

  • Tehran Friday prayer leader: Zarif was right to apologize for being “deceived” by U.S. Hardline Interim Tehran Friday Prayer Leader Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani used his sermon to praise Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for “formally apologizing for being deceived” by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during the nuclear negotiations. Movahedi Kermani added that “we hope there are no officials who are still attached to America.” A hardline parliamentarian recently claimed that Zarif said he made a “mistake” during the nuclear negotiations by trusting the U.S., specifically Kerry’s alleged promise to prevent the renewal of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA). The Joint Commission created to resolve disputes during the nuclear deal’s implementation is scheduled to meet on January 10 to discuss Iran’s objections to the U.S. Congress’s renewal of the ISA. (Fars News Agency)
     
  • Rouhani’s chief of staff visits cemetery after controversy over homeless “grave-sleepers.” Mohammad Nahavandian, President Hassan Rouhani’s chief of staff, visited a cemetery near the city of Shahriar, Tehran province on December 30 and stated that the government must strive to “solve the problem of unemployment and drug addiction.” His visit follows a controversial article from the daily newspaper Shahrvand that reported on a group of homeless Iranians, many of them drug addicts, living in the cemetery. The article prompted heavy criticism of the state of the Iranian economy and the government’s ability to handle high unemployment rates. President Hassan Rouhani addressed the controversy during a speech on December 28 after Oscar-winning director Asghar Farhadi called upon government officials to do more to empathize with the poor. Responding to Farhadi’s open letter, Rouhani called the Shahrvand report “unbearable” for the government and stated that both the government and the Iranian people “are responsible for fighting corruption.” Rouhani pledged to fight corruption and improve the economy in his 2013 presidential campaign. Public perception of his administration’s performance on economic issues will be a deciding factor in his May 2017 re-election campaign. (Ghatreh) (Shahrvand) (Entekhab)

Regional Developments & Diplomacy

  • Saudi Arabia invites Iran to discuss the 2017 Hajj. Iranian media outlets circulated reports that Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umra Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten invited representatives from over 80 countries, including Iran, to discuss the details of the 2017 Hajj pilgrimage. Iranian pilgrims did not attend this year’s Hajj pilgrimage after Iran and Saudi Arabia were unable to agree on terms to ensure the safety and travel arrangements of Iranian pilgrims. A stampede during the 2015 Hajj in Mina, Saudi Arabia, killed over 2,400 pilgrims, including over 450 Iranians. (Tasnim News Agency) (E)
     
  • Boroujerdi criticizes Palestinian Authority. Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the chairman of Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, stated that since the Palestinian Authority has moved towards “compromise with the Zionist regime, the result of its many agreements [with Israel]… has been to its detriment.” Boroujerdi also stated that a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Moscow proposed by Russia would “certainly bear no fruit.” (Press TV) (E) (Donya-e Eqtesad)
     
  • Zarif calls Syrian ceasefire a “major achievement.” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reiterated Iran’s support for the Syrian ceasefire recently prepared by Russia and Turkey. He called the agreement “a major achievement” and tweeted on December 30, “Let’s build on it by tackling the roots of extremist terror.” (Tasnim News Agency) (E)

Military & Security

  • Security forces increase border security in Sistan and Baluchistan province. Ali Oosat Hashemi, the governor of Sistan and Baluchistan province in southeastern Iran, stated that security forces have “increased” their “monitoring” of the province’s borders after the fall of Aleppo. Hashemi also stressed that ISIS’s release of recruitment videos targeting “young people in the province” would not sway the population. Sistan and Baluchistan has a majority Sunni population. (Tasnim News Agency)

Economy

  • South Korean company to cooperate on construction of shipyard. South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) reached a deal with Iran’s Industrial Development and Renovation Organization (IDRO) to establish a joint venture company to develop a shipyard in Iran. Iran is seeking financing from the South Korean government for the endeavor, according to DSME. IDRO is state-owned and affiliated with Iran’s Ministry of Industry, Mines, and Trade. (Press TV) (E)