Iran News Round Up - June 6, 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 and contributors Ken Hawrey and Shayan Enferadi. To receive this daily newsletter, please subscribe online.
Key takeaway: 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 on May 21.
Jahan News claimed that Mansour reached several agreements with Iranian officials during these negotiations, including one to prevent the spread of ISIS in northern Afghanistan. Pakistani press previously reported that the owner of the passport found at the location of the drone strike bearing a picture that resembled Mansour had traveled to Iran between February 19 and March 10 and then again between April 25 and May 21. During a press conference on May 23, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari “strongly rejected” reports that Mansour had traveled to Iran before his death. Tehran has been implicated multiple times in providing financial and material support to the Taliban, despite the fact that Iran threatened to invade Afghanistan in 1998 after the Taliban killed multiple Iranian diplomats in Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan. In a 2015 article, the Wall Street Journal reported that Tehran has ramped up its support for the Taliban and operates at least four training camps for the group, citing a Taliban commander and Afghan officials. The Taliban also reportedly have an office in the northeastern Iranian city of Mashhad, which has a large population of Afghan refugees.
President Hassan Rouhani announced the implementation of a law requiring the Foreign Ministry to seek compensation from the U.S. for its “crimes” against Iran, including the 1953 coup against Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh and support for Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War. The Guardian Council approved the legislation late last month. The new law follows the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling permitting victims of attacks attributed to Iran to collect from frozen Iranian assets.
IRGC Navy Commander Brigadier General Ali Fadavi announced that the IRGC is planning on forming “several quick reaction units” during an interview at the IRGC Navy Special Forces’ headquarters on Faror Island, located in the Persian Gulf.
Iranian news outlets reported the deaths of at least five Iranians in Syria, including a senior commander in the IRGC Special Forces unit attached to the IRGC Quds 16th Division based in Gilan province.
AEI Must Reads
- Follow the latest electoral developments in Parliament and the Assembly of Experts, including the parliament speaker election, in the Critical Threats Project’s “Iran Elections Tracker: Updates and Analysis.”
- Caitlin Pendleton discusses how a reformist parliamentarian’s late disqualification could transform Iran’s domestic political scene in “Iran’s Guardian Council pushes the limits of its electoral control.”
Regional Developments and Diplomacy
- Hardline news agency: Former Taliban leader met with Iranian officials. Jahan News 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 while returning from Iran. Jahan News noted that several agreements were reached with the former Taliban leader, including that Mansour would prevent Taliban forces from joining ISIS and would resist ISIS’s expansion in northern Afghanistan. Jahan News also reported than an agreement was reached on narcotics smuggling, but no specifics were provided. (Jahan News)
- Rouhani announces implementation of law on pursuing damages for U.S. crimes against Iran. President Hassan Rouhani announced the implementation of a law requiring the Foreign Ministry to pursue compensation for damages caused by U.S. “crimes” against Iran, including the 1953 coup against Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh and support for Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War. (YJC)
- Officials criticize U.S. terror report. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari and Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani denounced the U.S. State Department report that listed Iran as the top state sponsor of terrorism in 2015. The Foreign Ministry released a statement accusing the U.S. of being the “biggest supporter” of terrorism through its support for Saudi Arabia and Israel. (IRNA) (ABNA)
- Attorney general issues warning about interacting with Baha’is. Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri claimed that “anyone who has contact with this sect [the Baha’i faith] should expect legal repercussions.” Montazeri’s comments follow a meeting between Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s daughter and a Baha’i leader in late May. (Mashregh News Agency)
Military and Security
- IRGC Navy Commander: The IRGC is forming quick reaction units. IRGC Navy Commander Brig. Gen. Ali Fadavi announced that the IRGC is planning on forming “several quick reaction units” during an interview in the IRGC Navy Special Forces’ headquarters on Faror Island, located in the Persian Gulf. Fadavi also discussed the record of IRGC Navy Special Forces Commander Brig. Gen. Mohammad Nazeri, who passed away in May. He noted that the IRGC Navy Special Forces unit is involved in training a variety of foreign forces on its base in Faror Island and explained that “everyone whom Nazeri trained in Iran was a member of the ‘Axis of Resistance.’” The “Axis of Resistance” is a term that Iranian officials use to refer to proxy forces from Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.
- Fadavi also criticized “those individuals” who have sought to create the perception that outright war with the U.S. is possible, stating, “The [Americans] know that if one bullet was fired, the damage to their national interests would be incomparable.” Fadavi called upon these unnamed individuals to “repent” for their rhetoric in a likely reference to the Rouhani administration, which has claimed that its policies have decreased the chances of war with America. (Fars News Agency)
- Jafari: Cultural threats are more dangerous to the Islamic Revolution than military threats. IRGC Commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari stated, “Preserving the Islamic Revolution is not an essential task for other employees, but it an essential task for the IRGC… ‘Safeguarding the Islamic Revolution’ is the IRGC’s main objective.” Jafari “stressed that military and security threats are the least risky threats to the Revolution and the Islamic political system” and stated that “‘soft cultural threats’ are the real threat to the Islamic Revolution.” He added that “the main component of the IRGC’s power is its spirituality.” (Defa Press)
- Rouhani’s brother meets with prominent reformist released from prison. Mostafa Tajzadeh, a senior official in reformist president Mohammad Khatami’s administration, was released from Evin Prison on June 3 after serving a seven-year sentence for criticizing the contested 2009 presidential election results. He later met with Hossein Fereydoun, President Hassan Rouhani’s brother and advisor. Hardline news outlet Kayhan criticized the meeting, writing that it “incited” the media. (Kayhan)
- Russian media: Russia to award 2.5 billion euro loan to Iran. Citing Russian Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak, Russian news outlet TASS reported that Russia will award Iran two loans which together total 2.5 billion euros. Storchak stated that “intergovernmental procedures regarding the loans have reached the final stages and will be completed soon.” Iranian news outlet ISNA reported that the Russian Finance Ministry “expects that the cabinet will agree to grant the loans within two weeks.” (ISNA)
- Khamenei urges Parliament to focus on economy. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei emphasized the importance of improving the Iranian economy during remarks delivered to the newly elected Parliament on June 5. He called for Parliament to focus on reducing the unemployment rate by increasing domestic production and stated, “The establishment’s sense of shame vis-à-vis the jobless youth is greater than the jobless youth’s sense of shame in the face of his own family.” (leader.ir) (E)
Casualties in Iraq and Syria
- Senior IRGC Special Forces commander killed in Syria. Jahangir Jafarnia was a senior commander in the IRGC Special Forces unit attached to the IRGC Quds 16th Division based in Gilan province. He was reportedly wounded in the operation to recapture the Syrian towns of al Zahra and Nubl in February but was deployed to Syria again after being treated for his injuries. (YJC)
- Retired IRGC officer killed in Syria. Mohammad Zalaghi was a retired IRGC officer from Dezful, Khuzestan province. (Fars News Agency)
- Three IRGC soldiers killed in Syria.
- Reza Rostami Moghaddam was a senior IRGC commander and veteran of the Iran-Iraq War. He was from Lorestan province. (Tasnim News Agency)
- IRGC Cpt. Ghodrat Ebadyani was also from Lorestan province and reportedly was killed “alongside” Moghaddam. (Tasnim News Agency)
- Morteza Masib Zadeh was from Alborz province. (Tasnim News Agency)
- Fatimiyoun Brigade commander killed in Syria. Iranian news outlets reported that Mohammad Hossein Hosseini, a senior member of the Fatimiyoun Brigade, was recently killed in Syria. (Defa Press)