Iran News Round Up - January 10, 2017

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 Wali Miller. 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: Iran reportedly agreed to new measures to decrease its stockpile of enriched uranium below the 300-kilogram limit under the nuclear deal.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Iranian officials made the agreement during a meeting of the nuclear deal’s Joint Commission on January 10. The measures will have a nuclear facility in Esfahan province “cleaned out” and will remove and degrade enriched uranium. The agreement intends to resolve a point of friction in the nuclear deal’s implementation, as the International Atomic Energy Agency previously warned Iran that its stockpile was at risk of exceeding the deal’s limit. Tasnim News Agency reported that Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi “denied” the Wall Street Journal’s reporting, however. Separately, Araghchi stated that Iran decided against triggering the nuclear deal’s dispute resolution process over Congress’s renewal of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA), which Iranian officials claim violated the deal. The ISA’s extension does not constitute a violation of the nuclear deal because it renews the authority to impose existing sanctions rather than creating new ones.

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians joined the top strata of regime officials at the funeral procession for Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in Tehran on January 10. Social media circulated footage of some mourners chanting slogans in support of reformist Green Movement leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and former reformist President Mohammad Khatami. Rafsanjani was buried in the mausoleum of former Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, reflecting his close relationship with the Islamic Republic’s founder.

AEI Must-Reads

Regional Developments & Diplomacy

  • Joint Commission meets in Vienna. Officials from Iran and the P5+1 attended a meeting of the nuclear agreement’s Joint Commission, established to monitor the deal’s implementation, in Vienna on January 10. Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi announced after the meeting that Iran did not decide to trigger the nuclear deal’s dispute resolution process over Congress’s renewal of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA), which Iran claims violated the nuclear agreement. Before the meeting, Araghchi reiterated Iran’s public stance that the ISA “is a violation of America’s commitments under the JCPOA,” referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or nuclear deal.
    • Iran agreed to new measures to decrease its stockpile of enriched uranium below the limit set by the nuclear agreement, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal released after the commission’s meeting. The measures involve a plan to “clean out” a nuclear facility in Esfahan province and remove and degrade enriched uranium. Araghchi “denied” the Wall Street Journal report in remarks after the meeting, however, according to IRGC-linked Tasnim News Agency. Araghchi claimed that Iran “will able to enrich more materials” as a result of the commission’s “plan.” Iran’s willingness to take steps to comply with the nuclear deal would signal its intention to uphold the agreement despite Iranian officials’ insistence that the ISA violates the nuclear agreement. Other points of friction in the nuclear deal’s implementation still exist, including the cap on Iran’s heavy water supply, which Iran argues is an estimate rather than a hard limit. (Fars News Agency) (Tasnim News Agency)
       
  • Iran to send negotiating team to Saudi Arabia to discuss Hajj. The Supreme Leader’s Representative for Hajj Affairs Hojjat ol Eslam Ali Qazi Askar announced that Iran received an official invitation to participate in the Hajj this year. He added that Iran will send a delegation to Saudi Arabia in order to discuss preparations for the Hajj “in the future.” Last year, Iranian officials canceled the Hajj for Iranian pilgrims following Saudi Arabia’s refusal to comply with Iranian demands regarding measures to ensure the safety of pilgrims and other requests concerning visa and travel arrangements. (Press TV)
     
  • Top Afghan official: Iran and Afghanistan must increase cooperation on key areas. Abdullah Abdullah, the Chief Executive Officer of Afghanistan, discussed Iranian-Afghan relations during a meeting with Iranian reporters in Kabul. Abdullah praised the cultural and linguistic ties between Afghanistan and Iran and called for greater cooperation between the two countries on solving “shared issues.” Abdullah also credited Iran for supporting the fight against the Taliban and other extremist groups. Iran, however, has been implicated multiple times in providing financial and material support to the Taliban. The Taliban also reportedly have an office in the northeastern Iranian city of Mashhad, which has a large population of Afghan refugees. Most recently, a hardline Iranian news agency reported that former Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour held “various negotiations with different organizations” in Iran over a two-month period before being killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan in May 2016. (ISNA)

Domestic Politics

  • Iranians mark Rafsanjani’s funeral with high attendance, protests. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians attended the funeral procession for Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in Tehran on January 10. Rafsanjani was buried in the mausoleum of former Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The regime’s senior leadership, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the heads of the three branches of government, attended the funeral.
    • The proceedings were marked by occasional protests. Social media circulated footage of a group chanting “death to Russia” and calling the Russian Embassy the “den of spies.” Other mourners reportedly chanted slogans in support of reformist leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who has been under house arrest for his role in the 2009 election protests, and former reformist President Mohammad Khatami. Rafsanjani’s daughter, Faezeh Hashemi, reportedly stated that Khatami was forbidden from attending the funeral. Rafsanjani was one of the highest officials to voice support for the 2009 election protests. There were also unconfirmed reports of law enforcement forces detaining some protesters. (Fars News Agency)
       
  • Military members reflect on Rafsanjani’s legacy. Several senior military officials and the IRGC marked Rafsanjani’s passing.
    • IRGC Quds Force Commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani stated that Rafsanjani “possessed the same disposition from the beginning to the end” but deployed different “tactics” at various times. Soleimani added, “Otherwise, he was against the Arrogance [the U.S. and its allies] and Zionism.” (Tasnim News Agency)
    • IRGC Air Force Commander Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh praised Rafsanjani for “mobilizing the young people” to the war front in his Friday prayer sermons during the Iran-Iraq War. Hajizadeh notably criticized Rafsanjani in September 2016 after Rafsanjani reportedly attributed Germany and Japan’s economic success to their lack of a military after World War II. (Tasnim News Agency)
    • In a statement released January 9, the IRGC praised Rafsanjani’s “tireless efforts in the victory of the Islamic movement” as a member of the “revolutionary vanguard and a longtime companion of the Imam [Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] and the Leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei].” (Mehr News Agency)

Economy

  • Deputy oil minister: Iran is ready to export gas to Iraq. Deputy Oil Minister for Trade and International Affairs Amir Hossein Zamani Nia stated that an Iranian delegation signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Iraq on the development of the Parviz and Sinbad oilfields during a recent visit to Baghdad. The delegation also signed an MoU on the Abadan-Basra crude oil pipeline. Zamani Nia announced that Iran is ready to export natural gas to Iraq as soon as Baghdad resolves difficulties related to financing. Iran and Iraq signed an agreement for the export of natural gas from Iran’s South Pars gas field to Iraq in 2013. Exports have been repeatedly delayed due to regional insecurity and financial issues, however. (Mehr News Agency
     
  • Iranian oil production projected to reach 3.9 million barrels a day. Managing Director of the Kish Free Zone Organization Ali Asghar Mounesan stated that during 2016 “oil production averaged about 3.5 million barrels per day (bpd) and reached 3.72 million bpd in the last days of the year.” He added that based on this growth, Iran’s oil production in 2017 “will reach about 3.8-3.9 million bpd,” which nears surpassing the 3.8 million bpd limit set by the recently negotiated OPEC deal. (Fars News Agency)