A selection of the latest news stories and editorials published in Iranian news outlets, compiled by AEI Critical Threats Project Iran Analysts Mehrdad Moarefian and Marie Donovan, with contributors Chris Rawlins and Diana Timmerman. To receive this daily newsletter, please subscribe online.
Key takeaway: Senior IRGC official killed in Samarra, Iraq. Supreme Audit Court calls purported government withdrawal of $4.1 billion from National Development Fund an “obvious violation of law.” 3 IRGC members from Fars province division killed along Pakistan border.
Brigadier General Hamid Taghavi was killed in Samarra, Iraq, while purportedly defending the Shi’a shrines there. Taghavi was a commander of Ramezan Base during the Iran-Iraq War. Taghavi is the highest ranking IRGC member to be killed in Iraq since Iran joined the fight against ISIL.
IRGC Brigadier General Hossein Salami compared Ansar Allah, the political wing of the Houthi rebel group, to Lebanese Hezbollah, calling it a counter balance to Saudi and US influence in the region. Salami’s comments reiterate the regime’s larger efforts to embrace Yemen as part of its larger Islamic resistance against the West and its allies.
First Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri denounced recent accusations that the government illegally withdrew 4.1 billion dollars from the National Development Fund as “untrue” and stated that the National Development Fund as well as the Central Bank have claimed the “withdrawal…did not occur.” Nonetheless, the Parliament-supervised Supreme Audit Court stated that the government’s removal of the funds was an “obvious violation of law.”
Unknown militants ambushed an IRGC vehicle in Saravan, Sistan va Baluchistan province, and killed three IRGC members – Colonel Akbar Abdollahnejad, 3rd Lieutenant Qodratallah Madani, and Basiji Mousa Nasiri Bayat. The three were members of the 19th Fajr Division, based in Fars Province. Sistan va Baluchistan is an historic site of unrest; Saravan in particular has witnessed an uptick in violence following two separate attacks in October which killed four. The attack highlights the expeditionary nature of the 19th Fajr Division.
Regional Developments and Diplomacy
- IRGC commander killed in Iraq. Brig. Gen. Hamid Taghavi was killed in the city of Samarra. The IRGC announced that Taghavi was a military advisor to the Iraqi Security Forces, and was killed defending the holy Shi’a shrines in Samarra. The IRGC statement identified Taghavi as a former commander of Ramezan Base during the Iran-Iraq war. (Sepah News)
- Ali Shamkhani stated that, “Taghavi… was able to make a difference among Iraqi forces and was made a martyr and a commander of the founders of the Iraqi Association in the fight against ISIL.” The Supreme National Security Council Secretary stated that that “If Hamid Taghavi had not died in Samarra, he would have died in Sistan va Baluchistan, Azerbaijan, Yazd, or Shiraz instead.” Taghavi’s funeral was held in Tehran today. (Defa Press)
- Ali Larijani meets Iraqi Kurdistan President. Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani met with Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani in Erbil, Iraq. The two sides underscored the good relations between Iran and the Kurdish region, as well as the importance of enhancing bilateral cooperation. Barzani said, “Iran stood by the Iraqi government and nation in a difficult situation when ISIL was threatening Erbil and Baghdad, and this measure is admirable.” (Tasnim News Agency)
- Foreign Ministry announces upcoming visit by Hamas leader. Hossein Amir Abdollahian confirmed reports of the Political Leader of Hamas Khaled Meshaal’s official visit to Iran. The Arab and African Affairs Deputy to the Foreign Minister, however, did not provide the date of Meshaal’s trip to Tehran. Abdollahian also said, “relations between Hamas and the Islamic Republic of Iran have never been cut.” (Fars News Agency)
- Support for Iraqi military part of Iran’s “security and defense policies.” Defense Minister IRGC Brig. Gen. Hassan Dehghan stated, “… the Islamic Republic of Iran’s support for the Iraqi army and armed forces are part of [its] security and defense policies in the region.” Dehghan highlighted “the need to expand bilateral military and defense cooperation” between Iran and Iraq during his meeting with his Iraqi counterpart Khalid al-Obeidi. (Defa Press)
- Zarif praises China’s role in nuclear talks. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Ming in Tehran and thanked Beijing for its positive role in the P5+1 negotiations. (Fars News Agency)
