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Iran Press Review: 10 March

Analysis by FDD

  • Ali Alfoneh, Senior Fellow, writes in an FDD Policy Brief: “Mohammad Yazdi, a hardline ayatollah and former Judiciary chief, was elected chairman of Iran’s Assembly of Experts on Tuesday, defeating ex-president Hashemi Rafsanjani by a margin of roughly two-to-one. The Assembly is the government body that selects and monitors the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader, and the choice of its new chairman reflects the balance of power amongst Iran’s clerical elite. In addition to his new role as assembly chairman, Yazdi is also among the leading candidates to replace Ali Khamenei – rumored to be suffering from prostate cancer – as supreme leader. Should he succeed, Yazdi is likely to continue the example of his predecessor by expanding the role of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in Iran’s foreign and security policies.”
  • Bill Roggio, Senior Fellow, writes in The Long War Journal: “Iranian-backed Shiite militias and Iraqi security forces have taken control of key towns outside of Tikrit and are preparing to attempt to seize the central Iraqi city that has been under the control of the Islamic State since June of 2014. The Shiite militias, which are directed by Iran’s Qods Force, have led the fight to regain control of Tikrit. Over the weekend, the Islamic State lost control of Al Dor and Al Awja, two towns south of Tikrit, and Abu Ajil, a town to the east on the opposite side of the Tigris River. Over the past 24 hours, Iraqi forces and the militias have entered Al Alam, a town northeast of the city. The Iraqi military claimed it “liberated” Al Alam yesterday, according to Al Shorfa, however the town is still contested, Reuters reported today.”
  • Ali Alfoneh, Senior Fellow, wrote in an FDD Policy Brief: “Iranian TV aired footage Sunday of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei addressing a group of environmental officials at his residence in central Tehran. The appearance came on the heels of wild speculation in the international press that the Supreme Leader had died. Such rumors have gained in ferocity ever since the ayatollah’s September 8, 2014 prostate surgery. While his doctor called it “a routine procedure,” others saw the operation as a sign that the end was near. Obviously, every rumor about Khamenei’s death to date has been false.  But the passing of Khamenei, now 75, will one day represent a seismic shift in the Islamic Republic. With no successor-designate, Khamenei’s death will exacerbate a power struggle that is already underway.”
  • Benjamin Weinthal, Senior Fellow, wrote in The Jerusalem Post: “Fresh trade data show Germany’s industry secured a windfall in revenue due to the easing of Iran sanctions. According to the Federal Statistical Office of Germany, German exports to the Islamic Republic in 2014 climbed by 30 percent to reach €2.4 billion.”

Politics

  • Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi is elected to serve as the new head of the Assembly of Experts. Yazdi was elected with 47 votes from amongst a pool of candidates which included Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi (who led the Assembly in the interim), Ayatollah Momen, and former Iranian President Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who attained only 24 votes.

Foreign Policy

  • Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani, visits the Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan today. Traveling with a large delegation including Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif, Chief of Staff Mohammad Nahvandian, and Special Advisory Hossein Fereidoun, Rouhani met with the Turkmen President, officials, and merchants.
    • During his travel, President Rouhani said: “Increasing relations with countries in the region, specifically neighbors, is one of the priorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
  • The Head of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce meets with Iran’s Ambassador in Belgrade, Majid Fahimpour and praises Iranian policies:
    • “The government of Iran has well been able to overcome all issues in this region.”
  • Islamic Republic News Agency reports that: “The sixteenth joint-consular session of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Turkey was held in Tehran on the 19th of Esfand (March 20, 2015).”
  • Deputy Chairman of Iran’s Assembly of Experts, Ayatollah Seyyed Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi commented on “American Islam” at the helm of the seventeenth session of the Assembly of Experts:
    • “Pure Islam is the Islam of thought [and] intellect, and American Islam is a humiliation of the gateway of thought, because if the gateway of thought is open, Muslims will realize how atrocious the views of the Takfiris and their actions are.”    
  • Fars News Agency reports: “Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani underlined Iran and Kuwait's abundant commonalities, specially in cultural and historical arenas, and said relations between the two countries should develop in all fields. "Cooperation between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Kuwait should increase," Larijani said in a meeting with Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah in Kuwait City on Tuesday.”

