Iran News Round Up January 15, 2016

Key takeaway: The IRGC continued to portray the detainment of ten U.S. Navy sailors as a military victory by claiming that U.S. officials pleaded with Iran to release them.

IRGC Deputy Commander Brigadier General Hossein Salami touted Iran’s deterrence capabilities and defiance of the U.S. by referring to the January 12 capture of two Navy vessels and their crew. Salami called the detainment a demonstration of the IRGC’s strength and a warning to anyone who challenges Iranian territorial waters, boasting that “since World War II, no country in the world has been able to detain an American soldier” except Iran. He also claimed that officials in Washington implored Iranian officials with a “weak voice” to release the sailors.

Western media reported that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is expected to release its report confirming Iran’s compliance with its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on January 16. The IAEA’s report is a necessary precondition for Implementation Day, which will trigger the removal of economic and financial sanctions against Iran. Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi had stated earlier that he expected the IAEA to release the report on January 15. 

Matthew McInnis analyzes the recent Iranian detention and subsequent release of U.S. sailors in his latest blog, “Five lessons learned from Iran’s detention of US naval crew.”

Regional Developments and Diplomacy

  • IRGC Deputy Commander praises Iranian strength in U.S. Navy vessel detainment. IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami boasted about the January 12 detainment of two U.S. Navy vessels, stating, “No country in the world has been able to detain an American soldier since World War II. Yet when these soldiers entered our waters, small Iranian vessels… surrounded and arrested them. These ten sailors surrendered to five or six young IRGC members.” The IRGC Deputy Commander referred to the USS Harry S. Truman, an aircraft carrier situated near the vessels when they were detained, and stated that the Truman’s crewmembers “were shocked. They repeatedly sent out their own aircraft into flight [during the detainment]. We heard the trembling voice of this superpower.” He further recounted:
    • "Our naval units threatened [the USS Truman] that ‘if you make smallest movement, you will receive a crushing response from Iran.’ Then we heard the weak voice and plea from their political officials during some calls as they requested the freeing of these marines. During the investigation we carried out, we also understood that these sailors had unintentionally entered our waters… These sailors were weeping after their detainment, but the kindness of our IRGC caused them to calm down.” (Defa Press)
       
  • Basij Commander criticizes Iranian media coverage of naval crew detainment. IRGC Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naghdi discussed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s statement of “gratitude” to Iranians for the swift release of the U.S. Navy vessels. The Basij Organization Commander emphasized that the “enemy seeks to create divisions and disagreements.” He added that after footage was shown of the American sailors surrendering, “some of the media in Iran, instead of referencing the power of our fighters, paid attention to how Secretary of State [John Kerry] thanked Iran… [but] his soldiers erred by entering the Persian Gulf.” Naghdi then criticized Iranian media outlets for “seeking to beautify the face of America” and running headlines about how Iran “must strengthen its relations with the Western world.” He added that Iranians must proceed “carefully” in order to counter such opinions and remain united. (Alef)
     
  • Supreme Leader’s Senior Foreign Policy Advisor: Saudi Arabia pretends to be oppressed in order to isolate Iran. Ali Akbar Velayati discussed the diplomatic fallout from the January 2 storming of the Saudi embassy in Tehran, after which several countries including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Somalia downgraded or severed diplomatic ties with Iran. The Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to the Supreme Leader called cultivating close relations with neighboring countries a “foreign policy priority” for Iran and asserted that Saudi Arabia “has been pretending to be oppressed in order to bring Western countries and the Islamic world to its side… Perhaps there was a time in the past when the Saudis had a greater influence in the region, but today, they closed their own embassy in Tehran and told other countries to close their embassies as well. But except for a few Arab countries, no other countries complied with them.” Velayati further claimed that Saudi Arabia “pretends to be oppressed,” particularly by complaining that Iran is “interfering” in the affairs of regional countries, “in order to isolate Iran.” (Donya-e Eqtesad)
     
