Iran News Round Up - May 12, 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: Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Ali Jannati “tentatively confirmed” the cancellation of the Hajj for Iranian pilgrims following Saudi Arabia’s refusal to comply with Iranian demands.
Jannati claimed that Saudi Arabia rejected Iran’s proposals for ensuring the safety of pilgrims after the September 2015 Hajj stampede as well as additional demands concerning visa and travel arrangements. Western press has erroneously reported Jannati’s comments as a final decision. Saeed Ohadi, the head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization, also stated that the Hajj is “cancelled” for Iranian pilgrims under “current conditions,” leaving open the possibility that the Iranian government could resume involvement in the Hajj if conditions change. Ohadi stated on May 10 that Saudi Arabia has ten days to address Iran’s demands before he requests an emergency meeting of Iran’s Supreme Hajj Council in order to make a “final decision” on Iranian pilgrims traveling to Saudi Arabia.
- Paul Bucala analyzes the recent setback IRGC forces encountered in Syria in “What the Khan Tuman defeat means for Iran.”
- Matthew McInnis discusses the economic challenges facing President Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s newly elected parliament assumes office in his latest blog, “Will Iran’s new parliament be any better for Rouhani?”
Regional Developments and Diplomacy
- Jannati: Time has run out for Saudi Arabia to fulfill Hajj obligations. Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Ali Jannati “tentatively confirmed” the cancellation of the Hajj for Iranian pilgrims, according to Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). Jannati stated that “time has run out” for Saudi Arabia to fulfill the conditions Iran set for its participation in this year’s pilgrimage and accused Saudi Arabia of “sabotage.” He added that Saudi Arabia did not accept Iran’s proposals for ensuring the safety of pilgrims after the September 2015 Hajj stampede. Saudi Arabia also reportedly refused to comply with additional Iranian demands on travel arrangements, including reversing its ban on Iranian airlines in Saudi Arabia and issuing visas for Iranians through the Swiss embassy, which represents Saudi interests in Iran after the severance of Iranian-Saudi ties in January. The cancellation would likely require Iranian pilgrims to coordinate their travel through a third-party country rather than banning Iranian travel altogether. (IRNA) (E) (IRNA)
- Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization head: The Hajj is “cancelled” under “current conditions.” Saeed Ohadi, the head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization, stated that the Hajj is “cancelled” for Iranian pilgrims under “current conditions,” leaving open the possibility that the Iranian government could resume involvement in the Hajj if conditions change. Ohadi added that Saudi Arabia rejected the “20 practical solutions” that Iran offered to ensure pilgrims’ safety. (Tasnim News Agency)
- Grand Ayatollah: Saudi Arabia should not administer holy sites. Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi stated that Saudi Arabia “cannot administer Mecca” and called for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to administer holy sites in Mecca and Medina instead. He also called for a greater investigation by the Iranian Foreign Ministry and the international community into the extent to which ISIS “emerged from Saudi Arabia.” (Fars News Agency)
- Larijani: “Some Islamic governments are the enemies of God.” Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani “seemed to be hinting at the government of Saudi Arabia” during remarks criticizing regional countries on May 12, according to Tasnim News Agency. Larijani criticized how “some purported Islamic governments are the enemies of God and have caused oppressed people to be killed in countries like Yemen and Syria.” (Tasnim News Agency) (E)
- Araghchi: We are delaying the export of heavy water to America. Abbas Araghchi stated that Iran will delay the export of 32 tons of heavy water worth an estimated $8.6 million to the U.S. but added that Iran will not “annul” the contract. The Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs said that Iran is delaying the export in order to take precautions to ensure America’s payment. He stated that Iran is exercising “caution” following the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing the victims of terrorist attacks blamed on Iran to collect almost $2 billion in Iranian frozen assets. (Fars News Agency) (E)
Military and Security
- IRGC Navy Special Forces commander buried in Tehran. The funeral for IRGC Brig. Gen. Mohammad Nazeri was held in Tehran on May 12. Senior IRGC officials attended the funeral, including IRGC Navy Commander Admiral Ali Fadavi, who stated, “The martyr Nazeri trained many individuals and was very influential in this field.” IRGC Qods Force Commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who visited Nazeri’s family on May 11, stated, “I do not remember an important jihad that Nazeri did not participate in. From 1979 when I was being trained by him until the present, I did not see any change or weariness in him.” (qasemsoleimani.ir)
- Rezaei: Saudi, Turkish, and U.S. generals were with the rebels at Khan Tuman. Former IRGC Commander Maj. Gen. Mohsen Rezaei blamed the IRGC’s defeat at Khan Tuman on U.S., Turkish, and Saudi generals embedded with rebel forces. He added that rebels have been receiving “weapons, ammunition, money and food” from Turkey. He also stated:
- “Aleppo has become a matter of prestige for Turkey and Saudi Arabia. These countries are therefore involved in Aleppo with full force. Aleppo has become the last showdown between the resistance and the invaders.”
- “The Syrian army is currently resisting with only Iranian advisors. Russian support occurred for a short period of six months and then afterwards they mostly returned to their country.” (ANA)
- Firouzabadi: Assad must stay. Armed Forces Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi claimed that “Bashar al Assad will stay, against the wishes and dreams of America.” He added that the U.S. intends to “continue the war in Syria” in order to impact the results of the U.S. presidential elections. (Asr Iran)
- Aref hints at parliament speaker run. Senior reformist politician Mohammad Reza Aref stated that he “cannot ignore the demands of the people” to run for parliament speaker. He added that a majority of society “wants change in Parliament.” If he does run, he will be competing against current speaker Ali Larijani, a principlist who ran as an independent in the February 26 elections. Elections for parliament speaker will be held on May 27 during the first session of the newly elected Parliament. (Entekhab)
- Assembly of Experts internal elections to be held May 24. The first session of the new Assembly of Experts as well as the elections for the Assembly’s chairman and presiding board will be held on May 24, according to Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a member of the Assembly of Experts presiding board who was re-elected in the February 26 elections. (Tasnim News Agency)
Casualties in Iraq and Syria
- Supreme Leader’s representative visits wounded Artesh soldiers in Tehran. Hojjat ol Eslam Mohammad Al-e Hashem, the Supreme Leader’s representative to the Artesh, visited three wounded Artesh Special Forces soldiers in a hospital in Tehran. One was a captain, but the ranks of the other two soldiers were not disclosed. Tasnim News Agency reported that the three soldiers were wounded by gunfire “a few days ago” in Syria. (Tasnim News Agency)