Iran News Round Up - February 16, 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 with contributor Ken Hawrey. To receive this daily newsletter, please subscribe online.

Key takeaway: The Guardian Council released its final list of approved parliamentary candidates, while Reformist leader Mohammad Reza Aref announced that Reformist and moderate candidates will release a joint candidate list.

The Guardian Council confirmed 6,229 of 12,123 candidates to run in the parliamentary elections in its final round of qualifications review. A total of 38 candidates out of the 147 who filed a complaint had their disqualifications overturned from previous rounds of vetting. The approved parliamentary candidates have one week to campaign from February 18 until election day on February 26.

Prominent Reformist politician Mohammad Reza Aref announced that Reformists will release a joint list of endorsed candidates with moderate parties for the parliamentary elections. Presenting a Reformist-moderate candidate list may allow moderate candidates to benefit from the Reformists’ support base, as most Reformist candidates have been disqualified.

Iranian news outlets reported the deaths of five more Iranians in Syria. Reza Farzaneh, the former commander of the IRGC 27th Mohammad Rasoul-Allah Division, was among those killed. Khatam ol Anbia Air Base Commander Brigadier General Farzad Esmaili, meanwhile, announced that Iran will defend Syria’s airspace “if Bashar al Assad requests help from Iran.”

Matthew McInnis explains Iran’s perspective on the stalled Geneva negotiations, its recent strategies in the Syrian conflict, and its broader goals for a final settlement in his latest blog post, “Syrian peace talks still a sideshow for Iran.
 

Domestic Politics

  • Guardian Council announces finalized list of approved parliamentary candidates.Guardian Council member Siamak Rahpeyk released the disqualification and confirmation numbers for approved parliamentary candidates on February 16. The Guardian Council confirmed 6,229 candidates from its original pool of 12,123, while 612 candidates withdrew from the race. A total of 38 candidates out of 147 who filed a complaint had their disqualifications overturned from a previous round of vetting. The approved parliamentary candidates will campaign from February 18 until election day on February 26. (Fars News Agency) (ILNA) (Alef)
     
  • Reformists to present joint candidate list with moderates. Prominent Reformist politician Mohammad Reza Aref announced that Reformists will release a joint list of endorsed candidates with moderate parties for the parliamentary elections. The head of the Reformist Policymaking Council called the alliance the “Coalition of Reformists and Government Supporters.” Aref added that the joint list is “necessary” in order to compete with hardliners due to the Guardian Council’s mass disqualification of Reformist parliamentary candidates. (Tabnak) (Tasnim News Agency) (Fars News Agency)
     
  • Supreme Leader’s Representative to the IRGC: We have not interfered in the elections.Hojjat ol Eslam Ali Saidi discussed the IRGC’s role in the elections during a press conference on February 15. The Supreme Leader’s Representative to the IRGC stated that “it is possible” that the IRGC has responded to the Guardian Council’s “inquires” about candidates. According to Iran’s electoral laws, the Guardian Council can use information passed from executive agencies in order to determine the qualifications of each candidate. Saidi explained that the IRGC’s actions do not “constitute interference in the elections” because they are only “responding to the legal bodies of the country.” (Entekhab)
     

Economy

  • Shamkhani criticizes economic mismanagement and corruption. Ali Shamkhani identified the economy and economic corruption as “the most important issue of Iran’s national security” on February 16. The secretary of the Supreme National Security Council “criticized” Iranian economic apparatuses and stated, “Shortcomings exist in the economic debates in our country. We have not acted well in this area… The tools for solving this challenge exist after the lifting of sanctions, and the government must act to solve it.” (Mehr News Agency)
     
  • General Electric executive travels to Iran. Lorenzo Simonelli, the CEO of GE Oil & Gas, traveled to Tehran to discuss a possible entry into Iran’s oil and gas business. Simonelli added that GE has “begun to investigate potential business opportunities in Iran.” (Tasnim News Agency)
     

Military and Security

  • Farzad Esmaili: We are ready to defend Syria’s airspace. Artesh Khatam ol Anbia Air Base Commander Brig. Gen. Farzad Esmaili announced that Iran will defend Syria’s airspace “if Bashar al Assad requests help from Iran in the realm of air defense.” (Tasnim News Agency)
     

Regional Developments and Diplomacy

  • Foreign Ministry: House arrests are an internal issue. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari discussed the U.S. State Department’s February 14 statement calling for the release of arrested 2009 presidential candidates Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi as well as Mousavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard. Ansari dismissed the State Department’s remarks and stated that “this issue is being pursued inside the country and does not have anything to do with foreign countries.” (ISNA)
     
  • Dehghan meets with Putin. Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan met with President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Defense Ministry in Moscow on February 16. Dehghan is seeking to expand Iran-Russia cooperation in areas of security, defense and counter-terrorism during his two-day trip to Moscow. (Fars News Agency)
     
  • Rouhani meets with new Iranian ambassador to Ankara. President Hassan Rouhani met with Mohammad Ebrahim Taherian, Iran’s newly-appointed ambassador to Ankara, on February 16. Taherian has previously served as Iran’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Pakistan. (President.ir(E)
     
  • Rouhani and Khamenei meet with president of Ghana. President Hassan Rouhani held a press conference with Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama on February 14 after the two sides signed two memorandums of cooperation (MoC), including a “joint plan of action in the field of agriculture.” Rouhani also attended a meeting of delegations from Iran and Ghana as well as a meeting between Dramani Mahama and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Khamenei reiterated the regime’s stance that Syria alone “should decide about its own future.” (President.ir) (E) (President.ir) (E) (President.ir) (E) (Leader.ir) (E)
     

Casualties in Iraq and Syria

  • Former Commander of IRGC 27th Mohammad Rasoul-Allah Division killed in Syria. Reza Farzaneh was reportedly killed by “takfiri terrorists” in Syria on February 11. (Tabnak)
     
  • Four Iranians killed in Syria.
    • Saleh Salehi and Majid Mohammadi were reportedly from Khuzestan province.
    • Mohammad Taghi Arabi was reportedly from North Khorasan province.
      Taghi Arghevani was from Tehran province. No unit affiliations or ranks were provided. (Defa Press)