  • Ayatollah Movahedi Kermani: Treatment of U.S. sailors exemplifies Iran’s “compassionate” strength. Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani said that the IRGC Navy’s January 12 arrest of 10 U.S. sailors “sends a strong message to America… It says that Iran is a strong and powerful country, and that of course, it will act compassionately in this position” of strength, as exemplified by its treatment of the U.S. sailors. The Interim Tehran Friday Prayer Leader stressed that “America will never abandon bullying and coercion… if it removes sanctions in one area, it will impose them elsewhere.” (ISNA)
     
  • President Rouhani to meet with Chinese counterpart. President Hassan Rouhani is scheduled to hold direct talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on January 23 in Tehran. Jinping will lead a high-ranking delegation of political and economic ministers to discuss areas of mutual interest and opportunities to broaden joint Beijing-Tehran relations. Jinping will also be traveling to Saudi Arabia and Egypt. China will likely use this opportunity to act as a mediator between Iran and Saudi Arabia. (President.ir)
     
  • Kazemeini: Israel and the U.S. are waging a proxy war against us. IRGC Brig. Gen. Mohsen Kazemeini claimed that Israel and the U.S. are seeking to destroy the Resistance Front by supporting regional developments in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia.  The Greater Tehran IRGC Mohammad Rasoul Allah unit Commander also described Turkey’s behavior as similar to that of the Ottoman Empire and noted, “Thank God that the generation after the Iran-Iraq War is creating a new legacy of martyrdom in the region.” The Iranian regime uses the term “Resistance Front” to refer to the regional coalition, including the Assad regime in Syria and Lebanese Hezbollah, on which Iran relies to ‘resist’ the U.S. and its allies’ attempts to influence and control the region. (ISNA
     

Economy

  • Parliamentarian criticizes Rouhani administration for annual budget delay. Principlist Parliamentarian Ahmad Tavakkoli criticized the Rouhani administration’s delay in presenting the annual budget and the 6th Five-Year Development Plan for parliamentary approval. He stated that the Rouhani administration has “no logical excuse” for the delay from a legal perspective and urged the Rouhani administration must present a three-month emergency bill in order to pay for necessary government expenditures. According to parliamentary procedure, the administration was required to submit the annual budget to Parliament for review by Azar 15 (≈ December 6). (Mashregh News)
     
  • Tehran Chamber of Commerce: U.S. automakers can enter Iranian economy. Tehran Chamber of Commerce member Mohammad Reza Najafmanesh said that “there are no obstacles” to U.S. automakers’ entering the Iranian auto market. (IRNA(E)
     
  • Iran indicates interest in creating free trade zone with EEU. Iran’s Ambassador to Russia Mehdi Sanaei stated that Iran is considering creating a free trade zone with the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). The EEU, which was created in January 2015, includes Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. (Press TV(E)
     
  • Ayatollah Hamedani stresses importance of an “independent economy.” Grand Ayatollah Nouri Hamedani called the Resistance Economy doctrine an important and “authentic Islamic” teaching. He stated that “Islamic culture” teaches that “the root of our economic problems is in dependence on the outside. We must have an independent economy, so that foreigners cannot influence our economy.” Hamedani also stated, “Our enemies state that religion is separate from politics and religion should not enter into politics… But the Islamic religion says that politics is a part of religion. Islam extends to all spheres of life; [this is] the antithesis of American Islam, which says that religion should not be allowed into politics…” The Resistance Economy doctrine is intended to insulate the country’s economy from sanctions by encouraging domestic production and reducing the economy’s dependence on oil exports. (Rasa News)
     
  • Jalili echoes Supreme Leader’s call to implement Resistance Economy strategy. Saeed Jalili praised Iranian resilience against economic sanctions and U.S. military threats in a speech on January 15 in Mashhad, Razavi Khorasan province. The Supreme Leader’s Representative to the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) invoked the Islamic Revolution’s principle of resistance against the U.S. and its allies’ attempt to control the region  and stressed the need for economic policies that rely on domestic capabilities. Jalili stated that the Resistance Economy strategy  is the key to solving Iran’s economic challenges. (Mehr News Agency)