Military & Security

  • Seyyed Abdol-Rahim Mousavi, the Deputy Commander of the National Army [Artesh], notes that:
    • “The political-ideological bureau [of the Artesh] has until present used the commandments of the Supreme Leader as a model and has acted properly upon it.”
  • Resalat newspaper runs a headline about the gains of the Iraqi Army, stating: “America’s fifth column in Salah al-Din collapsed,” in references to the forces making their way to liberate Tikrit from the Islamic State (IS).
  • Islamic Republic News Agency reports on the gains of the Iraqi Army in Salah al-Din province in Iraq, and cites a security source in Salah al-Din as reporting that the Army was able to raise the Iraqi flag over a hospital in captured territory.
  • Sepah News reported yesterday on the unveiling of a new Iranian ground-to-ground cruise missile called the Soumar.
  • Commenting yesterday on the newly released Damavand destroyer for Iran’s Artesh-Navy in the Caspian Sea, Rear Admiral and current Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani stated:
    • “The Caspian Sea is a sea of peace and friendship and security, and the Islamic Republic of Iran has played an unmatched role in safeguarding its security, specifically its energy security.” 
  • Former Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and current advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, commented on foreign intelligence operation in Iran’s South-Western Khuzestan province:
    • “The activities of 18 Arab and Western intelligence services in supporting secessionist groups of the province and the creation of discord between people and the activities of ethnic separatist groups can be counted as amongst the pitfalls of Khuzestan province.”
  • Elsewhere, and unrelated to comments about the Damavand destroyer, Shamkhani stated:
    • “The recent victories of the people and governments of Iraq and Syria against DAESH (the Arabic and Persian acronym for the Islamic State) is the result of reliance on inner capabilities, spirit, and belief, and the Islamic Republic of Iran lauds this successes, and will support any action that is in the interest of this country against terrorism.”

Nuclear Issue

  • Davood Mohammadnia, senior member of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear negotiating team, touts that:
    • “Under no circumstance will the duration of the nuclear agreement last more than ten years.”
    • “We will agree to an agreement in the negotiations where not a single one of the nuclear rights, achievements, and advantages of the country are violated.” 
    • “Similarly, the [nuclear] file, the sanctions of the [United Nations] Security Council must be removed and the file must leave chapter seven of the Security Council and return to its normal state. In the document of a possible deal agreement, the Fordow facility will continue its activities with a change in usage, and the heavy water reactor at Arak will remain in place based on Iran’s plan.” 
  • During Ali Larijani’s trip to Kuwait, the Parliamentary Speaker of Kuwait, Al-Marzooq al-Ghanem stated:
    • “We spoke about Iran’s nuclear program in this session, and Mr. Larijani kept us abreast of the latest developments.”           
  • Mohammad Baqer-Nowbakht, Rouhani administration Spokesperson, comments on nuclear diplomacy:
    • “At present, much progress has been agreed to, and only two clauses of difference exist between Iran and the 5+1 group.”
    • “In these negotiations, our diplomats act well and with prudence, from this perspective, there is no room for worry.”
  • Elsewhere yesterday, Ali Shamkhani noted the following regarding economic sanctions and Iran’s nuclear diplomacy:
    • “The only way to attain a good nuclear agreement is by mutual benefit and removing all sanctions.”
    • “Imagining Iran requiring an agreement at any price resulting from a miscalculation of the opposing side and is a mistake.”
  • Reuters reports: “Forty-seven Republican U.S. senators warned Iran's leaders on Monday that any nuclear deal with President Barack Obama could last only as long as he remains in office, an unusual partisan intervention in foreign policy that could undermine delicate international talks with Tehran. The open letter was signed by all but seven of the Republicans in the Senate and none of Obama's fellow Democrats, who called it a "stunt." Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif dismissed it as a "propaganda ploy" from pressure groups he called afraid of diplomatic agreement.”

Economy & Trade

  • Hojjat al-Eslam Ali Moallemi, the Representative of Mazandaran in Iran’s Parliament, states:
    • “Resistance Economics means diminishing costs and preventing the excessive import unnecessary goods, and the government must offer appropriate projects and plans in this area.”
  • Tasnim News Agency runs a headline reading: “The forecasting of 2.5 percent economic growth in [13]94 (2015-2016).”
  • Fars News Agency reports: “Head of Iran-China Joint Chamber of Commerce Assadollah Asgaroladi urged Iran's private sector to redouble its efforts to develop more financial projects with China. "[Iran's] private sector is required to make huge efforts for joint venture projects with China," Assadollah Asgaroladi said.”
  • Fars News Agency reports“Iran's auto production in the first 11 months of the current Iranian year (started on March 21, 2014) grew by 58.2 percent compared to the same period last year. Iran manufactured 1,039,943 cars in the 11-month period, while the figure was 657,493 in the corresponding period last year.”

Human Rights

  • Reuters reported: The United States offered $5 million on Monday for help in finding an American who disappeared in Iran eight years ago and appealed to Tehran to cooperate in the search for the former FBI agent, Robert Levinson. "We ask the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to work cooperatively with us on the investigation into Robert Levinson’s disappearance so we can ensure his safe return," Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement.”

Daily Pictures

  • Islamic Republic News Agency reports photos from the 17th session of the Assembly of Experts
  • Fars News Agency displays photographs of President Rouhani arriving in Turkmenistan.