- Ansar Allah in Yemen similar to Lebanese Hezbollah. IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami stated that Ansar Allah, the political wing of Yemeni rebel group the Houthis, is similar to Lebanese Hezbollah for being a strategic driver and acting as a counter balance to the influence of Saudi Arabia and the US in the region. Salami also stated that Iran is low on space to store its vast arsenal of missiles and that this arsenal has the ability to strike any target, which deters Iran’s enemies. (Sepah News)
- Jahangiri: government did not withdraw from National Development Fund. First Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri denounced recent accusations that the government withdrew $4.1 billion from the National Development Fund as “untrue” and could lead to prosecution. He stated that the Chairman of the National Development Fund as well as the Central Bank claimed that “withdrawal from the Fund’s accounts did not occur.” (Fars News Agency)
- Supreme Audit Court: Government’s withdrawal from National Development Fund an “obvious violation.” Supreme Audit Court Prosecuting Attorney Fayyaz Shojaei stated that the government’s withdrawal of $4.1 billion was an “obvious violation of law.” He stated that the Court’s “case is based on certain documents” and is avoiding “politicization” and “suspicion and rumor.” (Fars News Agency)
- “The authority of the state should not be undermined by meaningless and false rumors.”Ali Shamkhani, Supreme National Security Council Secretary, said that, “the government’s actions and special decisions aimed at managing the economy and lessening the effects of the illegal and unjust sanctions should be adopted with national support and support of powers and institutions in the country.” Shamkhani criticized “some actions of the narrow-minded faction” and called recent rumors spread in the media regarding the country’s budget “unacceptable” and “damaging” to the “unity of the country.” Shamkhani was likely referring to the rumors that the government illegally withdrew $4.1 billion from the National Development Fund. (Mehr News)
Military and Security
- Two UAVs destroyed by air defense systems during exercises. On the third day of The Artesh Mohammad Rasoul Allah [Mohammad, Messenger of God] military exercises, the UAVs “Hazem” and “Lightning” were targeted by the system “Sky Guard.” In addition, this morning three UAVs called “Kian” were identified by the Mersad system and were hit by Shalamcheh missiles. (Defa Press)
- Air Defense controls multiple vital areas at once. Artesh Brig. Gen. Amir Reza Sabahi Fard stated that the duty of the Air Defense is to defend multiple corridors of air travel, roads, and nuclear sites. The Deputy Commander of the Khatam ol-Anbia Air Defense Base added that Iran’s achievements and capabilities in air defense deny mobility to the enemy. (Defa Press)
- Air to surface missiles successfully tested. The “Maverick” air to surface missile was successfully launched from F-4 Phantom aircraft against ground targets as part of the Mohammad Rasoul Allah exercises. (Defa Press)
- Three IRGC members killed in ambush along Pakistani border. Unknown militants conducted an ambush on an IRGC vehicle in Saravan, Sistan va Baluchistan province, and killed three IRGC members before fleeing across the Pakistani border. The IRGC members killed were Col. Akbar Abdollahnejad, 3rd Lt. Qodratollah Mandani and a Basiji named Mousa Nasiri Bayat. The three were members of the 19th Fajr Division, based in Fars province. (Fars News Agency)
- Rouhani to visit town of Chabahar tomorrow. President Hassan Rouhani is slated to visit the coastal city of Chabahar, Sistan va Baluchistan province tomorrow. Rouhani will visit and observe petrochemical plants, railway projects, steel plants, and industrial infrastructure developments. Asghar also stated that Rouhani may take part in the Mohammad Rasoul Allah military exercises taking place in the area. Chabahar is the site of one of the two IRGC Naval Bases participating in the exercises. (Tasnim News Agency)
- Construction on two new nuclear power reactors begun. Behrouz Kamalvandi, Atomic Energy Agency of Iran (AEOI) Spokesman announced that the executive phase of construction on two new nuclear power reactors at Bushehr has begun. In November, Russia signed an agreement with Iran to build the reactors. (ISNA)
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